It was where an adventure began. Everything had the charm of novelty—learning how to grocery shop, what was available over the counter in a pharmacy, the virtues of pointing and pantomime, that it was okay to drink wine at lunch, what a wealth of cheeses there was to explore, that the French know their way around a tarte citron, and what it was like to live in a language and culture not my own.
There was the thrill of standing on an exposed section of the Roman road—not cordoned off but there to stand on, and boats going through the lock of the canal, and sunshine, blue sky, and flowers even during the winter. When we walked a geocaching trail on the Canal de la Robine on a golden day in December, I realized that I was over feeling that Christmas should be cold and snowy!
There were day trips—learning to drive standard shift as a teenager came in handy since automatic-shift rental cars were hard to come by—that took us to interesting places. We explored the countryside around the city and the nearby seaside towns. Along with navigational triumphs (and mistakes), we seemed—every single time we came back into town—to drive the length of Boulevard Marcel Sembat at least three times. We also discovered, and to this day, still say, that the last 30 kilometers are the longest.
There were things to dislike of course: an annoying amount of dog poop on the sidewalks, the mistral blowing for several days in the winter, the frustrating self-serve gas stations that didn’t take cash or our credit cards (because they didn’t have the security chip needed) when we wanted to refill the gas tank of a rental car late at night. Set against that were great meals and friendly people and beautiful sights.
While you can’t go back and there will never be another first time, it was lovely to return to Narbonne recently, walk streets still familiar, visit favorite places, and enjoy the charm of memory.
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