Driving in France can be dangerous to your health but we are firmly committed, well sort of. And, here we are now – the four of us buckled into a humongous black Opel sitting in the Hertz parking lot in Toulouse, France.
My English cousin has kindly invited us to stay with her at her vacation house in Maignaut Tauzia. (I have no idea how to pronounce our destination but we must have faith, right!)
My husband, Paul, has gallantly volunteered to pilot the huge car while my friend and I have been relegated to the back seat and her husband has somewhat hesitantly agreed to assume the co-pilot position. He is now pouring over a three foot square map of France and asks, “Tell me again where we’re going.” Paul doesn’t hear him. He’s grumbling about the gears. “I can’t believe the only car they have big enough to hold our luggage is a stick shift. I haven’t driven one of these in 30 years.” He gives me his ‘I told you so’ stare. Hmmmm. Maybe I did pack a little too much. He tries the gears again and finally announces, “Okay, I think I’m ready.”
Paul, now all business, says. “We’re going to: he spells Maignaut Tauzia. He doesn’t know how to pronounce it either. “It’s a little village near Condom, spelled Condom.” The co-pilot chuckles and says, “Really?” After a few minutes, he says, “This Magnet place is not on the map, but Condom is.” Paul doesn’t see the humor. He’s too busy with the gears.
I venture “Don’t you think we should have asked for a GPS. Macho Man Paul answers, “We don’t need a GPS. I’ve got it all here on Map Quest” as he hands the ten pages to our co-pilot who is still scrutinizing the map. He finally looks up. “I guess I’m ready, well sort of.” We cross our collective fingers.
After the first few lurches, we roll out of the parking lot and whamo, right onto our first roundabout, a tricky circular road that goes round and round while you try to catch a glimpse of the little signs pointing in all direction. Our co-pilot announces from the front seat, “Look for a sign for Condom” We all start looking but are in danger of whiplash as the signs go flashing by. No Condom. We try going around again and my friend yells, “I think I saw it back there” but no one else did. Okay, let’s try it again but slower this time. Horns blare, fists shake, my friend screams, “we,re going to be killed”. Paul down shifts, gears grinding, steps on the pedal, and off we go, kamakazi style. After two more turns at our new dizzying pace, we all spot Condom.
Two hour later, we pull into our destination, a charming town and land smack dab in the middle of another giant roundabout. Our co-pilot sits up taller and takes charge again. He doesn’t look too happy and grumbles, “The map quest says we’re very close. Look for Magn……whatever” An hour later we’re back to the Condom roundabout. We’ve been here before at least three times. I finally speak up, “It’s getting dark. Shouldn’t we ask someone?” Paul says, “We don’t speak French.” I answer, “but we’re really lost. Maybe someone in that little hotel speaks some English.”
Our co-pilot has gotten quieter and quieter, but my friend and I decide to tackle the hotel ourselves. We march in, shoulders back, heads held high and smile at the concierge. Two minutes later we exit with a slip of paper with lots of arrows, one pointing to Maignaut Tauzia. Our co-pilot isn’t smiling. ” We’ve been on that road before.” We decide to give it another shot but slower this time. And finally spot a tiny sign almost completely obscured by a big leafy tree. Our pilot swerves off the road tires screeching onto a small lane leading to about twelve houses huddled together. My friend asks, “What’s the address?”
Paul answers, “There is no address. They don’t have street names or house numbers. Look for a light blue Mercedes parked in the driveway. The co-pilot, normally a very polite man, has had it. “What? You’ve got to be kidding!”
A few spins around the village later, someone shrieks, “There it is, the light blue Mercedes”
My cousin opens the door to four wild-eyed specimens. She says, “Where have you been? You’re two hours late.”
I say, “Right. I hope you have plenty of wine!