Seems like we never left as we seamlessly re-enter la vie française after over a month’s stay in the U.S. It seems like nothing at all has changed in the village while many things have been transformed in our Washington, DC suburb.
But we are glad, even elated, to be back at our maison secondaire and our neighborhood.
The Rentrée started out well enough as children all over France returned to their scholastic activities. Second daughter now attends
middle school, the collège, with first daughter. While waiting for the bus passes, I dutifully drove them every morning passing through grape ripened vines and patiently following vendange traffic. First daughter is thrilled to reconnect
with her friends while second daughter is glad to see familiar faces from her école.
There is a new principal at the college and the former one is sorely missed. He of gentle encouragement, ever responsive and more importantly,
English speaking has moved back north to lead a major hospitality training high school. The new principal is friendly enough and welcoming but I have no recourse but to speak in my badly pronounced, badly conjugated French. It is immersion
in its raw form!
But the girls are adjusting very well to the academics with schedules not yet finalized and constantly changing. They are not regretting the return and are eagerly anticipating what the school year will offer.
This anticipation lingers despite an evaluation conducted recently by the Beziers school administration which caused first daughter angst, then tears. “She speaks French like an American. She needs to put more effort, “says the
Beziers person. He continued, “Her heart does not seem to be in it because she knows she only stays for a year.” “Mais non,” I say. “She loves it here and she may return for her year abroad during her university
days.” It was enough to hurt first daughter’s feelings and to enrage our local vice-mayor who has now taken it upon herself to work with first daughter’s accent.
Meantime, we have assumed our pace and practices
at home and feel utterly nested. We spent one weekend joining many locals in the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine – like a heritage weekend – where major historic sites were open and many with guided tours and discussions.
All in French, bien sur. Despite their ubiquitous presence, we nevertheless enjoyed visiting these sites and are grateful for the privilege of living amongst them.
Due the fairly balmy weather, we took another weekend excursion to
Collioure, known to many French people as the jewel of the south. It only took about an hour and half of pleasant Autoroute driving to reach this village and the journey was well worth it. The lack of parking spaces at noon led us to a restaurant
that had reserved spaces for clients. It was a tight squeeze and we made it work. As we carefully went down the steps to the restaurant, we walked into the dining area facing a magnificent view of the castle and the bay. Luckily, the
waiter saw how greedily we drank in the view and placed us in a table close to the edge of the balcony fronting this sight. Priceless. As for the food, the flavors matched the sumptuousness of our view. We enjoyed the gastronomic meal
sans gastronomic prices.
It is heady to be in wine country this time of the year. Where village entrances signal warnings of vendange to alert drivers to slow down and be
patient. What is the rush?! The passing vision leaves one spellbound and the scented air refreshes. My morning, and sometimes afternoon, walks take me through our vineyards. Encouraged by a local friend and her black Labrador,
I would pick a grape or two and taste it. Sweet. During drives, I would spot a vineyard laden with purple fruit visible from miles around. I would park the car and march through the vines searching for a large juicy grape to feast on.
Even second daughter has experienced this while hiking through the surrounding area with her teachers and classmates. This sport activity day involved tasting different grapes, learning about the region and stopping at one of the Caves for a drink
of Muscat wine. “Mommy, it was too sweet," she announced. “I didn’t finish my glass but some of my classmates did.” Oh well... she has years to acquire the taste and I hope that she learns this here where drinking
is both an art and a science. Not a reason to get drunk.
And because it is September, foire vins promos are all over the groceries and supermarkets. Wines from all over France are featured and are on sale. Most everyone
has vintages on their minds. And I am not spared. But my enjoyment is drinking a glass or two with local friends, some familiar and others fairly new. Whether it is a glass of wine paired with slowly roasted pork from our American friends
in Puisserguier or an accompaniment to goat cheese tart during my monthly spa day in Quarante. It is not just the vintage that makes the drink awesome, it is time and place. And the people. The people.