A navy brat and direct descendant of Mayflower Puritans, mom had only recently become the first woman in her family to graduate from college and was thus eager for adventure and an opportunity to make our collective a better place.
Now mom had few "useful" skills, but she did know how to swim. She had swum for the US Olympic team in the 1956 Olympic games in Melbourne Australia and I guess this must have interested Peace Corp administrators. They selected her to become one of Thailand's first Olympic swim coaches and sent her to Bangkok with the Peace Corps' first class (photo of mom coaching that team above).
When mom traveled to Bangkok, her military background served her well.
And it is here our story turns to France and the lovely little town of Bormes les Mimosas. For mom's military connections slipped her into a program with Royal Thai Air Force where she learned to pilot Spitfires and Hurricanes... I know, I know, it seems too hard to believe. But this was Thailand in 1962; still a third world nation that appreciated the genuine helping hand of a well connected navy brat. In that light the story seems less impossible.
Anyway, in this same fighter pilot training program was a French diplomat to UNESCO named Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane- they became friends and much more.
Now Louis-Jacques was/is a truly interesting and wonderful man whom I will comment no more on. But noteworthy to this story, he was very sexual, as was his wife- Marayat Bibidh- a royal Thai princess whom he married at 16. Though I must mention I have since been told that royal Thai princesses are actually rather common. Anyway, without getting into too much detail of mom's affair (as I really don't know much about it and I never will, this being a story about my mother and all), the affair apparently involved still others- enough said.
Several years later, Marayat wrote a fictitious novel titled Emmanuelle. It was a story about a young diplomat who visits Thailand and the novel is loosely based on several people including my mother. I am unsure if the book is/was very good or if it was even very successful, but I know Louis-Jacques turned the book into a movie and the film version of that novel (movie poster below), and subsequent spawns of the original, were quite successful in France.
Anyway, all this is a long way of saying that in the Summer of 1984, having graduated from high school, a friend and I took our bikes on a loop of France. I knew no one in France and so mom arranged for us to stay with Louise-Jacques and Marayat when we biked near their home (a little north of the coast). Louise-Jacques took my friend and I for a day trip to Bormes les Mimosas and it truly was spectacular.
... And the clever amongst you will see a connection in all this to my name ;-)