Wednesday, July 30, 2008

South of France

Sanary-Sur-Mer, tiny fishing village 50 kilometers away from busy Marseilles. Family holiday exactly as we used to have them as children.

The sound of the cigales as soon as we stepped off the train from Paris, via Marseilles. Faint smell of lavender in the warm air. Cypres trees gently swaying in the breeze. Knotted vines precariously clinging onto steep white hills.

Hit by the heady scent of suntan lotion, a blend of vanilla and coconut, as soon as we reach the beach – so distinctive of French beaches in particular.

Lazy alfresco meals, invariably involving grilling fresh fish or meat on the barbeque. Insisting on drinking only the local Rose wine. Walking barefoot everywhere. Wearing as few clothes as decently possible. Gentle bite of the sun on bare skin. Warm croissants and Nutella every morning.

My brother and sister introducing me to new French Reggae music, while I make them listen to Hotel Costes. Rediscovering the fantastic chilled out beats of the “Harmony Jazz” album (disk 1 only). Making endless lists of songs I still have to buy on iTunes.

Cycling to neighbouring villages and ports. Town houses with buttery and worn plaster crammed along narrow, cobbled streets. Pastel hues of the ancient doors and shutters. Purples, yellows, blues and reds of fishing boats. Smell of freshly caught fish – sea water with a metallic undertone.

Shopping for fresh produce at the market. Festival of colours, odors and sounds. Artfully arranged fruits, vegetables, olives, spices, herbs, cheeses and cold meats. Market sellers loudly calling over prospective customers, happily sharing recipes and jokes.

Making bouillabaisse – a 24 hour long process involving marinating different varieties of fish in plenty of garlic, herbes de Provence, tomatoes, wild fennel we picked in a neighbouring field and a touch of Pastis. Enjoyed on a balmy evening, with toasted slices of French bread thinly spread with garlicky, hot, saffron-spiced mayonnaise.

Ten whole hours of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep every night as well as the occasional nap in the afternoon on the beach.

No wonder I can’t write full sentences anymore …

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