To make Apt something that it isn’t would be misleading, and will only make readers mad who go to Apt and realize it’s not something that it’s not. Apt is an old market town. Most of the people who live there are either retired people or owners of a second home. There is a river (that runs through its village and serves as a pivotal point) that is so weak that barely has any water in it but nevertheless requires several little bridges for one to cross over. Radiating from the town central square which contains the Police Station, the Post Office, and the Office of Tourism, are scores of pastry shops, haircutteries, clothing stores, cafes, restaurants, laundromats, and pharmacies. A significant population of Moroccan immigrants live in the town. People seem to spend 2 hours for breakfast, 2 hours for lunch, 1 hour for afternoon drinks, and 3 hours for dinner. This tempo nearly grinds to a halt, if you, the North American can stand it. Yes, it really does take 2 hours to eat a scoop of sorbet, or down a beer. And, the shops and all municipal establishments, including the Police Station, close between noon and 3PM.
Stray dogs and cats are not uncommon, and dogs poos are not picked up, so they are quite common on the cobbled stone streets. Everyday at 8AM, the construction crew who are there to renovate the apartment upstairs show up with the van and start hammering and drilling, and they’re gone by 5PM. Everyday the town’s church bell starts to ring at 7AM and ends at 10PM. Everyday school aged children come home at about 3PM. Farmer’s markets promptly end at 1PM. Gas stations have no attendants on the weekends, and do not accept American credit cards. You’ll need to get with the rhythm of this town, or you will starve, and you will not get very far. Everyday, old men play a game involving little iron balls on sand in the park. Laundry hang from the windows. This is where people live and vacation really.
I had the pleasure of living right in the smack middle of this action. On the second day I was extremely motivated to explore to find my car, and to make it to dinner at the restaurant that had turned down my credit card. The only problem, and this was a big one, was that all the turns and streets looked exactly the same to me, and I was lost in this Roman city for hours. I literally spent the entire day walking the narrow streets and the tiny alleyways trying to get my bearings and being distracted by all the different stores/the church/the library/etc. Not speaking a word of French except bonjour and merci, it must have been borderline dangerous, because the same people who sat for hours eating and drinking outside saw me walking back and forth, clearly lost.
At one point, I found the front entrance of my building’s door opened–a group of people who spoke a few words of English were waiting outside, and they stated that one of their friends had gone inside of the building to look for a lost cat. Without a known social context, I had no way of interpretating whether it was the truth what they were telling me. I waited until they were gone, and made sure to lock the door, and went back to the streets to look for that restaurant again, now in the 4th hour of looking.
At night, all tasks completed, the exhausting but satisfying day ended. The lasagna at dinner at the restaurant was beautiful (Restaurant “Le Platane” 13, rue Jules Ferry 84400 APT, Tel 04 90 04 74 36). I returned home from the bustling town center to my “cave.” I spent a long time trying to figure out how to close these ancient French doors and windows (the locks on NYC apartment doors are a piece of cake comparing to this). Once again, I tried to fall asleep despite the jetlag. But in this giantic “cave” I left a light on in the living room because it would have been too scary otherwise. Then in the middle of the night, I heard a noise in my bedroom. I couldn’t believe it. I listened again, and the noise happened again. There was someone in my room.