Some news: I am going to France three weeks from today! I can barely contain my excitement.
I haven’t been back since 1998, when I stayed for three months – two in Paris and one in Provence and on the coast with family. This time, I bypass Paris completely – there will be other times, plus I need to take the boy one day. This time, I’m meeting up with my mom who is flying there today. I only get to stay one week, so I’ll have to cram in as much as I can during that time.
Goal: to ingest as much unpasteurized cheese products as I possibly can.
But one of the things I am most looking forward to is to visit a wee little restaurant called Chez Jo on the wee little beach of Le Layet in the area of Le Lavandou in the Côte d’Azur-Provence area. One must take a downward path through tall pine trees to reach the beach as you are serenaded by the cicadas. Actually, the beach itself is a nudist beach mostly populated with German tourists, who love that sort of thing. But off to the right is an open-air restaurant (where, obviously, one must wear clothes) and it is outstanding. A man named Jo ran the place, a big gangly man in overalls with no shirt, who would operate the outdoor wood burning oven and cut whole live lobsters in half with a machete, much to everyone’s delight. There they serve enormous gambas (the local shrimp which are indeed huge). Jo was quite a character, and I was really sad when recently mom told me that he’d passed away. But apparently, Jo’s daughter keeps the operation alive, and i’m dying to meet her. I hope she is at least half the character that her pops was.
All this while imbibing local rosé, which if I remember correctly (and I’d like to think I am) does not contain sulfites; therefore no fear of a hangover, so we all drink it à go-go, all day and all night. In the afternoons on the way home from whichever beach we’d go to, we’d stop by one of the local wine stands and fill up a bunch of empty bottles with as much rosé as we could drink for the night. I can almost hear the cicadas sing me their lullaby, welcoming me.
Growing up, we always vacationed in Le Lavandou because a lot of my family lived there or had homes there. This time I’m not going there directly, but stopping first in the Cap d’Antibes for a couple of days, where a cousin has generously loaned us her villa. I don’t know Antibes at all. My French family is from Provence, so relatives stuck to the areas they were familiar with. My mom also likes to spend a fair amount of time in Saint Tropez because she likes to spot celebrities and walk up and down the old town harbor to ogle the fancy yachts moored there. Me, I could give a shit. Give me an out of the way place where the locals go and where the wine is cheap. That’s my thing.
There might be a day in the Marseille area to visit my last living great aunt who’s in a nursing home. One of her sisters owned a bar on the Marseille port, and my mom worked there as a teenager. I don’t think she much liked working there because the only thing she ever says about that experience is that she always got her ass pinched by all the rowdy sailors. A few years back, three of my cousins who live in the States went to Marseille and reported back that the bar is still there. They went in, ordered a drink, and giddily announced to the new owner that their grandmother used to own the place; but the owner didn’t seem all that interested in their story.
All this to apologize to those of you who follow me on Twitter… I am going to get super annoying as I prepare for this trip. Sadly, the boy will not be coming with me, and I feel terrible about that – I long to show him the clear blue waters, to hear the lilting Provençal accent, to pluck a sea urchin straight from its watery hidey hole and eat it on the spot. I’m coming back, Motherland. Be prepared.