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Allons enfants de la fromage …

Le quatorze juillet, a national holiday, not that anyone around here has noticed. The market in Gordes was as crowded as ever, but most of the shops in the cities are closed. There will be fireworks. I wish a happy July 14th to all my French friends who care about these patriotic events, but I don’t think there’s a single one.

On Sunday evening, Denis and I went to a cello concert in the church in the nearby village of Joucas. An American cellist called Annabelle Gordon was donating her time to fundraise for the restoration of the church, and Denis said let’s go, it’s a good cause and a pretty village. Pretty! Joucas is so adorable and perfect, it’s like a film set – so tiny it makes Gordes look like a metropolis, tiny narrow winding cobbled streets, perfect Provencal doorways with bougainvillea, oleander, lavender, ivy clinging to windows and walls, little tables on sun-lit terraces ready for the aperitif, ancient doors studded with huge nails – ‘pretty’ does not even begin to touch it.
We lined up with the good citizens of Joucas; there were about 40 of us, which perhaps encompassed the entire population. The concert, Bach and Telemann mixed with traditional Scottish and Irish dances, was pleasant, and the little church is being nicely restored, as we learned in a speech by Madame the President of the Restoration Committee. She pointed out the magnificent gold altar, recently renovated at a cost of ten thousand euros by an expert in Avignon. I wondered who this would be, the person who specialises in the restoration of golden altars.
All in all, as I remembered trucking miles through the snow to see Yo Yo Ma in North York, it was a great treat to be sitting in a small church in one of the most picturesque villages in France, listening to a fine cello. And then the drive home at dusk, golden light falling on fields, hills, woods, the houses of white stone – I said to Denis, “There is not one single ugly thing anywhere. Not one.” There must have been one, somewhere, but I could only see beauty.
Speaking of beauty, later that night, my goddaughter Jessica, the bride-to-be aged 29, arrived from Sydney. When I lived here in 1979, Lynn and Denis already had 3 little children, and during my visit, Lynn told me she was pregnant again. “Are you out of your mind?” I shrieked. “You can hardly cope with the kids you have. Have you even heard of birth control?” (I am much less vociferously opinionated today. Happily for my friendships.) Jess was a result of that pregnancy, and I was asked to be her godmother. (And exactly a year later, my own first child, Anna, was born, so I’d completely changed my tune since then.)
Jess is quite different from the others – she’s gentle and soft-voiced, her strength much more concealed than that of her siblings (Elisa, the 5th child, was born a few years later.) She has spent the last 8 years as a French teacher in England and Japan and now in Australia, home to her intended, Greg. She loved Japan and enjoys Sydney; they live in a cramped apartment with a view of the ocean, where Greg surfs and she body-surfs. Denis is bringing in tons of beer for the dozen or so Australians, Greg’s family and friends, who are arriving for the wedding and will not be drinking delicate glasses of rosé. The mix of the French and the Australians – mmm, that’ll be really interesting.
So this is fun – looking at Jess’s wedding dress, a simple white silk shift she had made in Japan – shopping with her yesterday in Cavaillon and today at the market for a bracelet and decorations. She has made countless white cranes and wants them tied in the trees in the backyard, and to have delicate Japanese flower arrangements on the tables, the problem being the possibility of mistral, which sprang up during her sister Myriam’s wedding last summer and knocked everything over. Let us hope not on July 25th.
Elisa, Jess and I did a giant grocery shop yesterday at Auchan, the Loblaw’s, no, the Walmart of Cavaillon, a vast warehouse, half of it stuff and the other half food. Just the mustard section, my friends, nearly had me in tears; if I didn’t have to carry it myself, I’d bring back mustards for everyone. And the cheese section – this is just an ordinary supermarket, but the cheese selection ran for metres in a refrigerated section along both sides of the aisle. Wish I could bring a ton of that back too. Especially cheese.
I’m thinking more and more about bringing stuff back, because according to my calendar, there are exactly six more weeks left in my adventure, until my rambling draws to a close Aug. 25. At least, this particular ramble. A friend just wrote to invite me to spend a week in the heart of Spain, but the dates just don’t work. I had to say no, no Spanish idyll, I have to go home – with both regret and joy. I’m going home. But first, six more weeks of cheese.
Allons, fromages de la patrie.
P.S. Apparently, the movie with Russell Crowe as a guy who inherits a vineyard was partly shot in Gordes; the heroine plays a waitress at a restaurant right in the village square. They probably couldn’t shoot in Joucas because the streets aren’t wide enough to fit a camera crew. And anyway, it’s just too pretty to be believable. I know I specialise in hyperbole, but honestly, it is.

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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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