Friends of Mine

“Balcony” by Karen Ku

The friendships we make when we travel are unique, because we become close for a short period of time before becoming barely remembered names in the stories we tell, perhaps attached to photographs, for years and years.

I still tell stories about my friend Marek, who worked the hotel desk at London’s Casserly Court. Marek entertained my pal Tony and I on our drive from London to Stonehenge, nearly 30 years ago. Marek left his native Poland to work in a hotel desk in London. He had changed his name from Derek to Marek because he thought it sounded more English. Marek told us that he enjoyed playing music but his accordion was  “an instrument without a future.”

Some years later, I backpacked alone in Yugoslavia. I met a man named Marion walking along a dirt road. We attempted conversation, though we mostly laughed at/with each other. Marion and his wife and children shared their home with me for three days, and would not accept any money for the lodging.  I would buy chocolate bars for his two children and the other kids in the village. Marion, had very bad lungs from working in the mines, and he would occasional cough terribly. We were the same age.

I remember the O’Halloran family from Galway, Ireland – whose son Ferdia became our daughter Caleigh’s first “crush” (6 year-old Caleigh reversed the Claddagh ring on her finger, with the heart facing in to show that her heart was taken, as Irish girls will do.)

I remember Anna and Ugo, who lived in a small village outside Venice. Ana allowed my friend Mike and I into their building after we returned home well after Ugo’s curfew and were locked out. Ana snuck us into her kitchen without Ugo noticing, and gave us chocolate cake, quiet late night laughs, and warm Italian smiles.

I connected with these friends for a day or maybe a week, many years ago. Are we still friends? Are memories friends? Do they ever tell stories about me? I hope so.

Some of our new friends from our summer vacation in France:

Pascal and Catherine, who oversee tours of the Baptistry in a tiny village in Provence where we stayed for a week; the painter Jean Plense (aka “Non, Non”) and his wife Annie;

“Non Non” in jean jacket, at Bastille Day party. We dress alike, non?

Friends at Bastille Day party

Grizelda, who made the most delicious cold soup I have ever tasted; Michael who looks like Jimmy Page and his wife Nadine who speaks beaucoups languages brilliantly; Caroline the delightful Belgium curator and her girlfriends on their annual “girls night out” staying at the the Richelieu in Uzes; Karen and David – so sweet and brilliant (“thank you” for inviting us to dinner); Yannick and her handsome son Jean-Phillipe from Le Richelieu in Uzes.

There was Noel the Judge and his wife Dani, Caroline in Paris who made us a delicious breakfast and played tres jolie French chansons from her  MacBook’s “Napster” app (do we still have Napster at home?)

There were numerous cabbies, street musicians and dogs who became our friends, especially the Dachshund named “Jean” who is “very creative” according to his loving owner, Yannick.

Creative John
Jean, le “creative” chien

Also, some friends whose names we never asked:

– The British Uzes tourist info girl who asked in her lovely english accent if I had packed a “swimming costume” for our day-trip to the Pont du Gard
– Our charming waiter in Ils Sur La Sorgue, who came to Provence from his home in Minas Gerais, Brazil, where he produces coffee. (When not waitering, he bikes 22 miles from Ils Sur La Sorgue to Venasque, drinks a beer, and then pedals 22 miles back.)

Our Brazilian Friend
Our Brazilian Friend who cycles for a beer
Le Devil de Foie Gras

– The Froie Gras Man we met during a wine tasting, who gave me such unspeakable pleasures with his delicious jar of devilish delight, that the Marquis De Sade would be jealous.

I chatted with my friend “Michael Who Looks Like Jimmy Page” for a brilliant few hours at our Bastille Day party. Michael grew up in Manchester, and after we talked Brexit politics, the odious Trump, gun craziness in America, our favorite books, films and music, I mentioned I loved the Brit Invasion bands of the 60s, particularly the Zombies, who I recently saw reunited in the USA. And then, Michael smiles and reveals that his cousin is none other than the Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone.

Ha! Small world, indeed!

So, this song is dedicated to my new friend Michael (Who Looks Like Jimmy Page)
“Friends Of Mine” by The Zombies.

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