It was late August, 1997. The Italian Lakes beckoned. The vacation was booked months in advance. Two weeks at a resort on the banks of Lake Garda, in northern Italy. By road, it was a two day journey from Britain. A drive to Dover, on the south coast. Then across the English Channel on the ferry to Calais, France, and on via Paris to the Swiss border, the Mont Blanc tunnel, and eventually the French/Italian Alps before a run down to the one of the most beautiful places on earth – Lake Garda.
I’d driven through Paris before – and since. It was about 2.30pm, on August 30th, 1997 that I steered my two-seater Toyota MR2 down through the Pont de l’Alma underpass in Paris before settling down for the long run to our overnight stop near the German/Swiss border.
I slept well that night. The long drive, though stimulating in a sports car designed for continental autoroutes, was still tiring and my dreamless sleep held no presentiment of the drama unfolding in that very same Pont de l’Alma underpass I had traversed only hours before.
It was after 5.00pm when we eventually reached our destination next day. Checking in to the accommodation took time, so it was after six when we finally parked up and began unloading our luggage into the luxury trailer rented for the vacation.
I was lugging the last of the baggage from the trunk when a young German man with only broken English and a sense of acute embarrassment, walked slowly over from the trailer next door.
“You ees Eenglish, yes?”
I nodded, a little suspiciously.
“We, that ees, mein frau…..eh, my wife an’ me…..we so sorry, ’bout your Diana.”
I looked vacant, “Diana?”
“You does not know?”
I shook my head, perplexed.
The young German man seemed most uncomfortable.“Your princess……Diana? She dead. Killed. It was car accident, yesterday. In Paris.”
I muttered something resembling “thanks”, went inside and began tuning the radio to find an English language station.
Little more than twenty-four hours before, the Pont de l’Alma underpass had seemed so benign……so, very ordinary………
Filed under: Rest in peace