The good news is that I have had more than one, okay, I have actually had three french people come up and ask me for directions on this trip. And yesterday, someone asked me how much the bus was to get to the train station and not only did I understand her, I actually knew the answer.
So until I open my mouth, I’m a local. Yaye pour moi!
Then I talk.
I have used various techniques to persuade french people to stay with me as I bumble my way around their beautiful language.
Along with a winning smile, I have found owning up by far the best approach:
“J’étudie le français mais Je ne comprends pas tout” I am studying French but I don’t understand everything (as opposed to anything which is truer but I don’t want to lose them)
I have also tried this to some success:
“Je ne parle pas très bien, mais je comprends si vous parlez simplement” I don’t speak very well, but I understand if you speak simply
And if they’re cute I throw in a:
“C’est gentil de m’aider avec mon français” How kind of you to help me with my French
I know all Im really being is a different kind of phrase book, but a girl’s got to do. You know the rest, I’m exhausted.
This is a picture of the location of the yoga class I was going to do this morning.
Googled it, mapped it, dressed for it, researched the language required to ask for a single class, walked to it.
In my mind, I had already embraced that stretched, exultant, I’m too sexy for my activewear feeling that was going to sustain me all day.
But I was the only person in Aix who thought this was even remotely a good idea. Or maybe they saw me coming and locked the gates.
Anyway you look at it it was a big fat deception.
Who knew you could mine colour? Okay well probably a lot of people other than me.
It was a spectacular place to spend some time. The red, yellow and burnt brown shades of the earth seem to rise up into the buildings that sit upon it and, at this time of the year, even into the leaves on the trees. I was almost camouflaged by the place.
Second time up to bat and we nailed it. Holy shit this is a beautiful part of the world. Pinch yourself picture perfect kind of pretty.
Here is the journey should you find yourself in this part of the world:
Aix en Provence – Rognes – Lourmarin – Bonnieux – La Coste – Roussillon – Gordes – Aix en Provence
Each village was 15 to 20 kilometres apart, and each had its own thing going on so really quite ideal for a woman who tires from being a tourist in the bat of an Hourglass mascaraed eyelash.
I’m not going to throw superlatives at you because I’m too lazy, but in the tourist day out Buzzfeed article this day would be nudging for some gold coloured metal.
Because it’s Autumn and it was Sunday the roads had been cleared for the Secret Royal tour and were relentlessly decorated on either side by rust and orange coloured foliage.
There were a lot of oohs ahhs and jesus we’re in a French movie exclamations coming from the Renault, I can say that much.
The days are short so we made the team decision to meander till twilight then take the autobahn home… in the dark.
Which is all very well till you’re a bunch of tourists trying to enter a galaxy of stars hurtling past you at 130 kph, and they’re the crazy light and you feel decidedly like the darkness.
The first toll gate:
What the fuck where do we go?
Go to the green the green
Go to the green
It’s all fucking green
Not the truck, don‘t go in the truck lane
Which one is the truck lane?
Why is there no ticket coming out?
Shit there’s a truck behind us
(truck starts leaning on horn)
Nous n’avons pas de billet! Nous n’avons pas de billet!
Ok ok there’s the ticket great
Where are the lanes ? Where are the lanes? Why are there no lanes?
Jesus this is Crash Bandicoot!
Funny. So funny. Sore on the sides funny. Suspected broken rib.
Then we were back in Aix and it was time to park the car in the building that had worked well the night before. But didn’t work now.
So we found ourselves in the old town in the narrowest streets you could imagine and all I could remember was our airbnb host Sylvain warning us: Don’t drive into the old town!
That GPS bitch who had been immaculate all day pulled a swift one and directed us to a private car park we couldn’t get into, as evidenced by a not negotiable metal bollard, with flashing lights in case we didn’t understand the permanence of the device itself.
So our courageous and cool-headed driver had to reverse out of what was the road equivalent of a water shoot, till he found a small drive way where he pulled the best five point turn I’ve ever seen in my life. Respect.
Then we found a parking building. To be honest we fell upon it.
Then we parked, went home, drank gin and spent the next few hours marvelling at the memories we had just made before falling into simultaneous comas.
A day with two seemingly opposite halves working together to create a singular wholeness. Yin and Yang in France.
So Steve came over from London for the weekend and joined our crew in Aix en Provence.
Instead of mooching around the village all day pretending to be badly spoken locals, to celebrate our swelling numbers we decided to rent a car and head to the coast.
Immediately I chickened out completely and stepped aside for the menfolk to be our designated drivers. Oh yes I can play a cool hand of timid scaredipants don’t you worry about that.
We headed off in the direction of Cassis, a town on the south coast celebrated for its beauty and a gate way to the famous Calanques.
The Calangues are apparently a geographic miracle- an old glaciated valley immersed by the sea. The locals described their beauty with wonder and pride.
I’ll give you the highlights:
Cassis was gorgeous, like a set in a Louis Malle film / The sun was out / A lot of laughter, so fucking funny / We didn’t swerve onto the wrong side of the road / We didn’t lose a wing mirror / We didn’t get a parking ticket although we might have got a speed camera ticket. Avis will let us know a bit later I have no doubt / People were kind to us, even when we needed the menu explained in granular detail, twice
We walked the first chain of the Calangues. When Steve declared the walk itself very Eastern Bays Auckland I had to agree… but with less activewear and Porche Cayennes.
The rock cliffs were incredible. I suddenly felt sad we lost the Pink and white terraces in 1886. Imagine that.
We ate at an average restaurant in Cassis with enthusiastic staff and a high glam spectacular view. The sun was out so we stayed and stayed, bathing in unseasonal sunshine, and good humour.
On the way home we GPSed ourselves off the motorways and toll gates. Our vision was a stunning meander through Peter Mayle’s Provence, lush countryside studded with charming villages bathed in dappled late afternoon sun. Turns out light industry looks like light industry whereever in the world you are, although in France it comes with more interesting typography and a softer colour palate.
We’re off on a second roadtrip today. I’m not a very good tourist and neither, it turns out, are the rest of my party. We travel light on detail, heavy on humour.
So we’ve done a little more research this time. I’m expecting great things.