Getting to Cezac
Tuesday May 25
To go to France and not go to Paris seems weird. Yet that's just
what we did this time. All we had was about an hour layover in Charles
DeGaulle. Two days before, a roof had fallen at this same airport,
injuring many people and killing several. The woman sitting next to me
on the plane had said in a very thick French accent, "Bon Voyage in
France, and I hope Charles DeGaulle does not fall on you."
"Yes. Well, me too, Merci beaucoup."
We had to take a bus to a different terminal to avoid the damaged
one. There was very little direction as to how we should do this, a
pattern that seemed to persist throughout our four weeks in France;
things often seemed to unfold mysteriously. With about half an hour to
wait, I dug out my old French phone card, saw that it would expire July
, and tried to reach my friend Malek. Finding a "cabine"
that would take my old prepaid phone card was a challenge as most of
the phones in the airport are equipped to take credit cards only. They
don't expect travelers to have phone cards. Coin phones are relics that
exist now only in remote little villages.
No answer; he was probably at work
Later in the trip, I convinced Dawn to make some
phone calls herself to reserve B&B's, rather than relying on our
innkeepers to make the call. I was looking for more information that
would help me find the place on foot. We marched up to the phone booth
in a remote village, card in hand, only to find it was one of these
relics. Back to the Innkeeper, she was gone for the day, then back to
the phone booth to use our only coin. We got the reservation, but no
more details because we were cut off without another coin to put in. -
After about twenty minutes, we noticed that no one was waiting at
our gate anymore, and there was a long line at the nearby gate. "Beh
oui," they had changed the gate for the Toulouse flight without
announcing it; or if they had announced it, it had been
incomprehensible to us.
I don't think the gate was too nearby because I remember using my
newly purchased binoculars to read the destination on the sign. It said
Toulouse, and that was our destination, so we grabbed our stuff and
slid over there. We had slept on the flight over and we got more sleep
on this flight so we were pretty rested when we landed and were ready
to face the car rental people. The woman at the counter was very nice
but between the computer bugs and her inexperience it took a while. It
helps not to be in a hurry. Finally everything seems to be set and we
head out with there hand drawn xeroxed map of how to go north from the
airport and our 5-8 year old maps from times that we were here before.
When we go to France or any country where they speak a language
different than English, I nominate myself as the navigator and Dawn as
the speaker. She has very good language facility and I am willing to go
the wrong way enough times so that we eventually get to our
destination. But I was going to need to sharpen my route finding
skills. The trip from Blagnac Airport to Cezac near Cahors is easy, but
some other parts of this trip will be more difficult with less room for
error. We are going to stay for a week with Jean and
Isabelle in le Lot, a part of France north of Toulouse. Delphine, their daughter, and Aude,
her fifteen-month old baby will be there also. We will make a decision
whether to stay in a new spare bedroom in the house or sleep in the
renovated stable as we have done in the past. We will do little. Talk.
Visit Ben and Deena to see how their house is coming along. Walk. Eat.
The week after that is undecided. We will ask advice from Isabelle
and Jean. We are thinking about spending some time in the Camargue, a
wild, marshy area at the mouth of the Rhone where horses may run wild
and you see photos of bulls. Spending some time touring the
Chateauneuf-du-Pape area north of Avignon has also become a
possibility. We have five or so days before we need to be in Avignon.
We have reservations at the Blauvac Hotel for two days that weekend so
we can see the town which neither of us has spent any real time in.
When we arrive in Avignon we will give up our rental car.
