Monday, April 18, 2011

Hit the Road, Jack!

I have a car. I have a car! I HAVE A CAR!  Okay, it's not my car but I have one for a week. Last week my friend Claire went on a trip and she gave me her car to use in her absence. I don’t know why.  But when she proposed that I take her to the train station and pick her up when she returns and in exchange, she would give me her car for the week, I kept my mouth shut and accepted. Because, in fact, I would have taken her to the train station with or without her generous offer. The theory here being “never look gift horsepower in the mouth”.

The first thing I did, on the way home from the train station, was stop at the grocery store. Yes, the supermarché….the BIG ONE!  I will sometimes stop here on my way home from work, because the selection is better than the little, tiny supermarket down the street (the one where two people can’t get past each other in one of the two miniscule aisles). But Thursday afternoon,  I was free to buy what I wanted…no matter how heavy. Because I could drop it directly at my door without lugging it to the bus stop, onto the crowded bus and then across town and up 3 flights of stairs.

I bought big bags of cat food and litter, large sized quantities of toilet paper and paper towels, laundry detergent and softener…..and bottles. Bottles and bottles! Sparkling water, vodka, wine, olive oil, milk, diet coke, juice…it's a good thing I bought toilet paper. I have no place to store these things but I'm ready for a draught, in any case.

And when I got home, the little “parking spot” on the sidewalk in front of my door was magically available, just for me (mine is the green door. Whoever lives behind the blue door, although I believe it's vacant, cannot get in or out at this point). So I only had to lug the kilos and kilos of groceries up the stairs. Wow!

Friday morning I drove to work. I didn’t have to get up an hour early in order to catch the bus. Oh man, this is so cool!  

Saturday afternoon after market, (I don't buy vegetables at the supermarché) I got in the car with my map of Provence and a bottle of water (what? No drink holders?), set my course for a general direction, deliberately avoiding all tourist spots that I now know by heart and I’m not sure I ever want to see again, refolded my giant sized map into a small square that I could handle, and took off.

With the windows wide open, I drove the country roads northwest of Aix, most of which are only wide enough for one car.  Oh man, I miss driving. I miss the road. There is something just so delightful about driving to no place in particular, stopping and starting wherever I want, playing the radio at full blast, and having a gas needle that cooperates with my joy by barely moving to the left.

I drove through the vineyards just outside of Aix where the vines are now glowing with their halos of lime green leaves. I stopped in a couple of larger villages…okay I slowed down….no parking places….anywhere! I turned into a nobody-wants-this-junk-at-its-real-price-discount store and found a bunch of stuff that I wanted at a price I could never find in Aix. I now am the proud owner of several apero bowls exactly like the ones I wanted to buy at a shop in Aix and a vase for the lilacs I pilfered from a roadside bush. 

I arrived in a region that my map told me was Les Alpilles (little Alps) where the stark, white, limestone rock of the mountains are timelessly settled into the acres and acres of almost ghostly, silvery green olive trees. Van Gogh painted this range often while living in St. Remy.

I stopped for all the great views, passed a few really OLD places that seem to need a little fixing up...

and made stops in the smaller villages where I could find a place to park. At the entrance to one village, there was a sign that said “Attention, village en fête” which literally translates to "Careful. Village in Festival". I was very careful, although the festival looked to be over. But apparently this festival thing is serious stuff. I passed another sign at the gateway to another village that said “Danger. Cimetière”. "Danger, Cemetary”. Now what do you suppose that means, exactly?

I found what I’m sure must be Rapunzel’s tower! I'll never find it again because I don't know where I was so the secret's safe with me.

I passed these guys, playing in the sky and wished I could be up there with them. I AM going to hang glide…one day very soon. I am, I am, I am!

I followed a little sign to a local olive oil vendor, and was invited into her house, where she gave me a lengthy and very complete run down on everything I ever wanted to know about olive oil and how it’s produced. To hear her talk, you’d think this stuff was a magic elixar for everything that ails you. Of course, I bought-in to her theories and purchased two, beautiful bottles of the liquid gold.

At some point, fairly early in the journey my map ended up on the floor, forgotten and unwanted. Taking whatever road I felt like was just far more fun. It was freedom times ten.

As the light changed into it's evening clothes, I made my way home…the long way I’m sure, and I found my little parking spot waiting for me again. As I parked, jumped the curb and settled in behind the posts placed there to prevent people from parking, a police car pulled up and parked in front of me.  Two of the officers got out and took off to places unknown and the remaining officer seemed completely uninterested in my criminal activities. I finally went up to his window and asked if I could just leave my car there while I unloaded my things.

