“Merci Beau Coup” Means “Thank You” in Italian, Too
The clear morning followed a special evening for our group on the Little Tour of Tuscany; the night before had been pure magic. Following a stunning meal, most of us went on la passaggiata together and walked on top of the raised the walls of Lucca. We walked to Piazza San Michele where the church façade was illuminated, making the intricate carved marble columns seem like they were made of lace.
We were later spontaneously invited into a wedding reception at the restaurant at the city gate. It is impossible to forget the little boy who stared at Angela and was too shy to tell her she was “bella” when his father kept urging him to tell the American that she was “Bella Angela”. Only after Angela was in the reception for a dance did the little boy tell his father something in Italian that was easy for us to understand. The ragazzo was completely in awe of her because he thought she was made of chocolate!
The next morning I was wide-awake just as the sun was coming through the blinds. It was our last day together in Tuscany and we all wanted it to be special. I had created a personal custom during our bicycle rides and wanted the tradition to be even more memorable today. During the previous days’ rides, I had collected wildflowers and weeds to make small bouquets on my handlebars. Each day we seemed to pass new types of flowers and each day the bouquet was different. This last morning, I was out of my room hours before the rest of the group was up. I was riding along the reinforced walls of Lucca, watching the town awake. The morning was crystal and the air was clean and sharp. I saw the street vendors beginning to set up for the weekly market and stopped to watch. One of the merchants had an incredible array of fresh flowers. There were so many colors, textures and types that I thought I wouldn’t be able to decide. Eventually, I found something that was unfamiliar, but was the most interesting pink flowers I had ever seen.
I couldn’t possibly use all the flowers for my handlebar bouquet, so I began looking for a lost soul who needed flowers to brighten their day. Since it was so early, the town was just beginning to come to life. The men seemed to be walking to church or to work while the women seemed to be heading to the shops. I looked at all types of people and we smiled to each other as we passed. Then I saw her. A small woman was just leaving her flat with a string-bag. She was not very old, maybe 55, but she seemed to have a heaviness weighing on her. I turned the bicycle around and walked toward her. She didn’t see me because her head was down. I held out the beautiful bouquet of pink flowers to her. For a few seconds she didn’t comprehend, but then she understood my smile. Her face lit up and she knew that I meant her to take the flowers. She profused “Merci, merci beau coup, merci” over and over. Later I wondered…was she a Frenchwoman living alone in Italy or maybe she thought that I was French?
I can only guess what caused her to speak French to an American in Italy. What I do know is that we both smiled for a long time because we had understood each other and we had both brightened each other’s day.
Lois Moss is co-owner of Century Cycles in Rocky River, Medina, Peninsula and Solon, Ohio. Lois has toured with ExperiencePlus! on both our Little Tour in Tuscany and Provence and the South of France tours.