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A man who appeared to be the chef showed up with our check. I strived not to count how many times he wiped his running nose with his bare hand. I kept a smile plastered to my face all the way to the car, and let it fall away only when I was sure David was focused on the road.

Our room at La Parare was perfect -- tucked into a hill, nature's splendor on display outside, but not inside (meaning I would not have to contend with creepy-crawlies), and linens that were plush, white, and clean.

"I knew today would be splendid," I said, kicking off my shoes and falling onto the bed with a book.

"Hey, there's a little scrapbook here," said David. "It's a guide compiled by our hosts."

"Yeah? What's it say?"

After reading tips on places to visit in the surrounding area, David came upon a section about local restaurants. "It says the place on the main road has good food, but, ha! -- that the poor decor should be overlooked. And then... huh ."


"Nothing," David muttered.

"No, really. What is it?"

"It says here that they strongly un-recommend the place behind the church."

"What? Why?" My heart was pounding with apprehension, but a grin remained pasted on my face. "Really, it's cool, I don't care what it says. I mean, the food was good and we had a great time, right? Go ahead. Tell me."

David studied my face for a moment, decided to believe me, and said, "It says not to go there because they don't meet basic hygienic standards."

"Oh, that's it?" I said, wondering if my grand shrug had been a bit too melodramatic. "That's nothing." To keep from gagging, I thought happy thoughts about glitter, unicorns, and Prada, while conjuring images of the sparkling clean dining establishments I'd dined at in Tokyo. Then, changing the subject so as not to give in to an overwhelming urge to vomit, I said, "What do you say we go have an espresso and pretend we're French?"

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