I have claimed this so often to be boring but we live in the best neighborhood in the city/state/nation. Just one example: our neighbors wanted to surprise us when we came back to Lansing and since we had changed our calendar to be in France until the end of July, they prepared the soil and planted a vegetable garden for us. What a wonderful surprise! We have been enjoying the fruits of their labors since the day that we arrived. (I need more zucchini recipes!)
For the last eight years, we have been following our schedule of half-year here, half-year there. One would think that I had reported on all of the differences between our two life-styles but there are always things that surprise me when we arrive here (and there).
One big difference this year, we stayed through two of the summer months: June and July. Vaison la Romaine changes a lot in the summer. First of all, the population doubles - from 7,000 to 14,000. A lot of people arrive with their bicycles. They fill the streets and the roads and, after a nice ride, the cafés. Vaison has one of the best street markets in Provence but in the middle of the summer it is packed with people. It is almost impossible to navigate through the throngs. (The locals have advised us to shop early - before 9:00 AM.) The shops that cater to tourists expand their hours. The cafés offer more live music at night thus the cafés are filled from morning until late in the evening. There is a proliferation of ice cream vendors. There are several ice cream specialty shops but the cafés also add ice cream coolers. If one could rank order the popularity of a type of store by the number of stores of that type, in Vaison in the summer the ranking would be beauty salons/coiffeurs, restaurants and cafés, bakeries, ice cream vendors, real estate sales offices...
Vaison has become known for the dance performances held in July and August at the Roman Amphitheater. We went to one of the performances and I can only describe it as magical. The show started at 10:00 PM - just after sunset - and we and about 5,000 other people were finding our seats in a 2000 year old amphitheater that was built by the Romans. The performance that we saw was by an American company - the Los Angeles Dance Project - though the director is Benjamin Millepied is French and former director of the Paris Opera Ballet (and husband of actress Natalie Portman.)
Another observation: Even though we live in a village in France, people there dress better than people dress here. One expects people of Paris to dress well but the rules of fashion are somewhat relaxed outside of the large cities. One rarely sees people dressed as casually in Vaison as one sees people here. Even the tourists dress better in France. No sweats in public - ever! It reminds me of the quote about wearing sweat pants in public attributed to Jerry Seinfeld: “You’re telling the world ‘I give up.’” (Training outfits/warm-up suits are becoming more popular in France...) The contrast in fashion was underscored for me when I encountered a woman who was wearing pajamas as she shopped in one of the local superstores. Now that is casual! Welcome home!