Oh, where were we? Ahh, oui…the Frenchman who appeared as if from nowhere and crashed my tartine party for un. It’s not as if he was so distasteful that I was affronted by him selecting me. He actually had a very warm smile and engaging way about him. But he had quite a pot belly. And that belly barely fit in the narrow space between the chair opposite me and the wall behind it. I’ve got nothing against pot bellies, per se, but when they plop down on my teeny, tiny table and threaten interference with my tartine – or God no! – my wine, one is pressed to act quickly. I grasped my wine glass and then grabbed the table and pulled it toward me. Unfortunately, this gesture of self-preservation was interpreted as a sign of welcome to him, and probably encouraged him further.
He stumbled through his English, peppering it with long sentences of French that I could not interpret. He began to tell me about a place he had discovered on his morning walk that day in the next village over and how I must allow him to take me there. As he continued to plead his case, I was struck by how similar a situation I found myself in several years back in a certain Italian town. I began to feel uneasy and unsure of how to extricate myself from his company without causing a scene, cursing my fate that this guy had set his sights upon me. But I took a deep breath and something clicked; I calmly recognized that I was in the driver’s seat and didn’t have to go anywhere with him, agree to anything or extend our interaction past my meal. And just to be on the safe side, I subtly scanned the area around us to see if perchance he had an accomplice or “friend” who was going to come join us next. In retrospect, I am certain this guy was genuinely trying to woo me, but I will never let that happen again. For all of his professions about my beauty and grace, all I ever saw in him was a problem that needed to be solved and excised.
When the bill came, I paid it quickly and gathered my bags. He asked me to join him for wine or coffee, and I politely declined. He then asked if he could walk with me and I looked him straight in the eye and elucidated, “No!” He had worn out his welcome, and with that, I probably lost a bit of my luster in his eyes. C’est la vie.
Amorous Frenchman aside, Avignon continued to enchant me. For example, it had the most inviting chocolate and pastry stores one could hope for, the kind that make it seem as if you the shopper are being extended the privilege or honor of taking some of its offerings home.
Upon entering the store nearest my apartment, I experienced sensory overload. The brightly wrapped candies, the ribbon-clad boxes of chocolate and the neatly stacked navettes and other almond cookie confections were a lot to process. Thankfully, I had been warned to avoid buying any of the cookies having it on good word the stores ply them with too much sugar, and thereby, water, inflating their weight and price (cookies are sold by weight). I marched to the chocolate case with authority and let it be known I would be ordering “six chocolat.” While it was challenging to decide between light or dark chocolate, chocolate filling or coconut, yours truly pressed on and made her selections.
Every night when I am on vacation, I like to reward myself with some kind of treat whether it be ice cream or an extra glass of wine. But on this night, I splurged. I bought six chocolates and a bottle of port and headed back to my apartment. I was very proud of myself. I had successfully deflected a Frenchman who had showered me with compliments, and I did it with little interruption to my evening or my sense of calm. If that doesn’t deserve delicious chocolate, nothing does.