Surprisingly, it’s rare that David and I fight on a road trip. It’s also rare that David and I don’t fight. We can fight about everything including the proper route from our Right Bank Parisian apartment to our favorite grocery store, La Grand Epicerie, on the Left Bank of Paris. He likes to remind me that he has lived in Paris since he was 17 and that he knows every street by the back of his hand and I like to remind him that I have a better sense of direction than him no matter what city we are in. Our fighting tactics are always the same: David likes to yell in French and I like to bring up things from the past into every argument. It works for us. We usually end every argument with, “Well, it looks like we’re going to have to agree to disagree.” What this means is that we both think we are right yet we are too tired or hungry to continue so we like to wrap up our argument with a sandwich and a nap.
However, on a road trip, we miraculously see eye to eye. We both don’t mind getting up in the darkness of the early morning, having the car totally organized and starting our adventure. Such was the case yesterday for our petite road trip to Provence. David does everything in his power to make sure my comfort is a priority so he basically transforms my seat in the car into an Air France first-class cabin complete with reclining heated massage chair, beverage, light snack and a movie. David’s favorite part about a road trip is stopping at French gas stations. He loves them and I hate them. David looks forward to his noisette café and his weird ham and cheese baguettes. He asks me what I would like at the gas station and my response is always, “Something American.” I think it’s unnatural not to have a Slurpie, nachos and a powdered doughnut on a road trip.
David always says that the reason why we continue to bear each other’s existence is because we both enjoy doing the same thing, going to flea markets being one of them. We work well together at a flea market, perusing at the same pace, showing each other equally aesthetically pleasing items and only rarely do I have to say, “Put that down, David, it’s ugly.”
David is slightly more relaxed than I am at a flea market. He likes to stop for a pre-fleamarket coffee and I like to dive in like an obsessed barracuda right into the thick of it. I like to be the first one at a flea market and if I am not, I spend the rest of the day wondering what I missed.
No worries yesterday because we arrived at exactly 9 AM to the L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Sunday farmers market and brocante. We arrived just as the vendors were setting up… Just the way I like it. However, our first snafu occurred… My wheelchair was squeaking. Not just a light squeak, it was a heavy duty, ear piercing obnoxious squeak every three seconds as the wheel turned. It was driving me mad. The good news is that I am a complete MacGyver when it comes to “situations.” ( I have used a meat cleaver for a hammer since before Gracie was born.) Considering we were at a farmers market in Provence, I knew the best thing to do was to buy the local olive oil at the first booth we saw. With our €12 bottle of olive oil, David poured it with a heavy hand onto the right wheel of my wheelchair and presto, “situation solved.”
I was both easily impressed and equally not impressed by our first day in Provence but I thought I would be totally honest with all of you with my observations.
First things first, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is shit for antiques. It’s also shit for little brocante accessories. When I first went to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in 2007 to shop for our antique store, I literally wanted everything in the entire town. Every vendor had something unusual, remarkable and well priced. Yesterday all I saw was ordinary, boring and overpriced. To put it quite simply, the town was definitely picked over. We can blame the Americans. They came, they saw, and they conquered. This town was dry. I have to say, Paris is still the best for antiquing. There, I said it… And it’s true. The vendors in Provence are grasping at straws to showcase anything extraordinary. Over the course of the five hours that I was in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, I only purchased five items. Only five items! The good news is that I did find one item that is one of my most favorite pieces that I’ve ever bought, so not all was a loss. Don’t worry, I bought one for all of you as well and it will be available on my little online shop. Hint: Ancien taureau.
To be fair and not punished by the law, I had to give my caregivers a little break after the first three hours. We found a super chic little café/deli right on the main road of the village called Le Jouvet. Don’t you love when a shop just gets it right. This little place certainly did. They had me at the vegetable tart in the window and sealed the deal with the fruit tart. We selected a perfectly Provence sandwich of roasted peppers with pesto on soft bread. Delicious. I also spied a whole refrigerator filled with gelatos in little glass jars. On our way out of town in the late afternoon, my caregiver popped out of the car and bought me a gelato of refreshing cassis with Moroccan mint that I ate all to myself and didn’t share a drop because I can be a real peach like that.
