One of the reasons we chose tiny-ass Pignans rather than a city with more activity is that we wanted to experience life in a small provincial town. We didn’t want to get distracted with landmarks, and instead wanted to get to know the cadence and people that make a tiny town special.
It’s early days, but we’re experiencing just that.
Le Bar des Sports
Every French town has one: the bar or cafe where the locals hang out, gossip, and complain about the weather. Here, it’s Le Bar des Sports. And no, it’s not a sports bar. There’s an outdoor eating area (we have had one day where it was nice enough to eat out there), and inside, a few booths circa 1981. There’s a separate place you can order ice cream or desserts, and a bar, behind which you see the various liqueurs, including the Provencal essential, pastis.
Just sitting there and sipping coffee, we became a part of the living organism that is Pignans. We watched half a dozen people pop in, give bisoux on each cheek and inquire ca va? to their friends. Some just came in to order coffee, then left. Others posted up, Le Figaro in hand, ready to make a day of it.
An old man came in with his adorable black pug, who, apparently, was well-known. He paraded around, soliciting pets. We felt lucky when he included us in his tour. And evidently, Americans give good rubs, because he didn’t want to leave. We tried to stop petting him, but Oscar put his feet up on the booth seat, unwilling to give up the pleasure.
No one engaged in conversation with us, but it’s a matter of them seeing us and hearing us speak French so they know we’re not silly Americans who don’t know the culture or the language.
Une Amie d’une Amie
The owner of the house we’re staying in emailed me to say that her friend, Francesca, who owns the takeout place, Le Royale, wanted us to stop by so she could introduce her 3 daughters to Max. We’d already eyed the menu, and planned to visit today anyway, so it was perfect.
She was surprised that we spoke French so well, and delighted to meet an American boy who spoke French. Not that, technically, he did. Max has been super shy and unwilling to engage.
After we enjoyed our kebab and croque Monsieur, she told us to get in touch so the kids could get together. I think I caught the offer to share une bouteille on Friday night, so I’m going to have to follow up on that!
Out and About
I feel like the more people see us around, the closer we get to actual conversation. Sure, the guy at the tabac spoke English to us (we quickly responded in French. We hate it when we pay to fly to France to speak French and they want to speak English), but I mean real engagement. Like “come over and I’ll cook you an authentic French meal” engagement.
Experiencing French life, la vie quotidienne, not as a tourist, but as something apart, is exactly the experience we wanted to have.