Boules

Not far from Maman’s farm we stopped at a commercial lavender processing plant. This was an impressive operation with giant still-like equipment to extract oil out of these tiny flowers. We had the plant to ourselves until a bus full of German tourists arrived. They took over the place, so we headed on to our destination of Sault.

Sault is at a high elevation and a good starting point for the many bicycle tourists making their way to the highest point in Provence, Mont Ventoux. There seemed to be a constant stream of spandex-clad men and women maneuvering their bikes in and out of vehicles in the large– and free– parking area in the center of town.

A food truck was camped out just beyond the parking lot, but this was no roach coach, this truck had a wood-fired brick oven that put out better looking pizza than the proud Frenchman’s place in Apt. We walked past the enticing truck and made our way across a large flat park with less grass than pebble and dirt. A few benches sat empty on the edge, overlooking the entire valley and Mont Ventoux beyond. We pulled out of my backpack fresh bread, ham, cheese and tomatoes and used my trusty Swiss Army knife to slice. Beer and wine followed.

As we ate, some older men started to gather on the other side of the park. They carried what looked like man-purses and greeted each other warmly with kisses on each cheek. Our friend from Atlanta thought this might be a gay men’s club, but she was way off. “Boules” I said, as the man-purses were emptied of their large metal balls. “It’s kind of like shuffleboard without the shuffle,” I said. A few older women joined the group but not to play. “Look– cheerleaders,” Alex joked.

The game was less important than the sense of social gathering. The women gossiped and the men shot the bull…. and boules. When we walked past them to leave, the old guys couldn’t help but stare at the three girls. The old ladies surely noticed the men staring, but didn’t bat an eye—I think they’d have been more worried if the old men didn’t look.

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