(Geographical note: France is divided into 100 Departments, roughly equivalent to counties, which are then clumped together in groups of 4 to 6 to form Regions. The old historical names, Aquitaine, Burgundy, Gascony, etc., are familiar and still used in a loose sense, but they weren't precise enough for Napoleon, who implemented the reorganization described above. For example, although we say we live in Provence, and that's good enough for most purposes, we actually live in the Department of the Bouches-du-Rhone, in the Region of PACA (Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur). The Luberon is one of those old informal historical areas in the Vaucluse region. There! Clarity itself, non?)
The area is famous for its ochre quarries - I had no idea ochre was ever such an important commodity - and the dominant color of the surrounding hills is burnt orange, or, yes, that's right, ochre. The village has become a very popular tourist destination due to its mention in Wylie's book, its grand outdoor markets, which weren't in session when we went, and, not least, its description by Rick Steves as "having all the charm of Santa Fe on a hilltop." We've learned never to underestimate the power of Rick Steves (ot Peter Mayle, for that matter, whose home village of Lourmarin we drove through enroute to Roussillon.)
Mike and I had taken our fishing gear in hopes of finally getting into a French river, in this case the Durance, which officially divides the Bouches-du-Rhone and the Vaucluse, so on the way back we stopped and got our feet wet for the first time since our arrival. We caught and released a couple of unfamiliar French fish, but mostly just enjoyed the beauty of the Durance and of some fellow fishermen - paunchy, hairy Frenchman wearing thongs (not the footwear)! Why don't they print pictures of THOSE guys in L. L. Bean catalogs?
The world may have lost Marcel Marceau, but we still have Nicolas Sarkozy. Whether they love 'im or hate 'im, and there are plenty in both camps, the French watch their hyperpresident with a sort of sick fascination. There's been plenty to watch, too, from his marriage, breakup and reconciliation, to the "Love Handle Scandal" ('poignees d'amour'). Paris Match, a leading popular (think "People" in the States) magazine owned by one of his friends, airbrushed into nonexistence the unsightly protuberances dangling over the waist of the Presidential swimming trunks captured on film during his controversial New Hampshire vacation this summer (If you haven't already, you can see the 'before' and 'after' pictures on the web). And one of France's most eminent playwrights, Yasmina Reza, accompanied him, at his request, during the presidential campaign and wrote an honest, not very flattering book, finding him vain, insecure, domineering and sarcastic. Imagine! A vain, insecure politician!
But his moment of truth, the long-awaited confrontation with the unions, is fast approaching! Others may have doubts, but as the photo below indicates, the man is ready!