Friday, August 23, 2013

Uzès, once again

The bus passenger from Rouen (see yesterday's post) said it well when he commented -- you people in the south, you have this esprit de bonheur (spirit of joy, of well-being)!

I agree. Even though, arguably, all of France (at least the not unemployed part) projects to the rest of the world a confidence in having achieved a level of well-being not felt elsewhere, the further south you go, the more you come to believe that it's all very real.

In the States, if I may generalize (and I know the dangers in this) -- I don't think the barometer of "joy in living" goes up as you head south. But it does rise as you go west. Colorado folks seem to be pretty happy with their mountains and Californians are overjoyed with, well, just about anything Californian. I think the French love (northern) California as much as they do because the people there remind them of themselves.

I find it fascinating that the southern French get nervous when tourists descend. And that they collectively exhale when September 1st comes around, even though for so many, their livelihood depends on a busy summer season.

I do get it. I scraped a lot of my resources to be here, in Uzès this week. And my happiness in being here is high, really high. But I'm glad to be leaving Friday. There are too many visitors for me to feel the pulse of Uzès life. As my innkeepers tell me, the normal 8,000 swells to 30,000 in the summer -- many French people have holiday homes here -- and that doesn't count the day trippers who pop in for a coffee, a stroll, then leave.

I do have to say that if I got to know any habits and routines really well it was those of the staff at Terroirs. The proprietor asked, with some curiosity, about my compulsive lingering there -- it takes a long long time to load three dozen photos, using the old flickr uploader no less, then to move the whole batch to the blog. But the rest of the waitstaff did not have the benefit of my explanation and so when I strolled by with my iPhone and decided to purchase a few postcards at their store, one waiter said, grinning - you are always here, no?

(Another iPhone check resulted in the purchase of a bottle of vinegar. In years past, I'd buy wines. Not anymore. Pain in the ass to travel with. These days, I am delighted when I see that my very favorite vinegar, one that I just finished at home (it's a Banyuls and if you ever see it anywhere, buy it and use it sparingly on summer tomatoes. With olive oil, of course) --  is for sale here in a 100 ml bottle! What luck! Since I brought no shampoos or gels with me, it can fly in my carry-on as a body care product, no?)

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Let's get back to the images from the day.

A pre-breakfast walk.

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This is the time to see the fountain without a single person passing by. Maybe in a few days Uzès will look like this all day long...

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Okay. I'm back for breakfast at l'Albiousse -- here, just look at how many owners have put in their own lock to their massive door! Six keyholes in this photo and two more below its range.

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Breakfast. (Yogurt with peaches, among other things.)


And then I go to the Medieval Gardens -- just as they open at 10:30.  I climb the Uzès tower first -- it's part of the deal here and at this hour, it's all empty so that I can huff up the 100 steps at my pace. You do it, of course, for the views.

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Magnificent, in every direction. Including looking straight down.

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The garden here is planted with an eye toward the useful plants and herbs cultivated in, you guessed it, medieval times. (The women who work here take pride in all the odd specimens...

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 -- they're picking tiny fallen fruits from this tree (and convince me to try a couple and I do and I'm alive and no, it was not tasty).

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A few more garden photos:

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There is a gallery here and, too, they've adopted the sweet habit of placing images of people throughout the property.

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Et voila! Would you believe it -- that was my big outing for the day!

The rest of the time? Well, I tried as best as I could do do some work off line and in between, I hovered at Terroirs -- for an early carbonated water (nursed for an hour!) and a late lunch...

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And, too, I walked the streets.

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Lots of hours spent on that. Poking into stores (in addition to the vinegar, I purchased, I'm sure to Ed's dismay once he learns of it -- fabric for out porch sling back chairs...

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...and rather predictably, a simple tablecloth. Some people like jewelry, I love tablecloths. No photo needed. You will so see it at breakfast time back home!)

Here's a photo depicting well, I think, how the French feel about their dogs (this is a shopkeeper and her beloved):

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And here's one of a young woman carrying home what I would have loved to have purchased-- a baby olive tree.

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And I want to note this curious thing: Uzès has two regular bookstores and one used one. How is it that book buying has survived in France? And for how long?

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The other surviving institution is the Tabac -- a store that sells newspapers, cigarettes, Lotto tickets and stamps. I received the most cheerful greeting and prolonged bonne soiree ever, all for the purchase of one stamp.

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How many more years though? It's still rare to see a nose glued to the screen here (I photographed both episodes and those were the only times where I saw families this devoted to their techonologies and in this last shot, I thought I overheard one of them speaking American English, though I can't be sure...):

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...but I'm thinking our habits will make their way to the squares and cafes more often here. Or maybe not: they do love their conversation!

Dinner? There are many ways to manage a meal (or at least a snack)...

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...and for a moment I thought I'd go to Terroirs without my computer, just to show them that there are times that I do not need their WiFi, but in the end I thought I'd let them fill their tables with someone who'll actually eat and drink more than I'm willing to eat and drink on my last night in Uzès. And so I go, instead to a very funky, very lovable place -- recommended by my excellently informed innkeepers -- Le Logis des Arts.

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It's a gallery really, with a dedicated couple who cook a few things each evening -- I choose the endive salad with walnuts and blue cheese, followed by a light dish of fish chunks in the style of Provence.

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Inexpensive and yes, so very fresh and honest!

No moon tonight. My last night walk to the square is without the help of its bright light.  No matter. The stars are out, the air is cool. It's a lovely night to be checking your email on your iPhone in the shadows of the beautiful, delectable, and for me -- very beloved Terroirs.

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