Sunset from the terrace of L’Auberge du Vieux Fox, 2007 June 8, 8:23pm
After a long hiatus, while Linda’s body (with the assistance of her doctors) continued to tinker with itself, we are finally back in the place we are disposed to put on the very short list of those we like best. Welcome to Provence, our first visit since the New Year.
It is very late spring in Fox-Amphoux, which means that whatever species of flowers bloom around early June are in full display.
We arrived in Nice to sun, which quickly disappeared in favor of rain. This threatened to be a theme.
We also arrived with dreadful colds, each of us, coming upon us suddenly, spontaneously (apparently as we both had our first rest to neutralize jet lag), and simultaneously. So thanks to whatever or whomever elected to ignore their little respiratory inconvenience at the risk of infecting ordinary blokes like myself, and anyone who happens to have an impaired immune system, like Linda. Your deep feelings of guilt at the moment — however mysteriously they have come upon you — are your just recrimination.
We rented our car. It’s another new one on us. A very large sort of station wagon-ish van from Opel, a model called the Zefira. It’s modish, and stylish and replete with discrete mechanical niceties,which would be boring in the telling. In short, it goes, and it runs diesel, and it’s a stick, and it’s comfortable. What the hell.They had to give us this one, instead of the cheaper smaller car I reserved, because they didn’t have anything but this bigger more expensive more luxe vehicle available. Tant pis.
We got to Fox, where, again, with our arrival, the sun appeared and disappeared in alternating stints with light showers.
There were torrential downpours for a couple of days, and a fearsome, yet wonderful electrical storm. Its only real danger lay in the prolonged loss of electricity, which is a usual artifact of these storms at this time of year, in this place. But the worst outage was a mere 20 seconds. And the world was once again safe to receive, at my whim, reams, practical tides of words.
The inevitable result of the always short-lived unsettled weather is that we get some spectacular sunset conditions. In this case, deep ground fog, that rose and settled, like cover for pixie invaders. It left the plain below sometimes invisible as if we were floating in the village on an enormous cloud. It sometimes veiled the plain lightly in barely penetrable mist, which combined with the enduringly beautiful ochre hues of deep sun set (lasting say from 8:15 and for a full hour), and the unblemished blues of the stratosphere, and cloud formations in between that have vexed painters who set up their easels anywhere in the path of the jet stream for centuries, made for a very nice view out the window of the dining room of the inn. The terrace was too wet to sit outside. So we sampled the fare of yet the latest cook our friends Rudolf and Nicole have had to hire over the course of the past two years. They have had more than their share of the failings of the French economy in terms of supplying reliable competent help. The new guy seems to have a sweet spot. The food is once again something to tell your friends about, though the menu is even more spare in its choices.
There are some new offerings, like venison stew, and a ragout of lamb, neither of which we tried. But the salmon was good, as was the reliable test of French cooking skill, a bloody rib steak. Though still no frites from our friends at the Inn, but the other garnishes more than make up for the lack. The salads — mine a shrimps flamed in anisette and garlic sauce, and Linda’s warm nuggets of scallop (that is, American-style, as the French usually serve the whole muscle, with roe attached) — were more than fine. The desserts are back up to par. The price for the prix-fixe menu hasn’t changed in a year. So we’re happy that the Inn — as we cross our fingers — is back on the road to fame and fortune.
Even the usually dour and acerbic Rudolf struts around with a smile on his mug. So things must be good.
Our colds are wearing off by now, four days after their onset. And the accompanying misery slowly abates so that the news from home, which involves the usual inexhaustible insanity of condo politics doesn’t seem quite so dire, in fact seems wholly ridiculous, as would have been the case were I graced with a full state of health on our arrival.
Not much news apparently in the village. We’ll probably get filled in with gossip, if any, later. Three houses, at least, are on the market — two by their owners, though one of these has been for sale for close to a year now. The sales lag being accountable entirely to the fantasy price the owner has attached to her modest abode.
Construction has stopped, apparently, on two major residential projects on the other side of the village, the side that looks west to those spectacular sunsets, and the better view of the plain below, which includes a peek-a-boo view of Chateau Barras, recently restored and now housing a chichi art gallery we have yet to visit.
The trees are in full leaf. The pigeons are cooing. The owls are hooting. As mentioned, the flowers are blooming, including the large pot of laurel rose in front of our tiny love nest — a phenomenon I had yet to see in five years of ownership and testament to Rudolf’s promise last January to water our plants every day that he should.
With the colds we had abating so is the threat of Linda getting pneumonia, though I wasn’t allowing her to sleep through the day more than the one day that each of us needed it. And this in turn eliminates the threat of my dropping dead of terminal anxiety and guilt — the former of which is always, of course, threatening to undo me and the latter of which is otherwise not a threat, myself having been inoculated against all other sources of the provocation of this completely useless feeling.
We’ve been to market twice now, though on the late side. We almost missed it entirely yesterday, as we both woke up at 11am. But I somehow dragged myself to Aups for the bare essentials (three kinds of farm fresh chevre, the first of the season’s local tomatoes, a rotisserie chicken, a bunch of garlic, still soft and purple and still on its greenish yellow supple stalks, a box of Carpentras strawberries (look that up) a Cavaillon melon, reeking of its freshness and weighing not quite a kilo (2.2 pounds) and so costing about two euros, which is $2.80 at the current usurious rate of exchange — just before we left, I noted that at Il Formaggo kitchen, the chichi gourmet shop for rich retiree cognoscenti from West Cambridge, they were selling Charentais melons (not quite the same as the Cavaillon, and consequently deservedly not so famous because not so delicious — Charente, specifically Poitou-Charente is a tiny region way to the west and a pretender to the glories of Provencal specialties) about the size of a softball, or about a pound I would say, for 12 bucks apiece, which would make them 24 dollars a kilo or so, or about 17 euros, which is to say, almost six times as much in cost. If we eat enough melons this trip it might pay for my ticket (we got Linda’s ticket for Amex award points).
In short, once we’ve shaken these colds completely, and I keep chasing the blues away, and we keep eating the very fresh produce (I bought four peaches at marché today in Salernes — this time we left in plenty of time; they actually sell out of stuff at this time of year by mid-morning — and had to put them in the basket gingerly, they’re that ripe: juicy and good to go on a moment’s desire; one is already gone to Linda’s gullet), and once I forget the friggin’ condo, we’re in business specifically not being in any kind of business at all but enjoying ourselves.