We were on the train en route to Toulon, headed to M’s wedding. To my right the sea whizzed past. I saw a few divers bobbing on the surface and wondered if there were reefs in the dazzling blue below.
I was armed with books. Before we left Hubby warned me about the number of train rides we’ll take on this trip (just us, I was apprehensive to bring baby this far and this high). I told him not to worry, that long train rides didn’t bother me as long as I had something to read. One of the books I brought was a dud — after page 49 it was suddenly page 248 — and I made a mental note to exchange it at Kinokuniya even though I had lost the receipt. “If they won’t take it, I’ll make them go viral!” I declared. He laughed, “No one would care.”
We flew to Nice and spent a day to experience a bit of the famed Côte d’Azur (as we may never get the chance again, I thought). The water was as blue as I imagined it to be. The blue was in three shades and the sky did its best to match. We passed cliffs dotted with what looked like villas and I remembered an old Garfield comic I read when I was really young where Garfield rattles off his wish list to Jon, ending with “…and a villa in the South of France!” I’m not sure why the phrase stuck with me after all these years. Perhaps I did not know what “villa” meant, or why a cat would want one. But now I think I do — the place is a dream.
We dropped off our bags at the hotel and had an unimpressive seafood lunch near the flower market. Afterwards we had a mojito, praline, and pistachio gelato from Fenocchio which was absolutely delicious and strolled along the promenade.
There were joggers — I wondered how they could jog without so much as a glance at that beautiful sea, how it was possible to live next to it every day and not at least look, stare, linger. People were sunbathing on the rocky beach — really ROCKY — it was just gravel everywhere and in places it was piled high in mounds. But the sun was out so I don’t think people minded. We watched two men play beach tennis with a pink ball that seemed undeterred by the breeze.
From Toulon we took a bus to Bormes les Mimosas, a small village with tiled roofs and houses all painted the same soothing peach hue. The church was here, Église Sainte Trophyme, and the wedding was that afternoon. We had time for a quick quiche and a shower. The stroll around Bormes would have to wait.
We got lost at first but a kind French lady left her shop to walk us to the right church. The interior of Église Sainte Trophyme was quaint and the same hue as the houses. Both of M’s sisters and her nanay were dressed in elegant Philippine terno dresses (“Para may representation!” said M’s ate) and of course most guests were from the groom’s side since it was his hometown. The sermon was delivered in English with most of the service — and M’s vows — in French. A lovely, simple service, with legal formalities at the end, and torotot distributed to the guests for when the couple exited the church. M’s ate did the bride’s makeup and arranged the rosebuds in her hair. “Sabi ko nga pwede rin pala magpakasal ng simple lang,” M’s nanay later said, when we were enjoying cocktails outdoors before the reception dinner. “Sa atin kasi…” and she trailed off, assuming I knew what she meant. (I did.)
The reception was at La Magnanerie which was a long drive from the church. We booked a cab to take us there. Two hours were allotted for guests to spend outdoors with pre-dinner Provençal apéro: wine, fruit juices, and various finger goodies which I thought were better than the dinner that followed.
I especially liked the anchoïade: a Provençal dip made from olive oil, anchovies, basil leaves, and garlic. At M’s reception the fresh vegetables were artfully arranged so it looked like they were growing in the anchoïade “soil”. I liked the baby radishes best.
Another favorite of mine was the freshly grilled meat station. I had my fill of bite-sized tender chunks of beef, marinated chicken, and blood sausage. A waiter went around urging guests milling in the gardens to help themselves from a bucket of foie gras (hell yes please two for me).
Speeches from families and friends (his in French and hers in English — but M’s ate delivered hers in French — “C’est magnifique!”). We were seated next to a banker and his girlfriend who asked questions about Singapore. (Is it true they don’t allow people with long hair in? Can you chew gum there? What’s it like living there? “It’s good for families,” I answered. “We don’t have kids,” he said.)
Unlimited dancing followed dessert but the tiredness took over. Honestly there were times too, that I felt like a fish out of water; I had used up my day’s supply of small talk. I wanted to go back to the hotel. Hubby and I hitched with a friend and left after taking Polaroids for the wedding guest book. I took one extra snap of us, for me.
The next morning we were up early and we had our chance to walk around Bormes. The mimosas the town was known for were not yet in full bloom but I could imagine what the streets and the house gates would look like whenever the season was right. The souvenir shops, with their postcards, sweet scented perfumes, ceramic jewelry, and bags of lavender and other dried herbs, were just starting to open. There was no one around.
We had tea and a croissant at the hotel cafe with a truly Provençal view (mountains, the peach houses with tiled roofs, blooms, and the startling blue sky with a single streak of white) and I thought to myself how difficult it must be to think of the rest of the world and its many troubles if I lived in a place like this.