Monday, August 13, 2012

where i will roll around in unpasteurized cheese and gorge myself on rosé.




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.