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rage against the machine (and the jerks who drive them)

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jackass on loud motorcycle

I have a terrible confession.   I entertain dark thoughts.   Violent fantasies.

It usually happens when I’m sitting on my balcony and one of those motorcycles with the cranked up mufflers comes thundering down the hill at 9 million decibels.   I imagine that, with perfect timing, I pour a bucket of water down, drenching the motorcyclist and the street.   It makes me feel good, no great, to see the shocked driver spin out of control.

The daydream continues as the driver, with the motorcycle on top of him skids out, violently ricocheting between the parked cars and buildings lining the narrow street.   He is smashed.   Bloody.   Most probably dead.   I am now a murderer and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, the guilt is a heavy burden.  But something had to be done.   Not just for me, but for all of mankind.   Well, at least whoever falls in the audio range of the bike, which I’m fairly certain includes Northern Italy and Switzerland.  But murder…Can I live with that?

Now that I’m confessing, I might as well also cop to the fact that the other day I heard a skid and a crash followed by anguished yelps.   I ran to the balcony to see what happened and saw it was a downed motorcycle and driver.   I did a happy dance before calling emergency services.

Before you label me a terrible person (which I probably am), you have no idea how obnoxious and annoying they are until you’ve lived in a fairly popular French village.   Mere de Dieu!

I can block out a lot of noises, but that particular din pierces through everything.   It’s like a jackhammer to the head.  I don’t know what the decibel level is, but I do know it’s the worst form of noise pollution, probably qualifies as torture and offenders should be prosecuted.   No tortured.   No, executed.   No, tortured AND executed.

I mean seriously, only a dangerously insane person wants to make THAT much noise.   Who else would want to inflict that kind of suffering on innocent people who are just trying to have a thought, conversation or watch a movie?   Clearly they must be  card-carrying sociopats.   Either that or they’re recklessly overcompensating for something.   Some shame or deficiency.   Small ears, perhaps? A high squeaky voice? A complete lack of physical presence?  Whatever,  they’re a danger.

Worse, these mother effing a-holes, use their size to muscle their way through pedestrian zones and quaint ancient villages.   It’s disturbing the peace at the very least.  And illegal.   I guess the French legal system deals with loud vehicles in pedestrian zones the same way America’s deals with assault weapons (which are also very loud, I’m told).

Lets not forget that the insufferable noise itself poses a threat, and not just to eardrums   I’ve come precariously close to injury when the sound exploded through my windows, shattering my focus, which left me unable to maintain my balance during a yoga pose.

IMG_20140913_185645921_HDRI read somewhere that there are some enthusiasts who argue that the horrific noise they inflict on humanity makes their lives safer from accidents because the noise forces other drivers to notice them.   To them I say, bull hickey!   You chose to ride that infernal machine.  Don’t inflict your goddamn choice on the rest of us.   Drive defensively, wear a helmet and put a cork in your goddamn exhaust pipe, you goddamn self centered sociopath with small ears and a squeaky voice and zero physical presence!

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.   I’ve seen people shake their fists and middle fingers at them as they roar past. Some people grow red with rage when discussing them. Some peoples’ blood pressure rises precipitously at their mere mention.   We hate them with a white hot passion.

Someday, we’ll all rise up against them.   In the meantime, I’ll be sitting on my balcony.   Watching. Waiting. Dreaming.

lake annecy: another beautiful place I won’t be spending my honeymoon.

pont d'amours annecy

I’ve never been one of those women who dreams of getting married and imagining the wonderful wedding she’ll have.  Now, the honeymoon is an entirely different matter.   That, I’ve been thinking about for decades.

In considering my honeymoon, I’ve always had several prerequisites. Never chose a country where a large percentage of the women are inordinately beautiful (which lets out Brazil and Nordic countries).    Don’t go to a place so spectacular you’ll want to push him off you because he’s blocking your view.   It should be lovely, romantic, soothing and mildly interesting (but not so interesting that it distracts one from the task at hand). And it has to be somewhere that we both have never been for that shared air of excitement and discovery.   That’s where it gets tricky.

I used to save places for my honeymoon.   For years I avoided Provence, Venice, the Amalfi coast, Greece, Prague, Croatia and Lake Como just in case.   But then I got into my 30’s and realized that if Mr. Right didn’t come along and I missed out on all these places, I’d be really pissed off at him.   So I just started going.

