Been There, Done That… San Remo, Italy

I have had the good fortune to travel all over the world—for both business and pleasure, not that those are mutually exclusive. This blog is about my unique experiences around the globe. It is not intended as a paean to the wonders of the locales themselves, as there already exist volumes that more than do justice to the magnificence of virtually every corner of this earth.  Here, I simply recount small, personal moments of surprise, embarrassment, stupidity, excitement, fear, heroics, and other stuff like that.

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San Remo, Italy…May 1988. Sande and I were on the second week of our honeymoon, having spent the first in Paris falling in love with everything Parisian—from the magnificent mural painted on the ceiling of our Left Bank hotel room, to the perfect-for-people-watching cafes along Boulevard Saint-Germain, to the sexy lingerie stores where Sande went bra shopping and I shamelessly tagged along.  We then made our way south to the medieval village of Eze, dating to 200 BC and perched high atop a cliff overlooking the French Mediterranean and the city of Nice. We would spend the final week of our luna de miel in this virtual fairyland, while exploring the coastal wonders of neighboring towns along the French and Italian Riviera—like San Remo, where I almost got arrested.

San Remo was not our destination that day. In fact, we had none. We just started driving and soon found ourselves on one of racing’s most famous circuits—Monaco’s Grand Prix. Fascinating in its own right, the principality took on an even more distinctive aura owing to the streets having been fenced and fortified for the annual race, then only days away. While I didn’t exactly conjure images of Graham Hill making the hairpin turns—and to be perfectly honest, my primary interest was to find my way off of the automotive maze I had stumbled onto—it was pretty cool to fantasize about being a Formula One driver, if only for a few confused moments. While we would return to Monaco the next evening, dressed to the nines and at least looking the part of high rollers at Monte-Carlo’s famed Casino, we continued on our day trip and soon crossed the border into Italy, just the thought of which tweaked our appetites.

Arriving San Remo in early afternoon, we parked near the harbor and randomly selected a small restaurant for lunch. I have never enjoyed a finer lunch. Period. Multiple bottles of wine, a large plate of pasta, two (yes, two) pizzas, and perhaps the best ice cream I ever tasted. Then, appropriately sated, we trundled off to explore the town, soon finding ourselves near the train station where I found myself in need of a potty stop.

It bears noting that, at this point in my life, I was far from the seasoned traveler I would eventually become. At this point, I still found all things foreign to be rather fascinating and, occasionally, worthy of photographic validation…as at the San Remo train station that afternoon. It was there that I discovered why Italians don’t worry about germs from public toilet seats, as there are none. Instead, and undoubtedly owing to the Italian penchant for fine cement work, the john was a hole in the concrete floor with a beautifully crafted (albeit one-size fits all) shoe print on either side. I assume these foot-sized indentations exist to remove any doubt as to the purpose of the hole, as well as to confirm the proper direction of one’s stance. Those helpful hints notwithstanding, and especially as there was no stall door for privacy, thus making me feel like I was squatting in front of Grauman’s Chinese preparing to sign my name in wet cement before an adoring throng, I no longer felt the need to, well, go. Unfortunately, however, I did feel the need to capture the scene.

I ran out of the (I don’t know what to call it—“bathroom” would be way over the top, as would water closet, toilet, or other usual suspect terms)—anyway, I ran out of there to find Sande, who was across the street and in possession of the camera, which I excitedly grabbed and hurried back toward the “toilet place.” Just as I was about to re-enter, I heard whistles blowing and turned to see a female Carabinieri waddling toward me, waving her arms wildly as her whistle blowing became all the more intense. The squat policewoman, maybe 5’2” and probably tipping the scales in the neighborhood of 180 lbs, was moving toward me with the uncanny speed of a small rhino.  Upon reaching me, her whistle blowing was immediately replaced with the Italian language I usually find to be quite beautiful, but not when the words are being hurled accusingly by a municipal official in front of a crowd of her countrymen, all of whom had undoubtedly sized me up as a picture-taking pervert…a perception I’m sure the police lady was reinforcing in no uncertain Italian terms.

In time, Sande and I did manage to keep the little fireplug from cuffing me and putting the kibosh on an otherwise lovely honeymoon. It was not without further embarrassment, however, as the language barrier left me no choice but to explain myself via a charade-like performance in front of a now quite happily entertained crowd, many of whom will perhaps think of me if they ever find themselves on holiday in Hollywood, observing the cemented footprints at the entrance to Grauman’s Chinese.

T H E   E N D

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