January 10, 2012
Bonjour from France, the land of romance, cheese, wine, champagne, berets, bread, bottled water, Asterix and Obelix, and hopefully literally inspiration! I’m currently sequestered over here in the lovely southern part of the country, with one goal in mind: write as much of my next book as I possibly can.
My wife is here as well, attending an intensive French language course every week day from 9am to 5pm, so I thought what better place for a loudmouth like me to write my next book than a place where I can’t speak the language?
The fact that my French ain’t so great isn’t going over very well with certain French citizens. As soon as they find out I’m from Canada, they shout in my face “MON DIEU! Canada! Francais!!” Then I yell back “Non, non! Moi du OUEST CANADA! OUEST COTE MOI!” They look unimpressed with this answer.
I CAN understand many words, read most things, and get along just fine on my own, strolling around our village wearing a black beret my wife bought me to wear at all times… I just sound like a monosyllabic caveman when I actually speak:
“QUELLE TEMPS FERME?” That means “Excuse me madame, would you be so kind as to inform me what time your lovely boutique closes for the day, hmmm?” My wife, in the advanced French course at her school, is concerned I will sully her reputation in the village with my barbarian linguistics.
On weekends, my wife and I have had lots of stressful fun navigating the back roads of the French Riviera in a little three wheeled rental car, visiting ancient villages in the foothills of the French Alps like St. Paul de Vence, Grasse, Vallebonne, and Chateauneuf, as well as the sunny beach resorts of Cannes, Antibes, and Nice.
The stress comes when I have on more than one occasion burned rubber into a roundabout without yielding. This is a NON NON in France.
In the fragrant town of Grasse, where perfume was invented, I came very close to almost running down a motorcycle policeman in a roundabout. He skidded to stop and yelled at me. I waved, gave the thumbs up, and said “TOUTE LE MONDE!” He then made a half-hearted attempt to pull us over, looked at us again, and simply didn’t bother. Maybe it was my black beret?
We stayed at an amazing bed and breakfast in the hills over Cannes for a few nights. The owner, Wayne Brown, an Englishman, was kind enough to take us out in his speed boat on the crystal clear and azure Mediterranean Sea to see the palatial hotels and palm trees of Cannes framed by the snowcapped mountains of the Alps beyond. Stunning.
On my next wander, I hope to track down the villa where the Rolling Stones made one of their greatest albums: Exile On Mainstreet. It’s around here somewhere.
It’s been a wonderful retreat so far, the French are fantastic and welcoming people despite the rumours, and its all bringing back a rush of memories of many Smugglers European tours… now back to my primary goal.
And hey, let me know if you have any travel tips for the south of France!