Although I've been mentioned on Jen's blog, I must seem like a shadowy figure lurking behind the scenes. So, I'm also doing a guest blog, like Rod wrote, to assure everyone who reads this that, yes, I am very present and I take part in pretty much everything that goes on. And I even have experiences on my own to share. On a day to day basis, Jen's focus is on the children, school things, her school volunteering, etc., that keeps her busy. I have the time to get out more on a social basis and I do that a lot but together we did many day trips around the area in the warmer weather and before the hustle, bustle of holiday preparation. Within an hours driving time we came upon some amazing sights, history, surprising discoveries, etc., that we're eager to share with guests from the States.
The English. We were fortunate to meet early on English neighbors who live at the other end of the main street of our village and who own and run a bed and breakfast, Gillian and Hugh. They've introduced me to an energetic and socially active group of their English friends and every Monday morning I go off to some village nearby for a 'coffee'. They've also loaned us the use of four bicycles they bought for their b and b guests, the use of their french gps for a trip to Bordeaux, and have generously alerted us to events of interest, (a Sunday 10am, big semi-annual wine tasting in an old remote farmhouse - a caravan of 4 cars of English, me and a couple of hundred happy French- what an experience!). I've been invited to holiday parties, brunches, aperitifs, and always with a lot of laughter and the quick British wit. Most of them have renovated old farmhouses, some of which they bought years ago while vacationing here and have decorated with english country charm. I have to work to keep up with them.
AVF (no one knows what the initials stand for). This is a organization dedicated to easing all the English who retire here into french culture. They let me join for 27 euros; I don't understand why but I'm grateful they did. I was told it was not easy to get invited into homes of the French, or even to interact socially very often. By and large that's been true but through AVF, I'm taking a french language class, I play bridge with a group of French people every Tuesday afternoon, and there is available every Wednesday afternoon a 2 1/2 hour walking tour with a guide. A handful of English go on these hikes but mostly its French and when it comes to stamina, these French are hard to keep up with as well. They're up steep hills lickety-split with me trying not to huff and puff as to attract attention. They carry professional looking walking sticks and wear serious hiking boots. There are also monthly parties with some kind of theme and I've only been to one but the French mostly sit together, the English together, etc.; the purpose is to mix but that's easier said than done. The language difficultly.
More of 'The French' We are also fortunate to be living close to Tony and Gisellle and Phillipe and Natalie. They are the parents of children in the neighborhood whom our children play with and who have been more than generous and have invited us into their homes. The fathers both speak english but we try to speak the french we've acquired with them. We do have a good time in spite of the stumbling with the language; they want to improve their english and Phillipe breaks out an english dictionary from time to time.
Bright Spots For me, some of the best experiences have been with friends who have made the effort to come visit - Thanksgiving guests, Jim and Joanne, and Cindy and her daughter, Megan. Because of them it was a memorable Thanksgiving. When Jen and Rod went to Paris for a couple of nights to celebrate New Year's Eve, Brighton friends, Shari, her mother, Bev, sister, Lauri and daughter Emily came to keep me company while they were gone. Emily is teaching english in a french high school in northern France and immediately bonded with our kids. Another memorable holiday I'll never forget.
Future bright spots - both of my other 2 children are coming with their families in the spring! The list of things we want to share with them grows everyday but food, wine, cheese, bread, pate, on and on, tops that list! It gives Jen and I great pleasure to talk about the possibilities of their trips, where we could go, what we could do and have them experience, etc., while they're here. They are all greatly missed.