The following Monday, we are going to take a bus to Gordes, west of Avignon, shoulder our new back packs and walk
from village to village for 12 days in the Vaucluse and Luberon, both
parts of Provence in southern France. This is the part of the trip for
which I have been planning madly for more than a month. Using
techniques borrowed and adapted from a book, France
by Bruce Le Favour, I
have been cutting and pasting information from the Internet about 25 or
so towns we might visit. The more planning we do, the idea goes, the
more flexibility we will have. I have a tentative route planned out, a
sort of reservation for the first night, one for the weekend and lots
of e-mail and phone contacts we have made with hotels and chambres
d'hàtes which are a semi-equivalent to B & B's in the USA. We know
where we are going to start, but we don't know where we will finish, so
we have some bus schedules and in some cases, rumors about bus
schedules, so that we can get back to the Blauvac where they will have
kept our suitcase, before heading back to Toulouse to fly back to the
USA, not before visiting my favorite restaurant in the world, Le
In retrospect, I should have arranged to fly out of Avignon, and I
probably should have arranged a stop over in Paris. I think I had
reached my planning limit, or really, planning the unplannable limit,
and I needed some solidity somewhere, and in trying to get the best
fare on the Internet, I plunked down two granite blocks on our
schedule, one is that we will fly to Toulouse on May 24 and the second
is that we will fly back on June 22, Tuesday to Tuesday. The rest will
have to fall into place.
Also Paris is something that we had done and this trip was about
balancing old and new. Dawn feels slightly guilty when we go back
anywhere. She loves France, but she looks out at Africa, Asia and
Australia and sighs. Her grandfather was an explorer and she has plenty
of his genes, so I designed a trip looking for the new inside the old.
This was our 4th
trip to Cezac, which we love, but I wanted
for it to be a springboard to a new part of France seen in a new way.
Going to Paris at the end
seemed like a retreat from these ideas. But
all this is in the future, as we motored up the
A20, stopping to look at a Michelin map in a relais because the map we had was so old
that it did not show the autoroute that we were traveling on and we
needed to find the exit that we should take to Cahors. At home, we have
a fast lane transponder on our car. In France, we had the next best
thing, a credit card. When we needed to pay a toll, we went to a credit
card lane, put the ticket in, it showed us how much we owe, put the
credit card in, pulled it out, it said thank you and we are on our way.
We made a stop in Cahors so that we could get some food and wine to
bring to Baralou, the name of their farmhouse. We had agreed to have
dinner there that night and we wanted to make some contribution to the
event. Also, we needed coffee and milk to go in it for the following
morning. We arrived about 5:30 in the afternoon with
much greeting and kisses (twice as many as at home).
This time Cezac turns out to be a whirlwind of
people, gatherings, and much re-attuning to listening, speaking, and
thinking in French. Aude is adorable, testing out how steep a hill she
can manage to walk down without tumbling. She takes immediately to
Stephen, especially to his beard. Of course I had brought an updated
supply of grandchildren pictures to show off, but being around Aude
made me realize that four weeks would be a long time away from Tess and
Sydney, at a time when they would inevitably make huge changes.
Isabelle has offered us the spare bedroom in their house which made
us feel quite honored, but we opted for the stables across the
driveway. Dawn is ultra-sensitive to mustiness and the bedroom had been
closed up tight for quite a while. In a week it would have been fine.
Also, the "ecurie" was closer to the bathroom that we would use and it
had its own kitchen.
Isabelle would not allow us to help with her cleanup in the ecurie,
and sent us out for a walk. Things had changed. There were new hiking
signs and some kind of landing strip at the top of the ridge. The
evening light was soft and the area was as green as we had ever seen it
because of the unusually large amount of rain they had been getting.
It had been nearly seven years since we first had dinner in this
house. A spring evening much like this one. A simple meal, soup, an
entrée, cheese, desert, served to us just hours after our arrival. We
hardly knew them then, but now I felt that we were being folded back
into the family as we sat between Isabelle and Delphine. We dished out
the responsibilities of wine opening and bread cutting and platter
finding, but were not allowed to help in the clean up. It was still a
dance of cultures as we mixed the way we do things very lightly into
the way they did things, all softened with the talk of recent
grandchildren and other catch ups and laced with plans for the coming
weeks. It was late before the evening ended with sleepy good nights, a
walk across the drive to the ecurie, more sleepy good nights and our
first two days were finished.
