Bask­ing in the Bronze Age


I never travel th­ese days with­out lots of prepa­ra­tion, which in­cludes plan­ning places to visit and learn­ing enough of a coun­try’s lan­guage to demon­strate I’m will­ing to have a go. And so, be­fore a visit to Provence, I pol­ish up my school French and read widely about the area, which is quite a task, as there is so much to see and do and, in fact, there is a life­time of hol­i­days to en­joy in this south­east re­gion of France.

On a per­fect Oc­to­ber day, we drive to Uzes, a lovely me­dieval hill town not far from Avi­gnon, and we wan­der into the tourist of­fice to in­quire about a lo­cal his­toric site. My per­fect French ques­tion of “Par­lez-vous Anglais?” is met with a Gal­lic shrug and rais­ing of eye­brows, which I take to mean yes, and so I con­tinue in English that I wish to visit a nearby Bronze Age site.

With­out fur­ther pre­am­ble and a mum­bled Bronze Age (with a de­cid­edly French ac­cent), the as­sis­tant pulls out a tele­phone direc­tory.

Well, I think, aren’t the French mar­vel­lous, they even have ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites listed in the Yel­low Pages.

As the tourist of­fi­cer searches, a chic mid­dle-aged French­man who was chat­ting to her be­fore I in­ter­rupted with my ques­tion, ob­serves me very closely, frown­ing in what I think of, pa­tro­n­is­ingly, as a French fash­ion. He’s im­pressed, I think, that I want to visit such a se­ri­ous and cul­tured site. Ob­vi­ously, I’m not your av­er­age tourist.

Now, the tourist of­fi­cer pulls out a street map of Uzes, marked with a you-are-here sym­bol and then she marks an­other spot in Uzes with a cross.

Slightly puz­zled by this strange way of di­rect­ing me, I col­lect my com­pan­ions and tell them we have to go to the place she has marked on the map. “I ex­pect it’s a travel agency,” I add.

We wan­der through the maze of lit­tle streets, en­joy­ing the at­mos­phere and char­ac­ter ( en fait am­bi­ence) of this lovely town. We fol­low the map un­til we ar­rive at the place marked with an X. There is stunned si­lence fol­lowed by rau­cous laugh­ter. Above the shop win­dow are the words Par­fumerie, Coif­fure, Bron­zage.

Com­ing from Perth, a tan­ning salon is the last thing I need. As it turns out, the site I was af­ter is Iron, not Bronze, Age any­way.

So much for pre­ten­tious so­phis­ti­ca­tion. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­ Colum­nists re­ceive a pack of Maine Beach prod­ucts cre­ated us­ing cer­ti­fied or­ganic ex­tra vir­gin olive oil from the McLaren Vale re­gion of South Aus­tralia; in­cludes Olive Oil Duo (hand and nail cream; body mousse) plus mini hand and nail cream and body wash. $84.90. More:

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