TRAVEL BLOG: French Kissing (25/08/23)

Wedding Day! Yay!

Today was the main reason for our trip. The wedding of two dear friends, Lee and Alka. Don’t be expecting a review of the wedding though, I’m going to respect the privacy of the happy couple.  I’m not going to say the bride looked stunned (or should that be stunning?) and I’m not going to give the Mayor marks out of ten for how well he officiated.

What goes on tour stays on tour and all that jazz.

But I don’t want me French travelogue to be missing a day, so here is my attempt to write about everything bar the wedding.

We were up before the larks. In fact I’m not sure there are any larks here. There is a silence of the eerie variety. Although out in the middle of nowhere,  there is no dawn chorus.  Presumably the heat is getting to our avian friends as well.

We wanted to make the most of the daylight hours before it started to get really scorchio.  We sat in the garden in our underwear eating a selection of fromages, baguettes and driving cider (at 2.5% you could probably have a session and still be under the legal limit.) French dub artists Dubamix provided our soundtrack.

Sam comes up to say hello. She’s had a holiday shed here for twenty-two years. She tells us a little about the history of the place, but the more she tells me the less I know. It’s a fascinating,  if confusing story. So don’t beat me up if I get it wrong.

Jean-Marie and Hélène have been here fifty years. They are now in their eighties.  Jean-Marie built the cottage we are staying in.

I say cottage,  because I don’t know what to call it. Villa? Chalet? Shed? Whatever it is, it’s lovely.  The back wall is actually part of a small cliff, with three stone walls and a roof. There’s electricity,  hot and cold water & a fridge. The bed is built into the cliff. The ‘washing machine’ we had anticipated to clean our clothes turns out to be a dishwasher.  But no matter, we can scrub our smalls in the shower.

Out front, there is a covered patio with a selection of chairs, a table and a chaise longue. Beyond that is the best kitted out outdoor bathroom and toilet I have ever come across.

Somewhere along the line Jean-Marie built two more cottages,  one immediately above and one immediately below.  I think they were for his daughters.

Then thirty years ago, a young Wayne, fed up with Thatcher’s Britain and her darned Poll Tax, packed up his rucksack and headed for the South of France. Long story short – he fell in love with the daughter of Jean-marie and Hélène, took on a plot of land nearby and set up their own home here. And so began the Welsh invasion.

In the local community there are a number of musicians and many musicians from South Wales regularly make a pilgrimage here. Much merriment is had.

This is, I hasten to add, a simplified, and undoubtedly not error free, account of things. But it’s the South of France, the country that invented shrugging shoulders and the phrase “laissez-faire”. My version will do. For now.

Kev comes to pick us up in le hire car. We thought it was to go to town ready for the wedding,  but for reasons I’m still not clear on, we drove up into the mountains to see Wayne. Who wasn’t in. We sit for a while getting to know Wayne’s family, and are made incredibly welcome with lots of cold drinks flowing.

It’s 35 degrees.  I assume it is always this hot here in the summer. Apparently not, they are also overwhelmed by the soaring temperature.

Wayne eventually arrives. He has been on one of those missions that are part of everyday life in the world of Alka. Wayne was supposed to be going with Alka to take his hire car back. Alka was following Wayne,  but got lost. Several hours later, just in time for the wedding, everyone is back in the valley.  Including the hire car that was supposed to be returned.

Eventually Kev drops us off at the village square outside the pub.

The Spanish might have invented the word siesta, but the French take it to a new level. The pub, and the shop, are closed until 5pm. And they don’t care if there is a square full of thirsty Welsh people wanting to celebrate.

Montferrat has a population of 1,500 and is in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Not far from Canes. Well, it’s not far from a lot of places, but we have learned that, without a car, these nearby places may as well be the South Pole of the moon. And there’s probably more chance of finding a corner shop open there.

Apparently there’s lakes, water falls, remains of the Maginot Line, skiing stations and all sorts, tantalisingly just out of our reach, not far from here.

Our cottage is only 1.4km from the centre of the village but it’s all uphill – at least going home it is. But even going down hill in this heat could be life threatening. I think we are going to be dependent on others for going anywhere this week, which I don’t like. Ce la vie. I’ve been stranded in worse places. With far less agreeable company.

OK…. wedding.  Like I said, I’m not going to go into any detail. Let’s just say lots of friends from Montferrat,  Wales and Norway gathered. The Mayor said some stuff in French. His grasp of the English language is almost as bad as Alka’s.

We all stood outside the closed pub for ten minutes then worked out the logistics of who was having a lift in who’s hire car up to the villa in the mountains where the reception was. The party was going off in a slightly larger gaff than hours. A nine bed villa. With pool. Luckily,  it was easily walkable from the villa to our cabin in the woods.

Basically,  it was hot, everyone partied outdoors,  there was an abundance of musicians and a sharp sounding PA. There were performances by musicians that were obscenely talented for people so young, and by older musicians that were astonishingly tight for people so wasted.

And I reconnect with several young adults that I had not seen since they were toddlers.

That’s all you’re getting.