XIII. Provence

postcards from france

I am walking along the Mediterranean coast with the groupe des randonneurs that I joined as my required extracurricular activity from ACCP. What I had expected to be rigorous hiking turns out to be a group of mostly retired people who amble through woods every Tuesday afternoon. I convinced Leah and Bridget to join as well, and we’re laughing at how ridiculously slowly we are moving. We hadn’t fully comprehended the meaning of the verb randonner when we signed up for this. We thought it was hiking. This is ambling, maybe. Strolling.

We are the only ones wearing shorts and are obviously American, and so the other walkers are delighted to meet us. At the break halfway through the walk, we are plied with treats and spécialités personelles of every sort from our fellow randonneurs — homemade cake, figs stuffed with almonds, provençal cookies. I finally have to say no to coffee. Leah, Bridget and I tried so hard to be friendly and gracious that after the break we feel a bit nauseated.

Wild rosemary grows everywhere in this dry climate. As I walk along the cliffside road back toward the bus, the clouds rolling in over the sea, I pick some and crush it between my fingers to release the sharp, woodsy fragrance.

“Try eating it,” says one of the smiling women walking near me. “It’s good for the digestion.”