From Sète to Bar (In a Windowless Car)..

August 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is the second in a six-part series of a Lifestyle Design experiment en route to Montenegro in Summer 2010. Click for parts 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Part 2: Explain

It’s a great feeling to be back on the road again, as good as it was to live the Middle-Class English dream of oysters, jazz and quality whiskey in a charming and ever-so-slow southern French village. There isn’t much action on the road though, and contrary to popular myth you remember that driving through France is actually eighty per cent boring. The MSG coating on a family-size packet of crisps proves interesting for a while, as does the heating up of the iPod contest between you and your friend and host. Things liven up once the other side of Marseille and you decide to stop in a coastal resort that you remember visiting with your family aged five and six. Memories are scarce and a struggle to get a firm grip of, but a vacant nostalgia fills your head and torso and you buy a postcard to probably deliver by hand when you visit your folks personally a few months later. You swim in the sea and it’s as warm as a bath. You look in the harbour and there are many, many boats.

Driving gets more and more dramatic, in terms of bends and views and tunnels and tolls, and when you enter Italy you sense a calm but heady excitement not only because the views are improving and the vegetation thickening town by town, but because you genuinely haven’t been in this country before. And it’s a country that, for fame and story and history and hype, you know can offer a five-star experience to the lucky passenger. Storm clouds and fog brews as you meander towards the mountainous southern trajectory, and a couple of hours later you find yourself stopping just short of the city of Pisa, and heading towards the fifty-euro-a-visit beaches of Viareggio.

Seb, ex-flatmate of your friend and host is active, alive, and a well-organized guide. He jumps into the van with you in the town centre and you make it to the free beach in time for sunset with wine, ham, chicken, tomatoes, basil and bread. You’ve never seen a sky so red before, an utterly new sensation on top of a lifetime of great experiences, but your friend and host’s locked his keys inside the van and you wait semi-excitedly on the curb as Seb smashes the left-hand side window with a large rock he finds on the beach. Although the next morning you expertly negotiate a replacement pane with some Italian you seem to have plucked from your back side, it’s three days until they can do the job and you thereby realize that for the remainder of the road trip, you unlucky passengers cannot let the van – therein contained your friend and host’s life equipment and music studio – out of your sight. Evenings of adventure camping and chic urban nightlife immediately crumble from your imagination as you wake up fresh and covered in the dew left on your huddle in the corner of a non-descript village car park halfway up an unfindable Italian hill. For the following forty-eight hours both you and your friend and host are a little low on energy: surprising as you may have expected that warm Havana Club from the bottle and a seven hour cuddle with a forest floor were all that were necessary for a budding Lifestyle Designer like yourself to get up quick sharp and crack on with some income-stream-producing, value-delivering work.

Next stop is Florence and the city arrives much quicker than expected, and you consequently break the plan you promised to yourself that you would not arrive between one and four in the afternoon in a city that consistently reaches 39 degrees centigrade at this time of year and this of day. So when you rock up to the campsite at half-past two you’re delighted to discover not only that the grandiose sixteenth century building beside your new patch of forest floor affords a comfortable breeze and superfluous interior balconies, but twelve hours of superfast wifi at a very reasonable cost. Realizing it’s now midweek and that you’d promised yourself some unrelenting focus and lazer-like productivity, you set upon your bulging inbox with alsation-like saliva and fill up your hard disk with the latest blog feeds, podcasts, and video training modules that you’ve missed over the last now seven days. You realize that these steps are not going to change the situation of your bottom line but you can feel good that, happen what may over the next few days, you’ve gleaned enough fresh information to keep your inner dialogue at bay with some hardcore passive work and proactive procrastination until the other side of the weekend.

You walk on out into Florence, all of about five kilometers away on foot, and it’s a noteworthy accomplishment given that it’s the same temperature outside your body as it is inside. You cannot stop making observations and comparisons between the architecture, environment and people here to those back in Spain, and although you’re present in the Italian peninsular for little more that 48 hours, you’re certain in your conclusion that despite the mangled and make-believe language you’re speaking to them, the people here are better mannered and more engaging than their Spanish counterparts. Yes, the opposite sex is better dressed and physically more attractive, and although it’s evident that Italy’s enjoyed a larger cultural and industrial boom than Spain over the last two-hundred years, it certainly lacks that fresh lick of paint in various key places. You also confirm that between the interesting and exhuberant, fantastical and at times filthy features of Florence, the sheer cost of food, beer and the number of tourists in the city centre signals that this is a place that has stopped being a functional city, and has willingly turned itself into a full-time, full-size, livable, walkable, museum.

The next day is the sunniest yet, and between sleepiness and sweat both you and your friend and host decide that adventures are over and you just want to get to the house, unload the van, jump naked into the river, and sit comfortably and concentrate on work. At the port city of Ancona you eat, drink and park-up; boarding up the missing window with masking tape and cardboard boxes gleaned from a Viareggian bakery, and, you quip, make your way on top of Sveti Stefan for an eighteen hour ride. No beds, backpack for pillows, and over a hundred thousand brain cells destroyed, perhaps permanently, per person under the density of the black chemical smoke exhuded by Stefan’s engines.

The Adriatic sea is incredibly calming, with the sunset smooth and a hundred per cent clean of clouds. It’s intriguing to be surrounded by different people, acting with different manners, in a culture completely unknown. You feel as if you want to get stuck in and start getting to know people, but you’re also happy relishing the romantic fact that slowly and smokily you’re inching your way over to a country that, known as it was when you first studied the atlas, now doesn’t exist.

Continue to Part 3.

Procrastinating?  Pick up your Free Workbook and overcome that habit, today.

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