Lake Annecy in the Savoie Alps of France has been on my list for as long as I can remember.   It’s by all accounts, beautiful, romantic, charming and magical.

So when I discover that Annecy is a mere 40 km from Geneva, easily reachable by public transport and the round trip airfare from Nice to Geneva is only 50E,I feel a little conflicted.   If I go to Lac d’Annecy, will it be like I’ve totally given up on having a real honeymoon?  After all, I don’t have many places left. …what if I meet someone and….Ehhh, who am I kidding?  Book it!

My hotel, Hotel des Alpes, is not the place I’d choose for my honeymoon   But it’s clean, well located and the price is right (less than 70E a night).   It’s not like I’ll be spending a ton of time in my room.

So here I am in Annecy and it’s everything I dreamed it would be (except the hotel).  Tiny cobbled pedestrian streets.   Flower lined canals and bridges.   A crystal blue lake.  The Alps as a backdrop.  An abundance of restaurants, bars and cafes as well as traitteurs to pick up a picnic by the lake.

Definitely it’s romantic.  People are making out everywhere.   I haven’t seen so much tongue since…well, the VMA’s.    It’s so beautiful, I almost don’t mind that I’m alone, my tongue is in my own mouth and there will be no consummating on this trip.

Yep, this place would have been perfect for a honeymoon.   As I look over the Pont d’Amours, I’m a little wistful that I’ve eliminated yet another gorgeous place as a honeymoon possibility.

But I tell myself not to worry. Sure, my actual honeymoon options are running low.   But what the hell, at the rate I’m going, the only place I’ll be fit for on my “real” honeymoon will be an old age home.   Maybe there’s a nice one in Bali.

Pictures of Lake Annecy:

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what I did during my winter depression

I know what you’re thinking…how dare I be depressed in the South of France?    But honestly, winter depression is like my annual birthday stiff neck; it’s a tradition I can take with me anywhere.    Then there’s the little fact that I never got around to getting a French prescription for Prozac and have been anti-depressant-free for months, but that’s a whole other post.

The point is, while I did spend a good deal of time lying in the fetal position, weeping and watching “Real Housewives” reruns (thus exacerbating my self-loathing, but at least not to Kardashian levels) I did manage to unfurl myself on occassion, and go some places and try new things.   I just didn’t have the energy to write much about them.   The fog of woe dimmed both my experiences and consequently, my memories of them.

Now that I’m starting to feel better, I’ve gone back over my photos, my research and the scant notes I scribbled at the time to reconstruct the experiences in order to provide the following brief travelogue.

AIGUES-MORTES

aigues morte

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Facts:   An ancient fortified village on the coastal salt marches in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.  The foundation of Aigues-Mortes was said be built in 102BC, but the first known mention of the place was in the 10th century AD.   Was a safe haven to protestants in the 1600’s.   Today it’s a charming walled village with boutique hotels, shops and many cafes and restaurants.

My notes:   This place would be really romantic if I was with somebody who loved me.   Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

PONT DU GARD

pont du gard 1

Facts:  A Roman Aqueduct in the Languedoc Roussillon region.   Built approximately 2000 years ago to transport water to the Roman city of Nimes from a lake about 25 kilometers north.  The UNESCO World Heritage Foundation calls it a feat of engineering and artistic genius.

My notes:  Okay..so this thing is thousands of years older than me and it looks sooooo much better than I do.

UZES

uzes

uzes square

Facts:  Uzes was what they call an admistrative village back when the Pont du Gard was being built.  10 minutes from the Pont du Gard, it’s charming with tiny medieval streets and a beautiful square.   As an added attraction, the Haribo factory and museum is nearby.

My notes:   See that homeless person by the bakery?   That’ll be me in a couple of years.

VIENNA

vienna xmas market

Vienna

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Vienna is a beautiful city in Austria, filled with amazing art, architecture, history, palaces and pastry.   I went for the Christmas markets.   Nobody does Christmas markets better than people with harsh Germanic accents.

My notes:   This wurst is probably the closest thing to sex I’ll have for the rest of my life.

CAMARGUE

camargue

flamant rose camargue

Facts:  The Camargue is basically a huge wetlands in the South of France between Marseille and Montpelier.   It’s preserved, untamed and a little like the wild, wild west.    Due to the location, climate and salt deposits,  It’s home to a lot of rare species like white horses, a certain breed of black bull (Taurau, which is also a dining staple) and flamant rose (pink flamingos).

