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finding something to fear in marseille

view from train station

view from train station

Marseille isn’t a city for tourists. There’s nothing to see. Its beauty can’t be photographed. It can only be shared. It’s a place where you have to take sides, be passionately for or against. Only then can you see what there is to see. And you realize, too late, that you’re in the middle of a tragedy. An ancient tragedy in which the hero is death. In Marseilles, even to lose you have to know how to fight.”

Jean-Claude Izzo, Total Chaos

 When people talk about Marseille, there’s no grey area, it’s either black or white.

On the “love” side you hear things like: “one of the great cities of the world!”; ”a beautiful Mediterranean melting pot”;   “it’s becoming an art and design center on par with Barcelona”.   On the hate side we’ve got:   “I would rather watch every episode of the Kardashians than go back to that God forsaken place”; “Filthy” (ironic for a place famous for its soap); “It’s like the middle east without the charm”; It doesn’t feel safe!(this from a guy who feels comfortable in downtown Beirut). And we’ve also got good old Jean-Claude Izzo up there, scaring the crap out of me.

I visited Marseille once about a gazillion years ago (I’m avoiding telltale numbers).   I was with my parents and we drove from Aix to Marseille to go to Galleries Lafayette to find a certain tablecloth that my mom had to have. Construction was going on near the port and they had just dug up an ancient boat. We had lunch somewhere along the port.   I remember my mother felt sorry for the multitude of African guys trying to sell carved wood animals . My memory sees it then as being a little run down, but I didn’t really form an opinion one way or another except to watch my purse.   And while I survived, a vague sense of foreboding rises inside of me when I think of it.   But that could have been the fact I was a teenager on a family vacation.

Since I’ve lived in the South of France, the closest I’ve been to Marseille is looking down on it from the relative safety of the Marseille St. Charles train station.   It’s a pretty great view and it has made me long to venture down the hill and into the heart of it, however dirty and dangerous it may be.  But then fear takes over and I decide to go back later when I have more time and a flak jacket.   Which of course, I never have on me.

It’s a bit of a slog for a day trip (2:15), but hell, that’s a one way commute in the Bay Area.   And since I’m taking the train, the stress level is very low.   Well, as long as I don’t think about the danger I may encounter in Marseille.   Dirt.   Disenfranchised North Africans.  Germs.  Ebola.  Did you know the plague probably entered France here?  Racial unrest. Violence.   It seems the only thing I fear that isn’t here in Marseille is the IRS.

I’ve got to say, Marseille is beautiful.   I visit the old port, Fort Saint Jean, the brand new MuCEM (MUsee des Civilizations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée) and its phenomenal building and public space designed by Rudy Ricciotti in collaboration with Roland Carta, and the old town, which is called “le Panier” (the basket). I’m tempted to ascend to the omnipresent Notre Dam de la Garde perched on top of the hill, but it wasn’t long ago I was downed by a cathedral and I’m already pressing my luck by even being here, so I skip it.

Except for the prospect of climbing the cathedral, I feel no fear.   I have a perfectly lovely day puttering around aimlessly smelling soaps, admiring views, looking at art, taking pictures, eating lunch…   I don’t get food poisoning.   No one mugs or murders me (that I know of).   No terrorists attack. There are no race riots and by the end of the day, I’m still not convulsing with fever and bleeding from every orifice.   I made it!

I board the train home triumphantly.   I plop down into my seat with relief.   I made it!   I congratulate myself in between looking at the scenery and the photographs I took of Marseille on my phone. Jean-Claude Izzo was wrong!   Beautiful pictures.   Nothing terrible happened.IMG_20140909_175111324

But when I get up at the Antibes stop, I realize something is wrong. I feel a slight pull, look down and realize tragedy has indeed struck.   Goddamn merde de putain, somebody left gum on my seat!   My cute skirt is ruined!

***

While Izzo was right about Marseille-related tragedy, he was still wrong about Marseille not having beauty that can be photographed.   As you’ll see in the pictures below.  Fortunately, he was also wrong about the death thing.

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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

IMG_8853

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

IMG_9548

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

IMG_0717

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
IMG_0316

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

IMG-20130311-00469

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!

lonely planet, I have a bone to pick with you

According to Lonely Planet, with the exception of Renoir’s house/museum, Cagnes sur mer is “nothing to write home about.”   This is exactly why I hate travel guides– If  a tourist went by Lonely Planet, they’d go to the Renoir Museum, find that it’s closed for renovations head off to St. Paul de Vence, or Monaco or wherever and miss the perfectly lovely, untouristed old village on the hill.

I’ve got to question whether the writers of this particular volume have spent any time in the South of France and if they did, were they blindfolded.  Any sighted person  passing Cagnes sur mer on the train or driving on the A8 can see there’s a tumble of ancient stone houses on a hill leading up to an ancient castle.   The first time I saw it, I assumed it was St. Paul de Vence, since that’s the main hilltop village I’d heard mentioned ad nauseum in the guidebooks.

