Monday, June 6, 2016

Sometimes It's Best To Leave The Lens Cap On

We were in France so that The Boss could attend a French and American symposium on incredibly boring stuff that admittedly pays well. The first day-and-a-half of the symposium on incredibly boring stuff was held in Paris. The following two days were held in Toulon, in the south of France on the Mediterranean coast. It was horrible. Sunny skies, beautiful water, cool breezes off the sea…the south of France was everything you would imagine it to be.

Our French hosts were sending us from Paris to Toulon by train, but before we could get there, French railroad workers went on strike. They were kind enough to announce the strike in advance so as not to inconvenience as many people as possible. That’s how we ended up on a bus that took us from the Ministry of Defense to Orly Airport and an Air France flight (a free Air France flight) to the southern shores. The Boss graciously gave up a delicious wine infused lunch provided by her French hosts (every lunch was wine infused, according to the attendees) to retrieve me from the hotel so as to not miss this change in venues. She settled for airline pretzels after she couldn’t eat a crappy overpriced airport sandwich because she discovered after purchasing it that it contained mayonnaise. (She just reminded me of the sacrifices that she makes for me. I’m lucky that way.)

It was on the bus through the south end of Paris that we notice trucks with the name “Ada” on it.  It’s the French equivalent of Hertz.  While snapping a picture of an Ada truck through the bus window (we knew our Ada would love it)(we were wrong) we heard a woman near the front of the bus tell her husband to “quick snap a picture because Ada would love it.” It turns out that another American couple on the bus had a daughter named Ada. It’s the first time we’ve heard of another Ada who wasn’t 104 years old. It is an old person’s name.

The flight was good, the trip to the hotel on the coast was pleasant, and the days were filled with exploration while The Boss attended to the well paying boring stuff. I discovered The Tour Royale, a fort built in the 16th century to protect the naval port in Toulon. The fort was closed for the season, so no tour was available. There was a submarine memorial for all of the sailors who gave their lives in the French Silent Service.

There were miles of beaches and hidden ocean front pathways and ancient buildings and naked people. It was a little early in the year for lots of naked people, but it was clear that this was an area where naked and people and sunshine and beaches are pretty much synonymous.

The nakedness was a surreal experience.  There were naked people of all shapes and sizes and ages. There were Olive Oyls and dirigibles and everything in between. There were young children whose parents stripped off their clothes and allowed them to run free in the sand and elderly people who went the full monty. You know, gender doesn’t matter. Old and wrinkled and naked is not a good public combination.

Sure, there were two young ladies (late 20's/early 30's) who were nice to look at. And when they are right in front of you and starkers it is difficult not to notice.  Oddly, one of them was clearly self-conscious. I was sitting on a park bench with Bob (the other Ada’s dad) and Jane, another spouse, enjoying the sunshine and chatting away, when a young lady walked up the beach, chose a spot near us, began to undress, noticed us, and became obviously uncomfortable. It was like she wanted to be nude in public but didn’t want anybody to notice. The second au naturel young lady was lying face down in the sand with a friend when the three of us walked around a rock outcrop while exploring a seaside hiking path. Her friend said something to her in French and she lifted herself up to look around, exposing most of her topside in the process. When she saw us she shot us a nasty look and lay back down. I remember thinking, “Don’t get mad at us, doll. Slap your friend. She’s the one who made you look.”  I avoided taking pictures at these moments.

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