Farmer Jean and the Flute

We arrived in Rustrel, our small car overflowing with stuff. The landlord, Gilles, met us in the driveway. He must have thought we were moving in, with all the provisions falling out of the car as we got out. He was very kind and helpful nonetheless. He even recommended some local restaurants, as if we didn’t have enough food and wine for one week.

Gilles was French but had lived in California and it showed in his sunny, laid back, demeanor as well as his rental home’s style. Outside, there was a small pool like in Apt. Inside, was decked-out with travertine tile, a large kitchen, gas stove, and a dishwasher. There was even a quirky, but totally usable, clothes washer-dryer. You had to empty the water after every cycle from a bin at the bottom of the unit, but it did the job. The thing that we were most surprised about though: ice cube trays!

While preparing for this journey back in America, Alex was smart enough to pack ice cube trays, knowing from previous trips that ice is a rarity in Europe. But Gilles, or maybe one of his ex-renters, was kind enough to supply this oh-so-rare, oh-so-decadent, oh-so-luxurious item (trust me, ice cubes can be harder to find than a non-smoking Frenchman).

We were within walking distance of the little town of Rustrel, not far from Apt by car, in a strange corner of Provence they call the Little Colorado. The town is nestled into the nook of a mountain range. The nearby hills mined years and years ago for a coloring material called ochre, the remnants of which left the hills striated with pretty gold, orange, red and rust colors. The little town now consists of basically one hotel, one mini-mart, a pottery and art shop, and a boulangerie.

That first afternoon we were enjoying our peaceful view of lavender fields, mountains and striated rock from our pool deck when suddenly we heard a loud power-tool break the calm. The culprit was across the road wearing typical French blue worker overalls with no shirt underneath, a cigarette dangling from his mouth and a full-throttle power-saw in his hands. “Farmer Jean,” as we named him, was maniacally sawing off the top half of an old trailer. We endured the noise, hoping it would end as soon as he made it around the other side of the trailer, which it did.

A couple afternoons later, at about the same time of day, we heard a flute coming from Farmer Jean’s, wafting its gentle notes into the windy Provençal air. We couldn’t help but imagine Farmer Jean himself, the power-saw-wielding maniac from a few nights earlier, now delicately playing his flute.

Provence reflects this type of dichotomy: sunny to stormy; touristy to empty; and Farmer Jean to Flautist Jean. The good though, heavily outweighing the bad.

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