|Cocktails in Antibes!|
A note on my crew. They are amazing! When people go above and beyond what is required of them a trip is made. It is all in the details. Erin bought all the passengers ice-blocks at that rest stop out of her own pocket (and yes it cost more than she was even earning that day) in order to keep some spirits high whilst the coach was broken down. In the cafe yesterday she was looking up the availabilities for the passengers to pre-book tickets to see the David in Florence. She brought a map of Europe with her and Zsolt marked it for the passengers to see our route and it is going up the back of the coach. I suggested a really cool route that you can take out of Lauterbrunnen that is out of the norm and ridiculously beautiful scenery. Zsolt really took the idea on board and looked it all up and talked to the other drivers about it. Even though in the end it was decided that it wasn’t the easiest route for a new driver and not the easiest roads for our ‘retro’ coach I was still really impressed with his efforts to find out all about it. What awesome crew.
|Our crew 🙂|
The big event of that drive day was the addition of a new passenger. He joined us at the service station after the gothard tunnel (a tunnel that goes for something like 17 kilometres under the mountains). The back story is from the first night on our Paris driving tour. There is a particular roundabout we get to which has the most spectacular view of the Eiffel tower and it comes right out of the blue. Trip leaders like to play up the grand reveal by distracting the passengers out the other side of the coach until we get in to the perfect viewing spot. Every trip leader has a different story, all of them centring on this restaurant called the Trocadero. Erin hyped our guys up with a story of a restaurant that had monkeys that served the drinks, she said how they wore top hats and in the colder months, waistcoats ‘so look out to see those because it might be cold enough for them to be wearing them now’. She encouraged them to get up to get as close to the right hand windows as possible to see these little guys. Everyone was pressed against the glass going ‘where? Where?!’ when she said, ‘oh, maybe its actually on the left hand side.’ Cue turning around to the most perfect view of the Eiffel tower all lit up- and no reaction. I think someone said, ‘so there’s no monkeys?’ We were laughing at how disappointed they were and for the rest of the driving tour she was pointing out other things like how each of the lights on the Eiffel tower was held by a monkey who was turning it on and off. From then on monkey stories have abounded and so when at this petrol station we found a stuffed monkey toy he was a must. His name is Fabio Marcelle Alessandro Munkachino and he is a green light who likes long walks on the beach, punch parties and has a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and so we have to make sure to include him in what we are doing. He went a bit too hard on his first night at the punch party and had such a hangover that he didn’t make it in to Nice but he smartened himself up for Monaco and actually didn’t do too bad at the blackjack table. (although we had to tell him off for stealing some chips as souvenirs). He is sitting next to me now chowing down on a banana looking pretty happy that we are in his motherland of Italy.
|Fabio at the Punch Party|
So that happened on the drive to Antibes. Other than that it was uneventful, we had stuffed potatoes for lunch and I wore shorts when I had thought that I would be in long pants all trip but it is warmer than I had expected. Antibes is the town in between Nice and Cannes and is where our camp-site is. It is across the road from the beach so the passengers went for a swim whilst I was making dinner – Risotto and Caprese salad. I was making lunch for the next day at the same time and I think it might have been my most successful couscous salad yet (it’s the little things). After dinner we put together the punch for our punch party and moved to the reception area. A pack of cards was pulled out and we played a massive game of kings cup. It was really nice to see everyone together, encouraging others and laughing at the inside jokes they were creating. A lot was drunk but when the reception lady came out to shut us down at midnight everyone was sensible and went off to bed, as opposed to taking the party down to the beach in to the wee hours which is what often happens.
|Our passengers on the way to Monaco|
So they were all still sensible the next morning for their toad in the hole breakfast and ride in to Nice. In fact some of them had even got up for an early swim before breakfast! On the drive in I was dropped off at the supermarket and had a lovely shop and waited for Zsolt to come back and pick me up. Back at camp I just cleaned and made lunch for the next day before getting ready for Monaco. I had some canapes ready for the group when they came back to get prettied up for the night and it felt quite civilised to eat blini and pate whilst dressed up smart in the camp-site. On the drive in we stopped at Fragonards, a French perfumerie which gives guided tours of the factory and has a magnificent shop where I picked up some christmas presents.
|Fragonards signature gold bottles|
In Monaco, Erin got them all again by telling the group that Monaco has a really high-tech border and all you need to do is hold the photo page of your passport up to the window as we go past the border and the cameras will capture them. They all held them up to the window as we went past this spot and she laughed and told them she was having them on. She then tried to tell them that the prince of Monaco had ordered crystals to be put in the tarmac of the roads in order to reflect the beauty of the city and that is why it sparkles (it does) but they weren’t having a bar of that one.
In Monaco we start off with a short walk up to the royal palace and a great viewing spot then hop back in the coach for a drive on the Grand Prix track and a drop off at the Monte Carlo casino. Most of our group was just interested in getting dinner so they were pointed in the correct directions and we met up with the other 4 crew in town to get dinner in a Mexican restaurant. It was really delicious and good company. We picked up the passengers to find that no one had lost too badly and one of the guys had even won 100 off 10 so that was successful!
|The start of the Grand Prix track|
Back at camp all the passengers were off to bed but we had a special visitor! Kevin is a TL whom I did training with last year and Erin did her Wallah trip with him on a camper at the start of the year. We hadn’t all seen each other for months and so when Kev found out he was getting in to the hotel just 2km up the road from us, he made the walk down. We each grabbed a bottle of Fragonards wine and settled down to chat until 3 in the morning, there was a lot of catching up to do! Eventually we said goodnight and headed to our beds. Erin and I have so far not managed to have a night where we just go to bed and to sleep. Each night we have ended up talking for a half hour like we are teens at a sleep over, and even though it was 3am we still were talking in the dark until we pretty much fell asleep mid sentence.
|On the drive to Monaco|
This morning was the most on time that our group has been and they have got cook tent set up and take down to a fine art and it makes my heart sing to see them just get to work without needing my instruction. We are driving to Florence Via Pisa and I have slept for a bit of it but we have had our first service stop and I have had my first coffee and chocolate croissant and am so so happy to be back in Italy! I love just walking in to the petrol station and hearing the chatter, I love the style of coffee bar and I love the smooth, sweet coffee. The only country where I know I wont need any sugars. The weather has turned and we are having the first rain of the trip (this always happens coming in to Pisa for some reason) and it is quite heavy. I’m wondering if I will go in to Pisa with them or not. I’ve never been in on a trip before and I haven’t been in at all since 2010! So I should but the rain might turn me off. We will see.