It didn’t take much time or research to realize that St. Paul de Vence is actually about 20 minutes further inland and the cool hilltop village I’d been eyeing is called Haut de Cagnes, part of the larger town of Cagnes sur mer.   The castle is one of the many Grimaldi chateaux (now I understand why Princess Grace married into the family).

It’s a quick 15 minute train ride from Antibes.  When I first get off at the Cagnes sur mer train station and walk out onto the rue, I wonder where the hell is it?   There’s supposed to be a bus that takes you up there, but I don’t know where the stop is and I want to get going.   From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t look like a terrible climb…once I find the damn hill.

I follow the signs into Cagnes proper (not Cros de Cagnes which is closer to the mer) and there’ still no sign of it..   Fortunately, the “Bourg medieval” sign points me in the right direction and soon, I see signs of medieval-ness.   I wonder how the hell a bus can get up here (answer:   tiny buses).

It’s pretty much a straight shot up the hill, but it’s steep.   When I get tired, I turn around and look at the view, which gets more spectacular the higher I go.   The “main drag” and side streets also become cuter.

Finally, I see the  church and chateau.   Past that, a really nice square overlooking the hills. There’s a boules court and several restaurants where you can dine on the square.

The Chateau houses a pretty cool little museum (which is incidentally where you’ll find the contents of the Renoir museum while it’s being restored).   On display are a lot of paintings of Haut de Cagnes by famous and semi famous artists over the years (sometimes centuries), still totally recognizable.

My favorite exhibit is a room full of paintings of a woman I’ve never heard of, Suzy Solidor. I’m sure I would have hated the woman in real life (narcissistic bitch who was probably a total slut).  She had been a model, singer and muse here in the early to mid 1900s and donated the collection to the town in 1973.   They’re all done by different artists, including Raoul Dufy and Jean Cocteau and it’s fun to see them all in one place.

There’s also a stairway to the roof of the chateau (more climbing) with amazing 360 views over the Mediteranean and Var Valley.

The village has a couple of nice artisan shops, one tabac shop that also sells postcards beverages and snacks type things, a souvenir store (not your average tourist crap, though) and a couple of shady squares with lovely outlooks to enjoy an ice cream cone and watch the local kids and cats play.

What it doesn’t have:    Chain stores, tour buses or the cachet of St. Paul de Vence (where I counted 9 tour buses in a 2 hour period).     Thank goodness.

The truth is, after I visited Haut de Cagnes, I did write home about it.   Which makes me wonder.   Is Lonely Planet inept?   Or are they just trying to keep the place for themselves?

More pictures of Haut de Cagnes

eating for two

Today I’m eating for me of course, but I’m also eating for Wayne.   Wayne is…was my often partner at the San Francisco company where I do a lot of freelance remotely.   His last day is Friday.  Since I just can’t bring myself to fly 6000 miles to attend his going away lunch,  Wayne and I decide I’ll eat a bunch of French stuff for him over here and chronicle the deliciousness.  So I take a stroll through the Antibes Marche Provencal to find some goodies.

I start by raising a mojito macaron to Wayne’s new job.   It’s surprisingly good–tart but sweet with a subtle whoosh of mint.   Damn, I’ll have another.   Oh, make that four.   It’s for Wayne.

Wayne is experiencing a bit of a sugar rush so I race past all the gorgeous fruit and vegetables (you can get them anywhere) towards the Socca oven that’s up and burning at the other end of the Marche.   Yes, Wayne must have a socca.   It’s distinctly from this part of the world!   Socca is basically a crepe made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt and it’s much better than it has a right to be, especially with a healthy shot of black pepper.   It’s a specialty of Southeast France and the Ligurian Coast of Italy.   It’s like a tidy falafel.    It’s a particularly good choice if Wayne happens to be on a gluten-free diet.

Next up, the Grande Aioli lunch.   Very South of France.   Very traditional.   It’s basically boiled cod and vegetables with an aoili dipping sauce.     It would be very healthy if Wayne didn’t insist on slathering it with the aioli.

Now I figure Wayne could go for something sweet, so I pick up a pack of the nougat that is popular here and in Provence.   I get the multi-flavored assortment to try all the nougaty essences.   It’s sort of a sophisticated version of Turkish taffy.    While there’s a similarity, it’s not as sweet and much more, as the package says, “tendre”.   Also, the flavors are more subtle and natural tasting.   The roasted almonds are a nice touch.   I get another pack for Wayne to enjoy later.

As I make my way out of the marche, all the people selling cheeses, olives and tapenades invite me to sample their wares.   I’m kind of full, but it’s a good opportunity for Wayne to try a lot of delicious Provencal products for free.  He particularly enjoys the the sundried tomato,caper, anchovies, basil, garlic tapenade and the brebis cheese.

