***Notice: this post is extremely long and talks in detail about poop. You have been warned.
Last night was more than windy. It sounded gale force from inside our cozy home. We went to bed early, hoping to be refreshed in the morning, since we are perpetually sore, it would be our first day off, and we were planning on biking a few cities over to the farmers market that is open every Wednesday morning. We got into bed, Chris turned out the light, and we lay there for a moment before Chris commented on the smell of smoke. “Do you want me to check and see if the house is on fire?” “Yes,” I replied. The house was not on fire, but I couldn’t sleep, and so I went downstairs to hang with Muttley (who wouldn’t eat his dinner, which greatly perplexed us). I read, went outside to see if somehow the gale force winds had scooped up embers from our stove and deposited them in the adjoining house (they had not), and returning to bed. Chris was still awake. That is how loud the wind was. I asked him to wake me up in the morning by excitedly saying, “Emilie! wake up! We get to go to the market today!” I hoped that by tricking me into being excited, it would be easier to wake up. It was. It was also still dark. I thought to myself that we could manage to get up a little later next time. The stove was cold to the touch, Muttley still hadn’t eaten, and the winds sounded as fierce as ever. Although we decided to maintain the leisure status of the day, it took a while to determine whether we should attempt the bike ride in such conditions. The internet told us that it would be windy all day today, Sunny, and in the 50s for the next week, and then drop in temperature, and rain for my birthday.
Chris fixed up the bikes, I entertained Muttley, who would be spending the day inside, and tried him to release the second half of a log he had deposited on the roadside during our walk. When I had tried all I could, he still smelled strongly of poo. I even tried to clean off his bum with a chunk of old bread. The good news is that he has an extremely good temperament. the bad news is that the poo remained. What could we do? We went on our rocky way, and the day continued to bluster. I, so used to stoking the wood-stove, imprudently stoked my grumpiness in its absence. It seemed as though we were biking uphill the entire 6k to town. The clock kept ticking, and as we passed what I thought to be the off-ramp we needed, I noticed that there was less than an hour left before the market would close down. We continued biking, and just as it appeared we had gone too far, we found another path leading into St. Pons de Thomiere. We biked around town and tried to keep clear of traffic, not really knowing acceptable bike practices of the country. To avoid the main street we found ourselves on, we traversed the narrow, winding passages (that were closer to the size of sidewalks in the US). We got off of our bikes to walk around a car (there was barely enough room between the houses to do even this). I noticed one of the men standing next to the car (they appeared to be appraising the house for construction). He seemed to be speaking some English, so in my stress, I stopped and conferred with Chris at the following corner. We decided to turn around and ask for directions. “Excuse me, we need some help,” I blundered. One man responded “Vous pouvez poser le question en francais,,” and so, embarassed, I did. Then the other man, very clearly from the UK somewhere (terrible French accent), responded in French. He let us know that it was actually just around the block, but we’d better hurry up. Comment Embarasing! We hurried over, and did not enjoy any of our shopping. I bought Chris his first pain au chocolat, and it was cold, so not nearly as delicious as it should have been. There were no olives, which is really what I was hoping for, and Chris and I just meandered after that, finding ourselves in front of a wine shop. What a relief, we thought, we will get some wine, and we will just have to unwind our cares away when we get home. However, we decided that we could come back after lunch. We looked at a couple of Bistros, and decided on one whose plat du jour was Moule Frite. I felt that it would be a sufficiently French first restaurant experience. When we got inside, I couldn’t understand what the bartender was saying to us. Frustrated, I ordered at the bar (not sure if it was the right thing to do), took a seat, and looked at the menu on the table. A woman came over, muttered something, and snatched the menu away.
A waiter came out with a basket of French Bread, some water, and shortly thereafter, our food. It was then that we noticed the entire bar clearing out. A woman came in, said something to the bartender, and then left. A few minutes later, a different woman did the same thing. We got the creeping feeling that we were not doing the right thing. Finally, one man came in and had a drink at the bar. It was around 12:15, so it didn’t make sense that the place would be closed, but we were getting mighty confused. The food was incredible, but I was so stressed, trying to analyze the situation, that I hardly enjoyed the experience. I took a lot of deep breaths during that meal. Chris had the grace to pay, so that I wouldn’t feel any more undeserving of my French citizenship. We walked out of the Bistro, and noticed that every shop was now closed, even the wine shop. In France, everyone closes shop around lunchtime, this I knew. What I didn’t know is that they would be closed from 12 to 3 p.m. We were not going to wait around, so we went back to our bikes, deciding to buy bread and wine in Premian instead. As I stood by the bikes, and Chris bent over to unlock the bikes, i felt something hit my left shoulder. I looked back, and there was a orange-brown clump. I pointed it out to Chris, he looked up, and exclaimed, “A bird pooped on you!” He went on to notice, and I extrapolated, that this bird, was a Pigeon. Now, pigeons are not just any animal, yes, they have been called varmin of the sky, but since I was 14 years old, traveling in Paris with my grandmother, I have claimed that the Pigeon is my spirit animal. I ask you now, What does it mean when your spirit animal poops on you? I decided that, really, this direct communication meant one thing, I needed to CHILL OUT. So, that is when we noticed that Chris’s front tire was flat.
Oh yea, I said it: flat tire, in France, all shops are closed, no means of communication with anyone outside the city… So, we did the only thing we could, we laughed, Chris pulled out the extra tube he had providentially packed, and he replaced the tube, until he snapped the tire lever in half. The entire time he was working, I sat on the steps commenting on how much better French deliver people are than American (oh look he is parking just to eat a sandwich, oh! now he is wiping his mouth with a napkin, and drinking a *small* coke. and then wiping down the entire dash of the car, beginning with the steering wheel, I don’t think I have *ever* wiped off the steering wheel! Oh how wonderful) All this while Chris is giggling about the situation, and I am sitting in the stone steps behind him typing to you with Kyrie Eleison of Mozart’s Requiem blaring in my headphones.
Later… It took the strength of two Americans to get that bike tire back on (after the tools proved useless). We biked home, and it turned out, that we had indeed been biking uphill the entire time, which means that we coasted about 3.5k back home. It seemed as though our luck had turned. That is until, at 3 p.m. we noticed that the bakery in Premian (also the only place to buy wine) would be closed until 4. Now, I love France, I think it is a great idea to take a break in the middle of the day, but FOUR HOURS?! What in the H E double hockeysticks do they do for four stinking hours. *ahem* Chris and I meandered around town for an hour, remembering the wisdom of the Pigeon Poo. We saw such beauty, including an adorable kitten sitting inside a drainage pipe. We sat on a bench. “You know,” I said, “it is really important to just sit places. you really get to know what goes on if you take the time to just sit somewhere,” I waxed. The church bells rang four times, and we tried to restrain ourselves as we walked the one block from the bench to the bakery. The lights were off. We stared. We waited, We tried not to look impatient. Nothing happened. Dejected by the bread gods, we marched back to our bikes, and went home… did I mention that Les Seilhols is basically on the side of a mountain? Yes, this means that we biked (walked) uphill, for a significant increase in altitude. At home, Muttley went for a walk with Chris, got rid of the other half of a log that he had been holding onto all day, I made a Curry Parsnip soup with lemon yogurt drizzle and cous cous for dinner, and we warmed ourselves by the fire.