My little town?
Many many, moons ago, when I'd first left my corporate job, I spent a few months nursing a small town fantasy. I'd linger daily, for hours, in a vivid daydream in which I moved to a small town somewhere in the US to start a small business. On weekends I'd drive north from Ventura on route 1, sure I'd find my town along California's central coast. I didn't know what my business would be. Bakery? Bookstore? Chocolate shop? Catering service? I didn't worry about what sort of business I opened - as long as I would pursue it in the intimacy of a truly tiny town. I wanted to greet everyone I passed with a enthusiastic hello and be recognized coming and going and going and coming.
I wanted to live where everybody knew my name.
Six years later, a lovely village in France has given me the chance to try on that fantasy.
I just spent an idyllic week in Prats de Mollo, population 600 (in winter), walking in the mountains, studying pottery, and staying in the apartment house run by the potter, Alan, a British expat, and his wife Patt.
I did indeed wander Prat's cobblestoned streets to a hearty chorus of "bon jour" and "bon soir". Any stage fright I was harbouring as a new potter was quickly sent packing by the curious townsfolk, French and expat alike, who stopped in the pottery - continually, if you ask me- to chat with Alan and watch me work. By the end of the week, the town butcher and Georg the bookseller were hollering and waving from inside their stores as I passed, as though they could imagine nothing so horrifying as the thought of someone walking through their village ungreeted.
I loved being recognized. And welcomed.
So what's all this talk about the gossip and utter lack privacy in pueblos?
Well, now that I think about it, there was that detailed report Patt laughingly repeated the morning after I dined in a hotel in the plaza. Seems the "pretty blonde woman" (with that description I was tempted to eat there every evening) had dined alone, and eaten....Well, I'll spare you the details, although poor Patt wasn't spared one. I will have you know I was said to have ordered well. By the French. Ahem. Kudos please.
In the end I shook off the dining report, made the sensible decision not to have a torrid affair with the butcher, and moved on to bask in the glow of instant community. By Thursday, I looked around my usual restaurant (having by then sworn absolute loyalty to Valeri and Jean Francois's remarkably tasty and fresh food at La Portella) and realized I knew everyone in the place: the Scottish couple who would eventally (and graciously) take me back to the airport in Girona, Bruno from the gourmet store where I bought my olives and wine, dining with his sister, and Marc, who came in every evening for a nightcap of one of Valeri's imported teas.
On my last night in town, a group of new friends (of all of a week), Irish, British and French, wished me bon voyage from my "usual" table at my "usual" restaurant. Jean Francois and Valeri served up my final glass of the Muscat Ambre they'd addicted me to ....and I left the small town ups/downs accounting as a washout.
Two sides to that intimacy thing, I guess, like anything else, eh?
Many more stories and photos of Prat de Mollo to come...
Labels: wanders and travels