Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's Still Hot (104) and We've Gone Visiting

The heat is here to stay and we are back "home" in our French apartment, after almost a week away(amazingly enough, no air-conditioning magically installed itself while we were gone). What a week! First, back to Bordeaux, our home for a few years awhile back, minus three children and a number of wrinkles. How it has changed. We were graciously invited to stay with friends, believe it or not, all seven of us. They are a Franco-American couple as well, that we have known for ages, with seven children of their own. Only two are living at home at present, so that left plenty of room for all of us to play and sleep.

My dear friend, D., has been my ally and friend through thick and thin, through my young, silly mother phase, to a more mature, tranquil outlook on life, without ever making me feel inadequate or lesser than her brilliant self. D. and J. have an absolutely kid-friendly, welcoming home and always invite fascinating people to share dinner with when we visit. This time was no exception. The hospitality was warm and we all enjoyed ourselves to no end. We were given dinner and beds and told we had wonderful children, what more could a mother wish for?

We arrived in the evening for dinner, foosball and Monopoly. This was followed by pirates, I think, but really, I was too busy talking with the adults to be sure. Their charming children, a daughter who is 11 and a son, 18, were fun, bilingual hosts to the children. My oldest two and their daughter had become fast friends during our trip to Biarritz and had been looking forward to seeing each other again.

The next day, under a scorching sun, D. took us to the brand new (to us) tram for a mini-tour of Bordeaux. For those of you who knew Bordeaux back in the 90's and early years of the 21st century, it has changed significantly. The mayor, Alain Jupe, obliged all of the building owners in the center of the city to clean up the facades of their property. Instead of a blackened mess, they are sparkling cream, as they were originally built. Many surplus, old, dilapidated structures were removed to make room to enjoy the classical, Parisian-like architecture that characterizes Bordeaux. A pond that changed the city was added, really! It was not meant to be a pond, but D. took us to the new "Mirroir de la Bourse" to see and join in all the the people splashing barefooted in the reflecting mirror of the Place de la Bourse.

It is a huge, black surface along the Garonne River, where once there was a parking lot next to broken-down storage buildings. A thin film of water covers it, and every fifteen minutes it drains out and then comes back up in fountains of cold vapor all over the mirror. It was meant to be a noble reflecting pool of the aristocratic building ensemble across the street, and it could have been preserved as such, with a fence surrounding it and a guard or two. Instead, as D. pointed out, the mayor chose to react with a sense of humor, allowing the play and interaction between citizens of a city that never looked more than three seconds at one another before now. She maintains that with the pool and the tram, where people have to sit across from each other and stare into the whites of the eyes of their neighbors each day, the atmosphere in the city has changed so much that it has become a pleasant place to live. It is true that people actually smiled at me on the street while I was out walking during the two days, perhaps she is right...

In any case, that second evening, I picked up my daughter who had spent two days with her best friend, daughter of one of my favorite friends, in Andernos. We made the most of the short time we had by meeting for a cool soda at the train/tram station before each heading in opposite directions. Our sons found that they got along as well as they had when they last saw each other and it was fantastic to see my friend again. We arrived home to late to help with chopping up vegetables, but in time to learn how an Algerian friend of D's cooks couscous "the right way." It was appropriately hot in the kitchen, but she stood for at least two hours with her couscous; rinsing it, running it through her fingers, steaming it, and repeating the whole process two more times. She made a soup/sauce and kosher lamb to go with it. Delicious. The conversation was interesting, all about an Algerian view of the United States, with a little bit of French opinion thrown in and the Americans mostly listening, we're used to being the center of attention, both good and bad, and don't mind it as much as we did twenty years ago. The night ended way too late, but no one minded, especially not the children who were permitted to stay up late, late, late.

The next day we set off for la Vendee, up north three hours by car, and that is another story!


  1. Angela, this looks like such a magical fairy tale kind of place! I agree with your statement, "What more could a mother ask for?" Aren't little tidbits like that nice to keep stored in your mind to pull out on those days that we all have sometimes! ;-P

  2. Yes! And we'll take them where we find them, but they are most appreciated when they come from another mother and friend.

    Hope you're having a great summer,



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