My notes:    Even the flamingos hate me.

ARLES

arles

arles

220px-Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_015Facts:   Technically Arles is a part of Provence, but it’s also considered the capital of the Camargue.   It served as a Roman Center and port for centuries, but is perhaps best known as the city where Van Gogh lived from 1888 – 1889.   In Arles he created over 300 works of art.   This is also where he cut off his ear and sent it to the prostitute he was in love with (as some legends have it).

My notes:  Nobody will ever love me enough to cut off their ear for me.

AVIGNON

palais des papes/cafe-Avignon

avignon bridge

Facts:   Built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Rhone, Avignon is a walled city in the Vaucluse department of Provence.   Its main claim to fame is its history as the home of the papacy during the short time in the 1300’s when they weren’t in Rome (the Palais des Papes).   Avignon is combination of medieval spendor, Provencal charm and all the modern ammenities a spoiled American could want.

My notes:   I’m pretty sure that bridge is a metaphor for my life.

LES BAUX AND ST REMY

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Facts:  Two charming villages in Les Alpilles, a small but dramatic Provencal mountain range.  Les Baux is perched atop a rocky spur and signs of habitation from 6,000BC have been unearthed here!   St. Remy lies on the flatlands just north of the Alpilles and was both Van Gogh’s home when he was institutionalized in 1889, as well as the birthplace of Nostradamus.

My notes:   GODDAMNSONOFABITCH I FORGOT TO BRING MY RECHARGER!.   FUCK ME!

VENICE

Venice

venice san marco

IMG_8349Facts:  Arguably one of the most romantic cities in the world.   A gulag of 118 islands separated by canals and connected by bridges and boats.   It’s like stepping back into the middle ages with remarkable architecture palaces many with a hint of eastern influence.   Venice was once a major trading port, but now it’s mostly a tourist trap.   A beautiful, picturesque tourist trap.

My notes:   I’ll probably catch some hideous pigeon related disease, die a slow wasting death and nobody will care.

GOURDON

Gourdon

view from gourdon
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Facts:  A tiny inland feudal village perched above the cliffs overlooking the Cote d’Azur.   Named one of the most beautiful villages in France.

My notes: If I were to drive off the edge of a cliff on my way back and die a fiery death mangled in that ravine, nobody would give a shit.  Except the car rental company.

VALBONNE

valbonne

Valbonne

Facts:   A village just a few kilometers inland from Antibes.   I guess you could say it’s an ancient suburb of France’s Silicon Valley, Sophia Antiopolis, which despite its antique moniker, is a tech center in France

My notes:   I’m archaic and uselss in the modern world.   I’m going to die alone and forgotten.

TOURETTES SUR LOUP

Tourrettes sur loup

Facts:   Another ancient hilltop village a few kilometers North of the Cote d’Azur.   Home to lots of small artisan shops and is often preferred to nearby, more heavily touristed St. Paul de Vence.

My notes:   Another place I can scratch off my bucket list.   I guess that means I took a significant step towards death today.

AN OSTEOPATH

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Facts:  An osteopath is a medical professional that deals with issues of alignment, musculature and joints.   Sadly, as I learned when I got there, osteopaths do not prescribe.

My notes:   These needles in my back are probably the closest thing I’ll have to sex for the rest of my life.

That’s about it.    Looking back, I’ve gotta say, this has been one of the best winter depressions I’ve ever had!

step it up, frenchie!

I know I moved here to slow down a bit and take the time to stop and smell the lavender so to speak, but perhaps transitioning from New York City to the South of France is just too abrupt.   Hell, transitioning from Barbados to the South of France is probably too abrupt.

I’ve been here about a year and a half and I still marvel at how the French are basically oblivious to anyone behind them in a line.   They have no compunction about spending hours searching through their purses for their wallets, slowly counting out the exact price to the centime (even if it means cleaning out their purse at the same time), chatting endlessly with the cashier while a line resembling the apple store on the launch day of the latest iwhatever forms behind them.  I think it’s more pronounced in the South. They have no problem lingering to chat in doorways, sidewalks, intersections.   Where ever they can block the most traffic.   I sure don’t want to be behind these people at an emergency exit!

