So Much To Catch Up On…Nothing To Do But Start At The Beginning…

Can it be that I’ve only been in the south for three days?  It feels like a lifetime.  On Wednesday we woke up very, very early and took a taxi to Gare de Lyon, a very beautiful Paris train station in which zero of the automated kiosks work at printing e-tickets purchased with a U.S. credit card on the internet.  After using up our lengthy hour of leeway time for such an emergency that I never really believed would take place (but did), I managed to get our tickets re-printed and we boarded the TGV for Marseille.

We arrived in Marseille in one piece, and even found the shuttle at the Marseille train station that takes you to the Marseille airport, where our car had been reserved (not without having to wait in several lines…one in which the Frenchman behind us got so annoyed with waiting that he cut us and ran up to the window only to be shut down by his own countryman, whereupon he commenced to complain about the French to us in English–how horrible and stupid they are…then he rode the same shuttle bus as us and when we disembarked wished us good luck with the assholes).

Once at the Marseille airport, the rental car was no problem.  Aside from both having developed a full-blown flu, we were super excited to get on the road.  We didn’t want to go back to Marseille (even for Bouillabaisse) since the town is south of the airport, so we decided we would eat lunch in Aix; a/k/a our first error.  Aix was BESIEGED and an absolute nightmare.  We ended up being forced into a subterranean parking garage that my husband later described as a trip through his nightmarish subconscious, and in doing so stalled the manual transmission many times and scraped some paint off the side of the car (the jetlag, the jetlag).  My husband kept on saying, “it’s O.K. honey, neither of us is very good at driving stick,” [all the while never offering to drive and ignoring the fact that I learned to drive on a vintage 325i with the worst clutch in the history of man].  But I was so exhausted and flu-ish I didn’t even remember to get annoyed at this.  After the worst niçoise salad I’ve ever tasted, we managed not only to make it out of Marseille but onto the freeway and into the “petit Luberon,” not by using the Michelin directions I had printed off the internet, but by using simply “the force” as I. calls it.

We arrived in Lourmarin, the town in which my maternal grandmother inhabited for the last twenty or so years of her life.  There are so many new buildings that the town was virtually unrecognizable to me upon arrival, but the surroundings remain beautiful.  We found the road to Vaugines, and then our hotel, the Mas de Guilles, a beautiful and converted farm house.  The woman who greeted us was very hospitable and showed us to our room.  I scanned the perimeter and wondered…where is the climatiseur…the air conditioning that was the sole criteria of my hotel search?  I asked, “Excuse-moi, ou est le climatiseur…?” “Oh madame, vous reservez le chambre ‘charme’ et le climatiseur est seulement en le chambres ‘deluxes’…but…I emailed with the owner who confirmed that the room had air conditioning…

but hey, lest we forget the words of our wise friend– “good luck with the assholes, et bons vacances!”

to be continued…

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “So Much To Catch Up On…Nothing To Do But Start At The Beginning…

  1. Dah7lin

    I can’t wait for the next post!

    You have whetted my appetite aplenty. I am impressed that you got to Lourmarin by “la force”, undoubtably The best way to get there. I fell certain that that is how Camus arived.

    Ahhhh, La Belle France

  2. soother1978

    wow, looks like the south of france is NOT soothing you

    surprised really
    I hope you find soothing things!!!!

    • saddleshoos

      It actually is soothing me, but as anyone who has ever been to Provence knows, despite the clichés, there is a reason Peter Mayle wrote three books of misadventures here. You just have to accept the fact that whenever you ask one question, you invariably will get three different answers. At first you damn the first or second person for “lying,” but quickly realize that truth is a trivial pursuit, and often there is no right answer.

      For example, with the air conditioning–first the woman told me that they had air conditioning in the “prestige” rooms, so I asked if we could change to a “prestige.” She said she didn’t know if one was available. Later, I asked another woman if we could move to a “prestige” room, and she said we could, but the “prestige” rooms don’t have air conditioning, only the “deluxe” rooms have air conditioning.

      Similarly, we were told by the first woman that we had WiFi in our room. When it didn’t work, she said she didn’t know what the problem was. When we told the second woman the same, she said the WiFi only works in the lobby. But the connection was suuuuuuper slow. So we went to town. We asked a young man at the bistro if there was WiFi in town. He said no. Then we asked later at the tourist office, and they said there was WiFi at the café. So we went to the café. The woman at the café said her WiFi wasn’t working. So we went to another hotel in town where I’d considered staying and offered them money for WiFi. They said it was only available to guests, but that there was free WiFi at the post office. There isn’t.

      This is all to say that in fact I am being soothed. In fact, I even find the pursuit of amenities and resulting foibles “soothing.” I know from past experience in Provence and other locations (soother1978–don’t you remember standing at a host stand in an empty restaurant in Tuscany and being told we would not be seated because we didn’t have a reservation, that it was simply “impossible?”) that these misadventures are in some way the essence of traveling, especially in any countryside. Not only are you American, but you are urban, and thus as foreign as foreign could be. “Why do you want air conditioning and WiFi?” they must think.

      In the end, we are fine without air conditioning, it is cool enough at night, and we’ve acclimated to the heat. It is a fun ritual to open the heavy wooden shutters in the evening to let in the cool air and close them to the hot sun in the morning. We found an amazingly friendly spot with incredible WiFi in the neighboring town of Bonnieux, so I could contact Air France about my lost bag (very important!) and not checking email for a couple of days was a welcome reprieve from the fast pace of constant communication that we usually have.

      That said I’m desperate to record the experiences we are having everyday not even for readers but to make for myself a permanent record of quite an epic journey, almost a pilgrimage for me, to better know my maternal line. Soothing/not soothing no longer apply–it’s all simply amazing.

      • Dah7lin

        Exactement!

      • soother1978

        what a relief that even in the non soothing, you are soothed. Wish I was there, the pictures in the most recent post soothe the FUCK out of me. I hope you guys are eating well. Please take lots of wild food pictures. Food soothes. MISS YOU wish I was there to soothe with you guys

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