I just woke up from a very long nap and I’m still a wee bit groggy. My little sister just left France to return to Minnesota after a two-week visit. She was the final visitor of the summer season. That is both the good and the bad thing about living in a place like Provence. I have not been lonely, that is for sure. I haven’t had the chance. The steady stream of visitors began in May, most stayed for 2 weeks, I had maybe 2 weeks in between them and I… am…. truly…. exhausted. But oh my goodness, thanks to them and their visits, I’ve had a hell of a summer!
I have hiked in Italy, gotten lost and lost someone in Monaco, antique shopped in Isle sur le Sorgue,
lunched in Loumarin, lazed on the beaches of Carry le Rouet, Bandol and Cassis, dined street-side in St. Tropez (and also examined all the enormous yachts in the harbor… I think my future husband owns one of them), drank both coffee and absinthe in Antibes,
swam in the turquoise waters of Lac du St. Croix,
I’ve driven the Route des Crêtes that snakes its breathtaking way along the highest maritime cliffs in Europe and traveled the rim of the Gorge de Verdun, one of the most beautiful river canyons in Europe.
I’ve learned how perfume is made in Grasse and bought my first REAL bottle. I’ve felt the thrill (and terror) of the enormous fighting bulls running down the streets of Arles and St. Marie sur le Mer,
I’ve been horseback riding in the Carmargue and spied on the flocks of pink flamingos as they graze (do flamingos actually graze?) in the wetlands.
I’ve watched the white Camarguaise horses galloping freely through the salty grasslands.
I have visited the bird market in Paris
and sat entranced before the brilliant yet transparent colors of the enormous Water Lily paintings of Monet at Le Musée de l’Orangerie.
I have tipped a glass of red on the stairs of Montmartre
and sipped champagne in the cool shade of a friend’s grape arbor. I’ve attended concerts in vineyards and castles and even a grand circus in the country yard of a friend.
I have learned to drive like a true French person and finally become somewhat skilled in the fine art of both being charming and being charmed (and that this does not apply while driving!). I’ve learned to barter at the market and joke around in French. I’ve learned that the French bureaucracy will always be aggravation-times-ten but I’ve learned (and will continue to learn) how to get what I want through the back door…. like a native.
I now know that it’s cheaper to rent a car through U.S. websites but more economical to buy a train ticket through a French website. And that hostels are a perfectly acceptable place to stay…if I don’t mind being 30 years older than the rest of the guests (which I don’t).
I’ve visited with old friends and made new ones. I’ve ended relationships and begun fresh ones. I now know that if I ever date again, le monsieur must understand “girls night”.
I’ve locked myself out of my hotel room after-hours and filled up a friend’s diesel consuming car with regular gas (oops!). I have had not one single run-in with the French police or crazy Frenchwomen. And I have not had enough sleep!
So today, I’m washing the beach towels and putting them away, returning the last rental car of the summer, writing this article and finishing my test for my courses at the University, which starts in two weeks. And after a brief babysitting stint this afternoon (this should be interesting…French 3-year-old cared for by a 51-year-old American who speaks French like a 2-year-old), I’m going to sleep for a very long time.
There were times this summer when I really wondered why I continue to invite endless summer guests to my little section of heaven (and sometimes hell). But the time eventually comes, like today, when I know exactly why.
My big thank you to all who have taken their time this summer to make my life richer.