By Emily Benson-Scott
We arrived in France late Thursday night, hiking up to our rental in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, after a grueling day-long jet-lagged journey from Malpensa airport in Milan. I had originally intended to write a blog about how smart it was to save money by flying into a different country and taking cheap Italian trains to the border of France, but it turns out, that was a really stupid idea. So, I’m not going to write about that after all. Instead, what’s captivating me this year is the blend of the exotic and familiar. Living somewhere for three months and coming back after nine months makes a place feel at once foreign and comfortable. So, with the exception of the failed Milan Mission, everything has been going smoothly. Our neighbors were expecting us and and greeted us with big smiles, a basket of apricots and homemade orange marmalade. We are taking care of their cat while they go to Corsica, and they have already invited us over for Proseco. We speak a blend of English and French with them, and between that and body language, we manage to have fairly lucid conversations. It was nearly 10 pm when we got in from Milan so we quickly cooked up gnocchi and porcini truffle pesto we’d picked up in Italy and watched the moon lane streak across the Mediterranean.
On Friday, we went back to Italy to go to the Ventimiglia Market for fresh local eggplant, fennel, tomatoes, peppers, figs, artichokes, and a week’s worth of Parmesan cheese, lemon pasta and limoncello. Rob navigated flawlessly the whole way, having mastered the train and bus routes the previous year, and hauled a week’s worth of groceries in a giant suitcase from the bus stop in the medieval village of Roquebrune to our petit maison, nestled high in the cliffs. Another thing that made our lives easier this time around, was that we had already been through the exhausting process of learning how to hook up Internet last summer, so we were able to profit from the previous year’s detective work and generate a portable WiFi signal in time to meet deadlines for our online teaching. It all felt as familiar as an embrace from an old friend. And yet, walking around Roquebrune–looking down from the village precariously perched a thousand feet over the sea, inhaling the jasmine-infused dusk, and marveling at the magenta Bougainville overtaking every softly stuccoed wall–all felt thrillingly exotic. It was like being here for the first time, like falling in love all over again.