Our arrival at the Nice airport was heralded, if not by The Boss's immediate declaration that she had "to go potty," then by the one she made minutes later when she was finally and firmly entrenched in the bathroom stall: "It smells like horse poop in here!" My own keen sense of observation honed in on the lack of hand soap and paper towels. We scrubbed our hands under the running water and then wiped them on our thighs.
Back at the baggage claim, a greeter (not unlike those stationed at the entrances of WalMarts back here in the States, except that she was thin and French and pretty) had pity upon our poor hunchbacked party and wheeled a baggage buggy in our direction. We loaded four suitcases in excess of 160 pounds onto the cart and made our way across the glass-lined building, through Customs, and into the direct sunlight.
"France is so beautiful!" The Boss enthused, all traces of horse poop erased from her nasal memory. The scaly, sharp-fronded glory of so many palm trees made my four year old gasp; she watched them wave in the Taxis' wind. Small cars darted all around us, puttering into traffic circles or detours forced by airport construction. The Partner's two French uncles led us to a set of outside elevators below the parking garage. From there, we were delivered to the family compound.
The eldest of The Partner's uncles--il s'appelle Attilio--presided over a swath of property only two or three miles from the Mediterranean. On it he had built homes for his three sons, each modern villa connected by Attilio's green house, where, at the time of our arrival, tomatoes, green beans, and zucchini flourished. The three new houses and Attilio's old one, where he lived with his wife, Colette, sat at the base of the city of Biot, which climbed in blocky, stucco steps up a seastruck mountain.
A straight path led from the house in which we were staying (it belonged to the youngest of Attilio's sons) to the home of the patriarch himself. We would walk that small hill--just a asphalt tease before the steep cobblestones that could take us to the city if we wished--each noontime and night. Meals were served in an extended outdoor banquet that spilled over with meat and shellfish and wine. On our first day there, Number Two fell asleep at the table, his forehead pressed against the wooden lip. Nine of us shared one bottle of champagne and five of wine.
I stumbled home soon after for siesta, leaving The Partner and the kids with their long lost family. I prepared for the welcome release of afternoon sleep with a tumbler of gaseous water (it sounds better in French). The bubbles effervesced 24 hours, 2 continents, and approximately one liter of alcohol into the stuff dreams are made of. I lowered myself onto the bed of white linen, letting the down of duvet and pillow swallow me. The breeze, trapped between mountain and sea, whirled at my back.