With what the town lacks in quality antiques, it certainly makes up in charm. A beautiful river runs through the village with crystal-clear water, healthy moss, shaded with overgrown fig trees. The buildings are typical Provence… mustard yellow, pink salmon, milky ivory with (for lack of a better word) perfect shabby chic shutters. What I really liked about the town is that there was no Newport Beach style cutting back of anything overgrown. Weeping wisteria, sunny forsythia, those pink shrimp colored fluffy plants that remind me of Sonja Rykiel’s hair texture… It all just grows at its leisure and there is not one site of some asshole with clipping shears.
Armed with our five little treasures, we had to get to our reservation for our late afternoon lunch. My friend Heather from Lost in Arles, recommended a restaurant that she knew I would love… And she was right. Definitely check out her blog regarding the restaurant, Le Jardin du Quai, HERE. Not only did I want to have lunch at this restaurant but I wanted to live there as well. It’s the house and environment that I’ve been looking for.… Old charming house, pea gravel, carefree garden, shade trees, fountains, hidden statues, creeping ivy… A hidden gem. We were seated at the perfect stone round garden table under a beautiful old tree. First things first, a glass of rosé wine was in order. The menu was prix-fixe… Appetizer of salmon with onions and vegetables, main course of a beauty of a roasted lamb leg with onions and mushrooms and finishing with a dessert of juicy blueberries with lemon meringue and crème fraîche. What I also loved about this restaurant is that everyone seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves and had a fortunate look of, “We are so happy to be here.” The only drawback to this restaurant were the chairs. This is the only time I considered myself lucky to be sitting in a custom wheelchair which was 20 times more comfortable than the chairs at the restaurant. The owners definitely need to do something about this… I suggest wicker with ivory cushions.
After lunch, we took one more walk through the town and then decided that it was time to go. Even though I didn’t get to see as many antiques as I would like, I was just happy to be out in the sunshine of the South of France with my husband. When you get to this stage of my life that I am in (near death :-)), you learn to appreciate what makes life grand… The trees, the sunshine, the river, chirping of the birds, strawberries, vegetable tarts, farmhouses, and an occasional antique.
So that’s it for my first adventure this summer to Provence. Our next trip down south will be to Aix-en-Provence where my friend lives and has expertly described (and promised) the following… “June is one of the absolutely very best months in Provence. The weather will be summery warm, the many dozens of white, pink and apricot coloured oleander bushes will be in full bloom, trying to compete with the elegant roses in the rose garden. But, of course this won’t be easy … To give the oleander a head-start we planted them a bit everywhere on the property, while the roses are concentrated in the rosary.
The swimming pool is heated, of course, and we can splish splash for hours, which is best to be done with a cocktail in our hands.
The best hours to stroll around the narrow streets in Aix are late morning and early evening. I suggest a tour through the farmers’ market to start with. We’ll sample our way through the freshly cut melons from Cavaillon, the sweetest Mara strawberries and the white peaches Provence is so famous for, until we have elected our merchants and fill up our baskets. For cheese we have found the absolutely number one address, our fromager is originally from Corsica, is capable of eating a whole truffled buffalo mozzarella by himself and knows all about cheese. We’ll then stop at the stand that sells all kinds of salami, from tiny to quite amazing in diameter, flavoured with nuts, black and chili pepper, mushrooms, truffles and other interesting ingredients. David will have fun trying them all, especially when we sip our mojito in the evening, enjoying the sunset from our terrace.
We’ll sample our way through C.’s specialities and we’ll show her some new recipes. She has reached excellence in paella and her spaghetti with homemade pesto Provencale have gained reputation all the way to Lugano! I’ll prepare Wiener Schnitzel, thin, crispy, and light and topped with fresh ruccola.
J.C. will make you discover some rosé wines from the region and fuller Italian red wines. J. will shake up new cocktails and of course, there is no way around a real pastis with olives at the Les Deux Garçons.
We’ll share a million little joys while we walk through the garden, enjoy the views, watch the birds and the butterflies, pick the fraises de bois … directly into our mouth, sit next to the fish pond and keep the breath when Adorable comes to nibble on our fingers, talk and chat for hours, laugh when one finishes the sentence the other one has just begun. Love, S.”
I’m mean, c’mon, am I the luckiest girl in the world or what? I don’t have time for ALS, I have a whole summer of Provence ahead of me and I invite all of you.… But you’ll have to put up with David as well. If I have to, you have to.… He may be loud and bossy but at least he’s French, endearing, handsome and dresses well. It could be worse, he could be passive and wear a fanny pack. So, summer in Provence here we come.A toute!