July 18th

Last weekend was spent in the South of France, near Avignon (in Joucas). A friend of ours has a family home there, with a pool and two beautiful little houses. There were 10 of us that spent the weekend, eating barbecues every day and lounging by the pool. I haven’t done that little in quite a long time, and it felt great to get so much sun and have nothing demanded of me.
Just before we left, Vincent’s parents arrived and started speaking quite quickly in a distinct accent (South France). They also brought some cheese, snacky bread sticks and we had this anise liqueur that you mix with water which I don’t really like. I didn’t understand very much of what they were saying, but managed to get across the whole interest in opera. Vincent’s mother said that they had seen Pavarotti sing in Bercy right before he died. As we were leaving, she put on ‘Nessun dorma’, which made the departure much more emotional for me than it had to be. Then, as we were driving away, John put on Moriarty’s song ‘Jimmy’, which made me somewhat homesick but is a good song to listen to when you are away from home. It was an absolutely beautiful experience being in the south even though we didn’t see very much of the towns or the countryside… every turn is picturesque and there is a lack of commercialization which makes it very charming. I want to go back and I was so sad to go.
The last week in Paris was lovely and I had to say goodbye to Iannis today, which was almost happy because I know I will see him in a month. That is not a very long time for us! 🙂 It was also nice leaving Paris and not going back to Canada for a change… we are now in Nice and just finished discovering the city by night. I want so badly to come here as a backpacker, there are so many young people! The city is beautiful in a different way than Paris is… it has a ‘newer’ feel but the architecture is still stunning. It is so invigorating being by the ocean. We went to the beach and it was covered in people, drinking, talking, playing guitars… I wanted to sleep on the beach. There were people playing beach volleyball. There is such a good vibe here. I know I will return.

20 Juillet 2009
Grappa grappa grappa! We arrived in Manarola with a solidly HORRIBLE Trenoitalia experience under our belt (they give Trenoitalia credit instead of change in the automatic machines). Italians, we decided, were definitely unfriendly and impolite. Might I say we were horribly wrong? We spent 4 hours in trains today and I must have spent 4 hours of those studying Italian after a stressful experience in the Milano Centrale train station (Due Panino? Panini con prociutto? E due acqua. Quelle coste?). When we arrived in Manarola and climbed up to our hotel, we managed to find the only open restaurant in the village. We scored a sea-view table without reservation and ended up having the most amazing evening with a server named Angelo that couldn’t speak English at all. With the help of Alberto we not only had an amazing black ink squid and shellfish meal and a cheap bottle of wine, but also some dessert that our Italian server chose. To top it off, he plunked the biggest (2L) bottle of grappa down on our table and proceeded to sit down with us and speak French with a thick Italian accent, giving us his email address and claiming to have seen Orca whales in the Great Lakes of Canada… ok, a bit far-fetched, but a good story.