A few days ago (or maybe a week ago?) Michael and I had a lovely meal at an Italian restaurant in Aix. As is common here, our table was outside. But instead of a large square filled with people, we were on a tiny side street–so tiny that if a car passed by, it very well could make contact with my knee. We relaxed with a glass of house red, then devoured our meals: penna arrabiata for Michael and gnocchi for me. The sauce on my dish was some of the best I’d had so, on Saturday, Michael and I tried to find the restaurant again, in the hopes that we could eat there one last time before I left for the camino. There was just one problem: neither of us could recall the location of the restaurant. Nor the name. And I have no sense of direction. And Michael claims to have a poor memory. A wonderful combination in this situation.
But we both love to walk. And Michael loves to track those walks on the FitBit he wears on his wrist each day. So we headed out to 1) see if we would stumble upon it like we had before and 2) reach Michael’s goal of 15,000 steps that day.
I recalled that after we ate there we turned a couple corners and found ourselves in the “student section,” as Michael and I have come to call it–a square populated with outdoor cafes by day, and with hordes of college students by night. (Aix-en-Provence is a city of about 150,000. Of those, about 40,000 are international students.)
We roamed every street off that plaza, but had no luck.
“Did you charge that dinner on your credit card?” I asked.
Michael’s face lit up. “You’re so smart,” he said.
“That’s why you’re with me,” I retorted.
“But why you stay with me, I’m not so sure.” (Maybe because he tells me I’m smart?)
We stopped on a street corner and Michael pulled up his credit card account on his phone. His iPhone (after many visits to the Orange store and one call to Apple) was now usable for internet in France. Mine? Nope. (After one visit to the Orange store, two calls to Verizon, one to Samsung, and numerous google searches.)
I thought I’d recognize the name of the restaurant if heard it. Michael read aloud the few places listed. Turns out I was wrong. Undeterred, Michael googled the location of each place and over the next hour we walked by each one, but no luck.
The next day we walked another part of the city. “We should have marked on the map every street we’ve been on,” I said. Michael preferred the wandering approach as opposed to my police-like grid search. I pulled out the map anyway, and we “wandered” in a certain direction. But still, without success.
It was time for a break. So we grabbed a table on the Cours Mirabeau–an endlessly entertaining place for people watching. Or checking Facebook, in Michael’s case. (Not because he’s addicted to it. Just because he has internet, and I don’t.)
“Mike and Kristin think we’re breaking up,” he said to me as he stared at his phone.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“You posted that you’re going on the camino. Not ‘we’re’ going on the camino.”
What I posted was correct. Michael was going to stay in Aix while I headed over to Porto to walk the Camino Portugues. We’ve got three months here. What’s a few weeks apart?
“Maybe we should take a picture of us together so they know that’s not the case,” I offered.
“Nah, let them think that,” he said casually, as the waiter delivered our oh-so-healthy snacks: a nutella crepe (for me) and french fries (for Michael).
“You know . . .” I said, rolling my crepe, “I don’t think we’ve taken a single picture of us together.” I took the first bite of my crepe and momentarily left the earth (nutella has that effect on me).
“I blame you,” Michael said, with a smile. I rolled my eyes. Indeed, ten days had gone by since we touched down in Europe and neither of us had ever asked another person to take our picture.
I devoured my crepe, then decided Michael was not eating his fries fast enough and I needed to help.
Michael, a man who wastes no time on getting things done, called our waiter over and, in a combination of English, French, and sign language, asked the tall, gray-haired man to take our picture. Michael posted it to Facebook then and there.
A minute later he returned to the apartment, like a man returning from battle–triumphant and exhausted. I greeted him with hugs and kisses and asked where on earth he found the place. “I walked all over, hon, and was on my way home when I thought I’d look down one more street.”
“You’ll have to see when we go there tonight,” he said, dropping his keys and a business card on the cabinet in the foyer. He quickly covered the card with his keys, then thought better of it. “I don’t trust you,” he said, as he put the card in his pocket.
“Is it close?”
“I’m not telling you.”
“Is it anywhere near where we were looking?” Again, he refused to give any more information.
That night, we headed to Rue de la Masse. Mere minutes from our apartment, and no where near the student section. Michael paid for dinner. With his charge card.