Rob and I regretfully checked out of Hotel La Villa on Monday morning. I’d milked the bathroom time I’d had left to style my hair, put on some mascara, and massaged into my skin the most beautifully scented dry oil I found at a Pharmacie. I felt human again, Alice again, and I was excited to go shopping while Rob explored the beaches.
Ladies, I cannot even begin to tantalize you with all the incredible shopping there is in St. Tropez! I indulged in being a full on girly-girl for an afternoon, much deserved after weeks of tomboyish camping, and I shamelessly took my time perusing through boutique after boutique. Never in my life have I seen such a variety of gowns, dresses, lingerie, swimwear, casualwear, heels, sandals, and jewelry, all of which I actually wanted! You know how when you have no money, you suddenly see all these cute clothes that you wish you could buy, but then when you do have money and are willing to spend it, you can’t seem to find anything you like? Well, St. Tropez was the best of both worlds: stunning pieces that made me drool and cause my girlish heart to pitter patter, and while I can’t honestly say they were affordable, I was ready to splurge just a little for a dress. Or two. Oh goodness… I bought five! I couldn’t help myself! The BCBG store there had the runway collection! How could I not purchase the black and turquoise ruffle of a silk dress, with its sexy slit up to the top of my thigh and its see-through cut-outs darting around my waist? They even had it in size XXS! What were the odds? And I couldn’t leave the long white flowey gown that made me feel like a Greek goddess. In another store I found the perfect date dress, a slippery, slanky thing in blue and black. Again, I couldn’t help myself. The succubus of shop therapy was at her wicked peak, draining my wallet as she seduced me with dress after dress!
Martine Chambon, however, is the boutique to end all boutiques. If there was one in Los Angeles, it is the only place I would need to shop for any of my red carpet needs, never mind my personal wardrobe desires. You can’t even walk in, you must ring the doorbell and be escorted by one of the smiling girls into the haven of wearable art that makes up this store. Balmain took up a whole section with his studded leather shorts and gold-cuffed dresses. I took an armful of Nina Riccis and Jean Paul Gaultiers into the dressing room with me, along with some other confections I’d swept up after forty five minutes of careful selection. I didn’t really plan on buying any of it—the price tags were all upwards of EU800, and I’d already spent a pretty penny at BCBG. But you already know how this story ends… Oof, I cringe to even think about how much I spent! Damn that money-hungry, fashionable succubus!
In the dressing room of Martine Chambon, I discovered my favorite designer, one I can’t believe I’ve never heard of before (not that I usually keep up with fashion or anything). Phillip Lim. He is like Vivienne Westwood in his flair for unconventional design, for the surprising details you keep discovering as you admire yourself in the fitting room mirror. I don’t quite know how to describe my favorite dress of his. It’s soft gray cashmere with small buttons, and it looks like a talented girl took her boyfriend’s favorite cardigan, sewed a pink silk bralette into the neckline of it, beaded with silver, and used the sleeves of the cardigan as a belt to tie the creation around her waist. I imagined I was this creative girl, and that it was my boyfriend’s sweater I’d transformed into a sexy, draping work of art. The other Phillip Lim dress that I just had to have was made entirely of ivory battenburg, lined with nude silk underneath to give the illusion of wearing nothing but the lace. It has sleeves and buttons all the way up to my collar bone, but it is provocatively short and falls over my butt with a clingy flounce! It is the perfect combination of Audrey Hepburn classy and J.Lo sexy. I never thought I’d put those two women in a sentence together, let alone saying the results were a pleasing risqué-meets-demure, but you’ll have to take my word for it.
Oh dear… oh dear oh dear oh dear. What have I spent? I was too afraid to even add up the total. The dresses weren’t all I bought, either. I had found a shop near the wharf that had the perfect onesie I’d been searching for, long-legged and spaghetti-strapped, and not too poofy around the waist. I bought one in navy and one in taupe. I know that I will practically live in these in LA, and they weren’t expensive, but still… My idea of expensive had been radically stretched that day, so my gauge was a little off. I decided that since I can find BCBG in America, I’d return the two dresses I’d purchased there in order to make myself feel better about keeping the one-of-a-kind Phillip Lims. Even if I did that, I would have spent way too much, but I could comfort myself with the truth that they’d all be tax write offs.
I was giddy with excitement when I returned to the RV, where it turned out Rob had slept all afternoon, recovering from his illness the night before. He felt well enough to drive us to St. Maxine, where the water looked even prettier and we found a campground directly on the beach. Camping des Mures only had three stars according to my Europe Camping book, and Rob and I quickly saw why. The facilities were disgusting, but most beach bathrooms are. The laundry room was made up only of washers, not a drier in sight, and since we had no clothesline or clotheshorse, we opted not to launder there and wait for the next campground. We both noticed how redneck the campers seemed to be. Imagine folks from Mississippi and Louisiana, fat, sunburned, old, loud, and naked. That’s right. The rumors you’ve heard about topless beaches in France are true, and so are the disclaimers that you probably wouldn’t want to go to them. Rob devilishly took a picture of a particularly large woman with breasts that had obviously nursed more than one baby back in her fertile years. I hated myself for the laugh that escaped my throat when he sprung it upon me, and we both felt guilty, but you would have at least noticed, too, and probably also thought to yourself that there are some bodies you’d rather not see naked.
