Today is the first day of school in Caromb. A father and son pause outside the elementary school, both trying to smooth down the boy’s cowlick (the boy eventually puts up the hood on his jacket – problem solved.) More parent-child pairs and groups join the parade, kids toting new backpacks and waving to their friends, stylishly dressed mothers greeting each other with three kisses. One woman in a burka herds her son in front of her. Among the procession are Ian and Axelle, the owners of our apartment, and their daughter Jeannette, her eyes bright with grade 1 anticipation.
Tomorrow is the beginning of a new leg on our journey too, as we move house to the Cote D’Azur. We’ll spend today revisiting Caromb’s Tuesday market, doing laundry, checking out a few shops whose locations and opening hours eluded us. We’ll ramble the town to capture a few more of our memories in photographs. I’ve always thought it’s too bad that no one has yet invented an olfactograph, or an audiograph, or an emotograph – these would breathe life into our 2-D photos.
Until this Harry Potter-style technology gets developed, here are a boulangiere’s dozen sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings that will linger with me after I leave Caromb:
1) The church bell and the town clock tower tolling. As long as you only require updates on the hour and half hour, and only between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., you don’t need to wear a watch.
2) Children’s voices echoing up to our apartment from the narrow passageways between the stone residences. I can’t remember the last time I heard children in Canada playing hide and go seek. From time to time, a teenage boy treated us to a heartfelt French pop song.
3) Bread aroma wafting from les boulangeries/patisseries. There are two of them in Caromb to serve a population of 3000 people. This is a town that has its priorities straight.
4) Tomatoes, peaches, melons, and figs, hours from the vine.
5) Town fountains gurgling. We frequently see Carombians filling up their water containers from the gargoyle mouths. Last night on our way to buy dinner groceries, a boy on his bicycle stopped by for a quick slurp before pedalling away.
6) Doing nothing but looking and chatting. Two men sit on a bench at the town roundabout, watching other people’s busyness. In the evening, seniors gather on front steps, and kitchen chairs, and large stones to solve the town’s problems.
7) Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine.
8) Rosemary tumbling over a stone wall. I brushed by a plant on a stairway one morning, and snitched a piece for our omelette. Yum.
9) A dove’s drowsy cu-coo-coo, cu-coo-coo.
10) Ian and Axelle’s warmth, hospitality, and artistic spirit. “This house chose us,” Axelle told me. They are continuing the tradition that has seen the rambling old property offer refuge to hospital patients, French resistance fighters, and travellers for more than 500 years.
11) Tranquility. At night, and often during the day, it’s so quiet you can hear a mouse **** (this description stolen from Peter Mayle’s book A Year in Provence).
12) The peachy gold light of early morning and evening
13) Falling asleep as the evening breeze descends Mount Ventoux, whisking away the day’s heat.
Adieu, Caromb. Je t’aime.