Visit to Provence Part I
It was a hastily planned trip, but could not have been a more perfect or idyllic trip, even though the departure from Delhi was chaotic.
I was busy until 4 pm with school related work, and practically did all my packing after that. Last minute dash to Khan market to get mangoes for my host family Krishna and Priya and their kids. Also put in a jar of my Best in the World marmalade
The Lufthansa flight and check in were faultless with German efficiency. My friendly counter assistant’s name was Louisa and I asked her if she was from Goa. No, she said, I am from Chennai. Her eyes brightened and she smiled widely when I spoke to her in Tamil. I had asked for a wheel chair to save the long mile walk to Gate no. 11. That took care of all my worries through immigration and customs. I was early enough that the reclining lounge chairs were vacant so I settled for a nap before the boarding time at midnight.
With little hand baggage I was comfortable in my aisle seat and slept through most of the flight to Munich.
Here too there were wheelchair assistants waiting and I was guided towards a young man who would take me – and others – to our gates which were on another floor and literally another kilometer’s walk away. Munich airport is as large as Delhi, but the different areas are connected by walkways and large elevators and escalators, so there seemed to be more passage ways.
I asked the young man, in German, how far it was, and he replied, in German that we would go in an electric car. As we walked towards the car, he realized I had spoken in German, and surprised, he turned around asked where I had learnt the language. I explained and he rattled off in a Bavarian accent which is difficult to understand anyway, and I had to listen carefully to reply. He brought a Punjabi lady and her child to me to answer their questions as she spoke only Punjabi and wanted directions to the baggage retrieval and immigration. She looked relieved that I could explain to her. So I had a role as interpreter. Once again I realized how important language is to establish a rapport and bring a smile to a face.
We drove off in the car, my companions a young Punjabi woman and her little daughter Jasleen, whose eyes our German driver-assistant could not help admiring!
The electric car took us to another floor on an elevator large enough to accommodate the car, and finally after dropping off the young mother and child at their gate, I arrived on the ground floor at my gate. All the way my escort chattered telling me he worked four days a week at the airport and on the other days he had his own business as an Event Manager. He introduced me to the immigration official saying “this lady can speak German” so I had to re- program my brain to answer questions like ” how long are you staying in EU? Where are you staying in Marseilles. etc” and remember to hook the verb on to the end of the sentence!
Getting to Marseille in a small plane was familiar – on to a bus, to a small ATR plane which we boarded by a narrow step ladder. On the hour long flight we were served beverage and muesli with yoghurt for a breakfast snack – which was very welcome.
Marseille airport looked deserted and small in comparison to the others I had been through. Getting my bag off the carousel and wheeling the trolley was a cinch — no customs, not a soul in sight. Outside the familiar welcoming smile of Krishna, and a short walk to the car park before we started talking non-stop during the ride to Aix – mostly about Modi the election and future prospects.
Ksheerabdi Krishna works for a company in the US and is deputed here to work for the European counterpart. They have been here five years and expect a transfer back to the US at the end the year. They live in a small town near Aix in beautiful country side, and the air smells clean and fragrant. The trees, pruned during the winter are sprouting new leaves. The roadsides are speckled with the bright red of wild poppies – called coquliquot.(sp?) The bushes had bright yellow blooms – colours of Delhi ‘s red silk cotton and yellow laburnum that are flaunted with bright abandon in our summer.
Priya greeted me warmly and while Krishna went to work, we continued our conversation over coffee. She then took me to Castelle, a medieval fortified town on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. It has quaint cobbled streets, narrow houses fronting the street, stone archways, and dozens of little shops and restaurants that cater to the tourists who swarm over these ancient towns and villages of Provence in the months of June thru August
The balmy sunshine and brisk breeze made the walk through the town pleasant, as we looked at the different crafts and artwork for sale. One woman in her seventies, who was born and grew up in this town makes and sells perfumes, scented candles and decorative items that are most attractive and tempting. I came out of the little shop smelling of roses as she sprayed her best perfume on me.
We had lunch at a small restaurant that specializes in crepes of different varieties.
We returned home, and while Priya cooked a delightful veg meal, Krishna and I exchanged news, and watched the IBN TV channel and Modi’s election as the BJP leader in Parliament and his speech, which we appreciated for its eloquence and emotional appeal. Can only hope and pray the country moves forward under his leadership.
PS (I did say the trip was flawless, but the one tragedy was that the bottle of BITW Marmalade was broken and it took Priya most of the next three days cleaning out my suitcase of all the sticky delicacy – although she did manage to retrieve some of it. She did however pronounce it the Best in The World!)