For those of you feeling trapped in the throes of winter right now, let’s turn back the clocks a little bit to a time without windshield scrapers and cold toilet seats. To a warm place where the sun always shines, the scent of lavender fills the air, and the wine flows like…well, wine I guess…crap I lost it.
Anyway we’re off to the south of France for a few days. To my Australian readers currently enjoying a typical December day of sun and 80+ degrees, the meteorological contrast might be a bit lost on you and your always-warm porcelain. But you’re welcome to come along anyway because you deserve it, and we just can’t get enough of that accent.
For most of the civilized world the south of France is considered one of the holy grails of vacation spots. I’m not sure why or how it got this sexy reputation, but I’m pretty sure my mother invented it. For as long as I can remember she’d slip it in when the conversation turned to lifelong dreams, the pursuit of happiness, or finding her own personal Kevin Kline from French Kiss. In fact, engage my mother in any chat about cheese and she’ll surely whip out Meg Ryan’s lactose intolerance line with gusto.
So logically with all of that coursing through my DNA I was jazzed when Charlotte’s aunt invited us to her home down south, saying she wanted to “meet this American boy we’ve heard so much about”. A few weeks later we were on a train to Carcassonne, an old medieval city next to Toulouse and a stone’s throw from Spain.
I expected the house of aunt Martine to be quaint and understated like all the other village homes in my imagination, but as we waited to be buzzed in through the iron gate surrounding the estate I could see I was off by a few hundred square feet. Introductions took place with plenty of cheek kisses (four of them here instead of the Parisian two), and within five minutes they’d put a glass of rosé in my hand and a guitar on my lap. Martine had heard about my past as a musician and wasn’t gonna let the distraction of getting acquainted get in the way of the private concert she’d planned. Already feeling the burn of the spotlight that is meeting new family, when one of the guitar strings turned out to be broken I admit I was relieved.
After things settled down a bit I broke off the pack to quietly survey my new home for the week and take it all in.
The calm is what struck me most, the contrast probably strengthened by the flurry of the preceding 45 minutes. First through each room of the house, then out to the pristine pool (no chlorine, just a bit of salt keeps it clear all year round) and then onto the fruit and olive trees they’d planted on the property. It was actually those adorable infant olives that gave me the first true tingle of being in the south.
During dinner that night I heard “Oh, wait until Corey sees the castle.”
What I didn’t know is that the olive tree tingle was just the beginning.
to be continued