Time’s passage is visible here in ways that don’t quite square with the clocks and calendars back home.
After only three days, the poppies along the canal where I run have begun to hang their heads. Brilliant and gaudy as dollar-store baubles when I arrived, they’re starting to fade. I was lucky to have seen them. But other wildflowers are replacing them, and still others are as fresh as when we arrived, hosting an all-day pilgrimage of bees and butterflies.
Fig trees, slowly fattening with fruit, proceed at a different pace.
The Petrarch Museum gate was still closed the other day, the proprietor visible on the grounds, dozing in the shade, steps from the wrought iron table where he had laid out the informative pamphlets no one could read. What’s the rush?
And at breakfast, the cured foods represent an even fatter slice of time. The cheese board always has five or six soft cheeses collapsing in slow motion. Beside that a steel contraption holds a cured ham, together with a knife for slicing off as much as you want. And beside that, a miniature iron gallows from which three dried sausages hang. You unhook a sausage and cut off what you need.
The sausages remind me of a photo I saw last year, of what was purported to be a seven-inch mummified penis “valued” at £100,000. The erect penis was removed from a criminal after he was hanged. Apparently Oscar Wilde was an “admirer of the artifact.”
Restaurant Philip (1926)
We’ve been here two weeks, and each week has ended on a high note, with dinner at Restaurant Philip (1926), which is purported to be the finest in Fontaine de Vaucluse. It is good. But it’s hard to focus on the food in this enchanted spot.
Restaurant Philip (1926) occupies the best site in town, almost at water level and beside the newborn Sorgue emerging from its rocky cradle. Ducks duck underwater to display their bums, as waiters and waitresses whisk around us in crisp uniforms. This entire theatre plays out beneath giant spreading plane trees.
The next day, we returned to Restaurant Philip (1926) for some lunch and for the soothing, intensely green midday light, filtered through the canopy of trees and reflected from the watery bed of greenery that trails like mermaid’s hair in the sparkling cold water.
We also wanted to watch the ducks. There is no absolute prohibition against feeding animals here — no friendly cartoon characters on a sign explaining that people food is not the same as animal food. So families throw bits of their lunch at the ducks, and the otherwise placid birds turn into turbocharged fiends, thrashing through the water to muscle each other from a crust of bread, leaf of lettuce or shred of magret de canard.
There is no absolute prohibition against cannibalism either. Laissez-faire is French, even if it’s been hijacked to mean that making pots and pots of money, no matter how you make it, is good for everyone.
I can’t help reflecting on this, as I read the papers so far away from home.
We’re leaving Fontaine de Vaucluse tomorrow, taking the TGV from Avignon to Strasbourg. I doubt if I’ll ever see this place again.