Eating well in France is important to me. Sometimes I organize my day around eating in a specific restaurant.
I live in France six months during the year, three months in Antibes, two months in Paris, and one month in Marseille. During those six months, I will eat lunch in a restaurant every day. Most of the time I will not repeat a restaurant. One can do the math. I eat in French restaurants 180 times each year.
If I am going to fly to France twice a year and spend between $1,000 and $1,500 for each ticket, I do not want to eat sandwiches or pizza or other fast foods while I am there. When I leave the apartment or hotel room in the morning, I do not want to carry a sack lunch nor do I want to eat “grab and go” meals. I want a good hot meal and I want to drink some wine. I will not become French when I am in France, but I can certainly pretend.
How does a visitor to France pick a restaurant? After all, eating in France should be an experience in itself. I suspect that most tourists choose a restaurant on the spur of the moment. If they are at Notre Dame, they will look around and choose one nearby, or select one that offers a menu that they understand, or pick a place that seems inviting or does not appear threatening.
That is a mistake. But, what should one do?
What do I NOT do?
Rarely will I rely on Yelp or TripAdvisor. (In fact I have blocked TripAdvisor on the my browser.) I am in France. Why would I take the advice of English speaking tourists, mostly Americans, when choosing a French restaurant in France?
I do sometimes make an exception. On the advice of Annie Sargent from The Join Us in France Travel Podcast, I have begun looking at Yelp reviews written in French by the French. That means typing into the search engines yelp.fr instead of yelp.com. But wait, there’s more!
The streets in medieval villages are narrow, and in some villages, such as Grasse, France, one can stretch out the arms and touch the walls to each side.
Often the walls are tall, denying access to the light, except for parts of day when it manages to cut across the shadows and illuminates briefly patches of the bulwark and warms an otherwise gray day.
These tall walls, when built, needed support that the stone and construction could not provide.
Flying buttresses were devised to support walls from outside of a building. These structures projected perpendicularly from the face of a wall and served either to strengthen it or to resist the side thrust created by the load on an arch or a roof of the building. Notre-Dame de Paris in Paris is a good example.
While not considered flying buttresses per se, medieval buildings in France do rely on buttresses of another kind to prevent the walls of two adjacent buildings from collapsing into each other.
Projecting supports were built between the walls of two buildings and serves the same purpose as flying buttresses: they maintain the stability of the two walls and thus the entire building.
Besides the practical architectural reasons for putting these supports into place, they became passages for walking between the buildings. Some were built large enough to serve as small residences.
For obvious reasons these supports were built in the middle of passages between outlying streets. They are not portals per se or gates or doorways, although they do provide access to other public areas. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man! —King Lear
The winds are blowing in Antibes, not, of course, with the same gravitas one finds in Shakespeare’s King Lear. They are more of a nuisance–embêtant, emmerdant–than a metaphor for any internal angoisse I might feel.
When the wind blows the kitesurfers come out to play. I counted eight of them at the Plage de Salis, one of the beaches in Antibes. They race back and forth across the water, jumping over waves and somehow managing not to cross each others’ paths. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
I planted myself at one end of the beach where they would turn and I waited. They saw my camera. One kitesurfer, the yellow helmeted daredevil, soared into the air, letting his kite take him many meters above the water where he would hang and float before slowly dropping into the water, the wind pulling him further across the bay. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Je crois que je reviens à Antibes pour voir, pour revoir, pour me détacher plus facilement. C’est en tout cas ce que je me suis dit jusqu’a aujourd’hui, le 20 janvier 2017 où les États-Unis a un nouveaux président.
Pour le moment j’invente que ce pays, la France, est devenu mon inspiration, que ce n’est pas mon histoire que je décris, que ce n’est pas pour essayer de retrouver le passé que je reviens, non, c’est plutôt pour comprendre comment je peux vivre une vie quotidienne différente à l’étranger.
I believe that I return to Antibes in order to experience, to rediscover, to free myself more easily. In any case, that is what I told myself until today, the 20th of January when the United States has a new president.
At the moment I imagine that France has become my inspiration, that it isn’t my story that I am describing, that it isn’t to try to locate the pass again that I return, but it is above all to understand how I can live a different life abroad.
Le Vieil Antibes is a favorite hangout. Do you want to find me between 10:00 and 12:00? You may chance an encounter here. I go to the tabac Le Balto next door and buy Le Monde, settle at Le Vieil Antibes, and wait for the server so I can order un déca and read the paper. But wait, there’s more!