Frolics in France

Yesterday, we all piled in two cars and drove to Gordes, a beautiful little village a short drive away. It was, as expected, packed with tourists. They had come for the stunning views of the valleys below and the quaint, curving streets one finds in such communities carved into to rocks of ancient limestone mountains. We walked around the village, one brother desperately searching for cigarettes while the rest of us looked for ice cream and baguettes (boulangers, it seems, close early on Monday or don’t open at all). We found baguettes and ice cream; my brother would have to search for a tabac store in another village before securing the stuff to assuage his addiction.

The rest of the group wanted to visit another beautiful mountainside village we had seen on our earlier tour, so Janine and I decided to strike out on our own for the village of Banon, where a marvelous bookstore, according to something Janine had read, awaited us. We drove the better part of an hour, reaching the village just after 2:30. Our first priority was to find lunch. Alas, the restaurant scene in Banon, like the rest of the little piece of Provence we have seen so far, closes around 2:30. So, we entered a little bar nearby, hoping for lunch. As we looked at the menu board, the bar-maid explained in French that we somehow understood that only two of the dozen menu items remained available: quiche Provençal and croc Monsieur. We ordered them. They were abysmal fast food snacks that our bar maid took out of their plastic wrap containers and heated in a microwave. Fortunately, the two Schweppe’s Indian tonic waters we ordered were delicious and washed away the nastiness of horrid French fast bar food. Following lunch, Janine followed the sign to the toilette, only to find the bar had facilities only for women; that was fine for her, but it left me wondering if I might have to duck behind a building to pee against the alley wall of a village shop.

After a decidedly horrible lunch, we walked to Librairie Le Bluet, the bookstore Janine had read about in a Fodor guide (or some such fount of knowledge of all things French). It was an impressive place, a web of aisles twisting around the store on several levels, many of which were reachable only by spiral staircases. Alas, the touted English language section Janine read about was nowhere to be found. But, the shop had an intriguing wood carving, a stack of books, out front, making the visit worthwhile. Apparently, a huge tree that had once lived outside the bookstore had died and someone (quite the woodcarver) had fashioned a huge stack of books from its carcass.

On leaving the bookstore, we spied a public toilette near the place we had parked the car; I was thus spared the indignity of being arrested and jailed for public indecency.

During our return trip, the nice woman speaking to us from the GPS speaker routed us through a rather large town (around 12,000 people) in the Vaucluse department of the Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. We stopped at a supermarket, a place called Simply, to buy some necessary supplies: toilet paper, canned beans, canned tomato concentrate, ground beef, facial tissues, a tin of mackerel in white wine sauce, some radishes, some ground cumin, a small jar of sambal-oeleek, and so forth. On the way home from the book and grocery run, we saw a small army of gendarmes blocking access to a road off to the right of a round-about; we breathed a sigh of relief that the blocked road was not our planned path home.

Once home, I emptied the dishwasher and Janine began working on the bag of cashews she bought at the supermarket. The rest of the crew arrived home shortly thereafter, whereupon we collectively feasted on smoked pork loin, cheese, olives, baguettes, and so forth, accompanied by (or following) a bit of pastis and/or wine.

I think I am 170 pounds heavier now than when I arrived in France on May 28. I will address this matter in due course; after we get home.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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