A three-day weekend alone stretched out ahead of me. Expresso and Attenderella went off to enjoy a weekend gift I'd given them long ago—a night in the Cévennes, a cultural region and range of mountains in south-central France.
They stayed in a glass pyramid-type accommodation at a romantic resort where they could sleep under the stars. They had a private hot tub near their tent and a communal one inside the main building. Breakfast with homemade goodies and carafes of coffee and tea were included.
During that weekend, their two teenagers were fully engaged in doing what teenagers do. For my part, I had two major writing assignments to complete and looked forward to the solitary hours. Since I would have minimal interruptions, I hoped to finish the projects.
Poochi Needs Attention
My "minimal interruptions" turned out not to be so minimal. I ended up dog-sitting Poochi. I had to feed him in the evening, and a neighbor would walk him.
No one, however, conveyed this plan to Poochi. Due to the absence of his owners, every few hours he would whine until I took him to his family's home two doors from mine. He did not believe me when I told him that everyone was away. He had to check with his own nose and eyes.
When he found his home empty, he would obediently return to spend more time with me. Clearly, I was not his preferred choice of company. But he was good about sleeping quietly on my bed at night.
By mid-afternoon on Saturday, I had completed my writing assignments. I had other writing work I could do, but nothing appealed to me. I thought about sewing projects that were awaiting my attention. Nope. Didn't feel like that either.
The best I could come up with was binge-watching a Netflix series with a big bowl of caramel ice cream. But that seemed too wickedly self-indulgent. I settled on finishing a book I was reading—The 19th Wife—and taking a nap.
A Chance to Practice French
I checked my cell phone one more time before leaving my office, an upstairs bedroom I'd appropriated for that purpose. An email from a wonderful neighbor I've come to know here in France invited me to join her and her husband for Syrian food at La Grande Motte. If I accepted, I should meet them at my entrance gate at seven.
I jumped at the opportunity. Whenever these new friends and I are together, they practice their English, and I practice my French. It's nothing short of a miracle that we communicate.
Their pleasant company notwithstanding, I was thrilled to go to La Grande Motte, a resort community on the Mediterranean about twenty-five minutes away. Besides being beautiful, the seaside town would be cooler than Castelnau-le-Lez.
If you haven't read about it, southern Europe has been suffering through a heat wave comparable to the heat wave hitting the Southwest US. I would get out of the city for a few hours and be near my favorite place—a body of water, be it a lake, sea, or ocean.
Sémiramis Restaurant, a five-star Syrian restaurant, was in a section of La Grande Motte that I hadn't explored. We ate outdoors with a view of the sea no more than a half-block away. The park that ran the length of the seaside area was filled with glass statues of slender women and large balls hanging from trees.
The lights inside the statues and balls grew brighter as the sun set. The scene was so beautifully imaginative that I was at a loss for words to describe it.
One of my friends ordered couscous, and the other ordered feuilleté d'émincé d'agneau, a sort of minced lamb with spices. And I ordered my "go-to" favorite—fish. When I asked the waiter, who spoke a bit of English, what kind of fish was being served that night, he couldn't give me a name. He did volunteer, however, that the fish tasted good despite being exceedingly ugly.
While we waited for our orders, we had light beers with lemon that were delightfully refreshing.
We finished our dinner with assorted cakes, figues avec des noix, and coffee.
By now it was dark, and the otherworldly statues were aglow. A slight mist made the scene surreal—straight out of the imagination of a writer who would come up with the idea for a park on the water's edge.
Little did I know that the evening had yet another surprise in store. Syrian music began, and a Syrian dancer—a woman—came out in a bejeweled costume. As she danced, she wove in and around the tables. I watched her stomach rolls, fascinated with the muscles she was moving around.
When she retired, her male counterpart came out and danced. He was equally adept at moving muscles I can only assume I have.
Some of the patrons stuck bills in the clothing of the dancers. I checked my wallet, and I didn't have any bills. My generous impulse had to be checked.
A stroll back to the car through the sculptures ended the delightful evening. I wasn't home long before midnight—the hours had passed quickly. Poochi was very excited to see me, and now I had inspiration for my writing.
A contemporary American novelist, Erin Morgenstern, wrote, "The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.”
My night at La Grande Motte confirms her conviction.