Wednesday, May 26
We had some trouble in the morning getting up to speed. First, there were breakers to find
so that we could get the hot water in the shower going. I couldn't
twist the knob on the propane tank to get the stove going so I was
forced to use an electric coffee maker we had never used because the
replacement carafe would not fit under the water dispenser. By
partially disassembling the unit I was able to make it function and get
us the coffee that we needed in the morning. By the time we went
through yoga in the hot sun it was noon and the outdoor market at
Cahors was finished, so we put together lunch and planned a walk.
We took a walk that we had never taken before by driving a few miles
past Castelnau-Montratier, then parking at the edge of a little country
road and doing a circle hike back to the car. It was a really nice
"starter hike," with a bit of elevation, lovely views of the town of
Flagnac, and varied terrain, from farm to forest. As we walked waist
deep in grasses going to seed and I started sneezing, I realized that
my allergies were going to hit hard here, a month earlier than at home
because spring happens much earlier in this part of France.
We got back to le Baralou, after drinking a couple of Ricards in the
square at Castelnau, in time to greet Jean arriving from a brief trip
to Paris, with books and new laptop in hand. It was delightful to see
him again as well as Isabelle and Delphine who had greeted us the day
before. Jean is a font of information about the history, culture, and
"patrimoine de la France." We looked forward to consulting with him and
Isabelle about the next leg of our trip after leaving Cezac.
We tried to do a little yoga every morning there. It's lovely to
practice yoga outdoors, but without our mats, and with the rocky and
uneven terrain, and with my allergies (!), it was a bit of a challenge.
That would only be one of many challenges that greeted us on this trip.
Logistical, linguistic, and navigational challenges sharpened our
ability to deal with the unfamiliar without being too attached to
getting perfect results every time.
As the trip progresses, I begin to get good psychological results by remembering to think of this trip as a
"mission exploratoire." Rather than trying to do this trip perfectly, I thought of myself just learning how to do it. My technique became to put us somewhere and see what happens. Also, I had been practicing yoga by myself at home for about five months. I always did it in the same place and used the same the same CD
of harp music. Here I found it difficult to find my yoga center when everything was different, so a trip that I had imagined would be full of yoga actually had very little.
Thursday, May 27
Since we managed to miss the Wednesday morning market in Cahors, we
drove back to the Carrefours, the huge supermarket, and got supplies
for a barbecue that evening. We grilled salmon, aubergines, poivrons
rouges, champignons, saucisson, and served fromage and melon, and of
course, wine and beer. I had hesitated to buy the Moroccan melon,
knowing how fastidious Jean is about eating local produce in season
only, but the French melons weren't quite ready, the Moroccans were on
sale, smelled wonderful, and after all, Morocco is not that far away
from France, and historically it was quite French. Luckily the melon
was perfectly ripe and tasty, and Jean didn't seem to mind consuming it
Dawn did all the prep for our meal and I did all the
grilling. The charcoal was quite different and it took me a long time
to find it in the store. It seemed to be real wood charcoal and not the
pressed black dust briquette that we use here. It burned with a hotter
flame, took longer to start, but everything turned out fine. I am still
learning to use my new watch, (leaving my cell phone behind forced me
to buy a timepiece). I couldn't seem to change the time on it so the
whole meal was done using a timer that would only do six minutes and
five seconds. Like I said, it seemed to work out.
Friday, May 28
My book group had decided to tackle Proust's huge masterpiece.
Apparently a new English translation has come out that is supposed to
be quite readable. However, when I am in France, I really like to try
to read in French. Yet reading Proust is more than just reading "in
French". I think he was doing something like Joyce was doing in
English, so I doubted my ability to comprehend his run-on, free
associative style in French. Luckily, Jean had a copy of the first part
of the first book, Combray
, in French but with an
introduction and copious notes in English. The book was designed for
English-speaking students of French. Perfect. I launched in, and am
still enjoying it. The only problem is that we seem to get so busy in
France that I don't have much time to read. Jean graciously let me
borrow it; I must remember to mail it back to him when I have finished
With Isabelle, we call on France, an eighty-five year old painter
living by herself in a 16th
century "maison de la
bourgeoisie" north of Montcuq. This was another one of those times when
I wished I had brought my camera with me. Not having my camera at the
right time, or not having the right light when I did have my camera,
seems to be another recurring theme of this trip. Unlike the stone farmhouses or "mas" that are common
throughout the region, France's house has grand, high ceilings and windows, huge
fireplaces, a courtyard filled with blooming perennials, a spectacular
view of vineyard and fields from a small balcony, and a series of rooms
almost like monks' cells on the opposite side of the courtyard. It
seems that she lives there rent-free, but not truly as an owner either.
