EXCERPT 2: from The French Experience

phone. Anndrea and the girls relaxed while Roger and I piled into his more appropriate French car. The appropriateness became clear shortly after we started down that innocent looking side street. Because the pre-Alps are so steep, the roads are punctuated by a series of hairpin turns which extend the length of the drive but make it less steep. The steepness could not be masked, however. The city of Nice seemed to lie directly below this little mountain and one bad hairpin turn could easily place one on the roof of an apartment or a garden many feet below. The apartment was located on one of the hairpins about a half a mile down the road. Our quarry was clearly not at home and Roger managed to ex- plain to me that many people left Nice, not to get away from Americans, but to spend time in the country and mountains. Most returned late Sunday evening making the odds high that we would not see our apartment until dark. At least, Roger had helped me place a note on his door stating that the mysterious Ameri- can family had finally arrived-three weeks later than expected.

It made no sense to sit around. We were finally in Nice and the Riviera. The delay was obviously intended to give us some time to explore our new environs. Rejuvenated by our visit and real human contact, we piled into the van which had been neither smashed nor towed. I turned it around and forced it up the steep hill and the entrance to the Cornice Andre de Joly. Afternoon traffic was clearly heavier and fast. Cars zoomed by the entrance in both directions and, although there was no stop sign, I did the logical and sensible thing. I stopped the van at the entrance and waited for a break in traffic that would give our slow moving vehicle time to get onto the Corniche and gain some downhill speed. After an- other of those small eternities , a break occurred. I gunned the accelerator pedal and released the clutch to enter the Corniche. To my surprise, absolutely nothing happened. The force of gravity from van, passengers and luggage on that steep grade was larger than any force that the van could exert to create forward motion. The opportunity passed and a new vigil began.

When the next break finally did occur, the operation was repeated with exactly the same result. The van stayed in place. The van might spend the year parked illegally in the back lot of the apartment. But, not to be deterred, we tried a new tack. I backed down the hill, moved far enough back to get a good start and then moved as close to the intersection of driveway and Corniche as I possibly could. The car lay across the sidewalk but, when the next merge opportunity arose, the van refused to move forward. One unwieldy solution was suggested. The luggage and passengers could be unloaded onto the sidewalk to lighten the load and get the van onto the Corniche. However, no one was parked on the Corniche-a vehicle silly enough to stop on that fast moving road would be scrap metal in seconds. So, in fact, would any persons desperately trying to reload luggage.