Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Breakfast in Manosque

He checked into his pensione on the Rue Du Poete late after a long, tiring flight to Marseilles and an 85 km drive to Manosque. Too tired for dinner, he fell into the single bed, kicked off his shoes, and fell asleep. He woke at 2 am and again at 3 and 5 and gave up at 6, got up, and shedding clothes as he went, staggered into the shower.

He stood in front of the small mirror drying off, glad for the fogged glass. The last thing he wanted to see so early were his red eyes, receding hairline, and the scars he had running horizontally across his chest, as if he'd been the victim of a badly botched radical mastectomy. "Daniel, you are messed up," he said to the misty apparition appraising him from the other side of the glass.

There was no one about in the pensione at this hour of the morning, so he walked about the Manosque city center admiring the golds and pinks of a morning sky reflecting in the windows of the old city. After about 45 minutes, he found himself in a quaint little square with flower baskets hanging from the lamp posts, where a Cafe Des Negociants was just opening. The waiter was still setting up the outdoor tables. He said good morning and motioned Daniel to sit.

Daniel's French was not good, but the waiter appreciated him trying and rewarded him with a café au lait, warm croissant, bread and butter, and a tiny jar of strawberry jam. Daniel found himself enjoying his modest breakfast in this small square on a cool, sunny morning in the South of France. He bit into his second croissant. No one made the buttery, flakey roll as well as the French.

When he returned to his pensione, Mademoiselle Marie, who must have been the oldest 'mademoiselle' in Manosque, insisted that he have breakfast. In her fractured English she informed him that the breakfast came with the price of the room, emphasizing the point by vigorously fluffing out her apron. He hesitated to inform her that he'd already eaten somewhere else, and so he lied and said he was very late for his meeting at the Cadarache Research Centre. The Mademoiselle, glancing over her shoulder at the wall clock, looked at him suspiciously. Daniel knew what she was thinking, Someone in France will be working at 8 am?

Making his excuses about showering, finding his way on unfamiliar roads, reviewing his papers for the meeting, and several other things at which Mademoiselle Marie puffed her breath out in scorn, retreated to his room. Even though he'd already showered, he felt compelled by some twisted sense of morality to do so again. By the time he'd dressed and walked down stairs with briefcase in hand, his arrival hour at Cadarache after the 50 minute drive would seem to be reasonable. His meeting however, wasn't until 1400.

As Daniel made to say au revoir, one French expression with which he felt fairly comfortable, Mademoiselle Marie handed him a small basket and said, "Le petit déjeuner."

Daniel drove up Chemin Docheur Gerard Durbet to Mont d'Or, parked, and ate his second breakfast under an olive tree while admiring the view of the Durance River. He could make out Av. de la Liberation below, and the A51 that would take him to Cadarache, where he would learn about the ITER fusion center's work to help meet mankind's future energy needs. He fed bread to a pair of European Goldfinch, and then left for his drive to Cadarache.

1 comment:

  1. The Cadarache Research Center is the home of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a project to build the world's most advanced tokamak experimental reactor to help transition the world to fusion energy.


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