We’re nearing the end of our monthlong travel odyssey. Today we visit Aix-en-Provence, and tomorrow we travel to France’s Grand Canyon. Saturday we return to Geneva, where we catch our plane home on Sunday. I love to travel–and I also love to go home.
Our stay in Provence has been a pleasant one. We are in Menerbes, perched high on a hilltop, with great views from our apartment. From there, we zip around easily to the spiderweb of towns that surround us, some in the hills, others in the valleys. We have traveled tiny roads where we sometimes need to back up to let another car through. We have visited the summit of Mont Vontoux, where nothing grows because of le mistral, but is made famous by the Tour de France and therefore qualifies, for Henry, as almost a religious experience. We visited wineries, and in one instance found a wine-grower who speaks the Queen’s English (his father Parisian, his mother British).
Picasso once owned a home here in Menerbes, which he gave to one of his lovers, Dora Maar, an artist, photographer, and poet in her own right. Dora was his muse for some of his better-known paintings. She lived until 1997, and her home is now used as a retreat for writers and artists. The selection process is administered by none other than the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston! It is indeed a small world. For any writers reading this blog, it’s well worth checking out as a possible retreat spot.
Then there is the food. As I write this, Henry is at the boulangerie, picking up the day’s supply of fresh croissants and baguettes, just out of the oven and still warm. We have found several restaurants favored by locals, with reasonable prices and delicious food. Since it is fall in Provence, pumpkin often appears as a side dish, either in a soup or a sweet potato-like affair, mashed and seasoned.
The best deals are the fixed-price meals, where one can get a salad or appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert. These combo meals are based on what the chef can get fresh at the market, and the prices beat the individual items on the menu by far.
Still, after all these fabulous meals, I have moments when I long for the simple, the familiar, the known. Last night I announced that I was sick of multi-course meals, that I needed pizza. In Provence, that is easier said than done. The pizzeria in town was closed for the day (every restaurant is closed one day a week, and is sometimes closed even when it’s supposed to be open). We knew of a recommended pizzeria in nearby Isle Sur La Sorge, but alas, it was closed, too. On our way to another restaurant that we knew had pizza on the menu, we found a tiny pizzeria in Coustellet. When the waiter scolded us for ordering red wine with our pizza (I quickly switched to rose, which is quite good here in Provence), I knew we would be okay.
Provencal pizzas are different from Italian ones, but I consider this a good thing. When my veggie pizza arrived, filled with zucchini, eggplant, and black olives, I still felt like I was eating real Provence food.
Today, as we resume our touring, I think I’ll go happily back to the fixed-price meals. For now, I am satisfied with a bit of home, with the simplicity of a single course.