We first came across it on a Sunday morning when we went to explore the farmer's market. In the middle of what I suppose must be the town square, there were booths peddling everything from Alpaca sweaters, to statues of the Buddha, to home-made fruitcake.
People were dressed in all kinds of terrible clothing - ranging from what looked like burlap sacks, to what could have been the carcass of a dead dog - walking around smoking pot and flipping their deadlocked hair in the wind.
Meaghen and I were thoroughly enchanted. So much character was infused into this town.
We went back during the week, found a Cafe that we liked and decided that Esperaza was worth visiting AT LEAST two days a week. It didn't hurt that, being a cookie monster, Meaghen found a bakery which makes cookies fit to force her into a swoon.
Esperaza's charms grew - the supermarket carried a particularly good kind of smoked salmon, the cafe served a very tasty green-mint tea and produced a lovely cafe au lait, and the way the light filtered through the trees and onto the river was particularly magical.
Slowly, oh so slowly, though, we started to notice things.
Almost every person we saw was either excessively tattooed, or carrying about 10.5 pounds worth of piercings on various parts of their body.
The terrible clothing was not limited to the attendees of the Sunday market: it seemed to be a daily occurrence, and something that did not improve on further viewing.
We decided that Esperaza is possibly the ghetto of the surrounding area. Perhaps it is equivalent to a trailer park. Maybe this is where ex-convicts are condemned to. Possibly it is a hippie commune. Any and all of these options seem feasible.
Beyond that, though, the town has the weird feeling of being a completely alternate universe. You can walk the length of a street and not see one person or moving car, or the hint of movement from any house. This is contrasted with the fact that music is pumped very loudly into all the streets of the town. Speakers mounted on buildings insure that, no matter where you roam, you are inundated with music. Not just any music, mind you, but loud, pounding, club-type music.
There are few things more strange than walking down a completely deserted street in a quaint French town, accompanied by LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem.
Yesterday, having settled in at the cafe, we took a look around and noticed that everyone was shooting back shots or drinking wine. In the morning. Well before lunch-time.
As we tried to figure out if drinking this early on in the day is a French thing, or merely an Esperaza thing, one of the men who had been standing around with his buddies came up, grabbed Meaghen by the shoulder, kissed her on both cheeks, turned to me and did the same, tipped his cap, and then walked off.
We stared at each other, bewildered. The other patrons of the cafe seemed briefly interested, then gave a collective shrug and returned to their alcoholic endeavors.
There was nothing for it, but for us to do the same, except that we were drinking coffee, not Rose.
As I sipped, I watched little kids wander around amongst their madly smoking parents, drinking Coke and yammering away to each other. Old men walked by with baguettes under their arms shouting greetings to anyone they passed. Motorcycles sped by driven by barely pubescent boys.
Perhaps, I thought, I had been judging the town too harshly. It all seemed perfectly normal.
And then she walked by. A beautiful woman. And yet...she wore tight tan pants.....tucked into olive green wool knee socks embroidered with little fairies. That's right. Her socks were pulled up OVER her pants, all the way past her knees.
Weird. So weird.