On our way from Montpellier to Albi, where we headed for a few days of New Year’s Eve festivities, we made a short stopover at the small, sleepy, quaint – and very French, town of Lodève. As I came out of the car, parked on a street in the town’s center, I came face to face with a door: above it, inscribed with tiny tiles was the word onze (‘eleven’) and below, on the ground in front of it was written ‘ave’.
As in, you know, Eleventh Avenue! As in, you know, New York City! In this town that couldn’t be any less similar to the Big Apple. (I already wrote about the tendency to (often mistakenly) ascribe familiar meanings to that which is unknown, here).
Believe it or not, though, it turned out that there is no Eleventh Ave in Lodève. (The roads there, if you must know, have perfectly appropriate and very French-sounding names, like for example Avenue de la République, Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville and Chemin des Amoureux.) In this case, the onze was simply the number of the street where the building stood, whereas the ave before the threshold did not signify an abbreviation for avenue, but rather a greeting salutation, an old way of saying hello, or hail, if you will (same one as in Ave Maria). So, there you have it.
Strangely enough, at roughly the same time last year, I found myself standing on New York City’s streets on the outskirts of Sofia. I’m going to go ahead and assume this is a sign that I need to renew the tradition of spending New Year’s Eve in New York, which I did for much of the past decade.