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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.

et tu, france?

Crepe on a stick

Crepe on a stick

One of the nice things about France has always been their approach to eating.   They sit, enjoy and savor finely prepared foods (even if that food is a goddamn snail).  In moderation.

I’ve seen that trend fading with the preponderance of fast food places and prepared foods at the grocery store (which I like to pretend are geared towards american tourists, even though logic tells me otherwise).

But I’m sorry, a crepe on stick?   Yes, this was at an outdoor festival of food.    I’m sure it’s lovely to be able to stroll around with one hand free while eating a crepe, but this just isn’t right.

Jeez, the next thing you know they’ll be making camembert-whiz and drinking wine out of berets.

Wine-Hatphoto of wine cap from www.likecool.com.

 

recent photos of Antibes (give or take a century)

Antibes has been around since the 5th century BC when the Greeks discovered that its protected port made it an ideal trade center.   Unfortunately, they didn’t have cameras back then to document the changes over the millennia and archaeologists have yet to unearth any ancient postcards.

I did, however, find some postcards from the early 1900’s to compare modern Antibes with what it looked like over 100 years ago.   This is before the jazz age.   Before Zelda and F. Scott got here.

I’ve tried to match the old shots with photos of the same location here and now.   We should all age this well.

Place Mace (now Place de Gaulle)

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Place de Gaulle is in the new part of town (new meaning 100 years old, as opposed to 700), about a block from the entrance to the old town.

I looked up Ernest Mace, who this Place was formerly named after and found nothing.  Maybe he was evil and has been stricken from the records. Why the hell didn’t they name it Place de Gaulle in the first place?   Oh yeah, Charles De Gaulle was still in military school when the top picture was taken.

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Port Vauban

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Ahhh, the ancient port.   This is where the Greeks, Romans, and various barbaric tribes first staked their claims on Antibes.   Today’s port is where the Arabs, Russians and now the Chinese are currently staking their claims.  A berth here today costs upwards of a million Euro.

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Rue de la Republique, old town

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Rue de la Republique is the “main drag” from Place de la Republique through the old town to the Cours Massena and Hotel de Ville (town hall).

I want to know what was behind that wall on the right in the earlier pictures.   If there’s a shoe repair shop, would somebody please give me directions?  I’d gladly travel through time to get there.

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Place Nationale

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Place National is in the old town center.   The war monument is no longer a fountain and the trees have grown significantly. Other than that, not much has changed.   Note the piece of ancient Citroen in the lower right hand corner.

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Boulevard d’Aguillon

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Boulevard Aguillon in the old town, lines the rampart walls near the port.    While it appears that nothing has changed over the last 100 years, I’m willing to bet that not one of the cafes lining the street had a karaoke bar back then.

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Place du Château (now Place Marijol)

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This is Place Marijol, in front of the Picasso museum.   Back then it was just the Place du Chateau in front of the Chateau Grimaldi (which was built on top of the ruins of an ancient Greek acropolis).  The chateau has been here since the 1300s.  Picasso didn’t move in until 1946.

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The port with Fort Carre in the background

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Fort Carre hasn’t changed much over the years, but clearly the parking lot has grown.

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View of the old town from the rampart walls

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antibes old town from ramparts

Again, the old town remains the same where the world around it has changed drastically.   Fortunately, there is still no Walmart within 3,000 miles.

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Rue Aubernon, Port gate

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This is a street in the old town leading to the gate that leads to the port.  As you can see, people dressed a little more formally back in the day.

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Cours Massena/Marche Provencale

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They put a roof over the market in 1900.   Perhaps it now lacks the charm of the Cours Massena of the 1900’s, but it’s got a much better selection.  In the summer it gets a little crowded and pushy.   Kind of like Whole Foods in the US.

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Rue de la Republic (in the “new” part of town)

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This street spans the one block from Place de Gaulle in the “new” part of town to the old town entrance.   It’s astonishing how similar it looks.   But the chances of getting run over by a car here are much better today.

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View of Antibes from Port Aubernon (now Port de la Salis)

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While one might be a bit nostalgic for the peace and quiet of the good old days, you’ve got to admit, the view is still pretty darn nice.

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View of Antibes and the Cap d’Antibes

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When the top picture was taken, the population of Antibes was approximately 10,000.   It’s now almost 75,000.   From the looks of things here, it would appear the 65,000 newer residents are living on boats.

Post cards courtesy of notrefamille.com

french laundry

Everyone in France seems to have a washing machine.   I’ve seen them in people’s homes.   I even have one with a scary Hannibal Lecter looking latch contraption.  But from what I can tell, nobody has a dryer.   Nobody.

In every village I’ve ever been, laundry is hanging out to dry outside their windows.   Bras, underwear, socks, sheets, you name it.   It’s kind of picturesque.  They remind me of colorful flags fluttering against a 
backdrop of shutters and houses.   They can add a touch of pizazz to a dull wall or facade.  I particularly like the households with babies, because the multitude of tiny socks hanging out to dry resemble the mobiles that are often placed over cribs (without the tinkling music, just an occasional chirping bird).

