La vie en Provence

Trip Start Jan 09, 2004
Trip End Jul 14, 2004

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Flag of France  ,
Friday, June 25, 2004

I'm leaving Ventabren this morning (a village near Aix en Provence in the South of France), heading slowly but surely towards my old home in Italy. First though the Côte d'Azur needs more exploration over the coming weekend.

My festive but not particularly immersing time in Paris with the Americans is in complete contrast to Provence. I've been staying with a French family who have fed me and driven me around to see all there is to see within a 50km radius I'm sure. My French has taken a drastic jump in fluency, from my arrival when I could barely get out a sentence and had little hope of understanding the response, to where I can maintain a normal conversation and am even game enough to venture into the past and future tenses! It's amazing how much more a week of true immersion can do than a year of study. Robert, the father, doesn't speak any English, and Christine, the daughter is much too shy to do so despite several trips to Canada. Ghislaine and Stefan have more than passable English, so thankfully I had some brief respites from the onslaught of French my head was forced to contend with. Perhaps it's merely still a matter of practice but I think spoken French is harder to contend with in Italian. Italian is more articulate and raw, whereas in French the words in a sentence flow together into one, and I have to go through the possible meanings of each sentence before comprehension. But I'm getting there.

The food here is amazing. I think I've been to four different markets this week, from the Ventabren local, to the fish market at Marsaille and the massive conglomeration of markets and fountains that is Aix en Provence. We spend at least three hours a day eating, and my body is slowly adapting to the idea that it's best not to stuff oneself full of olives and aperitifs, with the knowledge that a main course, cheeses and then dessert will invariably follow. It's the middle of summer here so a siesta in the hammock is the ideal way to relax and digest.

The French baguette well deserves its reputation. I don't know how we eat the factory leavened cardboard we call bread back home, or worse still in North America. Each day here there is fresh bread in the house to accompany all eating, whether simply with olives, or tapenade, or nutella for breakfast, or of course with a plate full of fresh cheeses. Although the perfect weather, the gorgeous scenery and the romantic lifestyle are all reasons I could certainly live in Provence one day, the biggest drawcard is unequivocally the divine cuisine.
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