On the side of the highway in France

Geoff, you were there. I’m willing to bet that you’ll agree that this was far and away our most romantic dinner ever.

We were on our honeymoon, in France. A little background: I studied French for many years and could order in restaurants, follow directions on the street. I wanted more — to convince everyone that I was French. To do that, I never smiled and spoke as little as possible.

We started our trip in Paris, with long walks and croissants. We moved on after a week to little towns in the countryside: Avignon, Cannes. There were more, but I can’t remember them. The last stop of our trip was in Nice. The evening we drove there we set out late without having eaten. We were hungry and hoping to stop along the way. The highway, ironically revealed only McDonald’s and we kept going.

We were nearing the edge of Cannes, about to give up on dinner altogether. But we were very hungry, so it felt awful, almost depressing. As we neared the interchange ramp, the restaurant appeared, like a mirage.

It was small, dimly lit from within. Previously a home, it exuded a warmth that is both characteristically French and nearly impossible to find among the French. We stopped and went in, pausing to glance at the menu in the window.

The very friendly hostess sat us immediately, speaking in quick French. She brought us aperitifs and hors d’oevres before we ordered. I don’t remember the food except that it was delicious; I have forgotten almost all of the details but for you and me together, starting out on this journey together, and being so happy. The surprise and mystery of that little restaurant by the side of the highway, its appearance at the best possible moment felt like good fortune. That piece of luck has always felt significant to me.

It’s this: If we stick together and keep going, good things will fall in our path. It’s worked for us so far.