Thursday, April 20, 2017

APRIL IN OCCITANIE - BAH! HUMBUG!

It's April in Occitanie.The sun is shining. The birds are singing. The days are warm, but not too warm. The nights are cool and just right for sleeping. The vines are bursting with every tone of green in Nature's palette. Renewal is in the air.

If the above sounds like the lead paragraph of a travel brochure, it should. Because every single one of you who has moved here or who vacations here has offered similar sentiments on a postcard to friends back home or on a Facebook post or in a phone conversation with those poor souls stuck in the final gasps of a New England or North Country winter.

Shame on you. Why not tell the truth instead? I'm here to help. The following are five reasons that those folks stuck back home should be thankful that they're there and you're here.

Knees and Toes: As soon as the weather warms past freezing, northern European men visiting Occitanie villages and towns take the opportunity to show off knees and toes that they've kept hidden for months, kept hidden for good reason. There is nothing quite so off-putting to the visual cortex as a pair of knobby knees as white and lumpy as feta. And no prune is quite as wrinkled as ten sandal-clad toes newly liberated but not yet properly trimmed for public viewing.

The Flight of the Parking Spaces: At about the same time that children in Occitanie go on summer break, so do the parking spaces in their villages. I don't know where those parking spaces go on holiday. Perhaps the aforementioned New England or North Country. But wherever it is that they go, they won't be returning for three or four months at least. And so we circle and circle, eventually parking around the corner and down the block from our usual space, pushing an unsuspecting neighbor out to the very edge of town. Cascade effect.

Camper Vans, Hikers & Bicyclists: Discover the excitement of coming upon a clutch of bicyclists while rounding a blind curve, a pack of hikers in the carriageway just as you top the crest of a hill. This is precisely what Occitanie's narrow, two-lane winding roads were not designed for. And don't forget the ubiquitous slow-moving,  juice-spilling tractors in the fall. In fact, the only time that one can count on the twisting, turning road ahead being clear of pokey traffic is in the winter...when there's no particular place that you want to go anyway.

Grocery Lines:Who in their right mind loads a grocery store shopping cart with twelve bottles of cheap wine, twenty-four bottles of water, thirty-six bottles of beer, forty-eight frozen canapes, four bananas, three rotisserie chickens, two heads of lettuce (two salades for the already initiated), and a tub of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia? Could it be the same guy with the knobby knees whose camper van took up two spaces parked in the back of the store lot overnight? And when do you think that he'll remember that he needs to weigh those bananas in the produce department before he gets to the cashier?

Restaurant Reservations: In February, French restaurateurs are happy to see you. They're closed for supper on Sunday, are closed Monday,and Tuesday, and they don't serve lunch on Wednesday. But when they're open, they appreciate your business. Then comes tourist season. All bets are off. That table by the garden that was yours on Saturday night all winter long whether or not you remembered to call for a reservation? It's booked through September. And you wouldn't want to sit there anyway. It's right next to where the jazz combo sets up. Try again next winter.

Snarky? You bet. But underneath this crusty exterior beats a heart that's...crusty.  Deal with it.

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