He said, “Madam, I’m not going to ask you to move. Don’t worry. I’m not the parking police. That’s not my job. You do whatever you want.”

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta love France! And I've got 3 1/2 more days to love it in a car!

Whatever your voyage is today, I hope it's a fine one.



  1. Lovely, words and pictures.
    One day I will have to take my car, come and pick you up so that we can go together through Provence.
    This post is everything that I need to cheer me up in a morning that will mostly be spent at the dentist, thank you!

  2. Oh la la! a car in France - how wonderful - and how very adventurous heading off into the country-side -it sounds like a great day out! make the most of your next 3 days Delana.

  3. I just bought a new big roomy car -can I come live with you??? You are living my dream. Irene xxx

  4. I love your adventures. I imagine the joy of having a car is new again, not like for those of us who tote kids around in our cars. One of the signs you took a picture of is a village we stopped in while biking in Provence. We had our best meal there -- pork chops, green beans, a nice rose. Simple but delicious. Love the tower.

  5. EWWW Blandina...the dentist? You are always welcome to take a road trip to my part of the world. I'm becoming an excellent tour guide. Aside from not knowing where that tower is!

    Dianne. It was a great day out. Tomorrow I'm heading in the other direction!

    SES-The problem with a big, roomy car, is you simply can't get through the narrow streets with them. Or park! But come on over anyway!

    Paulita-my adventures are little...but even little ones can seem pretty mighty. I hear that bikers love that fact, I deliciously followed a few of their lovely bottoms up the hills.

  6. I love this! You write beautifully about sweet, sweet freedom.

    Drive on!

  7. Isn't it great just to take off and explore!
    We've done it here and come across some amazing places...and some suspension bridges with more gaps than planks and no way to reverse the car!
    I'm still enjoying the 'Danger! Cemetery!'.

  8. Delightful post!

    You write the BEST travelogues! I swear, Aix's Chamber of Commerce (does such a thing exist in France?) is crazy not to hire you to advertise their charming community.

    I'd love to spend an entire day exploring those castle ruins...what was the energy like around them?

    The scenery around the vinyards is exquisite and verdant. Makes me sigh at the beauty.

    The photo of the olive oil belongs in an upscale send a jpeg of it to the maker!

    And Rapunzel's Tower? I'm printing this one out (with your permission) for my granddaughter to have, being completely taken in by the fable these days.

    As for the parking, when my husbnd and I were in France, we marveled at the "inventive" places we'd see cars parked...très amusant!

    Brava to you on your sense of adventure, Delana! And to throwing the map aside...encore, please!

  9. Lisa-thank you. And yes, sweet, sweet freedom. I never take it for granted.

    Fly-okay, I'm not sure if I could do more gaps than planks. I'm brave in some cases...but that one would just chicken me out.!

    Jo-Then you can write advertising for me, you're being so nice. Interesting question on the castle ruins. I was pretty far away from them but they really felt void. Empty. Like all the spirits had moved on. But I wasn't in the thick of it, so I don't really know. Good idea on the JPG. The lady was so nice...and spoke nice...and...slowly! Encore...okay...if I HAVE to.

  10. You reminded me, beautifull, of how it felt to be 16 and have a car and the open road in front of you! I was smiling for you the ENTIRE time I was reading! Very delightful! (sorry for all the !!'s, but it's your fault!!)

  11. Wonderful wonderful day! I can almost.....(dream on...) feel and see and smell and taste your joy!

  12. I so enjoyed travelling with you as you romped the roads of France. I love driving in France as well, and potter along enjoying whatever there is to see. Oh these lovely empty roads!

  13. The freedom to buy WHATEVER you want from the grocery store without a thought about its bulk and heft? So, so jealous. :)

  14. What fun! And a seriously good-looking bottle of olive oil to boot. Between the vodka and this, you're set for the summer. (You haven't forgotten the gin, have you? I've yet to have my first g&t of the season, but the weather's just begging for it.)

  15. Wonderful ride Delana!
    Reminds me of when we lived in Dijon and I used to tool around the back roads of Burgundy in my little Panda. Perfect bliss.

  16. Oh man, D, this is perfectly evocative of driving the wonderful roads of Provence. I love this piece!

  17. So much we take for the norm, until you are without it...nameingly "ze car"! SWEET! Thanks for taking us on your adventures, and make sure you leave her a full tank of gas when you give the car back. That's American...

  18. This post made me want to find the nearest car and jump in for a road trip! Now I'm itching to get back to the States for a bit just to get in the driver's seat--a place I rarely want to be, but your description made me forget how much I dislike driving and how I want to feel the wind in my hair and cruise around with the music blasting. Great post!


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