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the mistral, encore

I’m feeling like a little pig, and not just because I’m in France and want to eat everything in sight. The mistral is still blowing like the big bad wolf – huffing and puffing, it does feel like it’s blowing the house down, so much creaking and groaning in here. The wind is pummelling the walls, battering the trees – impossible to sit outside even in the relative shelter of the terrace. The portulaca flowers in the garden are shut up tight, and I don’t blame them. Why subject themselves to that brutal force?

A day of reckoning. I counted the bedrooms here, not including Lynn and Denis’s – there are four in the house and two, more or less, in the little studio house they also own next door. That’s six bedrooms (all single beds) for – well, hard to tell exactly how many people are coming to Jessica’s wedding on July 25 and will be staying here, but at least 20 – her four siblings with their spouses and two children, Lynn’s sister Karen from Montreal with her 2 children, various Blin relatives with their children, Denis’s mother who has Altzheimer’s, and many friends of the bride. The groom is from Australia so no friends of his are coming, but his family is and will be lodged elsewhere. This morning, I saw the math, the scores of people who will need a place to stay divided into the available lodging. And I went to Google – thank God for Google – and got busy.
Much checking out websites, looking at guesthouses, b and b’s, hotels. I walked to the village to get information from the tourist centre, drove out past Lynn and Denis’s along the Route de Murs to see what was there, and called a bunch of places. Of course, Gordes is one of the most scenic and therefore expensive villages in Provence – not easy to find affordable accomodation in the middle of high season. The hotel in town – hotel and SPA, it says, and I invented a new rule, always avoid anything that’s a SPA – is at least 200 euros a night.
It took all day, but success – I have booked two guest houses a five minute drive from here, or a 20 minute walk. I just drove out to one to pay a deposit – a beautiful stone house with big garden full of lavender and buddleia. Robert’s family has lived there for 5 generations; his wife Christine is “nordique” – from the north of France. He held in his arms a tiny puppy, a Father’s Day present – “le petit dernier,” Christine said, because their 3 daughters have almost left home. It will be a wonderful place to stay for a week, getting out of everyone’s hair here and arriving at Lynn’s after breakfast to help and visit. And the other place looks wonderful too. I realised this morning – I’m not a student any more. I don’t have to camp and be beholden. There’s money to spend, not a lot but enough, and this is the time to spend it. Woo hoo!
The day after tomorrow, however, I will try not to spend it. I’m going to Montpellier tomorrow after making complex arrangements – Denis is driving to work in Cavaillon so I’ll come in with him, get the train from Cavaillon to Avignon and the next train from Avignon to Montpellier. I have a choice of two places to stay, Lynn’s which has air-conditioning but is noisy and Julie’s which has no air conditioning but is quiet. And on June 24th, the sales begin. I can go to Galeries Lafayette and look at stuff on sale, and also the main streets, all five minutes away from either of my possible homes. I will try not to spend money, but if I do, it will be in the knowledge that at least the stuff is vastly reduced in price.
After supper this evening, Denis showed me his collection of old leather-bound books, including a “Pensees de Pascal” published in 1803 with the words “roi” and the date cut out inside, because it was published before the revolution at the behest of the king. What a thing to have on your bookshelf, with 20 or 30 like it. He also told me tonight, as we dined on leftover pork roast, ratatouille and tarte tatin aux abricots – even better the next day! – that McDonald’s has effected a miracle in France. It has changed its style here, makes all of its restaurants different and unique to the region. The one in Besancon, said Denis, is beautiful, made all of wood. Because the buildings are different and interesting and the food, for what it is, isn’t bad – the coffee of course is espresso and the beer is cold – the French don’t mind McDonald’s any more. Imagine what a company of that power has had to go through to make a success in this country, like no other.
I think this wind could drive people mad, and has done so. But not a Canadian. I know from wind.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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