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Leaving the Lowlands

No weefee in France so some catching up to do.

"Local" life, Ank's garden


Living at Ank's house and walking to the most scenic village in the world to buy supplies for daily life makes it easy to redefine oneself as a local, despite some minor language challenges. And as the days go on, the feeling only gets stronger. The black and white cat on the wall that will engage in a staring contest, an unidentified flower that has gone from bud to bloom, repeated viewings of the old man who walks around like a spectre dressed in white. Markers of life happening and being some part of it.


There are so many Americans here, it's easy to sense we all want to have a feeling of belonging more than others, whether business travelers, bikers riding through, weekend visitors, university students or young, grubby men who have lost their way and speak English with Acquired International Dialect Syndrome, their accent sounding like a Dutch person speaking English. Because we're treated graciously by our hosts, we may lose sight of our status as guests.


Moving across town for a few nights to the Russian brutalist hotel near the train station was a reminder we're all just tourists, part of the daily or weekly churn these beautiful places engender. Nothing like a glass of mint water and a key card as a reminder. Dinner at a chain restaurant in the mall? I guess...


"Visitor" life


Wagamama makes your clothes smell like Wagamama


After a few days with a fitness center, too much air conditioning and a view of all the ants on bikes below, Nat and I set off for Marseille. Despite feeling incredibly tired and rundown, it was an easy flight through Charles de Gaulle, and honestly, the sandwich served in a plastic sealed bag on Air France might have been better than anything I ate in the Netherlands. Multi-grain bread, perhaps a tiny bit of cream cheese and one slice of Emmental. Simple perfection.


We arrived late at night, to a terminal that is heavily enough under constrctuion that there are light bulbs hanging from wires, plaster board and confusingly, inadequate signage. It took us a while, many up and down steps with our bags, but we eventually found our way into a hybrid Renault that sped us down the A7 to Carpentras, where we arrived around 2 am. Despite our hostess and her husband being north of 75 years old, there they were with their flashlights, waving us on like the baton holders who help jets approaching their gate. It was down a pretty grass covered lane, lined by blooming broom, poppies, shrubs and ornamental grasses. No big deal, they said. Claudette tried to help me with my luggage while her husband figured out how to restart the car so that we could move it to a better place.


View from my bedroom


What a welcome!


Theirs is a very old farmhouse, with walls a foot thick, poppy fields on one side, a lush and cultivated garden that has an eating area with overhanging vines, a clean and warm pool, and fruit trees dotting the property. In the fridge was a gargantuan basket of local strawberries, for which Carpentras is famous, along with a bevvy of breakfast treats, milk in the fridge and coffee ready to go. Despite the hour, we couldn't have been happier to be there, and with these kind folk. We said goodnight and quickly found our way to bed, closing the shutters to ensure a good long slumber that would revive some tired old bones. The quiet like no other allowed us to immediately become accustomed to the ways of this new place. Tourists? Naaah.


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