In Praise of French Vacations: Farniente, by Trondheim & Hérody

August 13th, 2010 § 0 comments

At first there were still children in the school courtyards when I’d go out for my afternoon run. You could hear the colored spangle of their voices over the fence. The path of grass and earth beside the river took me past one verdant field after the next, alike to my untrained eye. The sun would clear my balcony by midmorning, vaulting high into the sky, and I would move out there to work. The days got hotter and hotter, and I went out later and later, pushing into evening on my runs. The plume of an impact sprinkler rose in the distance, hosting rainbows in its mist. I dined at eight, flocks of swallows screeching past the balcony rail. Along the path beside the river one field revealed itself as corn, another as sunflowers. For a few weekends in a row, whole families with towels round their waists dawdled to the pool, or little girls returned with dripping hair. The hay was mown and rolled; the corn shot up. The children vanished from the schools and reappeared in the streets at dusk, on bicycles with tasseled handlebars. Their cries replaced those of the swallows—now in Morocco, I was told. The heads of sunflowers grew heavy, their fringe of yellow petals paled; when you drove past, the fields seemed blanched. The evening bus brought older sons and daughters to join parents who’d preceded them. Then, for a week, it rained. When it was over, the tourists had arrived.

The sun, slower now to rise, lingers on my balcony through lunch. The town is fuller than ever with cars and people. In the mornings, you have to wait to cross the street. When I bike across the river to the supermarket, there are other bikes locked up at the rack. In line at the checkout, you can hear French apologies in English accents. The cashiers are younger and prettier, and after work ride five in a car to nightclubs folded into a bend on a country road: there is a buvette outside and the light from its counter shines over the gravel lot. Or sometimes a motorcycle pulls up beside you at a light: a bare thigh pressed to a boyfriend’s, long hair spilling from under a helmet. The bales are dried and taken in; those fields are baked and buckled earthen plates with tire tracks. The corn rises over my head. It’s dark now by ten.

It’s the final month of summer in France! Check out my excerpt from Farniente, a paean to vacation by Lewis Trondheim and Dominique Hérody, now up at Words Without Borders!

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