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.
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