Apparently her father left northern France in 1943 to look for a place
to live that "had never experienced war." They ended up here in Le Lot.
Isabelle asked to see her paintings, which were very
varied in style. She said she never liked to repeat herself, but preferred to try
something new each time. This attitude reminded me of myself as a
choreographer; I have always admired artists who refine one style or
one approach and eliminate lots of other possibilities, but I have
never been able to do that myself. She pulled canvasses out from their
stack against the wall and propped them against the wood stove (not
working, or course.) Isabelle took some photos of the paintings. I
particularly liked a very yellow one that reminded me of the desert in
the American West. Later, during the hiking part of the trip, we would
discover Roussillon and Le Colorado, canyons of ochre cliffs and
bizarre formations reminding us of Canyonlands in Utah.
When we are home, no one asks us to sit down in her
studio pulling out paintings, one by one, for us to look at. Although
we were not buying, it made me aware how important meetings similar to
this have been to the world of art. Painter and gallery owner, or
painter and collector, together in a room pondering a transaction that
in the short term may feed the artist's family and pay his bar tab and
will fill the walls of the buyer. In the long term, perhaps they will
change the face of art in the world. I don't know what happened in the
past. Here, we were mostly quiet. A painting was shown, I had an
immediate reaction or not, it attracted me or not. Luckily, I was not
required to say much, a French word of appreciation now and then. Dawn
and Isabelle said more. Dawn teaches in an art school. She has some
practice speaking about art in front of the artist. It took about
forty-five minutes, and was one of many times on this trip where what
we were doing could have happened in any number of different centuries.
Sometimes, I feel like I am time traveling rather being a tourist and I
find the sensation pleasurable.
France is a very elegant and outspoken lady! She was filled with
opinions about current events. She led us out to a table under a
parasol in the courtyard, served us some tasty, attractive hors
d'oeuvres (from the supermarket in Montcuq, she pointed out), and had
Stephen open a lovely bottle of Cremant. This was her idea of "tea." We
rather liked it. As she was talking about her family and background,
Stephen and I both got teary at the same time. While she does not
physically resemble my mother, she has a similar feisty, artistic
spirit, a generosity and beauty that made us remember my mom's personal
connection to the country, language and culture of France.
I got teary because I was sad that France was living
a life that I wished for Elsa in the last years of her life, continuing
to be a painter, living in a beautiful environment and just enjoying an
independent life. This was not the hand that Elsa was dealt, but she
did the best she could and we did the best we could to make sure that
she knew that she was truly loved. In fact, France is younger than Elsa
was when she died and probably what I am wishing for was that Elsa
could have remained a "young" eighty-five for the rest of her life.
Back at Le Baralou, Isabelle and I sat outside
asparagus for a late dinner. Reading Combray
a few days
later, I came across the expression "plumer les asperges." The verb
"plumer " usually refers to plucking the feathers of birds, but I like
the mental picture that phrase creates of white asparagus in its
partially peeled, feathery state, looking sort of avian and ready to
Caught up by looking at their family photos on the
unfortunately awoke Aude who was sleeping in the next room. It was 1:00
a.m. by the time we staggered to bed.
