Tortues & Écureuils

Turtles & Squirrels

Last meal: vegetable stirfry with rice and kebab.

Drink of choice: Cap Corse apéritif.

Song in my head:

Just over two weeks ago, I arrived in Nice. It was rudely hot, especially for one such as myself: traipsing around with an oversized bag in the heart of the Côte d’Azur during peak season. When I arrived, the port was chock-a-block (where does that phrase come from?!) with enormous luxury yachts and old tanned men with their high-heeled female counterparts. The bus ride was refreshing and long; the train ride was jam-packed and long. One of those oh-golly-how-am-I-going-to-extricate-myself-from-this-throng-of-people-sardined-onto-this-train moments later, my new host Chris picked me up from the station of Golfe-Juan-Vallauris (between Antibes and Cannes).

CHARACTER 1: Chris. My HelpX hostess. 60-odd, living alone in a Provençal-style house with pool and extensive garden, bilingual and very supportive and encouraging with my french. She’s a bit set in her ways in some respects, but she’s very social, generous, and has travelled to all corners of the globe – she always has a story of Australia, Turkey, China, the US, India, Brazil…

CHARACTER 2: Yliane. Chris’ daughter. Only here for a few days, stopping off to see her mum before heading off to Aix-en-Provence, to see her thesis co-supervisor, and then to New York. She’s actually doing a PhD in Environmental Science at a university in Sydney (I told her to look out for Jus!) and lives really close to where I used to live! She was really friendly, her English is absolutely flawless (even with a slight Aussie accent, especially on certain vowels: I’m impressed), and she’s looking for a new place to live with her boyfriend in Sydney (I subtley let her know that I will also be looking for a house in November *hint hint*). A very cool girl, but I’m a little intimidated by all her achievements.

CHARACTER 3: Chandler. Looks about 26 but is in fact 18. Jailbait. Actually there have been many jokes about this as a 32-year-old lady friend that we’ve met was majorly hitting on him until she realised that six months ago she could have been arrested for that. He’s a pretty cool guy: he has that young American charm that can sometimes be mistaken for arrogance but I think is endearing; he has a story for every situation; and he is enthusiastic about everything, from Game of Thrones (yes, we all watched Season 1 together, and he’s now well into Season 2 [traitor]) to French literature (he can’t speak or read it, but he likes the aesthetics of the words) to Chopin (yes, we are currently rocking out with our red wine and technologies) to discussing issues (consumerism: damn society!) to good ol’ American hamburgers (no comment). With his dark hair and height, he looks nothing like his cousin:

CHARACTER 4: Spencer. 22 but looks 19, slightly shorter and with blond hair. He has this wonderful American drawl, which isn’t quite like the Louisiana mumble (which we like to laugh about) but it belongs on a TV show about teenagers. He’s an easy-going guy, which can have its drawbacks (he never really wants to go on daytrips) but we have a similar sense of humour: we spent 20 minutes of a car trip the other day silently laughing about a lost-in-translation moment. The cousins live in a little studio connected to the house with an external entrance, but I totally feel like one of the gang when we hang out. It’s real nice. Except when they talk about how much they miss America because it’s so great. It makes me eyes roll uncontrollably.

CHARACTER 5: Lulu. Technically a cat. Also my least favourite cat in France. She is just so dumb. She scares at any movement when you approach to pat her, but then lies all over my clean clothes and won’t move even when I get cranky at her. And she gets in the way. And she attacks the multi-coloured geckos that congregate to watch us eat dinner. She has no redeeming qualities that cats should have. Stupid Lulu. Chris also owns three small turtles, which are way better, and they eat out of your hand!

The boys arrived a day after me, so I’ve been here with them almost the entire time. However, sometimes Chris and I have unintentionally secret conversations in french. Muahahahaha!

The day after they arrived, Sunday, Chris took me with her to Grasse where she was having lunch with a friend. It was so cool: it’s a fairly small city, essentially built on the side of a hill, and famous for its perfumeries (it’s the perfume centre of France, and 10% of the world’s perfume production is within city limits). It was lovely to have a wander through the museums and pedestrian streets, buying a few bits and pieces here and there.

Later in the week, we met one of Chris’ friends Micha, who is German and trilingual (german, english, french), lives in Antibes, and invited us over to watch the Germany vs. Greece football match (I’ve been forbidden to call it soccer. It was also subtley forbidden to go for Greece). It was so much fun – I’d forgotten how much I enjoy watching sport; Micha’s assertive German housemate was hitting on the boys (aforementioned 32-year-old); much laughter was had about the German player who looked like Jesus; and we all got a bit tipsy from all the Kronenborg we happily consumed!

The Saturday a week ago, Chris went away for the weekend with some friends, so we essentially had the time off, with a few small exceptions in the garden. We had invested in Chartreuse and Absinthe the day before at the supermarket. Needless to say, it was a fairly slow day. We didn’t even get that drunk or anything: it was so hot that we couldn’t drink that much of either alcohol because of their warmth. I slept darn well though.

For the Sunday, Chandler had arranged to meet his French lady love in Nice, so he and I set off at just after 9am. Because it was a Sunday, the buses were non-existant, so we ended up walking several kilometres in the stenching heat, to the direct bus to Nice. On our walk, we came across a squirrel that was paralysed in fear in the middle of the road. I won some sweet karma points by picking it up and placing it in the scrub. Chandler was impressed; I attributed my animal acumen to my Australian-ness; squirrel wasn’t dead. Everyone wins. Nice was nice (after three hours in transit), but it was freaking hot and a Sunday, so there wasn’t much to do. I ended up buying two light shirts which I’m finding I’m needing more and more with this weather. On the bus home, I watched some triathletes running and cycling along the main beachside promenade: champions. It made me think of NutriGrain.

On Wednesday, Chris took me into Cannes to explore, as she was volunteering there I think. Again, it was stinking hot, but I had some good plans for the day. I bought some sandals that I was wanting needing; I wanted to go to the cinema but the first film was due to finish after 3, which is when Chris had said she would call to see where I was; and I’d brought some crap along to send home, which didn’t happen in the end (after 45 minutes in the post office) because it had perfume and no one told me I’m not allowed to send that. Anyway, they at least let me leave with my now-ripped-open €40 postage carton, so I think I’ll just send all the same stuff at a later date in my sticky-taped box and not declare it. What else am I supposed to do?

That night, we had arranged a seaside picnic with Micha and his housemate and some friends in Antibes. It was quite lovely, but I was in a weird pensive mood which kept me to myself and people kept commenting on it. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Michael Sandel and Philosophy Bites podcasts lately, and they’re making me re-evaluate lots of my own values and ethics. And they also just keep me entertained. So that was my excuse.

Thursday night was the semi-final match between Germany and Italy, and we were again invited to Micha’s place to watch it. This time we supplied the alcohol, and the housemate was sick. Thus, Germany lost. They played so badly though, they deserved to lose. Throughout the game, I was channelling my I-hate-Italy-after-the-2006-FIFA-match-and-I-will-never-forgive-them bitterness. I actually remember it being the talk of the schoolyard the next day. Bloody Italians. I HOPE THEY LOSE TO SPAIN!

Other than that, there has been much weeding of the gardens, frivoling in the pool, and generally hanging out with everyone. It has been so hot that one really can’t do that much during the day. Yesterday I actually woke up in the middle of the night for no other reason than it was hot. So annoying.

Time has rushed past. Being in the second/downhill half of my “alone time” is making me anxious/appreciative of the temporamentality of this trip.

Still homesick. Oh! The Places You’ll Go! is keeping me spiritually alive at the moment.

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