Phew! We, as in Hubby D and I, have survived another holiday season. Son #1 and family came from two directions, Wyoming and Upstate New York, making Christmas extra special for the entire Giacoletto clan. To add to the ten-day chaos we entertained cousins from my side of the family—twenty-five of us sitting down to … drum roll … you got it, ravioli, enough to feed a small army or a hungry group of Italian-Americans steeped in the tradition of eating with their mouths full. Ravioli, as I’ve said before, my go-to for practically every event involving food. Over 300 of those little pillows got served with either marinara sauce or buttery garlic, depending on which better matched the fillings. But food aside, it was the lively conversation that made my day, what with our reminiscing over East St. Louis, Illinois, during its heyday and Benld, Illinois, the coal mining town where our grandmother, a widow-too-soon, raised five children the hard way.
So now with everything in our household back to what passes as 2015 normal, I’m scrambling to catch up. Here we are, half-way through January which happens to be one of my favorite months of the year, followed by February. Huh, did I hear you say in disbelief? What’s so special about those Southern Illinois months with temperatures seesawing between freezing and ten above zero? Or, the constant threat of snow mixed with ice and sleet, only to be interrupted by a smattering of fifty-degree days that tease us into thinking winter is over before it hardly got started. Well, for the writer in me, those cold, dreary days translate to the ideal time for finishing the book I started over a year ago, one I keep putting off because life gets in the way of my time and creative juices.
Not that there’s much about my life I would’ve changed or could’ve. Should’ve, maybe. Okay, so I should’ve been better disciplined; should’ve been better at multi-tasking; should’ve kept my fingers glued to the literary keyboard instead of letting them wander onto Facebook or other distracting Internet sites. Not that those fingers haven’t taken me to some productive places; otherwise, I wouldn’t have written the following excerpt for my second book in the Savino Sisters Mystery Series.
To set the scene Ellen and Margo Savino, along with Margo’s latest, Jonathan from Iowa, have left Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean Sea, their final destination, the Piedmont Region of Northern Italy. In route, they decide on a quick detour to France’s Mont Blanc; or as the Italians call their side of this Alp, Monte Bianco. This I bring you from Ellen’s perspective, which begins in the back seat of a rental car driven by Jonathan:
Three hours and two more urgent stops to satisfy Margo and Jonathan brought us face-to-face with the snow-capped Alps separating Italy from France, a range extending as far as I could see from one end to the other and beyond there in either direction. I rolled down the backseat window, closed my eyes, and breathed in air so fresh it cleared my sinuses. Then Margo cleared her throat.
“Ahem … El, would you mind rolling up the window. I am positively freezing.”
“At seventy degrees outside, I don’t think so.”
“Okay, okay.” One push of a button closed the window, allowing me to focus on the road signs. “There’s the Courmayeur exit.”
“Do we for sure want to stop here,” Margo said.
“I’d like to,” was my comeback.
“Let’s do France first and catch Courmayeur on our return.”
“Whatever, but I need to use the facilities before we go through the tunnel.”
“Really, El, this will make our third stop.”
“Your third … I sat in the car during the second stop, guarding our possessions while you and Jonathan went for a walk.”
“I could use a break too,” he said.
Thank you, Jonathan.
The restroom facilities were immaculate and … interesting, a throwback to times past with several stalls equipped squat-down toilets. In other words, footrests flanking porcelain vessels fitted flush into the floor. The primitive varieties were located in the unoccupied stalls, that is, until Margo insisted we step inside and experience them first-hand. Make that foot; better yet, feet, one on either side. Face the rear wall and squat. Toilet paper goes in the waste basket, not the vessel. Yuck.
“Oh, El, don’t you just love this,” Margo called out from the stall next to mine. “It’s so … hmm … so Old World.”
Leave it to Margo, what more could I say except, “Where’s the flush button?”
After by-passing Courmayeur to please Margo, we arrived mid-afternoon at the tunnel connecting Monte Bianco in Italy to Mont Blanc in France. Jonathan forked over fifty-four Euros for a round-trip ticket and we were allowed to enter the tunnel. The speed-monitored drive-thru that took about forty minutes made for the perfect experience—in a single oh so welcomed word: uneventful.
A few more miles into France soon brought us to Chamonix. Where shall we stay in the alpine village became our primary focus.
“Any ideas,” Margo asked while Jonathan slowly cruised up one street and down the other.
“Sorry,” Jonathan said, “Only got two hands and one head so I can’t drive and make important decisions at the same time.”
Patience, this too will pass, I told myself, as did all things Margo. “Then park the car and we’ll find some place to eat,” I said. “After that, we’ll decide on a hotel or pensione.”
Good, I’d taken charge and made a suggestion that no one bothered challenging.
The restaurant we settled on was French Tourist specializing in omelets and crepes. We followed our waiter’s suggestion and ordered two omelets—cheese and spinach—plus strawberry-filled crepes, which would allow us substantial portions to share.
“Plus this vin blanc,” Jonathan the Generous said while pointing to one of the higher priced bottles listed on the menu.
“An excellent choice,” Margo said, echoing the last words from our waiter. She blew Jonathan a kiss from her fingertips. “Let’s hear it for the guy from Iowa.”
“Thank you, Jonathan,” was all he got from me. That was enough since Margo felt it necessary to compensate for my three words by leaning over and planting a passion-filled kiss on his waiting lips. Okay, nobody noticed, or seemed to care, except me. After all, we were in France.
And I’ve got to get back to finishing this book. ‘Til next time …