The south of France. Aix-en-Provence. Sounds pretty tony, right? We thought so to, but were willing to give it a go anyway. It is conveniently located near the intersection of two major highways and a central point for many of the things we wanted to see on our France trip.
Driving in, we were impressed by its majestic squares, shaded avenues, mossy fountains, and elegant mansions. We checked into our hotel and went to dinner. We went to Place des Cardeurs because it is a big piazza with lots of restaurants to choose from and outdoor seating. It wasn’t anything fancy (he had a pizza and I had a big salad).
Right after our food arrived, we saw a scuffle on the sidewalk between the terrace where we were eating and the restaurant. It was a Saturday night and a bit early for a bar fight, but hey, the local culture is different everywhere. All of a sudden, one of the combatants pulled a knife out of his pants.
Do you remember the scene in Crocodile Dundee where Paul Hogan says “that’s not a knife, THAT’s a knife.” This guys knife made Paul Hogan’s look like a butter knife. He had a machete. What’s more, he was swinging it around. The two guys (for the ease of explaining things, we’ll call them the Surly Drunks) jumping Mr. Machete both got slashed. Waitstaff on the terrace borrowed cell phones and to cal the police. By that point,
we’d I’d stopped eating…for the rest of the night.
Since it was two on one, Mr. Machete took refuge inside the restaurant. We found out later that he was a local business owner; the area businesses clearly knew him. The manager, servers and kitchen staff barred the door to separate (and protect) everyone until the police arrived. The Surly Drunks outside were bleeding, possibly high, probably in shock and definitely not rational. The Surly Drunks kept screaming for the him to come out and were talking a lot trash. When he didn’t exit the restaurant, they tried, unsuccessfully, to force their way in. The posse of servers, managers and cooks stopped them. Angered by their failure, the Surly Drunks began breaking bottles and brandishing them. They cut a cook before dropping the bottle in favor of hurling giant planters. They threw some punches too. He said they threw the punches like NBA players, not like hockey players. Realizing they sucked at hand to hand combat, the Surly Drunks stopped throwing punches and started throwing chairs.
I’m not saying that police in the US always respond promptly (especially in certain neighborhoods), but we were astounded by how long it took the police to arrive in the center of town. It took them at least 20 minutes to arrive. Thank goodness the cooks had come out of nearby restaurants and followed the Surly Drunks so that the police could track them down.
The police arrived and went inside to interview Mr. Machete. Paramedics came, tended to to the cook and took him away. We’re pretty sure he had to go to the hospital for stitches because the slash on his neck was pretty ugly.
Jean Reno plays and excellent French police officer in movies (Leon: The Professional, Ronin, The Da Vinci Code, French Kiss). The police we saw didn’t appear to be as professional. They seemed to be more like Louis de Funès in the Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez. I saw them put evidence (multiple bloody shirts) in an old, balled up H&M bag. Obviously they do not watch CSI.
Go figure. I saw more violence in the south of France than during the years I lived in Detroit. Have a great weekend and stay safe!