Last summer, I signed on for two months as Érick's assistant in Arles. As I wrote earlier, it was a wonderful experience. I was totally accepted in Arles because I had roots. I read once that the best way to seem like a native in France is to have a dog to take for walks. That's is so true! The Vedel family has Filou, a medium sized black dog of some breed. Not knowing much about dogs, I have no clue what he/she is. But I loved taking that dog for walks along the Rhône river last summer. Everyone here is nice to you if you have a dog. Just watch out where you walk!
Last summer, halfway through my stay, my best buddy in the world, Martha and Monette, her long time friend from high school in Lexington, NC, the barbeque capital of the world, came to France to spend a week with me. I met them at the airport in Paris the day before Tony and Eva's wedding outside of Paris. 50 Cent was in concert in Paris the next night so when their flight was delayed and we had to clear out one whole section of Charles de Gaulle airport, I figured someone IMPORTANT besides my friends were on the flight. They arrived, oblivious to the stir they had caused. We spent three wonderful days exploring Paris. We stayed at a great little hotel, Hôtel du Pavillion, on Rue Sainte Dominique, near Rue Cler. I will never be forgiven for not knowing that the Musée d'Orsay is closed on Mondays, but if a certain best friend had brought back my guide books I would've known...
We then took the train down to Arles. I was so excited about showing them where I was living and working. Érick and I took them to Châteauneuf-du-Pape to taste wine. Monette became quite the expert, picking out hints of grapefruit and who knows what else. I am good at drinking it, not so good at knowing what flavors are present! I vow to get better or die trying! Noble of me, isn't it?
During their visit, I came down with a terrible headache, needing the services of a doctor who still makes housecalls. He apologized for the fact that he would have to charge me 35 euros (about $50) for the visit. He gave me all the paperwork I would need to file with my insurance at home. I did share with him the fact that an office visit in the US costs me a $20 co-pay.
While I was not feeling well, Martha and Monette had their own adventure. They decided to rent a car and drive to Saintes Maries de la Mer for the day. They speak little or no French but were successful and spent a lovely afternoon at the beach. Today's photo is the two of them showing their gratitude to Érick for buying little pastries for them for breakfast. Martha confessed to being very embarrassed afterwards- something to the effect of a swarm of locusts descending, I think is how she put it. Not a crumb was left.
Martha and Monette pitched in by washing dishes one day when we had a group come in for a cooking lesson. It was so great to be able to show them exactly what I was doing over here and where I was living. I sent them home with sea salt, wine, herbes de provence, lavender and tears as they pulled out of the TGV station in Avignon.
In March, I brought my traveling buddy par excellence, Chappell Carter, and my group of 26 eighth graders here for four days. I travel every March with as many eighth grade French students as can take the trip. This year, we spent four days in Paris and then headed south on the TGV to Arles. The girls and I stayed at the B&B and the boys and Chappell stayed at the Hôtel du Cloître. Érick prepared spaghetti for us our first night and we managed to fit everyone in the dining room and kitchen. We divided the group in two and one group cooked while another went to the beach for a picnic and then horseback riding in the Camargue. I went to the Camargue with the first group. My horse and I were bringing up the rear. There were brush fires burning in the distance and my horse became spooked. He took off hell bent for the barn and I knew that I was going down. I decided to roll off that beast and take my chances. I was covered in horse poop and mud, but luckily no bones were broken. I vowed to stick to cooking in the future, needless to say. Much less dangerous for me. The kids loved Arles because I could give them a lot of freedom to explore the city and find all the best crêpe-makers in town. I have raised them properly!
So, in the past year, I was able to share Arles with my best buddies, Martha and Monette, and a very special group of students. Add to that my group from the summer of 2006, now known as the Arles 6, and Dorette and Emily from C'est si bon! I hope that it is clear why I love this place so much to some of my favorite people. I am back, having arrived yesterday afternoon, and ready for more adventures. I am about to set off for an afternoon walk around Arles and tomorrow morning I will board a train for Bordeaux for a two week reunion of the Arles 6. I miss my two handsome, wonderful boys back in Durham, but I hope that they will be able to visit later in the summer.