Oct 16th – 19th:
A long scamper to the Metro, a changeover amidst crowds of commuters, and my guide’s underestimation led to a missed train to Toulon. More lessons learned and more of the reality of travel; hurry up and wait. Three trains and four hours later I was on my first Eurail venture. In Toulon we were picked up by Florence’s younger sister Alicia and her husband Patrick. Apero (appetizers) of peanuts, shredded carrots with olive oil and fresh-squeezed orange juice, and some funky liquor preluded a satisfying dinner. A late night ensued in a beyond exhausted state of hyper-awareness. Amma, a…, was in town at the tail end of a three day… At the entrance drummers, didgeridoo, and a pure Mediterranean tribal vibe captivated me. Inside a rockin’ kirtan ensued for hours as Amma individually blessed long rows of anticipatory followers. Upon receiving my personal prayer and stadium sized experience I was blessed with the greatest gift of all, twelve hours of motionless sleep.
Three hours of daylight were just enough to get my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. A walk on la playa and dinner with Florence’s friend Beatrice and her 30 and 13 year-old sons Johan and Allan filled the day. I was encouraged by Johan’s interest in speaking English and what I knew about his dream of going to Burning Man. The next day another late start and leisurely afternoon of yoga and snacking regenerated the batteries enough for an evening out. A feast of crepes (upon my request) with Florence’s sister Cecilia and her crew (boyfriend, son, daughter) was a delight. After over an hour of speaking to each other in French they attempted to communicate with me in their best English. It was the best exchange I’d experienced up to this point as they really seemed to grasp who I was and what I explained about my travels. “I am not traveling to discover who I am, I am living who I am…” That night at one of their favorite clubs the tallest and most awkwardly dressed figure was one of the first on the dance floor getting his groove on unlike any other.
The next day’s highlight was a true French experience. After a drive to the coast near Hyeres to meet Beatrice, Johan, and Allan we snacked on ousien, which they had harvested from the sea. The round and spikey crustaceans were cracked open like large walnuts to expose their orange sack-like genitalia, which was scooped up with a spoon or baguette, mmmm. Really, it was better than it sounds, just a waste of a poor little ocean creature. I also enjoyed trying to communicate with Allan (13 year-old). The students study English here so he and I managed to slowly find common ground. I did my best to explain the tradition of Thanksgiving and the ensuing history of the Native American’s demise and my own feelings of connection their culture, tradition, and Earth-centered spirituality. On our drive home I was navigating the tiny winding roads, multiple round-abouts, and insane driving habits of the locals when a loud snap killed the power to Florence’s Twingo (the tiny and abundant economy car of the region). A snapped clutch cable set us back a few hours in our plan to relocate to the guest cottage of the Notre Dame de Pepiole.