Thursday, June 6, 2013

Here They Come


Starting to see the influx of summer immigrants in Argeles-sur-mer. They come from throughout France, England, Denmark, Germany, and all over Europe. A few Yanks, but for the most part Americans have not discovered this out-of-the-way haven.

Yesterday was a marche day, a combination farmer's and flea market in which the two main streets in the village are closed off in favor of kiosks bursting with color - everything from couscous to costume jewelry.

The year-round population of ASM only pushed past 10,000 as of 2009, but I'm told it swells in summer to around 100,000 with most of them toasting on the expansive sand beach.

I had dejeuner Anglais avec les oeufs bouilles et jambon at La Noisette this morning, topped off by tea noir avec meil et un eclair chocolat. And watched the nationalities stroll, stroller and cycle past my table.

You can generally tell the visitors from the locals pretty quickly. (I'm somewhat in between. I now live here but I am still absorbing the new sights.) The holiday tourists often have little backpacks to carry their maps and souvenirs and wander casually around the street, the women pondering whether to enter one of the little shops with the bright red two-piece too-small swimsuits on display, the men content to hang around the postcard rack and laugh with each other at the more risque photos.

Last summer, one of the summer regulars, a Brit, quickly tagged me as an American for the style shirt I was wearing. The shirt is no longer here (I left it in Dallas, only to be worn while visiting there). It's my intent to blend in here and simply enjoy the laid-back everyday pace. I also found out last year that you don't dare wear soccer (futbol) shirts that say Italia when in the south of France.

Some of the residents opt out in July and August, renting their places for enough to pay their entire year's mortgage, and escape to the cooler mountains. The waves of vacationers are especially rewarding for the local businesses, and there's a new vin cave hurriedly splashing bordeaux-colored paint on the corner storefront and staging bottles of chardonnay and the local banyuls in the side window.

I may reach a point, too, when I think it's too crowded and I yearn for the 10 months of the year when you can wander along the narrow, near-empty streets and see mostly people you know. But this is my first summer rodeo here, and I am an inveterate people-watcher, so I think I'll just go with the increasing flow. Then, at the end of the season, we 'locals' can sit around the cafe (without having to wait for a table), have an impromptu party, and chortle about some of the more amusing appearances and affectations of the dear departed visitors.

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