Stephanie’s paternal grandmother and other extended family members live in Pertuis, a small town north of Aix-en-Provence. We rented a car in Arles for a day and started on our way east. Thankfully Stephanie drove (she has a French driver’s license), and I assisted with navigation.
Along the way we stopped in Baux-en-Provence, a historic and scenic mountain-top village. Pretty cool, eh?
Much of the scenery as we made our way from Baux to Pertuis reminded Stephanie of home. Rows of short olive-green olive trees, white limestone hills covered with a dense, dark green vegetation (known in French as garrigue), trees planted along both sides of the road, and vineyards.
This is the route we took:
We arrived in the early evening and were greeted by Stephanie’s grandmother, Mamie, and her Aunt Chantal. All of the conversation was in French, a lot of details about her grandmother’s health, and the neighbors. I tried as best I could to follow along—but that meant only catching a familiar noun or two so I could at least follow the gist of the conversation. Later Stephanie’s cousin Severine and young son Theo arrived, and we all sat down to a couscous dinner they brought from a nearby restaurant.
After eating we huddled around the table and Theo showed us “Brain Age” on his Nintendo DS, a game of mental acuity challenges (like memorizing words, doing math equations) and based on your performance, it computes the “age” of your brain. Poor performance = brain age of 80, good performance = an age of 20. I think I got in the 30s, though I had a lot of help recalling French words from a list of about 30 that I was shown for 2 minutes. It was a fun activity that cut across our language barriers.
Friday morning we had bread (whenever I say bread, think: baguette, usually artisanal Provence-style with tips at the ends), butter, jam, and tea for breakfast. It felt (to me) very French—especially the worn down wooden grate over a trivet-sized cutting surface in order to catch bread crumbs. These are people who love bread.
We got going towards Cannes around 10:30 to have lunch with Stephanie’s mom and eventually drop off the rental car. I can’t seem to get enough sleep this trip, so I dozed off as Stephanie zoomed along on the autoroute at 130km/hr.
Note: in real life, we’ll be flying home to San Francisco tomorrow (Sunday) morning. I can’t believe we’re leaving.