Saturday, May 29
Gilbert Pons was one of those people who found us on
the Internet by
searching on certain key words that brought up our previous
travelogues. In his case, the word was "Pechpeyroux," a village of
maybe 100 inhabitants not far from Cezac. In 1997, when he first
searched, he got four hits. This year when we searched, we got twelve
hundred. Pechpeyroux was one of those places where I had ridden a bike
a few years back and was charmed not only by the place but also by an
interaction I had had with a Mme. Pern. It turns out the Gilbert is
concerned with preserving the history and "patrimoine" of Pechpeyroux,
his native village, and has created a website for the town. We had had
some e-mail correspondence over the years, but somehow I only was able
to call him at the very end of our last visit to Cezac. This time, I
promised myself to send an e-mail before arriving in France, after
receiving it, he graciously invited us to meet him at his farmhouse and
to take a walk, either "en pleine nature" or in the village. We chose
the nature walk.
First he showed us his place with a splendid 360 ° view
from the top of the hill, a few outbuildings, and fields. We had some
cold drinks with him and his quiet sister in the kitchen. I went to the
car to change into better shoes for hiking and put on my old straw hat,
bought in a village on the Canal du Midi in '97. His sister had been a
bit shy and reserved before, but somehow that hat must have spoken
French to her because she beamed when she saw it and complimented me on
Gilbert has tremendous enthusiasm for his native terrain and local
history. The walk ended up being an arduous three hours with a fair
amount of bushwhacking in the hot sun! Good training for our future
long distance hiking trip. We started by climbing a small hill that was
divided up among three different communes. From there we could see
Montcuq, Lascabannes and Villeseque, each in a different direction.
Near the end of the hike we went by a recently purchased old stone
farmhouse, renovated by an English couple. It had a beautiful garden
and setting and a magnificently restored grange. In fact the barn was
huge and beautifully refinished inside. The exterior revealed some
serious new buttressing to keep the old stone wall of one side from
leaning any further than it had over the years. The couple uses their
grange to present musical concerts during the summer. I fantasized some
amazing site-specific choreography in there, the hayloft making a
natural scaffolding, the high ceiling crying out for ropes to dance on.
Hmm, a new French version of Pipe Dream
meets After Ever
Then we hiked up to a plateau overlooking a valley where an American
couple had bought an old farm with outbuildings. We could see the
well-tended exteriors and new swimming pool. Gilbert described the
luxurious nature of the interior renovations and furnishings. It was a
magnificent setting and must have cost many a Euro to bring it to this
level of "comfort."
There is a bittersweet sidebar to this story. According to Gilbert,
the young people who grew up in this area cannot afford to buy property
here. The foreigners and "city people" (mostly Parisians) have so much
more available cash that the prices in the region have soared,
precluding the younger generation from buying property in the area
where they grew up. Moreover, Gilbert said that the trades people in
the region (masons, carpenters, electricians) are in such high demand
that the local folks sometimes have to wait a couple of years to get
stonework or carpentry done on their property while the newcomers hire
the locals and get the work done quicker. (The "Peter Maylisation" of
southern France? More on this thought later.)
My brain was moving fast. Hmm, at least someone is buying these
dilapidating properties and beautifully restoring them, but for what?
English, American, or Parisian vacationers who use them only a few
months of the year, and the rest of the time they are closed up.It's
sad that the younger generation cannot really afford to farm here
anymore, but do they perhaps want to leave? Do they want to go to the
city and find careers in computers and business instead of taking over
the family farm business which must be very difficult, to say the
least? And where does that leave Stephen and me, Americans who adore
this part of France, its land, its villages and its people, who have
fantasized about buying a place here too? Would we just contribute to
the "foreign gentrification" problem? Even if we could or would not
renovate to the level that some of these folks have done, wouldn't we
still be pushing prices up anyway? Or will we always be visitors,
occasionally staying with dear friends from Paris who have been coming
here for thirty years?
Stephen reminds me that "gentrification" is an issue at
home also. Isn't that just what we've done in Roslindale? We didn't
grow up in Rozzy, yet we've participated in a lot of the changes that
have taken place over the last thirteen years since we bought a house
here. We love the artisan bread store, the new restaurants, wine store
and boutiques, having a grocery store in our own neighborhood.
