by Jane Basil

In the Fall of 1991
I traveled to France
for a semester, No
one takes a Senior
semester abroad, but
my friend and I
both did- taking a
break from Art School
to go to Art School
in southern France.

She arrived first and
bought a rail pass.
She travelled Europe
I arrived via Paris,
stayed with a friend
in a tiny little

apartment that had an
elevator encased in
the spiral staircase
that could barely
hold my 125 pound
self and luggage

My memory of that visit
was terror and I didn’t
know that I was probably
just having continuous
anxiety and panic attacks.

The friend I stayed with
had a landlady that only
allowed overnight guests
without me having to pay

so I didn’t stay long, I
just needed to rest so
I could take the train
to Marseille in order
to get to Aix-en-Provence

Marseille was quick and
I made it to the Art
school to be told to go
on vacation, because it
was August still when

I arrived with virtually
no funds, just a credit
card that I used for
food and the occasional
travel by taxi. I found
a bank machine that would
dispense cash on my card’s
network and I was set.

I stayed at the City
University dorm and
went home with the
desk attendant to
Tourette Levens near
Nice. Wow, Nice you
say, think Nice in
the off season when
it was cold and windy
not so entirely nice.

I would get dropped off
in the morning by the
father of the dorm desk
attendant (let’s call
her Marie) and I walked
alone down the Avenue of
the Americas looking at the
beach and the closed shops

because tourists know to
visit in any month other
than August when all the
French people go on
vacation, duh, I did
not know, so I walked
and walked to a museum
that was closed, but I

met a cat who decided
I was her new best
friend and I petted
her and she became my
guide to relaxation
for an hour as I ate
my lunch on a bench

in the park. She
belonged to someone
could not have been
a stray to be so
affectionate to a
strange black girl
from so far away.

Then the Americans
showed up at the
museum door. I told
them it was closed
yet the red faced
father banged on the
door. I was embarrassed
so I moseyed along

not wanting to catch
anyone’s ire for the
rudeness of the group.
Disappointment- I under-
stood, rage but pounding
frightened me so I
started the long walk
back the way I came

stopping at a pharmacy
for feminine hygiene
products. Yeah, well
tampons and maxi pads
were not in my vocabulary
list in the 13 years of
French classes I had
taken, funny, but my
French English dictionary
saved my ass, literally.

I met at my designated
meeting spot and talked
about my day in terrible
broken French. The reason
I went with Marie was so
I could see the real France,
staying with her French
speaking family for a week.

Her mother was the pharmacist
of some stature in the little
village where you parked you
car in the square and walked
waaaaaaaaay up the winding

hills to the house. They
lived in the fog that
covered the mountain. I
could open my shutters early
each morning and stare out
the open windows it was
like living in a cloud

A novelty and an oddity to
the villagers as I stayed at
the peak of the mountain
in the beautiful house with
large glass windows. The
children and adults would

stare at me and ask if I
was from one of the African
French colonies, but I had
to explain over and over
that I was from the United
States. “J’habite aux Etat-Unis.”

I could sing songs and play
games in French, but my
conversations skills sucked
croissants, which were baked
fresh each morning along with
baguettes, yummy chocolate
filled ones and cheeseless
onion pizza, even more delicious.

I worked on my French with
the family and they discovered
my lactose intolerance, more
words Not in my portable
storage device that was still
stuck on stunned and shocked
by the beauty of the surroundings

and the foreign ness of my
self in the world of non
English speakers. Intolerant
was not in my dictionary so
we had to settle for allergic
As a goodbye present
the pharmacist had
the baker in town make a
milkless chocolate cake

for me. Oh heaven in a
cake, it was. Flakes of choco-
late made in a mold, slices
melted in my mouth.

End of Part 1
(I will have to search through photographs to find the picture of the cat and the view from my shuttered window)


19 thoughts on “My Great Adventure-Response to Jane Basil- Part 1

      1. I just had to assert a little more resistance to his changing the visitation schedule then blaming me for it. I told him that the schedule has been set for a year and all he had to do was stick to it and stop calling me when he realizes he missed a weekend though he was out of town anyway. “Not my fault, not my problem, gotta go, click…”

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Ok, here I go again, trying to post a comment which will disappear when I press send…
    This sounds exciting and scary to someone who was terrified of straying more than a couple of hundred miles from home when I was that age.
    These days, in the UK it is considered non-PC to refer to a person of your colour as black. I’m not sure whether it’s OK for me to refer to myself as a white woman. It’s a funny old world…


    1. Later I found the text where he offers to give me the weekend with the boys, then he left town without telling his sons where he was. I don’t want to know. I just don’t care, but I would think that a parent would want their kids to know where he was. I’ve been wrong about him so often, this doesn’t really surprise me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Married for 17 long years, but 2 were separated going through the divorce war, but I dated him first, so 21 years of involvement with him. I was blind for the first 8 years and in love. The rest was a struggle to stay married.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciate all you say, I was married 19 years when my Husband died, known him since I was 16yrs, he was 30 years older than me big mistake, but like you totally blind for years, then one sees the truth. It looks like he is either regretting the divorce or taking it out on you either way bad – you stay strong you have to.

    Liked by 1 person

Any thoughts on the above post are appreciated! Otherwise, I think I must be living under a rock.

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