My last full day in the South of France consisted of driving through vineyards and lounging on the beach. This is of course what I think of most when musing about the French Riviera and also when envisioning heaven. Despite heavy traffic alerts in the region, my good friend's parents decided to brave the storm at the last minute, and we were chauffeured about an hour and a half away to L'Estagnol, a thoroughly spectacular little beach. Before officially arriving, however, we made a quick stop at one of the local wineries en route. The south is very well known for its vast amounts of rosé, my personal favorite, in addition to every other kind of wine imaginable. For someone like me who grew up in New England, the sight of vineyards still holds a magical glow. We passed so many that I suspect the french generally take it for granted as part of the everyday scenic charm. I, on the other hand, have to prevent myself from flying into the lush green plants and pretending to crush grapes barefoot while wearing petticoats.
After this slight detour, we finally made it to the beach which was packed to the brim with locals and tourists trying to drink in the last of the summer days. Once we had finally found a small bit of land to stake claim, it was time for lunch at the local beachside tavern. I was incredibly lucky to be taken care of my such gracious hosts, as the resident restaurant was not anywhere near the right side of cheap. And though we could dig our feet into the cool sandy floor while we ate over plastic table cloths, the fish was as fresh as could be and the wine equally crisp and refreshing. Everything was so fresh in fact that our appetizer of crudités and sardine tapenade resembled a quaint lilliputian forest. I had sea bass once again, but this time it was served the right way, meaning that the whole fish was displayed in all its glory then swiftly removed to be beheaded behind the scenes. Overstuffed with festive fare, we finally made our way back to the beach to sun and swim. The shoreline itself at this particular beach is very narrow indeed and the water shallow for meters and meters before you actually have to demonstrate any swimming skills. The sea was warm and delightful under the Mediterranean sun and I made sure to frolic in the miniature waves more than once before we left.
Our farewell evening was a quiet affair because my dear friend had to pack her 11,000 suitcases but more importantly because the executive decision had been made to depart for Paris at approximately 4am the following morning. I was very fortunate to have been offered a ride home in the family car, but since traffic moving north had been hellish as people were journeying back to school and work, we wanted to avoid being stuck on the road for hours on end. Lucky for me, I couldn't partake in any of the driving time (nor would they have wanted me to if I could) so I slept away most of the time dazing in the back seat. I woke up at a few intervals when we hit a rest stop, but for the most part the ride went by quickly and smoothly, and I was nestled back home in my little apartment before noon on sunday. I still managed to feel rather jetlagged as the day went on, but I had plenty of time to rest and relax before starting my week. My second visit to the beautiful south was filled with fantastic feats, food and friendship. I can't imagine a better way to end the summer and begin a new year abroad.