On a gloriously sunny November morning, with the bluest of skies that have been cleaned by recent storms, we arrive at Tarascon. So far, it’s been a good start to the day: we have heating, water – hot and cold, electricity, fuses in the upright position and hens donating prolific numbers of eggs.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no matter how much the rest of the world deem Tarascon to be a non-starter, I inevitably find it an interesting place full of surprises. Where else do you find a weather vane depicting a monster? What other town has open access to the relics of St Martha? And, where else, at a point in the year where there are no tourists, can you take your expresso on a tiny terrace listening to a Provencal folk troupe and watch Arlesienne ladies dancing a Farandole?
We are minded to visit the Christmas crèche. In fact, for the duration of our ten day sojourn, this is the only thing that I’ve been adamant about seeing. Naturally, we can’t find it. There are plenty of signs but, as a long-time ex-pat resident said only the other day, the French don’t do directions. We wander along the back streets, find this choir by accident and ask every other person including two police officers. They all know the creche is in the aptly named Chapel of Perseverance but no-one is quite sure how the chapel might be located.
A Provencal Christmas crèche is unlike any other: the nativity is a minor inclusion; the point and purpose is that all of the other santons depicting Provencal life will be present because, of course, Jesus was born in Provence. If you think his visitors comprised only shepherds and kings, think on.
Wow Tarascon! Thank-you but we must dash as we’re due down the notorious road that runs between Noves and Cabannes. Only those that have read THE book will understand the significance of this. Phyllida and the partner who cannot be named are hosting lunch. After, we sit in the sunniest of gardens and I bemoan the fact that the small spotted ponies are nowhere to be seen. Phyllida suggests we visit Monsieur Martin. Oh yes please! And Monsieur Martin, who doesn’t know he is a literary character, is delighted to have so many visitors on this delicious Provencal Sunday in November.