Provence: Places, 2008

Aix-en-Provence was full of fountains; Nyons, olives; and Marseille, bad service. Avignon was alive with performers during the annual arts festival. Lying between these towns were smaller ones, some quaint, some pretty, all dead quiet.

Sleepy towns

On the way to Buis les Baronnies from Nyons, we started feeling hungry. We passed many towns but nothing was open. At St Auban, the shop selling essential oils was closed. At Sederon, there was a toilet and a church but no food. Even the post office was shut.

Finally arriving, we found a handful of people loitering. Nothing was going on. You could hear a fly coming at you before you saw it. In a deserted alley, heavy metal music drifted softly from someone's house. Considerate headbangers.

The only restaurant with people in it was not actually open for business. Shops that advertised hotdogs outside had only crisps and pain au chocolat. We headed towards a row of benches atop a gentle slope, thinking there'd be a view. The only view was of benches.

On the way back to Nyons, passing through St Jalle, we found the whole town by the main street playing boules. Passing time.

Speaking of time

We had first discussed the subject of time in Aix-en-Provence. We were fresh off the flight but not feeling fresh at all. We hadn't slept in 30 hours and the room wasn't ready so we had to walk around for five hours. Beatrice remarked, "One way of making time pass slowly is to deprive yourself of sleep."

I said, "However fast or slow it felt when you were going through it, time always appears to fly when you're looking back."

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