Just One Sheet of Paper

Imagine walking into a factory that’s open to visitors for two hours daily. A sign on the door welcomes you, and says,

              ·       Do Not Smoke
              ·       Do Not Run
              ·       Do Not Shout
              ·       Do Not Touch Machinery
              ·       Do Not Leave Children Unattended
              ·       You May Ask Questions and Employees Will Try to Answer
              ·       Please Respect That People Are Working

These are your only instructions for a do it yourself tour of a working moulin d’huile d'olive, an olive oil mill.

I was stupefied as pallets of olive bins were moved into place, scooped up by heavy equipment, dumped into threshers, conveyed to washers and eventually sent to giant augers. There olives were crushed, mixed, and finally oil was extracted. This entire process was accessible to us, within inches, and we photographed each step. One worker noticed I missed something and opened a door so I could see into a hatch as an auger mixed and mashed olives. By “see” I mean stand over open equipment near enough to stick my hand inside were I mindless enough to do so. We were as close to the milling as one would be to the sink while washing dishes. 
Our experience included an olfactory assault but Joce and I figured an olive mill might have a strong parfum des olivesn’est-ce pas? I don’t like olives so the smell was pungent for me, but Joce loves them. Still suffering la crève (with all requisite nose issues), she hasn’t been able to smell (or breathe, actually) for nearly three weeks. But les olives brought her nose back to life. It was then she, too, needed to escape. 
While still in the mill we noted the factory was bright with natural light, huge windows enclosing three sides. Employees zipped around on forklifts, some with cleaned olives on board, others with olives awaiting threshing. It was our job to have fun and stay out of the way. At the same time workers worked, visitors explored in an environment any American manufacturing company would describe as nightmarish. The germs. The hazards. The insurance premiums. The accident. The lawsuit. The settlement. Quelle dommage.

I found it wonderful. One small 8.5 X 11 inch sheet of paper, neatly typewritten with instructions for our visit. I was left to follow the rules, act as an adult, take responsibility, and enjoy myself. Are you kidding?

But wait – there’s more! A hallway connected la cave, the winery, to le moulin. We were told by staff in attendance to turn on the lights, bouton de la lumière à gauche, and make ourselves at home. Customers came and went while staff filled various containers brought from home. Red, white, rosé, individual and commercial customers buying wine for a few Euros per liter right at the winery. Ah, c’est bon!

After our DIY tour of the olive mill I couldn’t help but think about how the U.S. handles events and products as though life needs a full-time chaperon. Do we raise perpetual children, who require unending parenting? 

I considered Independence Day fireworks shows we know longer have because small towns can't afford necessary liability insurance. What role does the American legal system play in cultural irresponsibility? The disclaimers and warnings printed everywhere to fend off attempts at a deep pockets score...

Caution: Contents Hot. That is the point of buying a cup of coffee, isn't it? When I purchase a new iron does someone really think I might iron my clothes while still wearing them? Or dry my hair while bathing? The olive oil mill left a simple note on the door, and we did our part. Nowhere did it say, don’t eat olives while in the thresher.

Dejeuner, le moulin et la cave, Chateau Virant was nearly as much fun as Le Clos des Oliviers. It was the simplicity of both experiences that brought such pleasure and delight. But especially at le moulin I knew I would never have been permitted to use my judgment to follow the rules had I been in the U.S.
Here, at Chateau Virant, I was encouraged to be an adult while exercising the curiosity of a child. I didn't know how much I'd been missing that.

With thanks to Provence Confidential


  1. I love your perspective on the laissez faire tour. I am glad to hear you were grown up enough to follow directions and came out the other end unscathed.

  2. We watch Sesame Street in my house. We're good cooperators!


Post a Comment

Random Favorites