Thursday, April 29:  Rain!

Woke up to the sound of rain! Forgotten all about that option. Like the day-traders of the 90’s who thought they’d invented the new economy, I’d begun to think we’d invented the new climate. The rains of Tuscany were a distant memory, the one evening-time Venetian sprinkle was an aberration and the sunny 22 degree days of the Lake Como, CinqueTerre, the French Riviera, and Provence had become the norm. I’d begun to wonder if we’d ever use our portable umbrellas again.

Rained all day, harder at times than others, but still all day. About 1:30 PM we gave up holding out for clearing and resigned ourselves to just living in Provence.

Breakfast was drinks at the bar (cafe cream, nozette, sirops for the boys), rich pastries from the patisserie for the boys (choclat eclair and marble chocolat), and quiche and pizza from the boulangerie. We got the barman’s advice on where to take the boys for haircuts. At the boulangerie, the proprietor wanted to know just which vegetables Pat wanted on her quiche. David caught “broccoli” and I caught “Halloween” (=pumpkin=squash). Eventually Pat made her selection. Then a fellow walked in passing out posters for a political cause (anti-growth, anti-consumerism on a global scale), and the proprietor asked if he’d converse with us in English. Pat’s order was set, but the fellow had a good sense of humor and a good command of English, so there was lots of laughing with the proprietor and us. Turns out he runs a bed and breakfast nearby, listed in Karen Brown’s guide. We got some more specific advice on where to go for haircuts, only to discover they’d already closed for the midday break. Called VISA in response to their call to our house in Gig harbor about “activity” on our card they wanted to investigate. Despite having twice told them about our trip in advance, and giving them an email contact, they were concerned about the Albergo Latini charge (2,312 Latini units) and our initial phone call in Vaison-la-Romaine.

Mailed some postcards and a package at the Post Office with a clerk that spoke English, though I got by with limited French, finger counting and the word “economical” (which I have decided is universal). Visited an optician and got our penultimate bottle of contact lens soaking solution, which should last us through the crossing of the English Channel. A major session at the Internet cafe, including partial arrangements for my upcoming trip to Rhode Island, took us to time for a late lunch.

We visited a creperrie, where I had ratatouille and chicken pieces in a whole wheat crepe. Good, but not worth doing again. Then off to the “coiffure.” We got settled in to wait our turn, as there were three folks ahead of us waiting for the two occupied chairs. Pat abandoned us, took the phrase book, and wandered off to get her own hair trimmed. With zero English, I managed to convey each boy’s instructions, scaling back the amount the barbers wished to chop off. Then it was my turn. David and I got the straight-razor treatment on the back of our necks, something I miss from days gone by, though he didn’t offer to trim my eyebrows as he had with the previous client. We all turned out looking pretty good, though my pre-teen cowlick seems to have reappeared. Oughta last us until we get home. Pat’s trim cost almost as much as our three haircuts. As I paid, I tipped the barber that cut my hair and Robert’s, and he called out “servis!” to his co-worker so he could also thank us, but I suspect it was as much for the assembled crowd waiting as anything else.

Back home, the boys took some of the “exit” exams they need to do for school, and Robert did an excellent job on his English (whew!). His daily journal writing has done wonders for his writing. As a reward of sorts for getting a good leg up on their schoolwork this week, they watched a DVD, while I read more of my European History book. Got the straight story on how the town of Orange is connected with the Orangemen of Northern Ireland (its a dense two-page explanation spanning several hundred years), and continued my race to the straight story on Napoleon before we reach Paris.

Dinner was at cafe #2. The central square has been shamelessly converted to a parking lot, but along its northern boundary is a stretch of five or six cafes, out of reach of the prevailing winds. Each has a terrace in front, four tables wide by about twelve or fifteen deep. Each is covered by a plastic tarpulin roof, with a ridgeline halfway back from the sidewalk to the actual storefront of the cafe. We’ve always sat outside and even though it was 12 degrees and raining, I still enjoyed the setting. Only three of the cafes have set menus and provide full meals (as opposed to drinks, snacks and ice cream), so we’ve been rotating through them. The food is good, the prices reasonable, and we know what to expect.

Hopefully the day will break tomorrow with good weather. If not, Robert will be doing a comparative anatomy lesson on the snails on the front porch for part of his science homework.

Photo 78  Sporting Bar, Vaison-la-Romaine
Photo 79  Roman Bridge