Begging, bribing, tempting, nor beseeching worked on my friend. I sounded like a member of the Chamber of Commerce, or a solitary tourism authority. I promised lower taxes, lower utility bills, no parking meters, a big lake with giant fish, shorter lines at any business, no traffic problems, less crime, a new city pool and friendly people including me! How could she pass on an offer like this? She nibbled and circled away like those giant fish in the lake. I received a short e-mail saying, “As soon as you have a Publix grocery store in town I will pack my bags.”
Publix has an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, good meat and a wonderful bakery with delicious pies, cakes and bread. All of this horn of plenty is arranged attractively with other necessities and rarities. It is no wonder that their slogan is: “Where shopping is a pleasure!” I could go on with more praise, but that would not help my case with the lady I’m cajoling to come on down to Opp, Alabama, and I could offend the fine, friendly folks who open their doors with good groceries here in my hometown.All of this came to mind when I was preparing my story about Goult, a charming town in Provence. Along a narrow, uphill street in the center of the village is an atmospheric grocery that could easily adopt the Publix advertising theme since shopping there is surely a pleasure. The tiny grocery has an unusual feature with the main part of the grocery on one side of the street, and the other part with vegetables and fruit is across the street. The fruit and veggie portion seemed to be on the honor system with no one minding the store on that side. We bagged our tomatoes, potatoes, beans and strawberries; then, we walked a few steps across to pay a young man for the bounty. Fresh bread as advertised on the awning in French (pain) is by the cash register. I experience true pain when I am separated from the (bread) pain in France!
A good case could be argued that the grocery store is the most important place in any town based on my friend’s e-mail and the pleasant shopping experience in Goult. Oh, some could dispute with their first choices being a place of worship, the bank, the post office, a favorite restaurant, the schools, a shopping center or the bowling alley. I will honor your selections, but a great grocery store does keep us happy and well-fed.
Goult, not to be confused with a medical condition despite the similarity in sound in the English language, is one of the least known and visited of the beautiful villages of Provence. I thought it would be a perfect place to rent a house in peaceful surroundings, with possibly fewer tourists, a grocery with freshly baked pain, nice restaurants and an atmospheric neighborhood. I’ve had the goal of finding a rental house in such a village when I’ve searched, but I’ve never lined up a house close enough to walk to a boulangerie and grocery. When I met all of my other criteria for the rental house, I was left with a drive to the stores. Goult has some uphill walks, but not as steep as some. The old buildings and pretty doorways are easy to find with comfortable walking. This jewel of a village isn’t a standout on a prominent location like Gordes, Roussillon and many of the villages that are visible from afar. Goult rewards with quieter moments, inviting you to linger on a bench in the shade with a friend to chat and share a laugh.Jim and I separated at one junction. I took the lane going to the right, and he went uphill. A cat was in the shade on a window ledge. The unfriendly feline had no intention of warming to my attention.
A good friend of mine had a sign on her door with the wording in French: “Chat Lunatique”. Before I knew any French, not that I know very much now, I thought it meant she liked to talk a lot. Yes, Elizabeth, if you are reading, this is intended for you.
Around the corner an artist’s work was on display outside the studio. It was easy to see the theme with the red nose on the happy face and the grapes. The monkey and banana were amusing, and the tall creature in armor on the balcony would definitely scare me away!
I discovered the d’Agoult family chateau which is privately owned and not open to the public. Many of the buildings seem to emerge from within the rock with windows set directly into the natural stone. Some of the lanes are carved through the rock. I could imagine torrents of water coursing downhill during a rain storm. Oh, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit on a high terrace, or balcony, and observe village life below! I could rent a house up there and call from an open window with pink geraniums on the ledge to remind Jim to pick up more eggs at the grocery when he walked downhill.
I’ve read good reviews for Auberge les Bartavelles which is in the Michelin Guide and the Café de la Poste that serves lunches on the terrace in summer. Thursday is market day. I know that would be fun.
I ran into Jim further up the hill and asked what he had seen. He shrugged and didn’t say much. I told him about my finds with a dig in his direction: “I found an artist’s work that showed your likeness in his painting and sculpture. You must have modeled in profile with a banana in your hand near your face.” He glanced down the street to see the monkey and said: “I can’t leave you alone for ten minutes, or you get mixed up with a strange monkey offering to show you his banana.” Hmph!We walked on further uphill to find a nice surprise. I didn’t know about the Jerusalem Windmill at the top of the hill which dates at least from the eighteenth century. It owes its name to the Crusades which formerly attended the lords of Agoult.
I pointed this out to Jim and he said, “Don’t look at me. Find your sculptor friend.”
He mimicked a monkey swinging in the branches complete with howls which sounded across the windy hill. I knew it was time to leave and find a separate downhill path.
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I’m totally bananas, to use a corny expression, when I see a message from you. My daddy always loved corny jokes and stories. He would have liked this one. He loved his son-in-law Jim, also. Take care!
Perhaps you would enjoy reading the book (Click to view a sample.) “A French Opportunity” in paperback or Kindle.