“All I have is a voice." (W.H. Auden)

Finding our nest

 nest·ed, nest·ing, nests

v.intr.

To create and settle into a warm and secure refuge.

 

There’s an old Billy Joel song that goes.. “wherever we’re together, that’s my home.”  The lyrics reflect the sentiments felt every time we return to the pied a terre and establish ourselves in our modest dwelling.  This generally means unpacking and putting our items away, checking the supplies to determine the shopping list, and planning the menu and itinerary for the next few days as a start.  Sometimes,  this also means visiting our favorite eating place and re-introducing ourselves to the proprietor/proprietress.  It’s a ritual that we look forward to.  It signals that we, together, are home.

 

Home is in a quaint but unpretentious  village that is surrounded by vineyards and placed between the Montagne Noire (black mountains) and the Mediterranean sea.  With a population of about 1000, it boasts a nursery and primary school which is always a sign that the village continues to prosper.  It also offers a retirement residence.   For a few, whose ambition in life is centered on family and community, it is a cradle to grave route that is available at their convenience and  choice.   

 

The  primary school or ecole primaire is located behind the mairie (the administrative center of the village) and accessed through a relaxing stroll via the camp grounds and village park.   It is a relatively new building with a center courtyard for play and leisure and which is surrounded by classrooms that accommodates about  15 to 20 students per grade (yes, not class but grade).   Parents drop off their children before 8 am; some return at 12 for lunch pick up while others choose to eat lunch in school and pre-pay weekly.    Those who eat at home return before 2 pm and all children are picked up or walk home on their own at 5 pm.   Interestingly  enough there is childcare before and after school hours in response, perhaps, to the increasing number of working parents living here.

 

There is a catholic church in the village that may likely date back to the 11th century  but is only open during service which occurs on Wed evenings. The village has its own grocer and a boulangerie that is a stone’s throw from our street.   We enjoy the morning and evening smells of bread baking which serves to stimulate appetites each and every time.  Second daughter has taken the lead to purchase bread for the house.

 

But a few years back, after skipping out the door to get bread, she came home in tears. When asked why, she replied,   “Mom, she (proprietress) started talking to me and I didn’t understand.”  First daughter spoke up and told her, “ Don’t worry, I will write down some sentences and you can show her next time.”  She promptly wrote, “ Je suis desolee. Je ne parle pas francais.”  Giving the slip of paper to her sister, she comforted her.   “Here you go.  This should do it.”  she says.   And with paper in jean pocket, the confidence returned and so did the daily bread runs.

 

Our home is located in one of the streets that circle the chateau ruins;  it is almost designed to be part of a village circulade but not formally designated as such.  Our  impasse (or dead end street) branches out of Rue Veille (which is known as old street) where the lane is barely wide enough to accommodate a horse.  The houses within the village circulade are small, narrow and sometimes tall.  It is undeniably charming  and truly medieval in character, if not appearance. 

 

Conventional wisdom suggests that it is appropriate not to draw attention to oneself;  thus, the facades of some of the homes appear  dilapidated.  Second daughter once remarked,” The people here must be poor.  Their houses are very, very old.”   Indeed, the houses may be centuries old but the people are far, far from poor however it is defined.  

 

As for the residents, their patience with the non-French speaking American members of their community is enviable.  The young man in the mairie as well as his colleagues are continuously providing assistance – whether it is a much needed letter from the ecole that needs to be faxed to the US or  seeking a French tutor for the summer or delivering my cache of sac de poubelle (trash liners provided free to residents).  The proprietress of the boulangerie lights up every time she sees one of us.  There is a lone police officer and one or two municipal workers who oversee the public places and are forever smiling. 

 

Our immediate neighbors include a family with a teenage son and a cat named Elvis now adopted by second daughter.  At the end of our impasse, a new family with very young children rents.  Further up the street of Rue Veille resides an old lady who keeps an attentive watch on us.  Once she remarked if I brought my daughters’ friend along.  “Mais non, madame.  Elle est ma niece.  La fille de ma soeur.”  “Ah, bien” she replied.   She, obviously, is keeping track.  An older gent lives beside her but keeps to himself.  Other homes on our street belong to summer residents;  a German family that we had the pleasure of meeting and dining with during the summer of 2012, an elderly Parisian couple across our home who enjoys watching second daughter sweep the lane periodically and who, when opening her kitchen shutters in the morning, greets us “bonjour “ et  “ca va?!”  and a French couple with two dogs from the French Alps.  They are always friendly despite the language barrier and, perhaps, the unusual custom or behavior of their American voisins.

 

Beyond the village core lie a cluster of one story building housing one or two retail stores and, once passed, the equitation (or stables) where one can learn to ride or hire horses for riding through the vineyards.  This recreational option is complemented by the municipal pool open during the summer season and the various village fetes that invite residents and visitors to break bread, drink wine and celebrate.  There is a constant spirit of fraternité  in the village.  We feel its presence.  It is home. 

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14.07 | 08:01

Beautiful! Vive la France!

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17.02 | 01:57

France is awaiting your return, Betty!

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16.02 | 10:07

Such a wonderful experience for all! Truly a beautiful region filled with lovely people, excellent food, and soothing wine! Am looking forward to returning.

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07.09 | 14:44

What a joy for this to be shared. I am reading several times, soaking it in and making my own movie in my mind of this adventure. So excited for you three!

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