October 19, 2019
It’s a cloudy Saturday afternoon in Bonnieux. Rain threatens, so we are hesitant to undertake today’s planned major activity, which is a walk from here to the neighboring town of Lacoste, which harbors the ruins of the chateau of the Marquis de Sade but, W. tells me, not much else.
At the near-end of the tourist season, there is not a whole lot to do in the Luberon. The gastronomes plan their activities around lunches and dinners, but that is not us. Yesterday we visited Avignon (about 30 miles from here) and walked around for four hours. But, to be honest, I’m getting tired of looking at churches and palaces.
So I’m pondering the fate of the world. This is as good a place as any to do it from. I said at the outset that this blog would not be in any way political, and I am sticking to that. But I do wonder, in the larger sense of things, whether things are getting better or worse.
I think most French people would say that things are worse. Incomes are stagnant, taxes are high, and unemployment hangs at about nine percent. The highly touted health care and retirement systems are under severe pressure, and the French complain about crime (although by US standards it seems pretty safe).
In the U.S., we have three and a half percent unemployment and a stock market near an all time high. Taxes are low. People in the U.S. enjoy a per capita GDP of about $62,000, much more than any large country and more than that of Germany, Sweden, the UK, Canada, or Australia. But no one seems very happy with the way things are in the U.S.
So those of us who can afford it come to France. We look at the hilltop villages and the scenic churches, marvel at the scenic countryside (and it is marvelous) and enjoy the food and the wine.
Would I like to live here permanently? For me, the answer is no. I have too many roots and connections in the U.S. at this stage of my life. I will never be truly French and I would never feel part of a French community.
And there are a lot of things I would miss: Big, well-stocked public libraries. Stores that stay open for the convenience of the customer, not the shopkeeper. Diners that serve pretty much anything, anytime. College football and basketball. Churches that are full of churchgoers rather than a few tourists.
On the other hand, the French have great open-air markets. People sit at cafes and don’t seem to care much about time. They love sports, just not the sports we love. They are close to their families in a way that most people in the U.S. could never understand.
So that’s the plan. Take some lessons from the French. Care more about family and about family occasions like Sunday dinner. Drink a bit more wine than you might at times (and drink better wine). Learn how to sit calmly in a cafe and enjoy a well-made cappucino. But go to tailgate parties, sing in the church choir and dig in to a couple of pecan waffles with bacon.
By the way, after this semi-melancholy screed, the sun broke through later in the afternoon, so we drove to the village of Oppede and explored the 700 year old remnants of a fortified hilltop town. Then we enjoyed a Perrier-sirop (for W.) and a cappucino (for me).