Saturday, August 6, 2022

I Took a Nap and a Drive: A French Afternoon on Vacation…or La Farniente, Almost

There is life after lunch. Right after we’ve had a nice nap to recover from lunch. Which is after the hour of coffee-drinking in the shade of the trees in the garden. The nap, I mean, not lunch. I know, there is a lot to keep track of.

We go visiting or are visited. Marie-France, my French mama and I do much of the visiting. It is a day by day affair. The telephone is picked up around 3:30, a number dialed and I hear, "Alô? Angela est là, can we stop by?" and we are out the door. This will be one of the families who hosted me years ago when I was an exchange student. They have had dozens of exchange students in the Rotary club over the years, but not many ended up married to a local and with French citizenship. I also write at Christmas.
I chauffeur, Marie directs and tells stories. She has stories of her childhood in le Berry, where her father ran a great farm. There are tales of voyages around the globe, of great hardships, great joy, and hilarity. I try not to murder our backs with my driving, that second gear is always hard on the coccyx when poorly executed, but she is a model of graciousness, never once agreeing with me that I might have jolted her right out of her skull.
Contis-les Landes

The roads are the tiniest things you ever did see. I know I said that about the store yesterday, but the roads really are as teensy and tidy as those shelves of biscuits. See below (isn't that just peerless?)

Spar in Mezos, on the corner of Avenue des Écoles and Rue des Tilleuls

The "routes départementales" in les Landes are lined with the golden and green shades of burning ferns and pine trees mostly, with bursts of wildflowers in purple and yellow. Every three and a half seconds one comes to another roundabout signaling another village. The driver has just time enough to make it back up to the ninety kilometers an hour speed limit when it drops back down to fifty and then thirty. 

The main streets of villages are lined with hot pink flowering trees, glorious hanging baskets of flowers, and pretty little ninth or tenth-century churches. We can spot a small chateau or two, wells with wooden roofs, bread ovens, old communal schools; girls on one side and boys on the other, and town halls. I slow down to a crawl to get over the HUGE hump of a road bump. Every town has added these, sometimes two or three of them. They are called "dos d'âne" or "donkey backs" in French. The size of these has me thinking of much, much larger animals, maybe brontosaurus backs. I shift back into third and fourth gears and wait for the sign to signal the end of the village to speed up again for a very short while: fifty, seventy, ninety -roundabout.


Our teatime excursions took us to country places with stables and others in little villages. One property was tucked into one of the few hills in les Landes, most were on the plain, all surrounded by the endless pine trees.

On one occasion, a last-minute decision to go our for lunch was taken, highly unusual here. My French mama had just received bad news about her car that had been in the garage awaiting repairs; it would take longer than expected and she would soon be stranded with only an ancient, beat up truck to drive and besides, she just needed the cheering up that only a good meal would provide…I could but acquiesce and drive. It was not far, a small town a few miles from the coast. After a small glass of red wine and a giant plate each of all the good parts of a duck: gesiers, foie, magret, some pine nuts and a few leaves of lettuce to permit the name of “salade”,  the waiter brought out a little selection of cheese and then an expresso. If only either of us had had any remaining appetite left for the chocolat liegois...another time.

What next? It was raining lightly, but it might let up. It was decided that we should trust the fates and we drove the two miles to Contis plage, my first beach experienced in France. The rain let up as I snagged a parking spot vacated by a disappointed vacationer. We made our slow, digestive way up and over the dune. I will not attempt to describe how captivating the sea is here, but I have included a couple of photos above.

On either end of my week with Marie-France, I am back in my husband’s home town. In this space of "after the noon hour" here, my mama-in-law, my son and I make our leisurely way over to my sister-in-law’s to take a dip in the pool with the cousins or watch them do so from a cool spot on the patio. This has, of course, been preceded by exactly the same morning scenario, up to and including the sieste.



Today, I see that my kiddo is busy hammering and sawing things out on the patio with his Papi, so I think I will go out alone to fill up the gas tank of my little car that can go for 690 kilometers on a single tank. 

Then, perhaps I may just return to the boulangerie (bakery) where I found a delicious chocolatine and éclairs au chocolat yesterday to make the most of the beautiful fact that someone on this great green earth took the time to bake such a thing. I believe I really do owe it to bakers everywhere…don’t you think?



***There are more posts, videos and thrilling adventures, like; taking out the rubbish in the countryside in France and real photos of the weirdest parking lot ever invented (which happens to be at that very same boulangerie) on my Instagram: French Dialogues. Come see me there and please hit "subscribe" would you? It would make my day. 

Bonne journée to you!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for stopping by. I am always happy to hear from you! Please leave a comment and let me know how you feel about a post or add advice, anecdotes, etc. of your own.