Today 20 or so people were held up by a woman trying to count out exact change (centime by centime) from her purse with her elbows because her nails were still drying.   That was before waiting a half hour for a woman with a very full cart who waited until after everything was rung up and bagged to begin searching for her carte du fidelite.   Then she waited until after she finally paid to commence a long conversation with the cashier.   I hate her almost as much as I hate Dick Cheney.

Oddly enough, the only time the French seem to be in a hurry is when they’re on the road and looming in your rear view mirror.   Maybe they’re trying to make up for the time lost lingering in doorways and holding up the line at the grocery/drug/hardware/bakery/butcher/shoe/clothing/home decor/etc store.

Granted, in a way, it’s kind of nice…they’re taking the time to interact with one another in real time/real life, not on some social media site.  They know everyone in their neighborhoods by name.  They bring each other baked goods and tomatoes from their gardens.   They have a glass of wine together and watch the world go by.   I think it’s part of what makes this part of the world so special and drew me to it in the first place.  It probably even makes for a more civilized society.

But jeezus h. christ, I’m going to kick some French ass if they don’t get the lead out so I can get home and check my facebook feed.

 

here’s to you mrs. robinson

When I meet a cute guy under thirty, my first thought is to check him out…for my nieces.   So when an attractive, very likable 24 year old American who  just moved to Antibes asks me out for a drink I figure he just wants the company and likes my sparkling personality.   So I go.   For my nieces.

He spent the past year or so at University in Paris and now works at a big tech company in Sophia Antipolis (the Silicon Valley of France). He’s smart, funny, open, interesting, interested, ambitious, and seems pretty worldly for a 24 year old American.

He passes the niece test with the only caveat being he might be a little young for the two of dating age (if he likes younger girls, he’ll have to wait for my niece Charlotte who is currently 11).   I begin to think it might be fun to have someone my emotional age to hang out with (as long as nobody mistakes me for his mother).

Then he goes and shatters my whole scenario.   He tells me he’s thinks I’m very attractive.   I preen a little, figuring he means it in an attractive in a well-preserved antique sort of way.   Then he tells me in so many words, that he’s ready willing and able if I am.

I’m floored.  My first words in response are:   Hammena hammena hammena… you’re kidding, right?

He isn’t.   As it begins to sink in, I’m torn between terror and doing the happy dance.

We discuss it a bit, and I can certainly see he has some valid points as to why this is the greatest idea ever, but still…I’m totally unprepared in every sense of the word (meaning I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks). I honestly wasn’t expecting to have sex again in my lifetime.  But now that he mentions it…

I need some time to stew on this (probably not a good idea at my age– wrinkles).

Here are some of the thoughts I’ve had so far:

  • Quick, do it NOW before his vision returns!
  • Quick, do it NOW before my ass falls.
  • What if I break my hip when we’re doing it?
  • Is there some kind of way we can do it without him seeing or touching my body, which would probably be disgusting to a 24 year old?Note to self:  look into that whole Mormons doing it through a sheet thing.
  • Hey, if he finds me attractive, maybe someone more age appropriate will.   Yeah, right.   Men my age all want 24 year olds.
  • He probably just wants to use me for my air conditioning.
  • What if he dumps me for an older woman?
  • This must be one of those guys on the French Riviera who scams old women out of their life savings I’ve heard about.   A Riviera grifter, as my friend Al calls it.
  • I could use the exercise.
  • I have a rule that I won’t get involved in a man who is younger than some of my bras.   I check my underwear drawer and I’m pleased to say we’re okay on that front.
  • Dude, how good must I look to have a 24 year old attracted to me?   Like Demi Moore good…only better because she’s had plastic surgery and I’m a 100% natural…okay, 98%, my hair color is fake.   More preening.
  • If I do it, does that make me a terrible aunt?
  • Good Lord, this is a bad Lifetime movie in the making. It would probably star Heather Locklear and Zac Efron.
  • Good Lord, this is a bad Comedy Central movie in the making.    It would probably star Betty White and Zach Galifianakis and involve a road trip.
  • Does this fall into the category of a sweet May-December affair or statutory rape?
  • If I don’t do it will it be just like the second helping of fried chicken I declined at the first grade class picnic, which I still regret to this day?
  • This seems like it could only happen in France.   (I know it’s not necessarily true, but bear with me here).   If I were not to take advantage of this unique opportunity wouldn’t I be missing out on some of the rich experience of being here?
  • This is kind of the equivalent of someone offering me an Hermes bag. I certainly never thought that owning one was within the realm of possibility.   I’m not sure what I’d do with one if I had it.  But hell, it’s a damn fine bag and I’d be a fool not to take it.  Right?   In fact now that I think about it, my life will be empty and meaningless without that bag.
  • What if despite our best intentions one or both of us falls in love with the other? And what if when he publically humiliates me by cheating with several younger women I fall off the deep end and wind up getting excessive plastic surgery and ODing on whippets and Red Bull?
  • It’s not like I haven’t been involved with younger men.   In fact,  I’ve been involved with a 24 year old before.   When I was 30.
  • I know it’s perfectly acceptable to be a cougar nowadays.   Even hot.  But it’s a fine line between being a cougar and being a dingo stealing someone’s baby.
  • I mentally play a bunch of math games, with questions like “Where will we be when he’s my age?” (answer:  he’ll be running a big successful company and traveling the world. I’ll probably be dead).

