Tales of A trailing Wife - Summer is here & so are the House Guests!
I am sure most of you reading this have House Guests at least once during the summer. Who can blame them? We live in one of the most beautiful corners on this planet earth. I can hear some of my South African friends sigh and mutter under their breath: traitor; how can you say that? Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world! The many Facebook posts we are subjected to must surely be proof enough! Guess what folks; there are other beautiful spots out there in this wide-open world.
When we first started coming to Sanremo for our summer holidays I had no idea how convenient it was to reach us via Nice Airport from all corners of the world. My first House Guest arrived from Australia to help me unpack my move-in shipment from the USA. Suffering from empty nest syndrome and after I mentioned in an email how nervous I was, she surprised me. My flight from Lagos Nigeria arrived 10 minutes before hers from Perth. (*HH needed to stay home and take care of daughter/dog and earn the money honey). What fun memories we have of sitting in darkness not knowing why the lights went out. How the neighbour took pity on me and led me into the basement where the electrical box was hidden; buying a new washing machine and dryer in Italian and hoping we choose the right program. We spent every night on the balcony with a bottle of red wine congratulating ourselves on each achievement, admiring the beautiful moon over the Mediterranean Sea. 2 New Zealanders and 3 Americans made an impromptu detour on their trip through Europe and stopped by on the same night to have a glass of wine with us, sitting on unpacked boxes. How they found us I cannot remember; we did not have Facebook in those days!
My second guest was kind enough to accompany BB who was 11 years old at the time, from Lagos en route to California, with her then 12 year old son in tow. This was not a dream holiday. First of all she never told me that the slats were missing on the bedframe (no idea what happened to them in the move) and that she slept each night on a collapsed mattress. We had no TV, Internet or Peanut Butter for the kids. When she returned from an overnight visit to Venice by train she was holding up BB who was running a very high fever, herself covered in vomit. How we found the Sanremo Hospital is still a mystery to me. We spent hours in the Pediatric Emergency Ward insisting on having a Malaria Test, as it was exactly 7 days after leaving an infected country. Eight hours later BB came home with a negative result, thank goodness. It took me 10 years to persuade my friend to return. I made sure that this time she got to enjoy the real Italian experience.
I like having guests and I don’t mind sharing my space with friends and family. I love sharing this beautiful town, the area and our apartment that is just big enough for “luxury camping” as I call it. Having two bathrooms is the secret and my relaxed character. In the early days my guests were my social life. These days I can incorporate them into my new social life here on the Riviera, which allows them to have a more all-inclusive experience.
Years ago I would have the house full of sleeping teenagers that only got up at 3 pm in the afternoon from a late night out, always hungry. Recently I managed to apologize to my neighbours about the noise level of those days, especially the high heeled shoes in the early hours of the morning. They smiled and told me it is pay back time now that they have young screaming grandchildren. Talking about teenagers brings back a memory of my Houston Tennis Team coming to visit. The apartment was still full of young people who had no intentions of leaving. I truly had no space for 4 extra people. Thankfully my friend offered me her rental apartment at a minimal cost and I was saved and relieved to keep my promise of taking care of them when they arrived.
One evening HH phoned to see how we were doing and hearing a lot of laughter in the background. "What is happening?" he asked. I found that amazing wine you left for us in the dining room cupboard. It is delicious. There was silence and then a near whisper: “How many are left?” he asked. “Let me have a look, hold on.” I replied. "There are 2 with a silver epithet and 2 with a golden one." I said. "Angela, those are award-winning wines I bought in Bordeaux for future family celebrations; would you please hide those 4 (out of 10) for me!"... Oh dear! No wonder none of us had a hangover the next day. One summer I had three of my cousin’s visit. One from Florida with her husband and son, one from California, one from Gibraltar and my mom from Namibia. We were so happy to be together that nobody worried about where and how they slept; it was definitely one of the only “camping” experiences with so many guests at the same time. I am continually surprised how many people can fit on my small balcony. These days we are all getting a little older and require at least a good night sleep. My undaunted 78-year-old mother is trying to make friends with my beautiful brand new sleeper couch which I thought felt so comfortable in the shop. Keeping this in mind I did not offer accommodation to same aged Zia and Zio (Aunt and Uncle) who had arrived from Hamburg. Bad enough that they have to get in and out of my Mini. Certainly keeping the old folks nimble, including myself.
I would warn my guests that coming to stay with me was going to be a different experience. It was not my hometown or home country or language. I have to compliment my Guests in the early years at their casual acceptance that I never had the answers, which we would then try and figure out with dictionary in hand. That the power would go out at a whim, that we have no air conditioning in 35°C heat, and that they have to shower as well as wear a cap to go swimming in the pool. Nobody ever complained about the cold water. It took me a while to realize that if the toilet was flushed in the one bathroom, or the tap turned on in the kitchen, a hot shower turned into a cold one due to low water pressure. After 10 years I have finally solved the problem and what a pleasure! But by far the best fun in the early days was to get into the car, not knowing where we were going and discovering new places together.
Then came the period where I had it all figured out and would run on autopilot.
We would walk into Sanremo on market day, drive to Monte Carlo, to Dolceaqua and Cervo. And if they were lucky, Menton, Grasse or Nice. How beautiful Monte Carlo was all those years ago. Do you remember the beautiful gardens in full bloom walking down towards the Casino? Driving along the coastline and seeing Monte Carlo without the new high rise, which has changed the character totally as you come around the corner from Italy. I quickly learnt that driving anywhere on the Riviera in August was madness. So whoever came at this time was told in no uncertain terms that they would have to take the train or bus if they wanted to see the other side.
It took me a couple of years to toughen up and feel confident that I had repaid the generous hospitality we had enjoyed over the years from friends far and wide on our travels around the world and that I had to stop fully financing these visits. When one is a generous person by nature, this is very hard to do. But I realized that to keep enjoying my friends and not start feeling resentment, I had to begin accepting offers of contributions. It became easier over time and these days I have no problem mentioning that for the price of gas and tolls I am more than happy to pick up and drop off at Nice Airport. Besides the wear and tear on my old Mini, the minimum cost to me personally for gas, parking and tolls is a minimum of €35 return. Do this trip at least three times a month it all adds up. The first three nights you can eat for free, then you should start buying some groceries. And please replace the wine with the same quality you enjoyed the night before. And the only other request I have is to keep emptying the dishwasher. I like seeing the bed made up (must be the German in me) and a tidy space around me. I love cooking and trying out new recipes on my guests who will not complain! I love it if you clear the table and take all the dishes back to the kitchen. But please let me fill the dishwasher!
Ten years ago I started keeping a Guest Book. Underneath a printed photo I ask my visitors to write a short note about their stay. Of course everyone will pen something complimentary; they might want to come back! Quite a pleasant ego trip for me, but more importantly a wonderful reminder of fun memories made with our daughters school friends, ex-boyfriends, grandparents, family as well as many of my own friends from around the world. There is nothing more rewarding than having happy guests with smiling faces and a sense of contentment.
But do not be fooled. I do take note of the way you show gratitude. If you leave me a Ferrari as a gift you are welcomed back. If you leave hair in the shower you are not!!
Jokes aside, please keep coming!
*HH - HandsomeHusband