Starry Night

Posted on February 26, 2013

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By Lauriate Roly

My story is not spectacular. It is just something quite simple and I don’t want to make it appear to be anything else. But a lot happened that day.

Our aim was to leave Paris very early in the morning intending to go as far south as we could to reach Cannes as quickly as possible. It was such a bright sunny day, and hot. Driving some of the roads in France can be quite difficult because there are stretches along their roads where there are trees planted close together along side the roads which as you drive speedily along can cause a sort of “ladder” effect as the sun breaks through the open spaces between the trees. The strain on a driver’s eye muscles, going from shadow to brilliant light can cause a type of vertigo and by late afternoon, I could see that Frances and our young Madeline were feeling the strain of the changing light just as much as I was. I realized that we were really tired out. I planned to find a hotel in Lyon where we could rest properly and be ready to continue towards Le Midi the next day.

Well, driving through Lyon is difficult almost any day; but that day they seemed to have dug up every road and street in the city and it was absolute torture to find one’s way through. Thank heaven a motorcycle policeman who was trying to unravel the traffic jam spoke to me as I sat waiting in a long line of traffic. The three of us must have looked completely forlorn and exhausted in our hot car, causing his sympathetic nature to address us, in French, in a most friendly way as we waited endlessly for the traffic to move.

In the space of a very few moments, speaking together through the open car window, we developed a very agreeable camaraderie because he learned that we were Canadians from Quebec where he spent several years as an exchange student, living very happily with a French Canadian family all through his student years. When he learned that we were on our way to Cannes, but couldn’t find our way through the impossible obstructions that impeded our making any progress, he said if you want to get through Lyons fast and onto the highway “vers Le Midi…  suivez moi.”  And away we went, following his speeding motorbike as he cleared the way for us through the traffic which for hours had barred our forward progress. Before long, we were free of the Lyon mess and I simply abandoned the intention of finding a hotel there, preferring to continue on to find a hotel somewhere along the highway on the outskirts of that big city. We traveled quite a while before arriving at Vienne, a small town on the Rhone river. It was quite late and luckily I spotted a small auberge. The owners were an older couple who were most welcoming and friendly. They were obviously quite experienced in handling tired-out road travelers and within a very short time had made us completely comfortable in a small but lovely little room, complete with a double bed and a fluffy soft little cot for Madeline.

They asked if we were hungry, and if we were, they had a small eating place in the garden behind their lovely little stone building. We were “starved” but tried not to appear so obviously famished as we enthusiastically accepted their invitation.

We freshened up and proceeded into the little garden restaurant. Through the dark I could see there were four small tables, one of which was occupied by a lady and gentleman who were also guests at this little inn.

Our hosts served us the most delicious meal consisting of roast leg of lamb with fresh mint sauce and new potatoes and the most marvelous large plate of fresh sliced tomatoes smothered in olive oil and sprinkled with some kind of pepper, and salt. As we ate, the lady came to our table holding a small tray with three glasses and a glorious looking bottle of red wine. She asked if the little girl might like a little taste in the third glass that was on the tray. Madeline eagerly let the lady know that her mommy and daddy would sometimes let her sample a little of the wine they sometimes would enjoy so, yes, she would like a little taste.

By the time we had finished with our crème caramel desert we were all ready for bed and as she nervously shuffled around, wanting to put her wine glass back on the tray, the glass slipped out of Madeline’s fingers and fell to the ground and broke. This made her feel badly and Frances said she would start ahead to the room and put Maddy to bed.

I sat there by myself for a while slowly and quietly enjoying the rest of the wine. The other couple were speaking together very quietly but smiled at me and gently asked if there was something wrong that made the little girl cry. I explained that we had been traveling all day, that she was tired and that she was upset because she had broken the wine glass; that she would be fine after a good night’s sleep.

This opened up a little conversation in which they told me they had also been driving all day and were so glad to find this quaint little spot. They joked that the town was called Vienne because that was where they had started out from, only it was the Vienna in Austria. They were such an interesting couple. I almost immediately had the feeling that I had met them before, especially the lady; I was certain that I knew her.

After a little while the gentleman said that he had to make a phone call and excused himself, proceeding to make his call using the phone in the owners’ office. I continued to speak with the lady. We spoke mostly of the lovely little garden and the beautiful summer night and the brightly shining stars in the dark night. She spoke so softly in a soft warm voice and with a charming and gentle accent.

We spoke about traffic on the roads, hats and the millinery trade in general, Scottish tweed jackets, automobiles, warplanes, flowers, cities and museums, and more about the beautiful night sky ablaze with stars. To myself, I thought about the beautiful stars in the dark night sky, and here I am, speaking with a lovely lady who is one of the brightest stars here on earth.

I have really enjoyed our conversation she said. We seem to have covered so many subjects. . . and so interesting. I could go on all night, but it is really late and we must be on our way early in the morning. We have to be in Cannes early as possible.

Oh; we are heading for Cannes also. We like it there and plan to spend the whole week there. She seemed anxious to correct me and said “No, I meant we are going to Cagnes – Cagnes-Sur Mere; not Cannes; but it isn’t far from there. I love Cannes also. Where are you staying?” I told her the Martinez and she sparkled and said, “Oh, I always stay at the Martinez too when I go there. Everything is so right in that hotel isn’t it?”

Well I must say good night to you…Monsieur … Monsieur Roly ? Is that correct?

Yes, but how would you know my name? I am not famous. She smiled and said, “No, it is because I heard the lady say your name when she was waiting on your table. I just happened to notice and remembered it. So goodnight, again Mr. Roly, it was lovely speaking with you. It has put a perfect cap on a very long day for me.”

I assure you, it was a pleasure for me also to speak with you and I hope you sleep well… and I too bid you good night… Miss Bergman.

She was startled, and in fact seemed a just a little shocked and said, “Oh, you know my name. I thought you did not because our talk was so casual and easy. It isn’t always so easy and pleasant for me… but, now, at this moment, I am really very glad you know who I am. Thank you for a pleasant evening and goodnight…  again, Mr. Roly, and please say good night to your wife and to the young lady. I hope she will be happy to-morrow. Maybe some day we will meet again… I hope”.

And with that, a very pleasant encounter came to an end.

Born in Montreal, Lauriate is bilingual; his mother a Geordie from Newcastle on Tyne, his father a French Canadian Quebecer. Lauriate has traveled widely and has lived in Europe. His involvements are primarily of a creative nature focused on Music, Graphic and Literary Arts in the communications fields of Advertising and phases of the Entertainment business through television and film production.

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