I can’t help remembering a similar storyline playing out in The Graduate (on the other hand, it could be more like American Pie, and I’m the pie).

I re-watch The Graduate, feeling mildly queasy when I inadvertently muse that the last time I saw it was probably before he was born.

I realize now that Mrs. Robinson and I have virtually nothing in common.   I feel much more like Benjamin in this scenario.   I’d never have the balls to try to seduce a man young enough to be my … nephew.   Nor am I some sexual predator brazenly luring young men into bed for my own personal satisfaction with no thought of the consequences.

But isn’t it something to aspire to?

 

the dark side of living in the south of france

Reading over past posts, it occurs to me that it may seem that I’m all content and blissful now that I’m living in the South of France.  I tend to talk about the wonderful food, the beautiful views, the charming villages.   That has got to stop!    I was raised to believe that the moment I appear to be happy, vengeful gods (and humans) will become envious and smite me.

So, in case any of those mean old dieties/people are reading my blog, here are a few things that make  it impossible for me to live free from the shadow of rage/helplessness/hopelessness/misery hanging over me and will prevent me from ever having a day of peace.

  • Waiting in lines.  French people will chat away with the cashier/postal worker/butcher/baker/candlestick maker with absolutely no concept of how many people are waiting behind them.   I’ve seen lines outside bakeries here that resembled apple stores on iPad2 launch day.
  • Lots of loud motorbikes.  Don’t know why, they’re louder here.   Why would anyone want to drive something that loud?   They should be banished.   I’m certain that the drivers of these audio monstrosities are compensating for something.   Maybe they have tiny voices or something.
  • So many people here have no grasp of the English language.   To be fair, I found the same problem in California.
  • The guy at the Marche Provencal who sells roses.   NO I DON”T WANT TO BUY YOUR DAMN ROSES!!!!!   IF I DO I’LL LET YOU KNOW.  STOP BUGGING ME!!!!
  • Speaking of being bugged, they have telemarketers over here too and they call every bit as often (about 5 calls a day).   The good news is, I just say “je ne comprends pas” and hang up.   I guess I could have done that in the US too.   Live and learn.
  • There’s dust here.   It’s like every time I dust, five minutes later, there’s new dust.
  • I just spent 10 Euro on a lightbulb only to discover the lamp doesn’t work.
  • I just spent 10 Euro on a lightbulb.
  • I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store.
  • my cat just threw up on the clean sheets.

a sure sign of assimalation. or something.

Today,  I spent 15 minutes trying to remember the English word for “courgette.”

To me, this can only mean one of two things:   Either I’m finally starting to think in French or I have alzheimer’s.

the village where donkeys fly

After spending a day in Cannes, it only seems appropriate that I visit a place known as “the village where donkeys fly”.

The name of the village is Gonfaron.  It’s a stop on the local TER rail line.    I’ve seen it on the train ride between Vidauban and Toulon — a pile of houses piled atop a hill with a small pink chapel at the top and a sprawling church on the bottom.  It’s two train stops from Vidauban (15 minutes).   The village spreads out from the hill, fanning out a around the church at the bottom of the hill, melting into vineyards, hills and green, green countryside.

