Slypsteen’s Corner

The Red English Sports Car in Tourtour

By Kobus de Villiers


Our cabin fever is beginning to become unbearable! What makes the currently extended hibernation at least tolerable is the promise that once we have had our vaccine shots, we could travel again. 

Funny how the world has changed. Normally our cat has to have his shots so that he could relax at the Cat Hotel, while we had to take off our shoes, belt, jacket, and watches to get through airport security.

Heaven knows what airport security is going to be like post-Covid! 

With the tantalizing prospect of traveling again, we had to remind ourselves about the long-lost art of exploring new and strange places other than the nearest chemist and our local supermarket. We revisited our last holiday (and visit with the family) in France by scrolling through our collection of ‘I was there’ photos.

The narrow black-and-gray asphalt strip winds steeper and steeper between the rocky hills. Our little red English sports car was snorting and grunting up the incline.

The worst heat of summer is now over, but it’s still lovely sunshine and blue skies. Just perfect to drive topless, but a hat and sunglasses are still essential. 

It is the beginning of September; late summer and fall will soon be on the way. Fortunately, the new school year begins soon. All the Parisians and German tourists with their noisy children are somewhere in a traffic jam on the way back along the A7 l’autoroute du Soleil between Lyon and Marseille.

This is the best time of the year to wander around the endless valleys in the Maritime Alps’ foothillsund at the last turn, and Chateau Tourtour’s ancient stone towers welcome us.

The picturesque village consisting mainly of medieval houses huddled around the shady central square. Place des Ormeaux, named after the ancient trees surrounding the dry gravel patch. The best place to spend the day, where people move their tables, chairs, and glasses of Pastis, like a sundial, following the shade as the day progresses.

In the distance, there are the misty sharp-backed mountain ranges of the Maures, the Luberons, and the Ste. Baume. That’s probably why Tourtour’s nickname is ‘village dans le ciel,’ or village in the sky. From afar, one can see it squats on the horizon to dominate the rest of the landscape. 

The family’s picnic basket reveals a collection of snacks that only French women can conjure up, and we uncork a bottle or two of Gosset Brut Excellence here on the grassy shoulder of the mountain. White linen napkins and long-stemmed glasses, knives, and forks; these people do not eat with their hands. 

Excited French and Italian grammar was swirling around in the sunshine. Just when I am getting concerned that it’s going to turn into a big argument, I realize they’re just catching up on the latest family news and gossiping about Tante Corrine’s family in Corsica. 

Their cozy, animated way to be together. Lots of gestures and exuberant sign language. Much more alive than where I come from.

This stuff is good! I cut another slice of Saucisson and slide it off the pocketknife’s blade with my thumb and into my mouth. Just like my brother-in-law. See, I am learning. A fragrant, thick, herbed French sausage, probably where the Voortrekkers got the idea of ​​‘droeë wors’ from.

Although I cannot comprehend much of the hand gestures, facial expressions are universal—my adopted family. People of my ancestry, but my side of the family had to make a slow detour via Africa before I could visit here again.

They are again talking about the ‘old’ family still living on Corsica, and the only link seems to be Tante Corrine.

Speaking of Tante Corrine, we’ll be staying with her for a few days. She serves the most delicious breakfast, with freshly baked croissants and steaming black coffee, on her back porch with a view that makes your eyes water. 

We are going to snoop around in the area and just breathe a little peace of mind.

Little red sports car and tourtour
Little red sports car and tourtour
Little red sports car and tourtour
The shady central square, Place des Ormeaux.
The tourist season is over and it is easy to find parking.
Tante Corrine’s back porch, the best place to enjoy freshly baked croissants and steaming black coffee early in the morning.
Little red sports car and tourtour
Little red sports car and tourtour
Little red sports car and tourtour
Our picnic spot. Shimmering in the distance are mountain ranges of the Maures, the Luberons and Ste. Baume. Cold Gosset Brut Excellence seems to have an additional special effect on the tongue here.
Wonderful little places to explore and menus to experience. The view is included.
Arriving at Tourtour in our little English sports car.
Kobus de Villiers is a retired aeronautical engineer. He grew up in the Free State. After serving in the Bush War, he lived, worked, and studied in several countries around the world. He still does some consulting and builds contraptions in his workshop. He lives with his French wife in Vancouver, Canada. He shares his stories and photos with Howzit on this blog, aptly called “Slypsteen”

Kobus’ books can be ordered on Amazon.

In South Africa, you can find his books through Malherbe Uitgewers.

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