Friday, August 20, 6:40pm
We’ve just returned from a rather full day in which we managed to accomplish everything we set out to do, and without J getting grumpy! To be fair to my dear husband, he is the one who has had to shoulder the better part of the grunt work, being the only one who can drive stick (and there’s no way we were going to get an automatic with its considerable expense), and who can speak French fluently. I, on the other hand, must sit back, and trust him to get us where we need to be, and get us the things we need. I was ruminating last night about how frustrating this is for me, as J was going on and on and on with the 2 clerks at the pizzeria, while I’m just standing there looking stupid.
Eventually, I grew weary of attempting to pick up the thrust of their conversation, as they were droning too fast. I gave up, sat down, and waited for my report. Despite the fact that they had a nearly three minute conversation, the snapshot J gave me was about 5 seconds. Major frustration. I feel so out of the loop. But I suppose it’s a lesson in humility for me. And it’s also great motivation to learn French! I really hope to take some classes at the community college or something.
It’s not all frustration though. For the first time today, I felt comfortable ordering my food (I got a very yummy crepe, which I’ve been craving for some time!) It was at this point that I started to recognize that I generally can figure out what’s what when I read (I’m a visual learner, so this is no surprise . . . I read Spanish fluently!) But I’m also starting to understand a little bit of what people are saying, especially in context. Again, no surprise here. The receptive language centers of the brain are highly developed, so people generally start to understand a language before they are able to speak it. But I still really on my dear hubby to do nearly all the communicating, and he’s been doing a great job of it! It’s so sexy to see that most people assume he’s good with the language. It’s only after they see him speaking with me that they wonder whether or not they should start using their English.
Anyway, the day was jam-packed with cool things! We set out to Suze la Rousse in search of their open market, which was disappointingly small. Then we got some brunch (very nice chicken panini from a boulangerie/patisserie). We wanted to visit the glorious Château Suze la Rousse, but it was closed - as has been our luck all along. We cannot get used to this French time system! It would be reopening in a couple of hours, so we walked through the massive campus, then through the town a bit - a very cute village marked by the typical ancient structures, and a few upgrades throughout to fit the modern inhabitants.
Next we went in search of a famed Stone Age village somewhere around Saint Paul Trois Chateaux in a village called Barry. We, of course, got lost, but managed to glimpse a good vineyard we hoped to return to, and got some groceries along with the aforementioned crepes. We eventually found our way up the mountain, to the village. It was - in a word - EXQUISITE! Not only did we get a good workout with a decent hike up through the various trails, but Jonathan also managed to get me to conquer my maternally-inherited anxiety, and do things I never would have done without him! For example, the circular trails all pretty much led to the same place, but the way in which we started off was a bit too sinuous without much visual return for the work. We decided to go the way which was marked "prohibited", due to rockslides. There’s no way in God’s green earth that I would have ever done this on my own (or with anyone else as prone to precaution as I), but Jonathan - in an uncharacteristically brazen bucking of the law - had us go up that way.
The views were - as you can imagine - breathtaking, but what was most fascinating of all were the cave structures! You can literally trace how man had lived in the region starting some 20,000 years ago in the Stone Age (with simple, carved out structures in the rock), to protohistoric villages built into the mountains! And even within the villages, you see how they start off as less sophisticated dwellings, to more modern fixtures like hearths, and roofs, and churches. Out of this world amazing!!
By the time we hiked back down, we figured there’d be no way there would be any vineyards open for wine tastings, but to our amazement, the place we had scouted earlier (the Chateau de Borie) was indeed open, and we tasted some delicious Cotes du Rhones! And then we bought two. Our plan is to go to a vineyard every day until we leave, and buy 2 wines: one for dinner later that night, and one to take home :)
Finally, we drove back through St. Paul Trois Chateau on our way home, and wondered whether the chateau was still open. We arrived at the gift shop to purchase tickets, and asked whether we had enough time to tour the castle. She stated we did, and we both wondered if we’d really get our money’s worth (7 Euro) with only 20 minutes left! But we blazed through that place like California wildfire, and managed to git’er done! It was actually a very lovely tour, complete with one of the most detailed, ornate courtyards in all of Provence, and we left feeling like we hadn’t wasted a single dime.