Archive for November, 2011

The Griswolds have nothing on us. Our European vacation was not quite as catastrophe-filled as theirs, but hijinks still ensued. Here’s a slideshow of the best and the worst.

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Dear Lacoste,

It’s going to be hard to say goodbye. You’ve meant so much to me over the past 10 weeks. And although we’ve had our differences — I like to walk normally, and you like to try to break my ankles with your cobblestone streets at 60-degree angles; I like to sleep, and you like to let the clock tower chime three times every hour — we’ve gotten along splendidly overall.

I regret the time I cheated on you with Paris. I admit that I felt dirty in the City of Light. Yes, the week of having access to world-class shopping, restaurants, landmarks, artwork and entertainment was wonderful, but I thought about you the whole time.

You know I also cheated on you with Apt almost every weekend; L’Isle Sur La Sorgue on a number of Sundays; Fontaine de Vaucluse and Bonnieux four times; Avignon, Ménerbes and Lumières three times; Gordes, Ménerbes, Oppede le Vieux and Roussillon twice; Cavaillon, Carpentras, Coustellet, Saignon, Lourmarin, Nîmes, Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles, Milan and Turin once. But they meant nothing to me. I always came back to you.

You are like sleep-away camp for grown-ups. I enjoyed being a camp counselor and didn’t even mind being on call all day every day. I may never again have the opportunity to discuss a grade on a paper while scooping potato balls onto my plate at dinner. Or hear students coming back from the Café de France at 4 a.m. I love your isolation that enables and requires close connections with others who are also enjoying your charms.

You are intense. You are immersive. You are insulated. You required me to work closely with other professors on a variety of projects and field trips. I might not have had that chance otherwise. You required me to practice my stick-shift driving skills in rickety nine-passenger transit vans on narrow, winding roads. Never before have I had to fold in my mirror so that I could safely pass a La Poste vehicle on a dirt road built for one car. You required me to rethink my idea of space and material goods. I lived quite happily in a small centuries-old apartment with few personal items and no television.

You are not the sleepy, hilltop village everyone thinks you are. You are a locus for plenty of activity — much of it mental — that results in a life-changing experience.

While I have to say goodbye — I was actually cheating on Savannah with you — I want you to know that I won’t forget you. Thank you for everything.



Things I will miss about you:

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Standin’ in the doorway

As my adventure in Lacoste comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about the future. I see this experience as a pathway to new ones — ones to be revealed later.

It’s probably why I’ve been obsessed with making photos of windows, doors and paths.

Here are some (potentially) postcard-worthy photos (finally).

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Getting out of Lacoste is a little bit of a challenge. To meet up with 36-hour Tina in Turin, Italy, this weekend, I had to fly in this from Marseille to Milan.

Only 18 seats on that puddle jumper.

A train or a car would have taken about seven hours, so I dealt with it.

And a weekend with my friend was worth it. (I should rename Tina as we spent a whole 60 hours together this visit.) It rained the entire time, but we still had fun (eating, mostly).

I also had fun watching a little Italian television in our sweet 1980s living room.

Yes, that's red velvet.


Here’s what I saw on Italian television:

  • A “Starsky and Hutch“-style overdubbed show from the ’80s (to match the couch)
  • An infomercial where a woman in sparkling white pumps demonstrated the cleaning power of a vacuum cleaner. Look! It sucks up cigarette butts from an ashtray! (Why couldn’t she just dump the ashtray’s contents into the trash?)
  • An infomercial for a water-purifying faucet that comes in a variety of festive colors, such as burnt plastic.
  • Three men dressed in drag seated at a desk reading something off clipboards.
  • News delivered by women wearing lingerie.
  • No fewer than four channels devoted solely to cars.
  • A close-up shot of a man using a pencil carved from a tree branch as a pointer to read through each headline in that day’s newspaper.
  • A participatory talk show featuring the host dressed in a George Washington get-up.
  • A “Welcome Back, Kotter“-style high school drama featuring a fat, pasty Johnny Depp wannabe and a kid with too many teeth in his mouth.
  • C’è posta per Te” (loosely translated as “you’ve got mail”), a Maury/Sally Jesse/Montel type of reunion show.
  • What can only be described as the “Understanding Art Channel.”

All of the above employed the production quality/values from the ’80s and ’90s. It was like a time warp.

Outside the ’80s bubble, plenty was happening in Turin. One of the biggest things was the SilverSkiff, an annual regatta on the Po River. It’s why Tina was in Turin in the first place. Unfortunately, she and the other rowers made the pilgrimage for nothing: The organizers cancelled the race because of the effects of the torrential rain.

We still had a great time, though. Here are some photos (not postcard-perfect, as usual) from the weekend adventure.

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