Here in Semur, under the fifteenth century Porte Guillier there is an inscription:

Translated it means that the people of Semur take pleasure in meeting strangers. Since 1552. Now that’s what I call a long standing tradition. So far I can tell that they take it very seriously and they’re quite good at it. I guess after 400 years of practice this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Before moving here I was concerned about how we would be received and perceived here. Would the Semurois see us as boorish North American invaders? Rolling into town with a big wad of cash and big plans for buying up their land to erect a super-size Wal-Mart.

I was a bit fearful of becoming local pariahs. Shunned and isolated until the day loneliness caused the last marble to be lost as evidenced by me wandering aimlessly through the streets in a tattered pink chenille bathrobe randomly conjugating verbs and begging someone to have tea with me.

While it’s still early days, for the moment I think I can hold off on the woman on the edge routine. We’ve been making small inroads into the Semur ‘scene’. We attended the annual New Year town meeting. The mayor greeted us warmly, bowed and kissed my hand which is how I’ve decided all men should now receive me. We met townspeople who were intrigued to hear how we came to be here.

We’ve been to the lovely Alexandre’s grand home that he built himself. He made us a fantastic dinner so ladies pack your bags because from what I can gather he’s single. We’ve done some hosting ourselves. Neil made his very French lapin au vin which we served to my French teacher Patricia (not my neighbour Elizabeth but another teacher, my French is so bad I need two), and her friend Francis.

We’ve met the très elegante Jacqueline from the lingerie store who may change my mind about bras (Lift and Separate), we’ve been invited to hang out with some Americans and now a dinner party on Friday night where Monsieur Mayor will be in attendance. Word of the Canadian invasion is spreading.

Whenever people ask us why we moved here, and they all ask, we tell them all the things we like about Semur. They seem so pleased that their little neck of the woods has somehow spoken to us. When we tell them how welcoming everyone has been they all smile knowingly. ‘Of course’ they say, this is their history.

Ah well, fine for now but you know once I start speaking French well enough for my foot to find its way back to my mouth all bets will be off. History or no history we all know that robe is coming out.

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