I’ve been feeling envious of Ms Magic Hands’ road trip. I love a road trip – the singing badly to loud music, the disgustingly calorific food, the vistas and the braving of new territories. I have even driven from Germany to England with two small children (when I could have flown) just because I LOVE TO DRIVE. Very little excites me more than getting on the road-eo with a tank full of petrol, a CD drive full of singalong music and a destination looming.
As a student, I had a 1800-kilometre trip from university to home, so it was a good thing I enjoyed a drive. One of the best things about driving out of Cape Town was reaching the top of Van Reenen’s Pass and looking back at the whole of False Bay and the Cape Peninsula spread out behind you in a cathedral of sea and mountains. The next best thing was getting to the Old Cape Farm Stall, where we would stock up on padkos (Afrikaans for “road food”) – biltong (dried spiced meat strips like jerky, only better), dried guava rolls and rusks (a kind of dried sweetened bread – I’m noting for the first time, the proliferation of dried food in the South African cuisine: must be a leftover from the Afrikaner trekking tradition). We would stop to fill up the car at lonely petrol stations in the Karoo, and fill up our stomachs with toasted sandwiches, runny with grease and melted plastic cheese. The soundtrack was inevitably Van Morrison (I can still screech the lyrics to “Moon Dance”), Jim Morrison, Tracey Chapman (’twas the Eighties, folks), Johannes Kerkorrel (an Afrikaner rebel, who is sadly no longer around) and the music from The Big Chill. The car was usually full of girls, but the odd token boy student – boyfriend, brother, groupie – took his place on the back seat. Driving was for the girls, you understand.
Tomorrow, I am going on a road trip, and with one of my favourite co-travellers, an enthusiastic tourista whose appetite for travel and seeing stuff challenges my own – my mother. I have had a couple of trips with my mother to European destinations and she is indefatigable. I remember her waking me up in a Paris apartment at 7am saying, “We must get up. We must go out.” I groaned, turned over in my bed, muttering that nothing happens in Paris before 10am. “But the light, the light”, she exclaimed, pulling open the curtains so that I could better appreciate the light, “We must go out with our cameras and take photographs.” So, at 7.20am my mother, the Paris street-sweepers and I were out, taking note of the light.
That self-same day, we visited BOTH the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay (I have a memory of my mother running from room to room, saying, “I HAVE to see it all”), and walked so much, that the soles of my feet bled. I learned the French word for “plaster” that day.
On another occasion, we were staying in northern Tuscany with my husband and my aunt. We decided to drive to Sienna for the day. It was a long drive, made more exhausting by necessary wrangling of Italian drivers and the comments from the peanut gallery in the back seat of the car (mother + aunt). On arrival in Sienna, the limp driver and navigator felt a small coffee might be appropriate before hitting the sights. “I don’t want to waste time having coffee – I’m going straight to the cathedral,” said the Tourista, and headed off in a firm northerly direction. Husband and Aunt took in the necessary coffee, while I reeled in the determined little tourist.
Tomorrow’s road trip is not of mammoth proportions. We’re going to Strasbourg, a mere one and a half hour’s drive away. But it is FRANCE, and oh boy do the Tourista and I love France. We will both get giddy as soon as we cross the border, giggle and shriek “We’re in France!”. Then she will grip my arm and say, “This is SO much fun” and “I love travelling with you, darling” and I will do my best not to drive off the road in my state of high excitement.
When my husband suggested that we book ourselves into a hotel and spend the night in France, coming back the next day, I hesitated for about one second, then rushed to the computer and booked a hotel before anyone could change their mind. Now the Tourista’s got something else to get excited about – “staying in a HOTEL! in FRANCE! with CROISSANTS!”.
It’s going to be a lot of fun. I expect exclamation marks.