Our next couple of days in Lacoste were fairly relaxed with visiting some neighbouring villages and a lavender museum; visiting a bit more with our host Finn; and meeting, visiting with, and photographing a very unique local individual.
Tuesdays in Lacoste is market day. The market is very small with only a few tables. After buying some tomatoes we continued to climb up towards the Chateau. While checking out the SCAD store where they sell items that students have made, Finn caught up with us and offered to show us one of the private gardens in town that he looks after. Naturally we jumped at the offer. Finn originally designed the gardens for the previous owner, an author and playwright. They were absolutely beautiful with an amazing view out over the valley and, upwards to the Chateau.
After leaving Finn we continued up the hill to the Chateau.
Heading back down the hill, I picked up our car, drove back up to the Chateau to pick up Susan, and it was off to Menerbes to explore and have lunch.
That evening we enjoyed another local event … the Pizza Truck. Actually a trailer, the mobile pizza maker comes to town every Tuesday evening. I am happy to report that the pizza was excellent!
The next morning, while enjoying a coffee on the terrace after taking some early morning photos, Finn called down to me “Grab your camera and come meet Aristide”.
We had seen Aristide around the village a few times over the past few days and he certainly seemed harmless enough. Most people, and we were no exception, would form certain generalizations, based on first impressions, about Aristide. Some would be true, some would be completely false. Finn had formed a special bond with Aristide, in part due to Finn having shared similar kinds of experiences at various times in his life. Most mornings he makes coffee for Aristide and in general looks out for him.
Aristide turned out to be a fascinating and very likeable fellow. I quickly discovered that he loves having his photo taken. An alcoholic, he truly lives day to day. He asks nothing of anybody and takes no government assistance. What little money he lives on he earns by doing odd jobs for people around town. He has squatted for 14 years in a house left vacant due to legal wrangling in an inheritance dispute. Finn told me that he has never seen Aristide have a down day, even on days he is hungry with no food or no money. He is a free spirit who lives a life of his choosing and, as I mentioned earlier, asks for no handouts from anyone.
I also discovered that he has quite a sense of humour, at one point he and Finn launched into a verse of one of his favourite songs, “Money, Money, Money” from Mama Mia. “Money is good” he said with a grin, then burst out laughing. Finn told me that Aristide has been in a couple of short films Finn has made. In one of them Aristide plays the part of a famous tree surgeon from Montreal who assists with a heart transplant in a table … yes, a table. I have seen the “patient” and it is “alive” and doing well in Finn’s house with its new heart. Finn later sent me a link to the video and it is quite hilarious. If you are interested in watching it, the link is Heart Transplant
Aristide is truly one of the most interesting and complex individuals I have met. There is a lot about his life he has told Finn, there is a lot that he has not divulged. While his eyes twinkle, his face tells the story of a very hard life.
Later that morning we toured a nearby Musée de la Lavande where we learned about growing, harvesting and distilling lavender into an essential oil. When you learn how many kilograms of lavender it takes to distill one litre of oil it gives a better understanding as to why the oil is so expensive.
After our visit to the museum we drove to Gordes to explore the village and to have lunch. Built on a hillside it is yet another beautiful medieval French village.
In the afternoon we continued on to Apt where we enjoyed a coffee at a very good coffee house/street cafe before doing a bit of grocery shopping.
On the way back to Lacoste we stopped at Pont Julien. Built by the ancient Romans around 300 BC, it was in the main road from Rome through France. Aside from the three main arches it also has two smaller openings designed to reduce the risk of damage from floods. Obviously the design and construction worked well for 2000 years as the bridge was in use until 2005 when it was replaced by a newer bridge!