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Thoughts of a wandering soul The "IT WAS TIME" Trip!

Weekend in the countryside...

FRANCE | Tuesday, 11 December 2012 | Views [264]

The next morning, after I awoke way too early and checked facebook, I went to sleep again and finally got out of bed when I heard noises upstairs.

I went up and it seemed like Gael had been up for a while and had washed the dishes and tidied up the lounge. How domesticated!

Okay, after showering (it was in this little wooden kind of set up and thank goodness for hot water! I couldn't believe he had L'Occitane products in there!) it was time to go get breakfast. We went to the supermarket and Gael set off to buy up the entire shop! It was like watching a little boy in a candy store.

He'd scour the shelves and pick up random items to put into the trolley. Several different types of cheese, two different types of jams, jam tartlets, ham, smoked salmon, dips, foie gras, shallots, red wine vinegar, white wine, lemon, a whole roast chicken, the list went on and on. Is this all for us I ask? Yeah, and whoever else wants to eat tonight. Oh of course, the party. Well that was a relief! We also got some mini pastries from the bakery. I'll take two of everything he told the lady behind the counter. Ha! Now he was speaking my kind of language. Croissants, pain du chocolat, escargots, it all looked delicious.

Outside the supermarket was a stall that sold fresh seafood. Do you like oysters he asked? I so wish I could say yes when people ask me this question. I've only eaten oysters once that I didn't immediately spit out, and I think they were teeny tiny baby oysters and I had one. That was all I could handle. Umm...no, not really I told him, probably best if you don't get any for me. He got some and we headed back to the "house that sails". The breakfast was delicious. Not surprisingly, I found myself thinking how on earth do the people here remain so thin??

Afterwards, we sat up in the Captain's cabin 'cause it was the only place upstairs that was warm. With glass all around, it let the light and heat in  and warmed up the seats. The view was amazing - the river and the trees across from it. There was a certain kind of stillness and peace.

I could totally understand why he came here to get away from it all from time to time. We stayed here for a while until there was noise outside. I looked up and his brother and the girlfriend had arrived...and brought a heater! Oh bless them! Thank goodness!

A massive big dog follows them onto the boat - it's a bull mastiff and probably as big as me! Her name is Eses and I have to say, she turns out to be a most intelligent dog! The heater is put on and then it's time for lunch. All the food comes back out again and we pick and nibble at it until we're full.

Gael's brother heads outside on the boat, only to realise that Eses has left a present on deck! With much noise and fuss the two boys clean it up and put the rubbish in the bin.

Then Gael realises that he bought something last night, but now has lost it. Hmm...it was on the table last night, have I seen it?

No, but if you cleared the table then it's probably in the rubbish? Haha! Together with Eses' present! :-)

We play a game of Yahtzee - my first time - and they decide whoever loses has to go into the big to retrieve the "something".

So there's five dice and you have to roll these different combinations and then total the score at the end. It's not as easy as it sounds, and I learn a lot more words in French - but none of which I can mention here.

It's a lot of fun, and when the game finishes, it turns out I've come second and the girlfriend with 10 points more has won! I find it hilarious that the boys insist on a recount of everyone's scores. Gael has come last so off he goes to the rubbish bin, but thankfully finds what he's looking for.

His brother asks if I'm looking forward to tonight. Sure, I say. Apparently he likes to dance, but Gael doesn't? His brother chuckles and tells me that when he's had a bit to drink, he will dance. Sure enough, that's exactly what happens - Gael entertains us with dance renditions to a variety of different songs - even Eses gets in on the act!

Towards the evening the other people arrive - two couples and the whole "bisous" process starts again. By the time I've greeted everyone I'm quite dizzy and by the time everyone has greeted everyone else it feels like half an hour has gone by, but I'm sure it's only a few minutes. All the drinks are put out on the table and it starts.

Two things - I am amazed at how much the French drink, and how much they smoke! What are the stats on lung cancer here I wonder. And later, I find myself thinking for the millionth time, how do they eat so much and stay so thin? Never have I seen people slice wedges of cheese and just eat it straight as if it were...a piece of cake or something! I'm truly amazed. I follow the gist of the conversation, but confess there are parts when I'm sure Eses understands more than I do!

The individual conversations I have with people are easier to follow. The guy of the couple I think are married tells me that they're only engaged and have been for two years and have a two year old daughter. He shows me a picture of her. He is dark with black curly hair, and his fiancee is fair with blond hair - so you can imagine how gorgeous their daughter looks like!

He knows Gael's brother from way back when. I ask how he met his fiancee and he tells me it's a long and complicated story. His English is not good enough to explain it, and my French is not good enough to understand it. But basically they've known each other for about ten years. The other guy has been to Australia before and worked there for a year before he left under very...unusual circumstances! They are all a really lovely bunch of people.

Eventually, after a lot more drinking, smoking, random dancing, strip teases (by the men!) it's time for everyone to leave. I cannot believe they will be driving home! But apparently they're all good to go. Gael's brother and girlfriend will be staying at the boat. I assume we're going to sleep but no, it's time for a late night/early morning snack.