Nevertheless, such amenities increase demand for the area, and we worry
that such changes will contribute to pricing some residents out of the
We also like the diversity in Roslindale. The mix seems to work:
trades people and professionals, artists and auto mechanics, Greeks,
Irish, Italians, Latinos, Asians, Haitians, Armenians, Anglo and
African-Americans. However, the population in rural, southern France is
quite sparse, and I can see how the old farming families might feel
that their way of life is being threatened by the newcomers. None of
this speculation should lead you to believe, however, that the folks we
met in and around Cezac, in fact, everywhere we've traveled in France,
haven't been extremely gracious and often very warm towards us.
Both of us will revisit this topic again as the trip
progresses. Dawn's questions, which really are about the effect of
taking money from one place to another, are ones that institutions as
large as the World Bank and as small as Dawn and Stephen must ask
After good-byes and thank yous to Gilbert, we rushed back to le
Baralou just in time to shower and change and make the appetizers for
dinner, grilled mushrooms and sausage. Ben and Deena joined us that
night. Isabelle had set the long table instead of the smaller round one
because there were seven of us for dinner. It's a good thing I'm still
a recovering vegetarian because Isabelle's lapin (rabbit) was
delicious. It was great to catch up with Ben and Deena and to have more
of a mixed language conversation since Ben is English and Deena is
Palestinian/Austrian. Again we staggered across the gravel driveway to
fall into bed at about 1:00 a.m.
Sunday, May 30
We were invited to the 60th
celebration of the Besses. They are farmers in Cezac who raise
delicious chickens among other things. Their children were throwing a
party "after church" in the town function room and have invited the
whole village. Dawn and I skipped church but not the party.
It turns out that it was too bad that we skipped
church. To my total surprise, Isabelle said they had played Jacques
Brel and Edith Piaf songs during Mass!
We went down there and milled about, sometimes just taking in the
sights and sounds of it all, sometimes talking to the Isabelle and Jean
or Ben and Deena. It was an absolutely universal gathering and had all
the elements: the gawky teenagers, the cute babies, the old men, and
their dressed up wives. The family was rushing around carrying sound
equipment. In the middle of all this, a timid driver needed to back her
car up through the crowd. It was accomplished with much gesticulation,
gentle guiding of the guests who were paying little attention and some
coaxing of the driver herself who seemed reluctant to accomplish what
from the outset seemed to me to be a bad idea. But it was done and soon
we were headed for the salle des fetes, a sort of town function hall.
It was fun to meet a Swiss couple, new neighbors of Ben and Deena,
who had just read our first online travelogue about three weeks before.
We're beginning to feel like internationally famous, published authors.
In an alternate universe, someone would pay us.
When we travel through France we marvel at
the diversity of the land, the people, their accents and certainly
their histories. The history of France probably needs to be written one
village at a time. If you are interested in such things, let me
recommend Gillian Tindall's Celestine.
She found letters in a house in central France that she had bought and
they start her on an investigation that leads to a history of the
people in that village since the revolution. More time travel.
But, on the other hand, France is a republic and hashad a central
government for a long time. No variations created by state governments,
so there are many things that are exactly the same no matter where you
are. There always seems to be a salle des fetes, and a centralized
sports arena. There is always a mairie (mayor's office). In a small
village, it is only open Thursday afternoon. In Paris, there is one for
each arrondissement, open six days a week. Then there is the
gendarmerie, a national police/national guard. So we travel and see the
diversity but are always aware of France the centralized government,
one that started simultaneously in all parts of the country after the
revolution over two hundred years ago.
Monday, May 31
Ben and Deena had invited us to stop by and see theprogress on
their renovations. They live there year-round, across the valley from
le Baralou, and seem to work constantly at this huge project. Since we
knew we were going to leave Cezac Tuesday, Monday was our last chance.