After countless times passing the village and wondering about it, I finally Googled it.   The population of Gonfaron is around 4,000.  It’s been a village for at least, 1100 years.    It’s nestled at the foot of the Maures mountain range (you know, the mountain range where Johnny Depp lives).   Its main “industry” is cork (probably not a great business now with wine in boxes and screw tops and technology replacing bulletin boards).    It has the world’s only reserve for the endangered Herman Tortoise but also houses other tortoises as well.    Its patron saint is St. Quinis, who as far as I can tell didn’t do anything amazing, except he was a really nice guy and took a special interest in children (which these days sounds like grounds for imprisonment rather than Sainthood, but maybe that’s just me.)   The pink Chapel at the top of the hill is named after him.     But what really makes me want to finally get off the train in Gonfaron and pay the village a visit is the town legend.As lore has it, back in 1645 the community was instructed to clean up their yards for the annual Gonfaron festival to honor St. Quinis, .   One lazy, ill-tempered Gonfaronnois refused.   Years later, St. Quinis exacted his revenge.   The Gonfaronnois of “mauvais caractiere” was out riding his donkey and the donkey (l’ane) stumbled.   The donkey “glissant” (slid) down the hill with the errant Gonfaronois tumbling after.   That’s it.   It seems pretty vague.   Did they survive?   That’s a pretty long tumble.

It might be my translation, but it sounds like the donkey didn’t fly as much as it fell.   And you can read the legend several different ways.   Maybe the flying/falling donkey (ass) they’re referring to is  the Gonfaronnois who didn’t clean his yard for the festival?   Maybe the legend is really “the village where asses fall”?   Of course there are two interpretations for that too.  It could mean where human asses (I’m thinking Donald Trump here, but chose your own ass) inevitably plunge to a humiliating and painful destruction. Or maybe it’s more literal…it’s a village where my ass will actually fall…sag, drop, whatever (good, now I can blame it on the village).   Whatever, I like the flying donkey version, because it’s magical and gives me the feeling that anything is possible.

I get off at the train station and the first thing I see is a cave cooperative — a big old shed where they they sell local wines, preserves, products.    I decide not to go in because I’m saving myself for the little shops that will surely be in the village.   I walk through the “suburbs” of Gonfaron, towards the village (a two minute walk).

Downtown Gonfaron consists of an astonishingly beautiful square.   It’s huge for such a little town, with the Church at one end.    The trees make a perfect ceiling over the entire square.   It’s blistering hot today, which makes the leafy canopy that much more appealing (and the square that much more difficult to photograph).

There are really no shops to speak of…a bakery that’s closed.   A butcher that’s closed.   There’s a tiny grocery store that’s closed.   A tiny real estate office that’s closed.   Sure, there are three cafes, but woman doesn’t live on food alone.     I check the train schedule for the next train back to Vidauban.   Three and a half hours.   How on earth will I pass the time?    Dear Lord, I’m trapped in a village with no shops!   Maybe if I climb to the top to the hill and bray like a donkey, I can fly home?

I tour the village, which is lovely.   I climb to St. Quinis to admire the view, which is also really lovely.  Which leaves me another 3 hours and 27 minutes to kill.   I’ll definitely have lunch in the square, but that’s good for 2 hours tops, and only if I drink waaaaay too much coffee.

I decide to visit the tortoises and follow the signs that lead me out of the village and into the aforementioned vineyards and green rolling hills.   Have I mentioned it’s hot?   Or that I don’t have a hat?   J’ai besoin de chapeau.   Without one, I’ll dehydrate and die.   And get a headache!   In order to preserve my health, I turn back to the village, wishing desperately a little shop will have opened in the village where I can buy a hat.   And some macarons.   And maybe a nice pair of shoes.No such luck.   But I do manage to kill a half hour trying to decide between the three cafes.   One looks a little sandwichy.   One has a curry special, which doesn’t seem very french or cafe-like.   So I pick the other one and spend another half hour anguishing over what to order.   I decide on the grilled entrecote (pas trop rouge s’il vous plait) fries and a salad.   It’s pretty damn good.

I linger over a cafe creme and watch the people having lunch here.   I’m the only English speaking person here, so I make up what they’re saying and little stories about their relationships.   A very young French couple have brought their dog, who is clearly a substitute for the baby they’re unable to conceive.  He eats a bowl of kibble by their table while they dine.   She practically burps him when he’s finished (the dog, not her significant other).   A German family is trying to reconnect, but the teenaged daughter is having none of it.    A pack of bike riders all decked out in spandex and helmets, thankfully decide to lunch elsewhere.   I spend a good 15 minutes hating them from across the square.