That night Rob and I watched “Amelie”, which seemed fitting as we were in France. Yann Tiersen’s beautifully composed music followed me into my dreams that I didn’t wake from during the middle of the night, while a thief broke into our trailer.
I slid down from the raised bed area of the RV to make myself some breakfast. The morning was cool, the air soft, and the noisy children hadn’t yet reached a yelling volume. The retired folk were hungover from the night before, and I noticed that I could see all this activity from the window next to the table where I sat mixing cereal into pineapple yogurt. It was an especially clear view. I realized that the screen that normally was pulled down and clipped at the bottom to stay down had come up during the night, letting in more mosquitoes. Sometimes this screen jiggled open by itself, so initially I wasn’t too alarmed. I reached for my cord to plug my phone into my computer to charge, and realized with shock that my computer wasn’t where it should be, right there on the table. My heart froze, but I remembered Rob had used my computer after I’d gone to bed. Maybe he’d tucked it away somewhere. I stood and climbed the single step that led to the RV’s boudoir, where Rob’s eyes were half-open.
“Rob, do you know where my computer is?” He sat up on his elbows, dark brows furrowed, and slowly shook his head no. “I think someone stole my computer,” I told him, the reality hitting me. He jumped out of bed and we both went back into the kitchen area, where I noticed my new box of sunscreen pills had been knocked over near the window, along with a few other small things. Someone had definitely broken into our RV. Oh the gall–as we fucking slept! My camera was still there, wedged into the seat cushions of the booth, and my computer charger’s cord was still draped over the headrest. I felt like the world’s biggest idiot. What had I been thinking, leaving my Apple Macbook on the kitchen table for all to see? It was hot as balls, so I hadn’t locked the window like I usually did as we needed all the airflow we could get. In my shopping fatigue, I’d completely forgotten to bring my computer to the back with me, away from the window and the opportunist who took advantage of my lapse in sanity and went away with all my photos, six years’ worth of journals, passwords to all my accounts, and other deeply personal musings and emails I’d saved. I hoped they wouldn’t be able to read English, thereby keeping my diary unread and still sacred (although I know there are translators), but photos know no linguistic bounds. Let’s just say I had some that could make me the next Kim Kardashian should the thief figure out my small amount of relative recognizability, and choose to post a certain few online. Lesson learned: never keep private photos on your laptop. And in the future, to follow my brother Bryant’s advice to always keep my desktop protected by a password.
Fortunately everything I had on my computer was backed up onto my Time Machine before I left for Europe. I love Apple. Time Machine is the only reason I did not burst into inconsolable tears of grief, wailing the loss of the documentation of my whole write-able life. As for the photos I’d taken and the writings I’d done while in Europe, where my Time Machine’s radius couldn’t reach from Los Angeles, I’d made the wise move of backing them up on a flash drive I’d purchased in Germany. Rob’s external hard drive also had all of my pictures, so I feel like I’m pretty covered.
I have to say, the gentle admonition of karma rippled through me, as I realized the last thing I’d been doing on my computer before I went to bed was stealing software via illegal downloads.
We decided to walk up to the campground’s reception desk to report my computer stolen and see if the campground hosts would question some of the other campers for us. Maybe one of our neighbors had seen something. I reached for my purse, which felt lighter than usual, and realized with further horror that my wallet was missing. My stomach turned as I remembered I’d stupidly left it right beside my laptop, because I’d had to call my credit card companies to explain my extravagant purchases in St. Tropez. That meant that not only was I computer-less, but now I had no money, no ATM card to have access to money, no credit cards, and worst of all, no passport. I was stuck in France. Not that France is a bad place to be stuck in, mind you–I was thanking my lucky stars that we weren’t in Croatia, or Poland!
The receptionist told us that the police wouldn’t even bother coming; we’d have to go to them if we wanted to file a report. Apparently theft happens frequently at Camping des Mures, and she half-heartedly told us that she’d make a note to tell the campground security guard to make his rounds more frequently. If only every place in the world had security cameras. Rob was incensed at the attitude the receptionist had, and insisted she call the police anyway. She dialed, and sure enough, they weren’t coming. They said no one at the police station spoke English, so we had to make a translation of all the items that were stolen and bring it with us. We checked out and used up the last of our WiFi card to translate my stolen items list and find directions to the Gendarmerie in Grimaud.
Grimaud is a stoic little village, nestled high up the mountain roads that gave Rob a heart attack every time we found ourselves trapped in their windy, narrow turns. The police woman at the gendarmerie was friendly, although she didn’t speak any English. With the help of one of her colleagues, who spoke just enough to make rough translations, we managed to file the report and be back on the road in two hours. Our plan had been to go to Geneva in Switzerland on our way north, to horseback ride in the Alps and get massages at a health spa, but since I could no longer cross any borders we opted to drive straight to Paris that night, and go to the US Embassy the next morning. It was a nine hour drive, but I’m proud to say that I finally finished reading to Rob “The Secret History of the World”, which was no small feat. Although entertaining and thought-provoking, it is still a history book, full of uncommon, “esoteric” words and many run-on sentences. This whole paragraph could be one sentence in that book. Rob said I should try to get a voiceover job reading audiobooks, which I may just look into once I get back home. I think I’d quite like it, actually, but I’d prefer novels to history books any day.