I count myself lucky as having many friends scattered around the world. Here, in this rural French corner of the world, I am expanding this circle; people whose relationships are highly valued not only for their accessibility and support
but for their active willingness to see us through this year’s journey.
One of them, my first ever English-French friend, was responsible for introducing me to this village and all the resources that would benefit my family.
She and her family have been a reference and an ally through the myriad of legal, academic and cultural practices that we desperately need to learn and embrace. They live in a villa in the next village with an expansive garden, a swimming pool
open to us, and a gentle Labrador which regularly seeks the girls’ company. We visit often; enjoying aperitifs and lunches while getting an education on various activities and practices in the region. Their sociability permitted
us to expand our circle of acquaintances and friends. I count on them for any questions. For even if the question or issue is unusual and they do not have a ready answer, their resourcefulness often results in an answer or direction. No Google
search can be as rewarding.
Through them, we are fortunate to meet an American couple transplanted from Manhattan 12 years ago. I remember that first day very well. I had just woken up, dragged the girls to the next village
for some necessary shopping at the grocers, when my English-French friend found me and said, “You must come and meet ___ and ____. They are Americans and you will find them good company.” My reply, “But I just woke up and
I am not dressed.” “Never mind that, come quickly.” She says. So off I went to meet this delightful couple who kept me smiling through the morning coffee. So now, whenever we are here, we return to their home –
a classical and beautifully designed winegrower’s house – to share their blinis au caviar, wines and stories on their adventures in French living. Both are a veritable source of information on adapting into a newly-found and much appreciated
lifestyle. They are the standard on which we aspire.
Five years ago, right after the village house was purchased, an Australian acquaintance introduced us to an English couple to help us maintain and manage the pied a
terre when we are in the U.S. Although they live close to an hour away, they religiously prepare the house prior to our arrival and ensure its ready state upon our departure. There have been times when I am quick to count on their help. Such
as the evening, one summer, when the electricity failed. Peering outside our doorway and noticing that everyone else had no problem, I called the couple and asked for help “can you come tomorrow?” As the girls and I prepared flashlights
and candles that night, he arrives and checked things around. Within minutes, he switched the master electrical switch on and the lights appeared. Viola! Wow, I wish I could have done that. But that assumes that I knew to check the
master electrical board. Currently, they are renovating a home that may be ready for sale this year. Their building and design skills are so admired that we asked their help in upgrading our shower to accommodate our “sizes.”
Upon our arrival last month (January), we were amazed and pleased at the transformation. The shower is bigger and so much more attractive and functional!
Then last summer, we were surprised when a couple knocked on our open
door and introduced themselves. They were German and lived but a few doors away. They have a maison secondaire in our village long before they had children. Now that they have four, they come every summer when the children participate in
the French holiday (sleepover) camps. They asked us over for aperitifs which turned into dinner and then a follow up visit to the local bar which had music playing. Through them, second daughter learned how to make aioli sauce for mussels
and first daughter prepared puff pastry with fillings such as ham, cheese among others. A week later, after packing up and tidying our home before driving to Spain for US flights, we stopped by their house to quench our summer thirst – with
water this time!
And now, as we begin to settle in for the next several months of our lives, we are meeting more people who open possibilities for us. One night we enjoyed aperitifs in a house on a hill with views of the Pyrenees.
Over wines and snacks, we shared stories of village life, languages, and raising children in this new and unpredictable world. In one night, I met someone who could help in house renovation should we decide to upgrade and someone who could be a Tai
Chi partner if we are lucky to find a class nearby.
Over the years, our acquaintances have numbered as well – from a local doctor whose clinic is but a few steps away to a Canadian-Hungarian family in Capestang who housed a visiting
friend to an Irish innkeeper in Quarante who I would highly recommend. And as the days turn into weeks into months, and as the girls make and keep friends, we have hopes that the number multiplies.