As I stagger food-drunk through the old town, I make my customary stop at the window of the bakery and ogle the michettes.  Only today, I go inside and order an assortment.   For Wayne.   They’re yeasty little rolls filled with all kinds of savory things.   Onions, saucisses, chorizo, tuna, spinach, ratatouille, several varieties of cheese, etc, etc.   You could definitely make a well-balanced meal out of them.   The chorizo and chevre ones are particularly good.

I’m not sure if it’s me or Wayne, but one of us is starting to feel a little sick and needs to lie down.    On the way home, I can’t help noticing a beautiful little cake in the window of another bakery.

I start thinking that we really haven’t had any fruit and this cake is full of fresh strawberries.    On the other hand, it’s a little pricey, I’m pretty stuffed, and I think I’ve fulfilled my going away lunch commitment.   But it looks so delicious.

Then it hits me.    I think Wayne’s birthday is coming up.   So I buy it.   Anything for Wayne.

the french love me! french mosquitoes, that is.

French mosquitoes clearly find me delicious which is strange because American mosquitoes just never seemed that interested in me.

When I was in Arles being eaten alive while my beautiful friend Christina remained untouched, I was a little thrilled.   At least the mosquitoes find me more attractive than Christina (nyah, nyah, nyah).

Inevitably,  I began to tire of their excessive attention and stimulated the French economy by buying every anti-moustique product I could find, from herbal to ones jam packed with horrifying chemicals.   I’m still not sure which ones work, since out of desperation, I use them all at once.   Hell, I’d wear a Shell No-Pest Strip too if they still had ’em.  I know at least one of them does the trick, I’m just not sure which one(s).   Like a depressed person who goes off their meds when the drugs work and they’re no longer depressed, I stop spraying, igniting, turning on and plugging in when the little suckers stop biting.  The next thing you know, I’m up at 3AM swatting the air with one hand, feverishly scratching like a dog with the other while searching my mind for someone to blame.

I don’t know, maybe after all the gorgeous Provencal food they get, they’re craving something a little less…fresh and healthy?   Perhaps they prefer American food?  I’m like a burger, fries and a coke to them.

Apparently, mosquitoes are a problem down here in the South of France.  There’s even some African dengue fever carrying mosquito which has moved up here seeking a better life.   Some people blame it on a law that prohibits using really dangerous pesticides to eradicate them.   They’re afraid of endangering the people and wildlife, apparently.   Silly, silly French people.   I’ll worry about being slowly poisoned by pesticides later, but now do something about this infernal itching!   I can imagine being slowly driven crazy by the constant sound of a mosquito buzzing around my ear.

Fortunately, about.com has provided hundreds of pages of advice from readers around the globe on how to stop the itching.   I’ve tried the most popular and have added my comments.

1)   Any kind of alcohol.   Yes, it works.   At least when applied in copious amounts internally.

2)  Etching an “x” into the bite with your fingernail.   I find this works if you do it repeatedly for hours on end.

3)   Salt and citrus.   They work very well when used in conjunction with #1.

4) Clear nail polish.  In theory this works.   I tried doing it with Opi Bogota Blackberry since I don’t have clear nail polish and the itching seems less.   Unfortunately, I look like I have some horrible contagious skin disease now.

5) Banana peel.   I’ll try this as soon as I can buy a banana.   But first I have to find my nail polish remover so I can get the Bogota Blackberry off my mosquito bites and go out in public again.

the scent of grasse

I’ve always wanted to go to Grasse.  It’s the perfume capital of if not the world, France for sure.    I envisioned a charming village perched on a mountainside surrounded by fields of flowers, the air scented with lavender, orange blossom or jasmine depending on the month.

So here’s the scoop.   No fields of flowers.  The village is sort of charming, in an ancient tiny cobbled street sort of way.  But it’s not charming in a quaint, festooned with flowers way.   The views are lovely, despite the lack of flowers.   There are several famous perfume factories here —  Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard — the oldest dating back to 1752.   There are also museums of perfume and places where you can create your own proprietary blend.  Most of the shops sell things that are scented in some way shape or form.   You can even get candied flower petals, although I’m not sure where they get the flowers.

As I stroll through the old town, I intermittently smell bread baking, garbage, garlic sauteeing and the faint smell of pee in spots.  Not exactly what I expected.

Suddenly something mists forth from holes in what I had assumed were electrical cords strung overhead.  My first thought is that Grasse is an odd choice for a terrorist attack (I assume they’re spraying the town with ricin, smallpox or other frightening fatal agents I can’t spell).   But when I realize I’m not dead, I wonder if it’s just a way to mist the flowers that were once here.   Or just a friendly effort to keep tourists cool and moisturized.   Or maybe the whole infrastructure of Grasse is collapsing and these are mini leaks (kind of like hundreds of tiny steam pipe explosions).

As I mull the possibilities over, a pleasant waft of orange blossom surrounds me.    Ahh, that’s either what ricin smells like or…. oh my god, they’re squirting fragrance into the air!   Suddenly, I feel like I walked into the ground floor of Bloomingdales.

Turns out, Grasse smells exactly like Fragonard’s newest fragrance “la fleur d’oranger”.

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.

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