Bonjour me amis!
Two weeks since I last blogged and I think I still remember how to do it, which is a relief! I hope this finds you all well and enjoying your summer? Judging by the 1,000 plus emails I’ve come home to (and no, I am not that popular, believe me – only one or two were personal messages), you’re all still here, busily blogging away. Thank goodness!
Having just returned from a lovely, lazy week away in France, I am reminded of two things: the beauty of the French countryside and how appalling my French is, despite having studied it for several years at school.
My excuse? I remain convinced that the only way to learn a language, really learn it, is to live in the country and become totally immersed in the culture. Text book languages just don’t do it, at least not for me. Still, I had fun trying…
I remember when I was about eleven going on a school trip to France. We crossed the channel on a hovercraft direct from Dover to Calais, there being no ‘Chunnel‘ back then in the 1970’s.
The long bus drive from Suffolk to Dover leaving at
sparrow’s fart the crack of dawn was the worst part. I loved the hovercraft ride despite having to witness one of the kids being sick all over the floor, but Calais did nothing for me. Fish markets weren’t my idea of fun at eleven and not much better now.
Still, we did get to practice our French which was the idea, apparently. I remember waiting in the queue to buy a souvenir for my mum: it was a wooden egg cup with a little picture of a boat and the word ‘Calais’ (of course) hand-painted on the side. I was very nervous about having to talk to the lady at the till in French.
I needn’t have bothered because the minute I opened my mouth, with an exasperated wave of her hand she exclaimed:
“It’s okay, I speak English!” And she did. Very well.
It would be another thirty years or so before I returned to France, when, unexpectedly, Hubby and I were given the opportunity to experience the beauty of what I like to think is the ‘real’ France, far away from the cold, grey skies of Calais.
The first time Hubby and I were kindly invited by friends to stay at their beautifully rustic home we flew, courtesy of a budget airline.
Nestled in a tiny hamlet between two villages some 30 or so kilometers from the town of Perigueux somewhere in the Dordogne region of south-west France, the location couldn’t be better for lending itself to a holiday saturated with rest and relaxation.
The next time (and yes, we must have behaved because we were invited back) we decided to drive, taking our car across by train via the Chunnel which was the easy bit. The drive down through France proved to be much more of a challenge: what should have taken eight hours took us twelve.
In the middle of nowhere late of an August Sunday evening, no signal enabled on Hubby’s mobile phone and mine having died, we were well and truly lost in France. At one point, having pulled over to the side of a road after a minor…?…. disagreement (naturally), we decided that it would be better if Hubby read the map and I drove.
Zipping through deserted country lanes, our grumpy mood quickly dissipated into the warm, evening air as the experience and freedom of the moment took over: we were entranced by the tiny villages we came across, filled as they were with brightly coloured bunting fluttering high above the narrow streets as it criss-crossed from building to building.
These same buildings were decorated from head to foot with paper flowers for summer festivals, yet where earlier in the day the streets had bustled with locals and tourists alike, not a soul was to be seen; huge, stone houses shut up tight with metal gates and wooden shutters as we travelled through, fleeting visitors in the shadows of deserted communities.
It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.
Despite the wonderful sense of adventure of two years ago, this time we played safe, taking advantage of a budget airline and we didn’t get lost once!
Now my memories of France are no longer of looking around fish markets: I think of balmy summer days and evenings, walking along peaceful paths surrounded by open fields brimming with smiling sunflowers and ripening corn. I remember cycling (fitter than I thought!) to the local village on late afternoons along quiet roads painted only with the falling shadows of tall, roadside trees.
Of open-air jazz evenings eating rabbit with prunes (it was delicious, tasted like chicken, it’s true, and I don’t even like prunes!) and of a soiree which ended at midnight with a firework ‘spectaculaire’ to the music of ‘O Fortuna’. As dramatic as that sounds, it was indeed magical.
The history, beauty and glorious mystique of France has grabbed me forever, not to mention some of the more bizarre sightings such as a stuffed dog (or possibly a fox without its tail, see what you think) with a pin wheel sticking out of its head oddly placed in someone’s front yard. I kid you not.
Wrapping up then, I’ll leave you with a ‘snapshot’ of my time in France to the music of ‘O Fortuna’ which seems the perfect choice to me (although ‘Lost in France’ by Bonnie Tyler would seem to be the more obvious one but I just can’t stand that song, sorry!).
Meanwhile, thank you all so much for your lovely messages left while I was away, really does warm my heart (great to know that ‘A Horse With No Name’ is also a favourite for one or two of you!) and I’ll be over to you as soon as I can to catch up and say ‘Hi’. I’ve missed you!
Finally, how about these little cuties?
Back to normal blogging next week – see you soon 🙂
Love Sherri x