Twenty two years ago, my parents took us out of school for the spring so we could travel around some of the more vineyardy European countries, seeing the sights and the lights and on one memorable occasion, undergoing plights.
After several days touring the very nice Nice and experiencing all that Cannes can offer, we head east along the coast to visit Genoa, birth city of transatlantic explorer Giovanni Caboto, whose ship The Matthew touched down in 1497 on our home island of Newfoundland.
My father is driving, the dusk sky is already making the roads difficult to read, and Google Maps is merely a twinkling in the Rasmussens’s Danish eyes. A straight shot should get us there, but the highways morph into each other and we are quickly lost. Dad is not as prideful as the American fathers from tropey sitcoms, so we ask for directions somewhere in southern Italy. A southern Italian comes to our aid with a pointing index finger and a single word: “Ventimiglia!”
Twenty miles? Dad figured it was still a few hours away, but we must have run into a warp zone somewhere along the French Riviera. We drive for another twenty-five miles in the pointed direction and still no signs appear for Genoa or its variant of Genova. We stop another English-less couple walking down the highway. Again, assured pointing in the same direction and another “Ventimiglia!”
The above-mentioned portal may have put us in a continuous feedback loop, but with little alternative, we drive another twenty signless miles. A woman outside a gas station is smoking in a way that makes my ten-year-old brain want to pick up the habit. We pull over and ask her how to get to Genoa. It quickly becomes evident that she is a prostitute and, even looking into a car full of a wayward Canadian family, she still tries to make a sale. She’s denied, but amidst a gibbering rant centred around wasting her time, she repeats to us what is now undoubted a glitch in a pre-Matrix matrix. “VENTIMIGLIA!!!”
Screeching away, we continue on in silence as if this twenty miles has to get us to where we’re headed. Still, there is no signage and no indication we will ever sleep outside of this car again. An hour later, with all nervous laughter subsided and dejecting crying exhausted, we arrive in Genoa to little fanfare. We begin our hunt for a place to stay, but all we see are Formule 1s, which we assume are mechanic shops. With nowhere else to turn, Dad accedes to dropping a pile of money dollars on a room in a swanky hotel that’s right in front of us.
Later, after finding an English speaker we find out Formule 1s are low-budget accommodations, which would have been perfect for us low-budget accommodators. Seconds later, after finding out we’ll be going back to France the next day, the woman happens to bring up the best way to get there. “It may not be the fastest route, but the most beautiful ride follows the coast, along the highway Ventimiglia.”