The Good The Bad and the Amazing

Trip Start Jul 13, 2007
Trip End Jul 2008

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

When one travels, ones never imagines the unsightly scenes that lie ahead.  When one reads Frommer's or Fodor's travel guides it is rare to see pictures of the things that no one wants to see.  But of course these things, distasteful as they are, do exist, even in places that one might expect to be paradise. 

As previously written, we arrived in our villa late at night tired and unawares of the finer details of our domicile.  The next day we awoke with enthusiasm and readily forgave the floor that needing washing, and the peeling paint on the walls inside and out....and the cobwebs... Then we discovered the camel crickets with their great long stingers. But as it turned out, the stinger is actually an ovipositor and the cricket is perfectly harmless. Whew!  And how about those nasty scorpions?  While they are gruesome, we were forewarned by Peter Mayle and took heart in the fact that they aren't poisonous... Well, not really poisonous anyway... With glee we discovered the praying mantis that bravely battles all of the above. 
But the scorpions took a liking to us and started showing up in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the laundry and much to our fright, in the shower!  Then they started showing up dead.  Who was fearsome enough to attack these eight legged monsters?  Was it a great praying mantis, a humungous spider or that God awful zamboni centipede that just sped across the room at 100km/hr?  We never found out but Isaac got brave and caught one to keep as a decidedly outdoor pet.  He is named Chabal after the crazy and dangerous French rugby player.

While all this was distracting enough, there soon were several disturbers just outside our bedroom window.  Why they weren't there the first night, no one knows.  But as following nights set in they began crawling up the vines, gnawing on the shutters, squeaking and shrieking for us to let them in.  Tap dancing in the rafters, congregating in the attic, these scaly tailed, vulgar vermin were all around us begging to get into our quarters and share some quality time together.  While it would seem to us that the previous tenant was some Gallic version of Willard Stiles ( ) the caretakers were not concerned with our objections to this plague.  And then it happened that Su came home late one night and upon exiting the car came face to face with more than a few of these greasy rodent thugs.  It was a turning point to say the least.  Her shrill cries could be heard back in blessed Italia, and no one could deny it was time to pack up. 

We found a new place within 24 hrs but couldn't enter it for two more weeks during which we spent as much time as possible out and about!  We regained a love for creatures big and small by visiting the Frejus Zoo and whiled away our days on the warm and glorious beaches of the Cote D'Azur.  We hoped to determine which beach was the best, which would be our favorite but we could not decide.  They each have their own unique charms and each deserve a visit or two... or ten.  The world's most amazing candy store certainly put St. Raphael on the short list.  The glamour of St. Tropez is not to be missed, especially in September when all the crowds have gone away.  L'Escalet was great snorkelling.  But the seclusion and sparkling sand of Estagnol was also delightful.  All this was topped by the palm lined vineyards we drove past on a daily basis.  As the harvest season was just a week or two away their fruity perfume pervaded the whole area.  It made for brilliant road snacks.

One other amusing diversion we must mention is the visit to one of the local ostrich farms.  We learned these giant birds can run up to 70 km/hr and can do so for 30 minutes straight.  That makes them the second fastest animal in the world.  They can jump over obstacles up to one meter in height and can give a seriously mean kick.  They lay their eggs in dug outs in the ground and contrary to popular myth DO NOT bury their heads in the sand.  When western hunters first discovered them, they saw these great birds on the horizon and tried to approach.  The birds became alarmed and lowered their heads in a bid to protect their nests and the hunters believed they had buried their heads in the sand.  We bought one egg for 14 euros and eagerly shared it with friends Jacques, Yvonne, Clara and Raphael.  The ostrich egg is strong enough to withstand the weight of an adult, and requires drilling to be opened.  The contents equal 20-24 chicken eggs and taste virtually the same if not somewhat more delicate. It was a fabulous feast of soufflé, omelettes, and pancakes
Since then we have happily vacated "The Rathole" with our souvenir egg shell and two new pets Godzilla and Chabal in tow.  We are now settled and contented in a dreamy farmhouse nestled between some woods and vineyards.  There are no vermin, instead, a bounty of ebullient tweety birds and plenty of cats to chase them. Every now and then a dopey little hedgehog crosses our path and we smile because, God bless them, they love to eat bugs.   

The beaches have chilled, the grapes have been picked, and the World Rugby Cup is nearly over.  As September draws to a close, the school books are being opened.  As we remain in this locale throughout October and November we will set our sights to all the great culture and history surrounding us, and will faithfully relay to you just how beautiful the Provencal autumn is.  A la Prochaine!
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