It had been a drizzly, gray kind of day so we procrastinated about
getting out, not arriving at their place until about 5:00 in the
Walking up the driveway, we noticed the gardens that replaced the
brambles, weeds and rubble that had been there last time. Dee later
said that she "knew nothing about gardening" before starting this
project. It seems that she learned a lot quickly. The varied shapes
textures and colors of the plantings were perfectly suited to the
Their very large and apparently menacing dog greeted us with loud
barking from inside the small garden house. This building had been
renovated the last time we visited, and Ben and Deena were still living
in it while working on the big house. Although we hadn't called them
before to let them know the specific time of our arrival, they
graciously kept the dog behind closed doors, dropped what they were
doing and gave us the tour.
The "new" old house has undergone an amazing
transformation. When we visited two years ago, it was essentially a large stone shell with a
lot of rubble in it. Now there was a rebuilt stone staircase up to an
entrance hall with Middle Eastern artifacts hanging on the wall. The
arched windows in the thick stone walls created dramatic patterns of
late afternoon light across an elegant but comfortable living room.
Downstairs via a spiral stone staircase, they had created a study with
bookcases they built to fill the walls. They showed us the future
kitchen and dining areas and the cave that would become their wine
cellar. They managed to combine the sense of rural antiquity that
emanates from these old stone buildings with a sense of urban chic,
without being in the least pretentious! For someone who feels a proud
sense of accomplishment from doing something as simple as staining our
deck, this level of renovation is outside the realm of my imagination.
"Would you like some tea, or a glass of
wine?" Deena asked as we were walking out the drive.
The only thing standing between me and a cup of tea was that dog
that was the size of a large bear.
"Don't worry," she said. "He's really a sweetie."
"Right," thought I.
So we entered to barks and growls and straining at the collar. Ben
let the dog outside for a minute or two. When the animal returned, he
seemed to think everything was fine; we were part of the family or
something. Apparently if the dog enters the house and the "strangers"
are already there, seated at the table with his owners, he has no
problem. Suddenly he was seeking our affection!
Two bottles of Quercy wine later, we left Ben and Dee's place
knowing each other quite a bit better and truly looking forward to "la
Sometimes as Dawn and I are coming home from parties, Dawn
questions my telling of the inappropriate details of my life to people
who shouldn't know them and probably don't even want to know them. I
don't know whether it comes from my lack of attention or perhaps just
some boredom. I can always find some detail of my past life to blurt
out. Generally I am not like this. I keep to myself and don't reveal
too much of the difficulties that I might be having, sometimes not even
Stephen's exuberant spilling of personal information usually happens when the alcohol level in his brain has gotten higher than usual. - Dawn
Maybe I started it, being in the room with three people who spoke
English or maybe it was the cozy room away from the rain outside that
led us all to gently reveal details of our lives. It doesn't hurt that
we have genuine admiration for the life they are living and real
affection for the two of them; he being very tall with a kind of gruff
way of speaking; she, slender with eyes that hold you when she speaks.
It started with children, as it sometimes does. We talked about
Ben's son and Dawn 's son and daughter, about the joy and fear that
accompanies the act of raising them. Then ourselves as children,
growing up, our education, meeting each other. We explored the
similarities and differences, what have we learned, what will the
future bring, how to deal with the past. Recounting our triumphs and
our failures. As if we had pulled out our wallets to show family
pictures and discovered behind those photographs story after story from
the lives we led or thought we had led.
The finishing of the second bottle brought the afternoon to a close
and evening beckoned us to dinner across valley with Isabelle and Jean.
We drove down the hill, quietly at first, wondering whether we had
behaved appropriately, then breaking into smiles that expressed our
feeling that it had been a wonderful afternoon and sometimes decorum
just has to be damned.
Tuesday, June 1
We rushed around a lot today, as we got ready to start the next
phase of our trip, and Jean and Isabelle prepared to go back to Paris
for three weeks. We have closed the place before, but it was still
complicated as machinery got stored away in very small spaces, shutters
went over the windows and refrigerators were cleaned out.
In the middle of all this I was trying to make Isabelle's e-mail
program work better. It was stubborn and won't let me do things that I
wanted. In the end, we called it a draw. By 1:00 p.m. we were ready and
said our good-byes and headed for St. Bertrand de Comminges in the
rain. It will be the first stop on a four-day trip to Avignon.