The Garden of Aix

The scene yesterday at the open-air market in Aix-en-Provence

At the home of Joyce and Jean-Marie, I am typing on the Vaio out in the garden. The big table still has the yellow and orange Provençal-style tablecloth on it from last night’s turkey dinner for six. We were joined by Joyce’s long-time girlfriend Sabina and Sabina’s partner Michael, both visiting from Germany. When Michael sheepishly lit up a Gitane blonde after the dessert course of cheese and cherries, I said I would love to join him, but I wouldn’t be able to until midnight, when a new cigarette week starts. By the time we had thoroughly debated the future of Europe, the French and German economies, marriage and divorce, and childhood traumas, I was shocked to see that midnight was less than a half a minute away. So I had the chance to smoke one of Michael’s Gitanes as a pleasant cap to the evening.

Darlene and I have settled into Aix-en-Provence as if finding a kind of haven. We enjoy Cannes, but its tourist-movie star vibe feels somewhat airy and unreal compared with the rootedness of Aix. Joyce took us to the vast market of fresh fruit, vegetables, pastries, bread and other delights yesterday to buy supplies for the dinner. Darlene tried on flowing outfits of raw silk from a clothing designer who was one of the artisans who had set up booths along the wide central boulevard, Cours Mirabeau. A small crowd of French women gathered to admire the fashions and encourage her, so by the time I returned with the turkey, she had completed a prize purchase.

We visited Jean-Marie’s mother in the country outside of Aix. Her home has family furniture from the 1700s, and a pool where I swam a few laps before my goggles conked out. She also helped with a poem I drafted in French yesterday, here in the garden, providing a title with just the right play on French words that I was seeking.

This morning a long exercise walk is in the works, to be followed by brunch at a restaurant. This afternoon Darlene and I will drive a rented car north for an hour to the Luberon. I found a bed and breakfast near the lavender fields, which Darlene has been dying to see ever since she saw her first postcards of them in Villefranche. We extended our return to Cannes by a day so we could make the side trip in search of lavender. Posted by Hello

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