I’m told that it’s okay to hang out clothes in plain sight if you live in a maison de ville (“downtown”), but if you live in a detached home away from the town center where it wouldn’t be noticeable, it’s actually illegal.   Like so many laws, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I suppose it varies from town to town.

I often worry that the pigeons who live under the eaves of these homes leave deposits on the clothes and sheets, but apparently nobody else seems to be concerned about it.   Do they have dryers in Paris?   I rarely see clothes hanging out in the street there.   What if it rains for weeks on end?   What do you do if a slug or snail leaves a trail on your clothes?

Rumor has it, clothes that are line dried smell fresher and cleaner than those that are put through the drying cycle.  I suppose they take on the smells in the air, which at this time of year is scented with wisteria, lilacs lavender and jasmine.  One of these days I’ll have to do some laundry and find out for myself.

good morning, Vidauban

Yesterday (or was it today?) is a blur.   I pretty much arrived at my cute little apartment, around 4PM French time, got the kitties set up, ate some pasta my landlady made for me since it was Sunday and all the stores were closed.   I fought mightily to stay awake until 11PM, to try to get on a normal sleeping clock.

I awaken refreshed and ready to go.   I look out the window to see what kind of a day it’s going to be and am mildly shocked by the view.

Thrown, I check the clock:   3:30AM.   I go back to bed, but my body is already in “let’s go” mode.   I get up, make some tea and a plate of bread and cheese (aren’t I European?) thumb through some information about the region and wait.

And wait.

Finally, it’s light enough to take my preliminary grand tour of Vidauban.   If I can find it.   I head down the dirt road and onto the main road, looking for the telltale church spire that I use as a compass in every European village, town and city I’ve ever been (a rare example of organized religion providing something useful).

Eureka, I’ve found it!

Not bad, eh?

I can’t wait to see it when the stores are open.

my new occupation in france

With less than a week until I’m back in France, I’ve been thinking.   When I was in Auvers, my principle goal was to experience life in France, soak up the culture, the food, the art and do some writing, which I did.     I halfheartedly pursued a few whims (ie:  tried to learn French, considered writing a book, getting a job, finding a rich husband with property in France), but I lacked focus. As a result, all I got out of it was knowledge and experience, which has little currency in today’s world.

This time around, it’s going to be different.  Now that I’m going to be in France long term, I need a long term goal.  I need to wholeheartedly pursue something substantial.   Something life-changing.   Something that’s evident not only from the inside, but also externally, for all the world to see.    None of this vague stuff. It’s got to be specific and it has to be etched in stone (or blog) or I’ll get distracted.

After a great deal of research and thought, taking my skills, interests and location into consideration, I’ve found a new raison d’etre that I can pursue wholeheartedly.   I’ll be stalking Johnny Depp.   He lives a mere 20 minutes from Vidauban, so it will be very convenient.    I can’t wait to get started.

So, in addition to continuing this blog, my new blog, Stalking Johnny Depp will chronicle my efforts.   Please check it out, subscribe, share, link and like.

the true meaning of fete de la cocagne

Today’s the big day. The last day of the Fete de la  Cocagne. Maybe today I’ll figure out what it is.

The main drag is closed and booths are set up for about a quarter of a mile. Booths selling stuff—yes, little make due shops! Joy to the world. I celebrate with a glace (ice cream cone) for breakfast.

There are Savoie cheese vendors, sausage and jambon vendors, vendors selling a variety of juices made in the region, arts and crafts booths, a booth selling beer made in the region, wine booths, a booth selling Auvers posters with Van Gogh paintings he painted while he was here, a bakery booth, and my personal favorite, a booth selling framed bugs and butterflies for a mere 10% of the price I’ve seen them sold elsewhere in the states or Paris.

An ooompapa band plays in the background as the tourists and natives wander the streets. Fortunately, only a few are in period costume so I don’t feel out of place or like a party poop.

I ask a few people qu’est ce que c’est cocagnes and most people shrug their shoulders. A few people answer, but I don’t understand a word they’re saying. Where is the French lesson booth when you need it?


My economic contribution is to buy two Auvers Van Gogh posters which I figure will be a nice memory of my time here and will look lovely on my refrigerator box wall when I return to the states. I also get a bottle of cherry/apple juice, a bottle of award winning Biere du Vexin (which is quite good, I must say), a delicious cheese and a small salami. There goes my grocery money for the week. But when I think about it, I’ve got all four food groups covered: dairy with the cheese, meat with the salami, fruit with the juice and grain with the beer. I’m set.

Everyone is jolly and friendly, although I don’t recognize any of them from Auvers.

All in all, it’s a lovely fete. And I think I’ve figured out what cocagne means: tourist trap.

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