As I’m paying the bill and noting I have another hour until the train arrives, I hear the clattering of steel shutter doors..   It’s the tiny grocery store opening!!!!   I practically skip across the square.   I spend the next 45 minutes really studying the different kind of cookies that are available in France.  Even in a tiny grocery store like this, you get a good representative sample.    I’ll save my conclusions for another blog.

All in all, I’ve had a lovely afternoon even without the benefit of one shop (tiny grocery stores don’t count and I didn’t even buy the Bon Maman Citron Tartes I wanted).   There were no miraculous donkey flights, nothing amazing happened.

When I get to the train station at the correct time and the little monitor tells me “train retarde 20 minutes” I don’t even get mad.   Not even when it’s retarde another 15 minutes after that.  While you may not consider that a miracle on the order of a donkey taking flight, I’d say it’s pretty darn close.

goody bags from cannes

I’ve been to Cannes once many years ago and frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed.   So even though I’m only about 50 minutes away, I haven’t been compelled to pay a second visit.   But it’s the Cannes film festival and I’d have to be some sort of full fledged agoraphobic (as opposed to the partial agoraphobic I am) to not go check it out.

The train ride is lovely.  After 15 minutes of riding through rolling hills , medieval villages perched on hills and vineyards, the train gets to the ocean, which is a deep teal blue, offset by coves and rocky outcroppings (slate/green and terracotta colors) and medieval villages clustered in coves along the shore.

There are armed police and military officers, all over the Gare de Cannes,  but other than that everything looks pretty normal.

The streets near the station are pleasant and almost Provencal, except for an occasional person with the tell-tale identity tag hanging around their neck rushing  by, cellphone clutched in white knuckled hand.  I figure they’re crew members, bloggers or actually working the festival or they’d be in limos or staying in a lavish hotel on the Croisette.

Once you hit the Rue d’Antibes, you’re in the Cannes zone.  From then on, it’s a bunch of fancy stores and restaurants that cater to “les trou du culs’ as one shop person put it. Up until now, I haven’t seen ONE Sephora in France, even in Paris.   In Cannes, there are two.   I know that says something deep and significant about the people who come to Cannes, but how can I concentrate when…ooooh, look!   Shiny!I watch an American woman drool to her significant other over a 350 Euro pair of flip flops in a window that look just like my $2.00 party flip flops I got at Old Navy except they have a Hugo Boss logo on them. which makes them worth 348.59 Euros more (approximately $495 US  as of today), apparently.   I’m starting to feel a little self conscious about my ON (Old Navy sounds classier as an acronym, don’t you think?) flip flops.

It appears that men over 5’7″ are not allowed in Cannes… (unless they’re locals on their way to their jobs serving men who are all 5’7″ or shorter).   They’re usually accompanied by woman teetering down the streets in their designer clown stilts preceded by their lips, boobs and an unpleasant whiff of eau de trying too hard.   It looks like a convention of Real Housewives here.

I know I’m getting near the Croisette by the shiny black cars lined up, security guards standing at attention, photographers and peasants lined up to look at anything that happens to be behind a barricade (especially if a red carpet is back there somewhere).Here, everyone is either speaking English or Italian, car horns are honking, photographers are everywhere.

I stand with the crowd, curious as to who might emerge from those guarded doors Then it hits me;  I’m in arguably one of the most beautiful strips of land in the world, and I’m looking at someone’s head who’s looking at someone else’s head who’s looking at someone else’s head who’s trying to get a glimpse of someone else’s head.

An hour or so later, I pry myself away from the still waiting crowd and cross the street.  Looking back several in case Johnny, Brangelina or whoever aren’t finally making their entrance.

But when I get to the beach side of the street, I only get glimpses of the water, sand or even the view because of all the tents, posters and crap blocking the view.  It kind of reminds me of Waikiki.  Or Waikiki Disney.   I wonder if Cannes gets this crazy when hosting a Dental Convention?   Do they plaster the Carlton Hotel (which is actually a very cool old building) with pictures of famous dentists?

Do poseur dentists wander the streets of this Americanized version of a quaint Mediterranean town and buy ridiculous stuff they can get anywhere at a higher price here just so they can say they got it in Cannes?

I find a nice stretch of blocked off road and stroll up the Croisette towards the castle, past the Palais des Festivals to get a look at the coast, which is stunning. Some photographers are snapping pictures of somebody launching a yacht for somewhere.   Pigs!   My iphone can’t get a clear picture of whoever it is from this distance.

