Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Oldest Profession

Due to overwhelming interest of a strange and twisted nature this post is about prostitutes.

The first few times we spotted them sitting in their parked cars along a minor route to one of our favorite market towns we thought maybe they'd broken down and needed help. Perhaps they were waiting for someone or just stopped to finish a phone conversation so as not to drive dangerously. And then we began to notice it was the same women and strangely they had their scantily-clad legs sticking out of an open drivers' side window or suggestively crossed halfway out of an open door while they smoked cigarettes languidly. In the summer they'll sit in a lawn chair reading magazines and catching some rays, bottle of water at their side like they're relaxing on la plage.
There are two that seem to be regulars and they respectfully distance themselves by a few hundred metres. Both await clients in small cars parked just off the two-lane highway. But the last time I went that way I noticed a third entrepreneur. And she was bringing the competition by being parked, wait for it, in an RV. Enterprising, non? And George W Bush said the French didn't know the meaning of the word 'entrepreneur'.
It's very creepy to see them there, waiting. And then, if they have a taker they're gone, car standing empty. Or in the case of the RV lady the curtains are drawn and the doors are closed. Actually, that's much, much creepier than them being there.

It reminds me of when my little family went to Italy for a holiday. We didn't have the Baby yet and the Big Kids were Little Kids. We arrived at the Rome airport and drove our rental car down to Sorrento. Alas, there was construction work around Naples and we got stuck in a detour traffic jam. While we sat in Neapolitan traffic in dusky rush hour we noticed the strangest thing. There were gorgeous, legs-to-heaven, hot pants wearing, African women placed every 50 yards or so, standing there looking bored, sometimes in groups of two chatting as the chain of cars moved slowly past.'What are all those ladies doing, Mommy?' Answer that one.
This bizarre experience prepared us for the reality that the roadside parked cars were 'businesses'. I tried to take a photo of one car for you but I was driving, using my phone, and didn't want to slow down too much as I'm sure you must understand. It's not like I can stop the car and ask for a photo now is it?

There you have it. The oldest profession is alive and well here in the South of France. That's something they don't tell you in the guide books.


  1. Fantastic post - I'm sure you'll win an award for that (not sure which one though?)

    Have you ever thought of expanding your horizons and doing the occasional post about local places, like St Guilhem le Desert, for example?

    All the best


  2. Well done, well done. You beat me to it! :) Quite a strange phenomena for an American. We have them up here in Lyon, bien sur, with their white RV, little curtains on all the windows.


  3. charley, it's tres bizarre!
    hope you're feeling better.

    keith, um. vicar ramsbottom, or whatever other odd british monty pythonesque name you can come up with,
    you are very welcome for the new knowledge. and i'm quite dubious about this award.


  4. So where do they go? Do they pop into the bushes on the side of the road or do they get into the stranger's car and go off with them? Crikey, that's dangerous.

  5. They wouldn't have minded if you had taken a picture. Of course, they would have charged you for it.

  6. Interesting, the topic could seem somewhat osé but infact, as you point out, these ladies are part of our reality. We can not ignore them,I only wish they could be better sheltered, for themselves and for our kids.
    I didn't know what a RV was, looked online and Recreational Vehicle seems very appropriate under the circumstances.

  7. The profession is still live and well in good ol' Paris as well--I routinely see the same few prostitutes working the Les Halles neighborhood and the scary part is that some of them are as old as the neighborhood...there's someone out there for everybody :)

  8. Kirsty, I don't know and I try not to think about that bit. It is so weird and yes, dangerous.

    Pepe, I'm sure you're right. But if I'd stopped I would have asked if they needed a bath, or some soup and then where would I be?

    I'm glad I taught you a new word. I do wonder what my kids think or if they even notice yet. Is there anything like this in Florence and have you heard of the ladies in Naples?

    Oh, Paris. Bien sur. The thing is some of those who look old are probably my age...

    I'm going to post something uplifting and/or interesting tomorrow as fast as I can.
    xo a

  9. Yikes! Yes, it's way icky & I feel quite the way you do... meaning, makes my stomach turn a bit!

    Honestly, I haven't seen them here yet...maybe just been a bit clueless...
    but I remember last summer we were driving in Piedmont, Italy...really in the middle of nowhere & pop - right along the highway a nice young lady with half her buns showing in stiletto to a farm. Talk about disconcerting - just happy we didn't have any kids with us like you did - double yikes!
    Guess more things change, the more they stay the same....

  10. Oh Aidan...

    You've got suuuuuch a big award waiting for you on Tuesday!

    Alert all of your family and friends.....

    Actually, come to think about it, it might be better if you didn't alert your family or friends (at least, not the more elderly or frail of them?)

    All the best


    P.S. I promise you that Mr Wrigglesbottom (or whatever his name was) is nothing to do with me at all!

    P.P.S. Could you ask Pepe Le Pew (just for journalistic purposes, you understand), umm... - exactly how much do they charge?

  11. when we lived in the 16th (Paris), near the Bois de Boulogne, it was such a fact of life that it affected our commute!
    one time Alex nearly swerved into another car while doing a double-take in the rear-view of an outfit that was downright shocking at 8:30 am.
    we couldn't cross the Bois in the evening because the "drive-thru" traffic of men stopping for a quickie on their way home made it unnavigable. the worst was all the used condoms strewn about the woods.
    my friend and i were jogging one sunny Sunday morning (no, they do happen on occasion in Paris!) and were surprised by a male jogger who popped out of a bush and continued to run in front of us, *sans short!* so i guess the professionals of the Bois also work weekends...

  12. I know a lot about these ladies because one of my husband's best friends is a long haul truck driver (I'm not stereotyping truck drivers, just this one in particular). In fact I know way more about these ladies then my little ears should ever hear.
    Also, most of the white vans parked around the outside of the walls of Avignon are prostitutes too. Just saying. x

  13. Ruby,
    That is awful. I can't imagine the 'drive-thru' service in the park...and on the way home from work! ugh!
    and a pit stop in the bushes while jogging?
    so gross. i'll take the peeing in the bushes any day.

    So that's who keeps the roadside business going.

    again, i'm very nervous about this award.

    Now we've mentioned it you'll see them everywhere! Avert your eyes.

    thanks for all the comments.
    aidan x

  14. Sounds like the old quarry on the former RN 110 between Castries and Sommieres near St genies de Mourgues.

    I drive that way, too !

  15. mpprh,
    I think you're on to something...


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