*Short Tales from the Road is a collection of my travel stories on the road while walking the world. It’s about the good, the bad, the funny and the unexpected situations that I’ve encountered on my travels.*
This is just a simple story about a sweet old man I met on the streets of Nice’s old town, Nice Vieille Ville in Southern France. It was a hot summer’s day in July, and after spending most of the morning exploring the town, I decided to rest my weary feet by a pretty fountain overlooking the outdoor market place, Cours Saleya.
There were many people gathered around the square just beside the fountain — most were on the benches people watching, and the children were running around playing with water bubbles. Even the seats around the fountain were full, but I managed to find an empty spot next to a cheerful-looking plump-ish man, probably in his 80’s. He had paper bags next to him, and as I sat down, he give me a wide twinkly-eyed smile.
“You have very beautiful eyes,” he said to me, in a thick French accent.
I was slightly taken aback by his remark. I wasn’t expecting him to say anything to me, let alone give me compliment.
“Thank you,” I managed to reply, trying to hide my surprise.
He must have sensed it in my voice. “My wife, she’s in the market for a very long time,” he explained, “and I am waiting for her.”
I smiled, relieved that he wasn’t trying to do anything funny.
“And you’re not in there with her?” I asked.
“Noh!” he replied, “I sit here.”
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Ohh Malaysia. It is very far away, no?”
“Yes it is,” I replied, “Where are you from?”
“That’s not very far away.”
He giggled. “And you are traveling alone?”
“Today, yes,” I told him. “My friends are sleeping in.”
“And not see beautiful Nice?”
I shrugged my shoulders and gave him a smile.
He returned my smile and then nodded to himself, “Yes, very beautiful eyes.”
I laughed at his straightforwardness, and fell at ease with this happy old man’s charm. We had a lovely few minutes of conversation about Nice, and then Paris, and then mostly his wife.
“She likes to shop,” he went on, when all of a sudden his eyes lit up as he looked over my shoulders. “There she is!”
I turned to see a lady in her 80’s, with a simple flowery dress and a cane, slowly walking towards us. She looked a little flustered.
As she came closer, she said something to the nice old man that I couldn’t make out. It was probably in French. He immediately got up and gathered all his paper bags.
“It was nice talking to you.” he said, as he made his way towards his wife.
She must have realized that I was keeping him company, and give me a wary smile before turning to him and mumbling — like all wives do. I figured that she was probably telling him off for talking to strange-looking girls!
He patted her on the back and and as she turned to walk away, he looked at me and gave me his twinkly-eyed smile and a wink. He then turned his attention towards her again, held her hand, and continued walking away with her.
I looked on as they walked away with warmth in my heart. I love talking to and watching loving elderly couples — their possible love stories always make my imagination run wild, and somehow, allows me to believe that everlasting love does exist. That encounter with the nice old man at the fountain put a spring in my step and a smile on my face for the rest of the day, and that’s why I remembered it till today.