Living in Provence: Toothless hag does Provence

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Living in Provence: Toothless hag does Provence
Before I moved to France, I came every winter to baby-sit my friends’ eight cats in their feudal chateau in Provence. Invariably, my last day in New York would be spent in the dentist’s chair, hoping to wrap up whatever ongoing dental disaster was presenting itself at the time. One year, the day after I’d landed in Paris, I was on my way to the Musée d’Orsay when I felt a rush of pebbles, hard little rocks, in my mouth. A large piece of my latest denture had crumbled and, 5,000 miles from home at the beginning of a three-month stay, I was to be a toothless old hag. My New York dentist had given me the name of an implant specialist in Paris. I phoned Dr. S.’s office. He had gone to Israel for a week. I was leaving Paris for Provence in 2 days.   Numerous soufflés later, I arrived at the chateau here in Nyons to baby-sit the cats and deal with the denture. On his return, Dr. S. recommended a specialist in Avignon, about an hour away. The specialist was leaving that afternoon for a ski holiday. I set up an appointment for his return.   As a precaution against infection, he prescribed antibiotics, which I picked up at the local Pharmacie des Plantes. When I asked how they should be taken, the handsome young pharmacist in his white doctor’s coat gave me an odd look. I rephrased my question, always concerned about the correctness of my French. Should one take them before or after eating, I inquired. He looked perplexed and I thought I detected a tickle of a smile creeping into the corners of his lips. He replied with what sounded like “suppose it were.” Puzzled as to how to answer and in what language, I repeated my question. He then elevated and wiggled his derriere, repeatedly pointing at it.   I took a quick look at the back of my coat, thinking one of the cats had done something dreadful. Seeing my alarm, he got another pharmacist and the two of them did the strange little pantomime dance, shaking and pointing at their fesses. Ooooohhhh, the antibiotics are in suppository form. I laughed, pointing at the pillbox and at my own posterior. Yes, yes, they laughed. Haha. By the end of the week, I’d developed a yeast infection. I knew the pharmacie was well stocked with over-the-counter remedies. But how to say “yeast infection” in French?  The dictionary was not helpful. I phoned a woman friend; she wasn’t home. Her husband, always the expert, said, yeast infection? Oh, that’s simple, just say “infection de levure". Feeling confident, I trotted down to the pharmacie in the 14th century Place des Arcades. A pretty young woman in a white coat assisted me. I quietly told her I needed something for “un infection de levure dans ma vagine.”   Horrified, she asked me to repeat myself. She became even more distressed, so I repeated each word slowly and in a louder voice, praying no one could hear. A look of total despair came over her face, she disappeared into the back and returned in an agitated state with a jar of enormous yeast pills. No, I said, “dans ma vagine, yeast in my vagina!” Several elderly customers turned around, mouths agape, eyes wide in shock. The girl looked as if she were about to cry and ran to get an older pharmacist who apparently knew some English. "Oh," she sighed, "you have champignons, mushrooms, in your vagina!"   The following week, the mushroom situation under control, I set out for Avignon in my friends’ ancient Peugeot. Driving up and down steep sides of mountains (ironically named the Dentelles) on narrow winding roads with a stick shift is not my concept of pleasure. Especially not with French drivers mistaking the route for the track at LeMans. After an hour and a half’s drive, I arrived, shaking, in Avignon two hours early, 45 minutes of which was spent trying to park the car inside the walled city. Next to locate the office of Dr. R. Number 1 Portail du Magnanen. Not far on the map from the Rue de la Republique, the main drag and one street in Avignon I knew.   I arrived 15 minutes early for my appointment. Number 1 Portail du Magnanen was an abandoned building. I checked my datebook. Not #1 Portail du Magnanen but #1 Portail du Matheron. Feverishly, I pulled out the map. Oy! The other side of town! Through crooked winding streets, cobble-stoned alleys I ran.   I had been filled with curiosity—and apprehension—over what a French dentist’s office would be like. Dr R’s was state-of-the-art with a divine chaise-lounge for a chair. Dr. R was young and charming and we went through the obligatory round of French hellos, which took around five minutes. Then he had a look. Not good. It would take several visits, including at least one where I would have to leave my teeth, so to speak, in Avignon overnight. He could see me at the end of the week. Please, I begged, could he temporarily glue the offending denture back together until then. He obliged, but warned the job was fragile at best.   Bolstered by my more stable mouth situation, I decided to explore Avignon. His office was in the lively old Carreterie quarter, which was full of friperies, something I can’t resist. I bought a Souleiado print blouse for…
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