Well just as I had hoped, France has opened its arms and taken us in. Don’t listen to those who tell you that the French are cold or crusty, wary of the ugly North American. We have, in just 12 short days met the warmest, kindest people imaginable. Every single person I have encountered so far has been kind, welcoming, happy to help me along with my terrible French. It reminds me a bit of Newfoundland.
Take the other day. I had been looking at a bicycle and after a couple of visits to the store that sells lawn mowers, chain saws and French bikes (ah the country life), I settled on the Gitane e-bike. After several ungraceful attempts to get it into the demon car, we gave up. So they said they would deliver it later that night and 9 o’clock the lovely store owner pulled up with the van, came in had a look around the house, tried out his English for a bit then off he went wishing us well. Apparently he spent a lot of time looking for the house but was sweet as pie as was the lady who sold it to me.
But the real prize so far has been The Farmer, think young, dark Gerard Depardieu and The Wife, tiny, blond woman with a big smile. They own the house we are staying in and have lovingly restored it from a wreck to a house that is magnificent. They thought of everything, electronic shutters, lights above the river so at night the water glows, soft beds, a kitchen with everything you could imagine, fresh flowers everywhere, plenty of wood for the fireplace. They have done an amazing job on the renovation. But beyond that they are incredible hosts.
They came to show us how everything worked. Then they came to the door with farm tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, and eggs laid that morning (maybe from Maxine?). Then they came and invited us to dinner at their house! I was so excited but also nervous about sitting at the table, mute and feckless, nodding at anything that sounds familiar. What do we bring here, what is impolite here, what will we eat? What to wear? It’s so casual here. Last night the weather girl on TV was wearing tight jeans, and a tank top that when she turned to the side showed the black bra, messy hair, very odd. She looked like she was ready to go to a college café for the afternoon. So how casual is too casual?
Anyway, caution to the wind because this was it, my first invitation to a French house. I would do the best I could and hope that the evening didn’t end in violence from me saying something terribly insulting.
So wonderful was this evening that it’s hard to capture it. There was champagne and traditional cheese puff things (gougéres, to die for). There was a white wine from Beaune, a red from Beaune as well to compliment the simmered lapin (rabbit) dish, a zucchini and bacon casserole, then local cheeses, then a pear tart (made by Michel), all fresh food from the farm. The food and wine was as fine as that found in any fancy restaurant in Paris. They were so kind and generous and really sweet. They had found a book with a map of Canada and had it laid on the table so we could show them where we were from.
I mucked about with the French and made several apparently hilarious errors but we must have done okay as they invited us back to finish the leftovers at lunch and to go out to a restaurant with them and their friends next week. I might even go to browse antique stores with Patricia, she loves the hunt and has a keen eye for treasure. She is quite something, she cooks, farms, raises 2 sons, renovates and designs, runs a vacation house AND she has a large job in public health.
I was so relieved. I thought that it would be so hard to ever meet anyone here, that Neil and I would spend all our time on our own and maybe kill each other. I know that there are rude, cold people everywhere, even in Burgundy, but we haven’t found one yet. Of course we are in the early infatuation stage with France and we have many more people to meet and many more difficult situations to face.
I can tell you this, if my mattress and other stuff doesn’t get here soon I know where you will find one crusty, snarly, swearing woman in France…