France Day 9: Toddler vs Foie Gras

Day 9 After 12 hours of sleep, I woke up in a hazy Benadryl awful, sleepy, hot, draggy, exhausted fog. Benadryl always does this to me. It seems worse every time.

Today, Geoff sent me into town (Apt) to a little store he found that claimed maternity wear on its website! How sweet of him! He totally cares about me. Awwww…

Because I was down to just the one outfit that both fit and was weather-appropriate, and I wasn’t willing to walk around in either my pajamas or swimsuit through town, I needed clothes.

I drove our little Euro-car (A Toyota Auris, which we love) down through Saignon and into Apt. Unbeknownst to me, it was Saturday morning market. So all the little side streets Google Maps was trying to tell me to go down, were “Ferme! Aujourd’hui, ferme, pour le marche!” ("Closed! Today, closed - for the market!") or at least so said one of the 5 men and several little boys surrounding the Italian meat truck. They surrounded my car and were giving very loud directions on how to make a 5-point turn in this loud and busy corner I should never have been driving in. But they got me free, and I did not rake the rental Auris on a giant pipe I failed to see that they did, so thank you, Lord.

I parked the car, locked up the bikes, and walked down a narrow alley which seemed to close behind me as I entered a world I’d only seen in photos and read about in books. Pale buildings draped together, unevenly, a sign of their age. Windows did not always align. Doors were all ornate, each one different. Lives stacked, one on top of another. Bright blue shutters with vertical planks held fast to rock and plaster buildings by furling wrought iron hinges. Occasionally, one opened, for the watering of red begonias or for a cigarette. But most people were at the market. Immediately, I smelled the apricots and peaches, then the fresh greens and leeks with their sandy Earth scent. I heard water splashing on the pavement, quiet bargaining, and distant music. The shuffling feet of elderly people with their habitual pathways and sandals. Everyone in sunglasses, despite the shade.

Ice cream, clothing (striped men’s shirts, of course), faux leather (and real leather) pocketbooks, cantaloupes, bracelets, essential oils, and fresh produce as far as the eye can see. Some cheese, some dried sausage. Nothing refrigerated. Everything cash. And I had no cash and still do not know how to ask where the nearest ATM is. So no ice cream for me despite my 1 pm hunger.

I quickly shopped and was out in an hour. No maternity clothes, but I did manage to find a dress and a shorts pantsuit (oh my) that I could fit in. And before I was done, I decided that maybe I should add in sunglasses, the best-looking necklace, and earrings to tie it all together. I realized just a little bit that maybe one reason I feel like a servant in my own mind is because I treat myself like one. I’d discounted or no longer realized how little things bring me joy. I have tried so much to minimize the impact of Things or Want in my life, that I’ve let myself become sort of bedraggled, buying only for need and nothing for myself for aesthetics, except for some items for our home. (Part of that is staying home with two little ones and living over an hour from retail, so it’s not all my fault. But still.) I decided that you know what? Maybe I do get some pleasure from things after all, and that that is OK.

Our evening consisted of a trip to the Lavender Museum, where we learned there are two basic sorts of lavender – lavendin, which is commonly used to add scent to laundry detergent perfumes and other bulk things, and true lavender, which is much more rare, grows only at a specific altitude, and is used for essential oils. Both types of lavender are harvested and heated in a giant sealed double-boiler tank, and the steam that collects at the top is distilled into a liquid that ultimately makes up essential oils. As science comes up with more accurate synthetics for lavender, lavender is being farmed less and less. This old way of life is slowly shrinking a bit and changing, and you can see that in the small farm villages – the money in the small towns, the age of the residents, the lack of young families… but these beautiful centuries-old farmhouses, some almost castles, still stand amid some of the most gorgeous farmland you will ever see. Most are still farming, many wine grapes, olives, cherries, even almonds. And there will always be a market for true lavender, the deep purple lavender you see in beautiful photos.

After we left the museum, Bittykins decided to dance around in the garden outside the museum despite my commands to come out of there, and she found some mysterious dark yellow paste to touch and then STEP IN (what Is that?! Is it mouse repellent?! I have NO IDEA, so it Must Be Washed Immediately).

We then went to dinner at a lovely place with a Terrase (terrace), and that dinner lasted two hours. This is not a complaint. This is a description of a French dinner. This was a fairly casual place, decked out in pink with a giant cage of parakeets outside and a fountain in which it was relatively OK if the kids put their hands in. Pink colored paper napkins and patio umbrellas, Lucite chairs and grey chair pads. So nice, but nothing Michelin-star, OK? Bistro. Normal things on their menu included foie gras, which Bittykins loved, duck, which Butterscotch had for dinner, and Provencial burger, which included amazing beef with brie, mushroom, and eggplant, all of which Bittykins ate with me. The only thing Bittykins did not like was one of the bitter red greens in the mesclun salad. It was her first experience with foie gras and brie, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much she enjoyed them.

After this, it was unfortunately too dark for a long bike ride, but we took a quick jaunt through town before driving home and ultimately getting the kids to bed at 11:19 pm. All evening, we’d been wondering, “Where are all les enfants?” and then, at 10:38 pm, on our way home through Apt, we saw four little girls, around ages 4-9, chasing each other through the streets with Nerf guns. This is a very different life, but a wonderful one, full of 10 am wakeups, 10 pm “bedtimes,” daily baguettes, tiny espressos, and lots of adventure.

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