Two For The Road

It might seem that we did not cover a lot of grounds in five days between La Rochelle and Les Sables-d’Olonne, but we had not set an agenda to leave our footprints everywhere. Our objective was to have a great time; and we believe we achieved that.

Back at Fontenaille, we developed a plan to take on Normandy. I have always wanted to walk the D Day beaches and look at the rows and rows of white crosses at the US national cemetery. There are also Mont-St-Michel, dubbed the Marvel of the Occident, Honfleur with its beautiful harbor and the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge, Rouen, made famous by the memory of St Joan of Arc, and Falaises d’Etretat from where Claude Monet and other artists had derived inspirations for their paintings.

We were hoping that our friend would join us to visit Normandy, but somehow she was tied up with other chores related to the Chateau on the one hand and had to deal with other pressing personal issues on the other. So as not to frustrate our aspirations, she gave me the car key of her two-seater and the latest road maps of France and wished us a good journey. It meant that I had to drive all the way with Su as my navigator in a strange country. Thus began a new chapter in relationship building in brand new territories and in unchartered waters. And both of us do not speak French.

It was not easy. Su has a driver’s license, but does not drive. She has an ego stronger than most people and always believes in herself and her instinct. In short, very few people, if any, and certainly not me, can tell her anything new or change her mind easily. Unfortunately for most people, she is often right. I have grown accustomed to her way and modus operandi and have learnt to accept that whole heartedly even though it was not easy in the beginning. I call it character building and I have made it clear to Su that I would not fight her because I had decided to spoil her when we decided to start a life together. I had also told her that I had never set out to spoil anyone in my life, so that I would need to learn how to do it. After four years, it seems that we are doing rather well – so far so good – but two for the road in a two-seater with one as a permanent driver and the other the permanent navigator? I was not sure.

Conventional wisdom has it that women are not the best back-seat drivers, particularly when they do not drive regularly. That is why it is not advisable to invite one’s spouse to be one’s navigator unless they can change roles. The theory is that if they can change roles, the other party will have a chance to get back at the other, and in the long run, the couple would work out a system to the benefit of both.

Those of you who are ancient enough to have seen the 1967 British comedy drama movie “Two for the Road” starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, would appreciate the likely predicaments to a relationship in such a situation. I actually thoroughly enjoyed the movie not only because of Audrey Hepburn. But let me quickly fast forward to the present which is Day Five of our two-for-the-road sojourn. Today, I had driven more than 300 km from Rouen to Etretat, then Le Harve where we had lunch, after which we set off to Honfleur for a walkabout in the old town and waterfront, before going back to Rouen again. We only had one or two minor discussions when we hit the Rouen city centre, largely precipitated by the funny road system of the French. I believe we did well.

Yes, there were moments when the GPS in the car acted funny so that we seemed to be getting nowhere; there were times when Su gave a directive the meaning of which I could not catch immediately and hence did not respond in the manner she had wanted, resulting in unnecessary manoeuvers, and there were moments when Su said something which I took to mean something else, which caused Su to ask whether she should take me to an ear specialist. Was I angry? Was Su angry? Of course, there were such moments, but we thank God that we both tried not to be angry at the same time, and neither of us would allow such anger to last long enough, to spill over, or to gestate to danger levels. Indeed, I laughed off at Su’s suggestion of the ear specialist as a necessity for seniors of which I had become one.

Talking of GPS acting up on drivers, we joined a local tour in Bayeux with a guide who was rather chatty. She joked about tourists relying too much on GPS which could be counter-productive at times. GPS in general takes on a mind of its own and may not always be reliable. Indeed, it only works outdoor and with normal usage. Su used to boast about having an internal GPS in her head, which I do not disagree; and I have sometimes relied on her instincts to determine where we are. Often, I would admit that I don’t know where we are, but that as long as we are together, it really does not matter where we are. Such is how we have been running our holidays these days. We would stop whenever either one of us needs to respond to the call of Nature; we would stop for lunch where we could park and stay overnight in a hotel where we have found parking nearby. We also insist on having good food as often as we could, which is why we would now stay in Rouen for three nights so that we can have fine dining for two nights.

I would sign off here; and I hope to talk to you again soon.

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