Spring is here! Sortof! The trees have all flowered and then leaved (grown leaves?) but it's still kinda cold and rainy. What happened to this being the south of France!?!?! One particularly nice aspect of the rain (aside from how gorgeous a cloudy sky looks over the hills) is that the rain chases away the droves of smokers who hang out on the doorstep of our apartment building. Our alley is just wide enough to count as a "place" (pronounced "plahss," the french equivalent of an open square or plaza), and everyone working in the neighboring shops seems to come here for their smoking break. And since our building has the most sit-able doorstep. . . we get a lot of second-hand smoke. Josh is especially not-cool with breathing in chemicals, so I wasn't surprised the other day when I stuck my head out for something and the smokers jumped up and asked if they were bothering me. But I WAS surprised when they added, "Is that your husband who lives here with you?" "Yes...pour quoi?" I hoped Josh hadn't pissed off this particular group of loiters--they looked like up-to-no-good teenage punks. "Because he's a really nice guy! He let us ride his bike!" Josh told me later he had gotten them to lend him a hand while he was changing a bike tire and they'd struck up a friendship. The last time we saw them take their smoking break (they've moved up the alley, I guess Josh did mention he's not cool with breathing tar), Josh even called them over to try some banana bread. "It's our job to be good cultural ambassadors," I told them. "We want everyone to know that Americans eat stuff other than hamburgers."
So, anyway, Spring is here, and today was May 1st, which is Labor Day here. For some reason, on May 1st everyone gives each other lily-of-the-valley, which I think is really cool. Unfortunately for the flower, its french name is muguet, (moo-GAY) which is just not as pretty as its American name, but it's still hugely popular here. I think the story goes that some fair maid gave a spring to her knight-in-shining-armor before a tournament and it became a good luck symbol...but what it has to do with May 1st is beyond me. It's a flower with a soft spot in my heart from being the favorite of my dear old great-great-aunt Kitty, and the name of one of my little cousins, and I was excited to see it pop up everywhere on May 1st last year. We were in Paris with my family, and I snapped a shot of the window of the Ladurée patisserie, one of the nicest in the city of lights: (I just love that little box with the bouquet on it in the lower left-hand corner! so cute! so french!)
I thought about buying myself a sprig of muguet at the market this morning--I'm not french enough yet to think of getting it for someone else. After spending WAY too much on broccoli and splurging on a barquette of gorgeous local strawberries, though, I decided it was an unnecessary expense. I could have gotten a potted lily-of-the-valley, too (how cool is THAT?) but our ivy is hanging on by a tendril and I didn't want to kill something I got because it reminds me of Aunt Kitty. So I contented myself with the lovely springtime purchases of picture-perfect strawberries and a fresh local goat cheese: Mmmm... made for a good samedi brunch.
I LOVE getting our fruits and veggies from farmers with dirt still under their fingernails. Tonight's dinner was another market offering, summery courgettes farcis. As we were sitting down to eat it, we were interrupted by someone outside yelling, "Hey, Uncle Sam!" Seriously. We went over and opened the curtain, and it was the punky teenage loiterers. "Sorry," they said. "We couldn't think of something else to call you." And then they handed us a spring of lily-of-the-valley and thanked us again for the banana bread.
I love my life some times.
Uncle Josh wants YOU to be kind to your neighbors!