A mere two months after I return from Chambéry, back to France I go. Still somewhat emotionally scarred from my self-imposed exile, I’m initially nervous to go back when I feel like I just escaped. But, as I already knew, each region of France proves to be drastically different from the others. Savoie was cold and gloomy in the late winter; July in Provence is as close to ideal as I’ve found.
My parents rent a house through a university faculty exchange website. Nestled in the hills surrounding Aix, we spend a couple weeks drinking coffee on the porch in the shade of a fig tree and later wandering into town to drink pressions pêches and eat pizzas with capers the size of my fist in the evenings at La Calèche, a restaurant that I return to many times when I spend my junior semester in the city three years later. I go for long runs out into the countryside, and the blue skies and sunflower-yellow farmhouses soon restore my faith in this country. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, after all.
Feeling like seeing more of the region, we sign up for a cheesy bus tour and take a day trip to the Luberon valley. It really is as beautiful as Peter Mayle made it out to be---rows of lavender fields, stark limestone, vineyards and villages clinging to hilltops. Each photo I take looks like it could be in a calendar, days checked off underneath in neat, square boxes.
I quickly develop a crush on our tour guide, a young, charming Frenchman named Thibaut, whose shiny hair and scarf are just feminine enough to be incredibly attractive. And oh, that accent. As we pass by yet another pristine cherry orchard, Thibaut makes the effort to describe to the English-speaking group the sheer sensual pleasure that is eating une cerise provençale. I am enraptured.
"Zey are so sweet," he sighs, pursing his lips and gesturing vaguely in that uniquely French way. "Zey are so good.”