There's shuffling going on in the kitchen before the meal comes out. There's freshly shucked oysters with red wine vinegar and shallot dressing, angel hair pasta and warmed up stew from the night before. In Australia you'd probably have McDonald's or a souvlaki, but only in France would you have a three course meal in the middle of the night right before going to sleep!

The next morning we have a little bit of breakfast as most of the food is now finished, clean up the boat and head off. Gael takes me around Arles which is really empty as it's a Sunday and nothing stays open he gripes.

We drive to Nimes next and he tells me about the business in the south of france and how things work. I love hearing about his view on the place and the government and how things are here. He's got a really pleasant way of speaking and expressing himself and it's very easy to listen to.

Finally I can see Nimes from a distance. It's much bigger than Arles with a lot more tall buildings. We drive around trying to find a park. It's clearly a lot busier here even though it's a Sunday. Walking around, we bump into one of his site managers who is there to show a building restoration project so we sneak in as well. The building, while run down now, still looked amazing, and you could just imagine how lovely it would look once all done up. Gael explains how it all worked, and again, I love listening to the details.

After that we walked around, as he pointed out the main city centre and monuments. I had no idea bullfighting was such a big thing here! There was an ampitheatre where it took place twice a year when the entire town would be flooded with tourists. We ate by the main centre where due to it being Christmas season, there was a little carnival set up for the kids, with a full on kiddie roller coaster!

There were a lot of pigeons around - I swear, European pigeons are the fattest I've ever seen! And they're not afraid of people at all. They come right up to you and will steal the food from your hand if you're not careful. After Gael provided dessert - churros with chocolate sauce, we went to drop in on his brother who lives here with his girlfriend and I met...his girlfriend's kitten - Maya! Oh! She was so cute and curious and cuddly and all round adorable!

We watched a movie and then even though I didn't want to leave the warmth, it was time to go home. Gael's stepmum had made us dinner which we ate and then we spoke about salaries and taxes. The system in France just didn't sound right compared to Australia, so Gael got his payslip to show me. Goodness! It looked more like a list of taxes than a payslip! It really was incredible how much tax is payable there by employers and for what purpose. I don't think I'll be working there anytime soon. At least not as a resident!

The next morning, I met Gael's stepmum who was the last to go to the office that day. I had some cocopops which I tried to keep away from Grisboy who was really keen to share what I was eating. Then she too, left. I packed my bags and was writing in my journal when what I thought was the clock bell went off. I checked my watch, no it wasn't on the hour. Then it rang again.

Oh, it must be the doorbell! The crazy thing was, I had no idea where the front door was! We'd only ever come through the back. I checked the lounge and the hallway for sign of anything that could look like a front door, and then thought, maybe I should just check the gate. For a moment it looked like there was no one there, but then sure enough, there was a courier. I opened the gate, signed for the package and got growled at by Cliff who was outside. He's a funny dog. You could be in the house and he would love you, but the moment you're both outside, he's growling like you're a stranger!

It felt like I'd only been writing in my journal for a short time when the door opened and Gael walked in. Oh! Was it lunch time already? I was supposed to have called him. Oh well. We head off to lunch and I gotta say, now that it was a weekday and there were a lot more cars on the road, Gael's driving style didn't change a bit! Those tight alleyways held no fear for him as he zoomed around blind corners with carefree abandon. Wasn't he worried about cars coming the wrong way? He paused as if he'd never even considered it. Nah...it's all good. Okay...

We finally pulled up at a restaurant and it was lovely. He translated some of the menu for me and I checked out the other patrons while our meals arrived. There was a girl across from us with bright red hair and some dredlocks in it.

What do you think she does? I aked.

No idea he said. But if you had to guess, I insisted.

He thought about it for a moment, nope, still no idea.

Ah, he doesn't play this game.

Okay, we shared stories of where we'd been and where we were going. I love these conversations 'cause they give you such an insight into the other person and often it's such a privilege to be let in.

Isn't lunch going a bit long, I asked? Nah, I'll go back after I drop you at the station. Oh, that's sweet!

We finish lunch and I really want the creme caramel for dessert but turns out they'd run out. Oh, I won't have anything then.

The next thing I know, there's a tarte tartin put in front of me. They said it's really good and you've got to try it.

Oh okay, well if you insist.

The cake was so light and spongy and the apples delicious as was the creme anglaise that came with it. Mmm...good call, I tell him.

It's time to head off to the station and say goodbye. It's been an interesting trip, and one I'm really glad I made.

The train heads off and thank goodness I'm facing the right direction.

I think of how much time I have left in Paris, and the things I haven't yet seen.

It would be great to see the Eiffel Tower tonight, but I suspect by the time I get back I will be too tired.

It is indeed the case, as after I check back into my previous hotel, I just want to go to sleep. So I do.

Tags: arles, nimes

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