The man with the basil

It was hot and sunny when I arrived in Antibes (typical summer weather in fact, nothing to be surprised about or even mention really), so I thought that an insalata caprese would be the ideal dinner. This is the well-known salad you have all had with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil.

I got good mozzarella from a supermarket but wanted to go to the local fruit & veggies lady, who is Italian by the way, for the tomatoes and the basil. Usually one can find excellent basil plants in her shop.

Not so this time. While the tomatoes were stunningly red, smelt lovely and felt just right to the touch, the two or three basil plants that were left looked more than sad. They wouldn’t make any insalata caprese.

I tried another fruit & veggies nearby, but the basil there was even worse, just some dried stems that were offered to me for free. I politely declined though. I wasn’t that desperate. Those few dry leaves definitely wouldn’t make any insalata caprese.

Should I have to change dinner plans? No!! I decided to try a third fruit & veggies, a very small shop. “Can you come back tomorrow?”, the man asked. He hadn’t brought the plants in from his garden yet, but tomorrow they would be ready for sale. I explained my dinner problem. “I will help you out”, he said and left the shop. He returned with a huge bunch of the most beautiful fragrant basil which he had just cut in his garden. He asked 90 cents for it.

The little shop now has a new faithful customer.

Why do I always get lost?

I love going for walks in the beautiful countryside around Mirabel-aux-Baronnies, and for that purpose I have a couple of guide books with itineraries, easy and difficult, short and long. The descriptions are rather detailed, with little maps and instructions telling you where to turn left and right, for instance “keep left and pass in front of the large cypress”, or “take the small path on the right and pass behind the abandoned barn”, or “pass below the medieval tower on your right”.

Although I do my utmost to follow the instructions to the letter, I almost always get lost somewhere along the line and find myself on a small winding path going uphill instead of a straight road going downhill. Not that it matters so much, I normally find my way back, but sometimes it shortens the walk, to my great irritation, and sometimes it makes it rather longer. Usually this is no problem either, provided it isn’t a hot day in the summer and I’m running out of water.

A couple of weeks ago I nearly managed though! I just took the wrong path at the very beginning and thus I found myself in front of the abandoned barn instead of behind it. This was easily remedied (although the right path was so overgrown that it was hardly visible), and I continued the walk without any further mishaps. And just a few days later I managed a whole circuit without getting lost in the slightest until the very end where again the path I should have taken wasn’t visible. I think that is a fairly good excuse for not noticing it. But overgrown paths are usually not why I get lost.

When I stroll around inhabited areas I hardly ever lose my way – I think I have a fairly good sense of orientation. So what is it then that makes me take the wrong turn so often in nature? I believe it is … nature!

The landscape, the views, the vineyards, the light – all these catch my attention to a much higher degree than the dry and factual descriptions in the guide books, especially if I walk with my camera, which is often the case.

Also in my defence I must add that it may happen that the indicated cypress just isn’t there anymore, perhaps due to a fierce autumn storm, or it may be that the abandoned barn has been restored and turned into an inhabited house and is no longer recognisable as a barn, or it may have been torn down. Sometimes it really is the guidebook and not me.

Meanwhile in Mirabel-aux-Baronnies

Mirabel-aux-Baronnies in southern France is a peaceful provençal village where the wisteria is in full bloom at this time of year.

However, the past few days have been eventful.

The first thing was that the village cash machine (ATM) became the target of an act of vandalism: during the night a stolen truck had been used to demolish it. It had been installed only last year after a decade of efforts to make this happen and had, as you understand, been warmly welcomed by villagers and tourists alike. The tragicomic thing is that the vandals left empty-handed: the cash box was buried under the crumbling structure it was housed in.

The second thing was a real Event (yes, I put the capital E on purpose because of its importance): on the day following the cash machine attack the whole village gathered for the reopening of one of its bars! Mirabel used to have two waterholes, but both closed, for very different reasons, one after the other, quite some time ago. And what is a village without a real bar? This has been a traumatic period.

But now it was time to celebrate the first reopening! And wasn’t it lucky that the village got this therapeutic event just after the cash machine attack?! The bar was thoroughly inaugurated in a ceremony that saw the mayors of the neighbouring villages as guests of honour and was led by the mayor of Mirabel, Mr Cornillac, who proudly cut the ribbon and helped pour the drinks – it was the aperitif hour.

The bar will also feature a restaurant and a nice terrace, but we still have to be patient for a week or two before it opens for business: the infrastructure seemed to be in place, but the interior decoration still needs to be completed.

And in the coming weeks the second bar opening will follow! Village life can go back to normal.