As my adventure in Ardeche was coming to a close, it tossed me one final travel freak out experience.
The scenery was beyond lovely--along another route even more beautiful than the one I had seen on arriving. This route ran parallel for a good distance along the Rhone, a river I had never seen, but which is legendary in France. Birthplace of the mistral, the Rhone is notorious for harnessing a wind that can reach speeds of up to 90 kilometers/hour, and has inspired many a song and poem.
Lost in the reverie of composing a mistral poem myself, and anticipating a final coffee with Catherine at the Grenoble train station, I suddenly snapped out of it. The clock was ticking. We were barely down the mountain, and had far more stops to make than time to make them, according to my calculations.
I began timing the stops; at the rate we were going, I wouldn't arrive until at least 8:30 pm. I was supposed to meet Catherine at 7 pm, and my GEM colleagues
were picking me up at 8 pm for our ride into Germany the next
morning...hmm....would I miss my rendez-
vous with Catherine?!
Was the bus driver inspired by the mistral, or the panicked look on my face? I can't be sure, but as the Rhone came into full view, Grenoble tantalizingly on the other side, we began picking up speed. Swerving around rotaries then at top speed (time-honored European trick designed to give you a workout while you sit for hours on end), the bus threw us from left to right as it zeroed in like a torpedo on the connecting bridge. The tension of trying to hold my seat distracted me from the tension of possibly missing my friend.
Next, stops were abandoned--first the random one or two, then whole dozens. By 7 pm we were roaring into Grenoble, for an on-time arrival. Amazing. I released my white-knuckled fingers from the seat I had been gripping.
I wish I could say I saw Catherine on the quai waving and smiling, but no. It took another half hour for us to connect--and to call my GEM friends to ask for a delay in pick up! (Sans problem!)
Coffee was forthwith replaced by tapas, and Catherine and I had the luxury of sit-down wonderfulness on the square behind the station--something we hadn't done in over a decade. The cafe was all modern and cool, in complete contrast to what I had been seeing:
Which is actually pretty cool too. Of course, any cafe in France is cool. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and then it was time to move on again.
But before we close this chapter on Ardeche, let me leave you with a final random factoid: Ardeche produces the prince of all cheeses, Roquefort!
Au revoir, L'Ardeche!