Home > Everyday Life, Travels > Sometimes . . . You Have to Clean the Pipes

Sometimes . . . You Have to Clean the Pipes

Back in October I was riding one of the night buses back home and it passed the main train station serving the city of Nice.  I looked out the bus window and through the autumn rain the clear bustle of a European train station.  I experienced a feeling of peace that makes you pause.  Yes, I am in a different place and it makes me happy.

Often we don’t take the time to appreciate happiness regardless of which corner of the Earth you choose to make as your ‘home’.  Your home is your home; no one else can force that upon you.  But we are all guilty of getting too distracted with our daily worries to realize that maybe happiness never left you; you left happiness.  Well that is too strong of a phrase.  Maybe ‘overlooked‘ happiness is a better way to understand these thoughts.  This past year has been filled with a lot of distractions for me.  These distractions haven’t been uniquely French nor American.  Everyone can relate.  The distractions of personal finances, taxes, work deadlines, catching the next bus to work and determining how to better budget your grocery list.  Then add the challenge of a linguistic barrier (of any kind) and those distractions hold a greater power over you.

Valley by Moutiers and lake Sainte Croix in the background.

Valley by Moutiers and lake Sainte Croix in the background.

I had to two small excursions that allowed me to clear my mind and appreciate this new land that I am calling home.  A couple of weeks ago, I drove over two hours to the village of Moustiers-Sainte Marie for the weekend.  A close friend has a family home there and it was available to us for a weekend getaway.  A classic French village perched on the side of a mountain and a flowing creek down the middle.  There was a charming chapel further up the mountain that has been a site for Christian pilgrims, past and present.  You can feel the history as you made the long journey to the top.   The stone steps were so smooth and slick from age that it was difficult to climb.  You look further up to see a golden star strung between two mountain peaks overlooking this village.  That star was a symbol of gratitude by a villager of a previous century who safely returned home after battling the Crusades in the Middle East.  In the afternoon we drove a little further to the beginning of the Gorges du Verdun; an amazing canyon holding its own geological patterns and vegetation.

The church, Notre Dame, overlooking Moustiers.

The church, Notre Dame, overlooking Moustiers.

The following weekend, I discovered another village a little to the north of Nice, Levens.  There this village proudly held a festival dedicated to Franz Listz, a master composer on the pianoforte.  Even though he wasn’t French by birth, he did spend a portion of his career in France among artistic peers such as Chopin and George Sand.  The motivation for this séjour (trip) was to listen to concert of classical, romanticism music.  Part of the program included an American singer, Amy Blake. A new companion who I can reminisce of expatriate dramas at the local Préfecture for obtaining the famous carte de séjour.  Again this village was postcard perfect and could not be replicated.  Small shops and brasseries near the village center with continuous water fountains that allowed the water to flow through the small streets and down into the valley below.  Levens proudly holds in its possession a pianoforte Érard dating back to Listz’s era of 1835.

This is France.  Authentically France.  Often the bling-bling of Nice can sometimes distract you from recognizing we are in France.  In these moments of experience, I can clear my head.  I have climbed another mountain to obtain a goal, a dream, a new reality.

Gorges du Verdon

Gorges du Verdon

Let’s flip the coin.  France is not paradise.  In Moustiers the one café had one cranky lady serving our boissons chauds (hot drinks).  Once we paid at the register and left, she came running out declaring that we cheated her out paying the bill in full.  Only few minutes later does her colleague yell out the door that in fact, we did pay for the bill in full.  There was no further discussion.  No apology was given either.  The next morning we were determined to have breakfast somewhere else than that café with the cranky woman.  Well in a tiny French village, there are limitations.  We had to go back because nothing else was open.  Even in Levens, after we did a quick exploration of the village before the concert we discovered similar limitations.  It was 18h00 and we wanted to have a beverage and to relax.  Well everyone was closing right in front of our eyes: the café, the brasserie, the bar . . . they clearly rolled the carpet up.  With time to kill and nowhere else to go, we ended up back in my car hovering over the heater.  There is a price to be paid in order to be authentic.

So why was I on that night bus to begin with?  Well my shower pipes were clogged.  (Unfortunately this event is not uncommon in France.) When I took a shower in my apartment the water no longer drained out.  I had to go to a friend’s place to literally take a normal shower and shave.  The agony of an ordinary distraction.  One that could challenge you in thinking why did you make such as change in your life?  But you have to let it go.  That clog can remain a little longer because there are more villages to discover.

Categories: Everyday Life, Travels
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