Friday, September 15, 2006. Valbonne, France.
We awoke this morning around 8:00. Given the absence of all our luggage, it didn’t take long to get dressed. Same clothes. No make up. Ready in record time.
The weekly local market sets up in the central “place” (plaza), and our hotel opens right into the heart of it. Friday is market day, so vendors were busy setting up tables to sell fresh bread, olives, spices, wines, clothing, jewelry, purses, shoes, and more. We thought we’d venture out and find breakfast, but the hotel owner met us on the stairs coming up as we were going down.
“Bonjour,” he said. “Breakfast?”
“Oui,” I said.
We turned and followed him to the top floor where tables had been set in a cheery yellow room with a sky-light window. He brought us orange juice in wine glasses, coffee in a little porcelain pot, a pitcher of warm cream, yogurt, and a basket of bread: chocolate and plain croissants and fresh-sliced French bread. All toasty warm. A plate of assorted cheeses and small jars of strawberry and apricot jam rounded out the spread. Parfait!
After breakfast we asked for a map and bus schedule. Our host directed us to the tourist info center several blocks away, so we took our shabby selves out to browse in the market before heading to map central. Right outside the hotel door a man was selling all sorts of rolls and bread loaves. Even with our full tummies, they smelled divine. We walked past a display of soap and sniffed subtle scents of lavender, sage, and vanilla. As those faded behind us we caught whiffs of Mediterranean olives. This place was an olfactory paradise.
We meandered in and out of nearby streets, delighting in a melange of color, sound, and smell. Old wooden doors, shuttered windows, climbing vines and bursts of color from flower pots and window boxes. Delightful.
Patrick had told us that Valbonne isn’t a main tourist attraction, but enough Brits live here that a number of people speak English. We made our way to the tourist info center, and the friendly girl on duty gave us maps, schedules, and brochures. One contained a walking tour of central Valbonne, pointing out interesting sites like ancient doorsills with dates etched in the stonework, or former haylofts on top floors of buildings that still have old pulleys attached to the walls. We took ourselves on the tour, then split up for an hour so I could shop at the market and George could explore. We met again at noon and headed toward a local cafe he’d spotted outside the central part of town. None of the workers spoke English so we pointed to a slice of quiche and a small olive-and-tomato pizza.
I said, “Pour manger ici.” (To eat here)
The woman asked, “Chaud?” (Hot?)
I answered, “Oui.” (Yes)
George was super impressed with my flaming left-over-from-high-school French skillzzz. (Seriously.) 🙂
Just as we were finishing our lunch at an outdoor table we felt sprinkles of rain. We ducked back inside and bought a chocolate pastry to share, a cappucino for me, and an espresso for him. We carried our goodies upstairs and sat at a table for two beside a window. Soon it was pouring rain and even hailed a bit. We took our time. I even got caught up in my journal. A brief break in the rain allowed us a chance to scurry back to our hotel where we learned our luggage hadn’t yet arrived. We went to our room and tried to call baggage service, but the line was busy. Then I called Mary DeMuth who said Patrick would pick us up at 6:00 and take us to their house for dinner.
The rain resumed so we hung out in our room with the window open to its soft patter and refreshing breeze. We read and napped. George decided to walk to a deli and buy some bottled water. When he returned the desk manager told him the airport had called and our luggage should arrive between 5:00 and 6:00 PM. However, when Patrick picked us up at 6:10 PM, it still hadn’t come. By this point I was sporting quite the interesting hairdo, thanks to the rainy weather and no gel. But I knew the DeMuth’s wouldn’t mind my wild-haired, make-up-less, scruffified appearance.
Patrick sped us along the winding roads that separate Valbonne from their village, La Rouret. We stepped through the door of their villa into a beehive of teen-aged female energy–Sophie and her friends from her international school. They come from various countries, but all spoke excellent English. More feeling like a dumb American for me.
Mary greeted us in her chef’s apron, welcoming us to their happily frenetic home. Julia had just returned from her first jazz dancing lesson and was eagerly practicing her new steps in the middle of the kitchen floor while Mary worked around her to complete dinner preparations.
George had purchased two bottles of wine. We ate BBQ beef baked into the center of a loaf of bread, macaroni-and-olive salad, and a green tossed salad with beets, oranges, pinenuts, and other yummy ingredients. Mary is a famously good cook! (She even posts recipes on her website, so you should check it out!)
Over the meal and afterward we shared our hearts, encouraged each other, laughed, and generally enjoyed the unity born of mutual faith and friendship. Before Mary drove us back to Valbonne around 10:00 PM we spent some time praying together. It was such a refreshing and delightful evening I forgot to think about how frightful I looked until we got back to the hotel. Thankfully our luggage had arrived and been delivered to our room! Hooray! Clean underwear, hair control, and my own toothbrush.
We drifted off to sleep, thankful for simple comforts and eager for whatever the next day might bring.