The Streets of Bonnieux and the Dogs of Lourmarin

Another hilltop village was on the agenda the next day. Why not? Just like the wines, they were all good. This particular one was called Bonnieux and it had very curvy, steep and narrow streets, even for Provence. You could almost borrow sugar from your across-the-street neighbor just by reaching out the window.

In our car on the main road in the middle of town, we came upon a mini stoplight on wheels. I begrudgingly stopped. “Is this thing for real?” I asked. I thought we were being punked or something. We waited for a few minutes and no cars came from the other side. “I’m going, this is B.S.” I said. “Wait,” said Ines and Alex, and it’s a good thing I did. After we got the green, we entered a narrow spit of pavement with no sidewalk between old buildings that curved down and around to the other side of town. This was narrower than a one-way street—this was maybe a half-way street. Pedestrians had to pancake themselves so as not to get hit by a side-view mirror or a hand sticking out of a passing car. The little stoplights on wheels were the only thing keeping order in this impossibly built town.

Safely making our way out of Bonnieux, we opted for a place in the flats for our next stop. Lourmarin is a Moorish, walled city and another famous haunt of British author Peter Mayle. We could see why an author would like this place: Great people and pet watching on curved pedestrian streets lined with cafes and shops. And you didn’t have to huff and puff your way up and down like in the hilltop towns.

Walking casually along, we heard the strum of an acoustic guitar coming from inside a shop. A man’s voice sang a folky French song. We walked in to see a smiling weathered old guy behind the counter with a guitar. He was luring customers into this colorful woman’s dress shop like a siren with his heartfelt and joyful music.

Across from the dress shop was a middle-aged guy, probably dealing with a bit of a mid-life crisis, taking in the scene. His hair was mussed ever so thoughtfully and his nose turned up a bit in a confidently superior manner. He wore jeans with boots and a tattoo-influenced t-shirt. There was an old Harley-style motorcycle next to him that was either his, or he said it was to impress any younger women that happened by. A little French bulldog who resembled the middle-aged guy came over to greet us sporting a studded collar and a devilish grin. The guy nodded “bonjour” as we petted his dog.

Suddenly, the bulldog eyed another dog strolling down the cobblestone and he left us to investigate. It was a giant, overly groomed black poodle with close-cropped fur everywhere except it’s extremities. This was an oversized version of the quintessential French poodle: pom-pom-like fur around all four paws, the end of the tail and around the head. You would think this dog was a female, but for the giant shaved balls dangling proudly from his posterior. After a quick sniff, the little butch bulldog turned his nose up even higher than normal and returned quickly to his owner.

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