Palm Tree

Trip Start May 14, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did

Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Saturday, June 30, 2012

Let's go to the beach, beach! 
-Nicki Minaj

After the final "we'll come back to do more research." After one last glance at our basilica/mosque/train station. After our chuckling host charms the breakfast Euros from our pockets. After having to go back up the (four flights of tall, narrow) stairs to collect the power adapters we forgot in the outlets. After one last involuntary quaff at the "douche." After the real final "more research!" After sitting with cats.

After Limoges the hills get dramatic. The small plateaus between each one are spread out with the grapevines necessary for making different varietals of French wine. We pass forests, windfarms and some pseudo-Disney castle at Carcassonne. We veer east. The hills grow smaller - the trees weave into full forests before bowing into shrubs. The houses start to make me think we've veered into Italy. A sandstone haze thickens with each passing car. We're almost there.

Nowhere else have we seen such sudden landscape change in this short distance - but that's la vie close to the Mediterranean. Tonight we head to Montpellier, which is a bit of a change of plan from our original itinerary. We thought we had an extra day with the car so we were going to drive to Lourdes (a village nestled in the Pyrenees) today and then to Marseilles tomorrow for our Mediterranean experience. But alas - the Hertz contracts, they are as stone.
But I don't mind - not, at least, as soon as we see it. We spot the first as we pull into our hotel (a nip outside Montpellier), located on a strip vaguely reminiscent of some Nevada tourist trap. Once clear of the gloriously-obsessive amount of roundabouts we lurch into a parking spot and take up our things. That's when we find it - there, outside our window; beside the too-blue-to-be-true piscine; leaves frothing from the top like the water in our bidet's tap last night; standing tall like a giant pineapple in a Spice-Girls-themed Frutopia commercial; there it is: a palm tree.

Soon to be pluralized.
We make for a nearby (commune?) called Palavas-les-Flots [hithertofore referred to as PlF] and as we glide over the main drag the palm trees line each side like a California Dream. PlF appears to be a kind of man-made landform, almost like a breaker to take the tides before they reach the real shore. But it's a beach.
Not just any beach: a perfectly-combed, white sand, tan-lined, Holy-Vishnu-its-only-13-celcius-but-everyone's-in-a-bikini-anyway beach.

Many people who talk about the virtues of "authenticity" would deride PlF for being "unnatural" or "contrived," but then there are certain moments. Moments like now as my dad silently gives me his bag and walks slowly to the water. He pauses briefly before dipping one, then both feet into the surf. I watch his back as he wades out until his knees are wet. He stops, turns around and breaks into a giant grin - arms outstretched.
He's been waiting for this all week. Authenticity be damned.
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