Where Coffee Wears Hats

Switzerland has the most amazing rest stops in the history of the world. On Wednesday we drove from Lausanne, through Italy and along the coast, to Villefranche-sur-mer on the Riviera. And the most awe-inspiring thing about the trip was possibly a rest stop about an hour from the Italian-Swiss border. It was called the Rest Stop of Saint Bernard (translated), and it was like a cross between a Whole Foods and a scenic overlook. You walked through the food line and they had every imaginable juice–water melon, pineapple, even cold mint tea (technically not a juice, I know)–and display after display of salads and sandwiches and meats. Outside, the table and chairs sat over a turquoise lake–like the gemstone, not the crayon color–surrounded by mountains. It was the most breathtaking rest stop you’ll ever find.

On the way out, Fred wanted a lid for his coffee, and he didn’t know the word for lid. So he asked the lady for its chapeau. So, essentially, “Do you have a hat for my coffee?”  She did indeed.

The Mediterranean is stunning, although the beaches are grey and pebbly–it’s hard not to miss the sugary sand of the Gulf Coast, which I desperately hope is not entirely covered in oil by now. When the waves roll back off the beach here, they make a soft hissing–it’s a different sound from water on sand. Yesterday we walked to a neighboring town, past NellCote, where the Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street. Our path took us along a walled path just above the sea, and there were occasionally stairs leading down from the sea wall to little coves. So you could pick your way down stairs and climb over smooth sea-washed rocks until you got to a small ladder–just like the ones in swimming pools–that led down into the ocean. Your own private ocean. That was our first swim in the Mediterranean–looking out at sea and drifting boats, hearing the waves hit the rocks, sprays of fuscia flowers hanging over the walls above us, and not another soul in sight. The clarity and color of the water  makes it hard to resist–you can seee straight to the bottom and it seems so close. The sunlight hits the beds of sea grass and makes the tips of the blades glow bright blue-green, undulating under your feet.  Best swimming of my life–it’s water very conducive to mermaids.

On to Paris tomorrow!

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