Bonjour, Buenas Noches

Text by Naz Sahin
Photography by Serifcan Ozcan

Nicolas Jaar – Feeling Good (Nina Simone)
Remixes (2010)

It was August 2009, a few days after our wedding took place on a balcony overlooking the Bosphorus. We took a plane from Istanbul to Lyon. We rented a Citroën and drove away from the airport through pretty fields specked with hay stacks glowing under the afternoon sun.

French friends railed against the fact that we picked Lyon as the first stop of our trip and not Paris. True, Lyon did have colorless boulevards and tired shopping centers where we bought toothpaste and road maps but past the Saône and up the Fourvière hill, laid the Renaissance charms of the old city within a maze of cobblestone streets, passageways and stairs. Beneath them was College Hotel, a simple whitewashed building remodeled after old French schools. There, we arranged our belongings in white metal lockers before going to bed to wake up to a view of sun drenched rooftops and sat at old school desks in the breakfast hall to eat plain yoghurt out of miniature jars. We bought ripe apricots and peaches from the old grocer across the street that we packed for the funiculaire ride up the hills. Other times, in picture perfect bouchons, we enjoyed warm salade Lyonaisse with poached egg and lardons, slick lentils with slices of ham and fat quenelles alongside cheap beaujolais in heavy-bottomed bottles.

Bonjour buenos noches

After one such lunch, we rode for a day. We left the Rhone Valley and along the Dordogne, we drove all the way to Bordeaux, admiring French highway signage and stopping in small towns for cigarettes and Coca Cola. The night was setting in as we started circling the broad boulevards of Bordeaux. The hotel we ended up in offered thin walls, damp sheets and mosquitoes. Merely a little past dawn, we were prowling the now empty boulevards in search of breakfast. We found a small bakery that sold us apricot jam and a warm baguette that we split in the car as we left the city behind and headed to the Atlantic.

Bonjour buenos noches

Cap Ferret was where we stared at cormorants gleaning over the oyster farms, wandered along small shacks belonging to farmers and their dogs, and ate a basket of tiny strawberries, followed by buttered rolls, the quintessential seafood tower and cold white wine. Who told us about the perils of holiday traffic, I can’t remember but we decided to postpone the south-bound drive to the next day and made a few phone calls to the inns around from a roadside café, where locals chatted and sipped beer.

Bonjour buenos noches

We found ourselves a room in a pretty chateau within a vineyard and slept away the afternoon under mosquito nets. When we woke up, the owner put together a tray of cheese and ham, some potatoes, a little salad and apple tart for us along with yet another heavy-bottomed bottle of his own wine. We had those on the breezy terrace facing the dark groves, before we went back under the nets.

Read more in N˚4: Flight.