Europe is so many things: beautiful views, grand cathedrals, shooting down ski slopes, riding on super fast trains through glorious scenery. My favorite things have to do with people, because you can find beautiful views anywhere and you can even find great buildings other places but the people you see--those are the memories I treasure and the funny memories come to my mind first. This one was right out of slapstick heaven.
My husband and I were in a little town just north of Albi in the south of France one summer many years ago. We sat down to have a cup of coffee with one of those wonderful French confections in a patio in front of a small cafe. We started sipping our coffee when we saw an old man, obviously French, struggling up a walk just to the left side of a bunch of tables in front of us all filled with happy vacationers, totally oblivious to anyone but themselves. The man was certainly in his late 80's if not older. Just behind him was his wife of similar years. Using a cane, he slowly made his way up the slope--intent on getting that cup of coffee. Every move was laborious. His wife tottered along behind him, her glance directed down at her feet, carefully calculating every step. He gave not one glance behind him to check on her but just worked his way slowly, tortuously up the hill.
I'm sure my husband would have offered them our table if it wouldn't have been patently ridiculous, as they would have had to do the same thing to come down the hill to our table. His wife stayed right behind him, tottering along ever forward. It was as though he represented the shore of a mighty sea she was trying to reach.
Finally the man saw an empty table among the throng and turning in, worked himself unsteadily toward it. He reached it, pulled out a chair, and collapsed into it. His wife tottered toward the chair across from him. He reached out with his foot and kicked the chair out for her. Ah, French gallantry!
2 weeks ago