As sad as it was to leave France this morning, the sadness faded as the ribbon of road unwound toward Italy. The drive from Bourgogne to Milan is a good one. Varied, visually rewarding, and—at one point in particular—thrilling.
The thrill to this small-town girl is crossing the border by driving through the nearly 12-kilometer Mont Blanc Tunnel / Tunnel de Mont Blanc / Traforo di Monte Bianco. France on one side. Italy on the other. Three languages on the inside.
The rules of the road are strict. You must maintain a speed between 50 and 70 kph. Your car must be 150 meters away from the car in front of it, a distance you can maintain by using the blue lights on the side of the tunnel as markers. You’re advised to keep your radio turned on and tuned in.
I’ve never driven through the tunnel without having this thought: It’s long enough for a life-changing event to occur. I’ve long imagined a film that takes place—beginning to end—within its confines. A baby is born. A love disintegrates. A terrorist changes his mind. An opinion turns 180 degrees.
Any of these plots, of course, is about transformation, rebirth and the fact that much of what we experience happens to us “in the dark.” We enter into situations under certain conditions (fog, snowfall, rain) and we exit them under others (haze, heat, sunshine). Predictably unpredictable. We go into the dark; we come out again. And, quite miraculously, it’s a new world out there.