I retreat to the quieter backstreets and find lunch for under 15 Euro (I’m splurging, it’s Cannes, forgodsakes).    I order aile de raie with lemon, butter and capers because I’ll eat anything with lemon, butter and capers.   It’s not the best aile de raie I’ve ever had, but it’s not bad with the lemon, capers and butter, and not at any point during the meal do I consider the possibility that the chef may be trying to poison me–always a plus.

After lunch, I stumble upon a macaron store.  Not a patisserie with a few macaron flavors, a macaron store.   This is the biggest assortment of macarons I’ve ever seen outside of Paris.     It even has ridiculous fois gras flavors (I’m sorry, that’s just wrong!!!).   And some of them have some kind of shiny almost glittery substance in the meringue portion of the cookie which in my opinion is gilding the lily.   But who cares?    They have the coveted beurre de sale (salted caramel), a flavor that has thus far has eluded me everywhere except Paris.   You know that feeling when you’re falling in love and you’re having this perfect moment that you never want to end?  Eating a properly made beurre de sale macaron is like that.   I also get a chocolate one, which is my “go to” flavor.   These two little gems will be my rewards when I get home.

Ooooh, they also have my favorite tea.   It’s ridiculously expensive, but it’ll really top off the macarons.

On my way back to the train station I find Maison du Chocolate tucked away in a quiet little spot off Rue d’Antibes and discover some of the biggest chocolate covered orange peels I’ve ever seen.  Not grotesque big, mind you.   That would be…well, grotesque.   Instead of twigs these are about 1/6 an orange peel each.

One of the many beauties of chocolate covered orange rinds is you can tell yourself they’re healthy.   Did you know the rind is where most of the nutrients are in an orange?  It’s the ultimate in being environmentally friendly by reducing waste, since what else was anyone on going to do with those orange peels?   They would have just become landfill.    So I pick up a couple of those in the name of sustainability.    Now I really can’t wait to get home.

The return trip is a little tense only because I have to be careful not to crush my delicate treasures.

So here I am, back in Vidauban.   I’m sipping my freshly brewed Mariage Freres Yuzu Temple tea with my Maison du Chocolate orange rind and Jean Luc Pele macarons, I ponder Cannes and the shallow, label loving, acquisitive, pleasure seeking hedonists who seem to gravitate to it.   I really don’t like the place at all.

I bite into the beurre de sale macaron and my eyes roll back in pure bliss.

I wonder if I’ll have time go back to Cannes later this week.

change you can believe in

You’re looking at approximately $23 worth of change in Euros (16 Euros).   By tomorrow, it should be worth more against the dollar.

With my 16 Euros I can buy a roast chicken, loaf of bread, cheese, coffee and still have money left over for dessert.

In San Francisco, a roast chicken and bread salad at Zuni Cafe costs $49.00 (and isn’t nearly as tasty as the $7.00 roast chicken from the rotisserie truck here.

Why am I telling you this?   Because I’m pissed off.   I’m pissed off because I can’t afford to exchange all my hard-earned, increasingly worthless US dollars into Euros at the moment because of poor money management, not on my part (and believe me, I’m no financial genius), but on the part of the US government.   The government that I just paid tens of thousands of dollars to on April 15th… or else.

Thanks to their poor management and favoritism to the very rich (I’m talking to you Geithner, Bernake et al), I spent the past year slaving away 24/7 to earn money, much of which is now being spent on wars, bank bail outs, interest rates to China and corporate tax breaks.

Sure, the French will tell you their taxes are high, but it seems they’re getting some value for their money.   Their healthcare system is rated number one in the world, so they don’t live in fear of being bankrupted by illness.   Their roads are well maintained so they don’t blow out their tires on a simple drive to the grocery store (and get taxed when they’re forced to buy new tires).   They don’t work inhuman hours for an ever decreasing wage.   Public servants, teachers and people who actually produce things aren’t treated as second class citizens to be bilked by the rich and powerful.

So where’s the change (aside from the pittance in my hand), President Obama?  I understand that Bush got us into this mess, but from where I’m sitting, which is thankfully far away, things are only getting worse for the working class.

Ironically, the only way I can live the American dream these days is to be in France, where while I still can’t afford to buy a home, at least I can afford a chicken.

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