Wednesday, July 31, 2013

One man's pacotille (junk) could be our trésor

Summer Sundays in France compel us to comb through vide greniers, brocantes, and boot sales for treasures. Seems every village has at least one vide grenier (empty attic sale) this time of year, so we usually can hit one or two every weekend.

Ken and I have a short list of things we are seeking: a set of unbreakable dishes to bring to repas du rues, a mortar and pestle, a lazy Susan for my spice cabinet, a cast-iron frying pan sans rust. We never actually find these things, but we still keep looking. And once in awhile, we find a treasure we didn't even realize we wanted.

We've set a limit of five euros for these unexpected trésors. Last spring I found an unusual candélabre for 1 euro, as well as a water-pump-shaped planter (2 euros), a set of dessert plates (25 centimes), and a handmade bowl (50 centimes) that now houses my polished rock collection. (Yes, I have a polished rock collection.)

A few weeks ago, we visited a brocante in Eymet. Rather than the usual mishmash of objects akin to those found at American garage sales, this sale featured higher-end antiques. Think: plus cher (more expensive).

All we brought home that day were these pictures. But, quel plaisir!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The company we (would like to) keep

We are jealous of our many British friends here in France. They warn us: "Once you open the floodgates to company, it'll be non-stop." But the Brits' relatives and friends can fly here quickly and cheaply on Ryan Air to Bergerac. Our potential guests would need to spend more than $1,000 and have the luxury of a few weeks of paid vacation in order to spend time in our neck of the woods. Because we're so remote, it would be unlikely -- and unwise -- to spend their valuable time and money just to visit little old us.

So, we were thrilled last week when one of Ken's (six!) nephews and his mom (Ken's former sister-in-law) decided to spend part of their European vacation here in Lauzun. 

After a whirlwind week in Paris and Barcelona, they arrived in Marmande via train from Toulouse. A little tired and a bit overwhelmed by the first two-thirds of their trip, where they saw sites Ken and I have yet to see, they were happy to take it a bit slower for the last few days of their precious vacations.

Still, we were determined to show them the best this region has to offer to a 19-year-old smart, funny young man and his vivacious mom. 

Persevering through the unrelenting heatwave engulfing the area, we took them to le châteaux de Duras, we explored the dawn of civilization in la vallée de la Vézère, and we showed them how our little village celebrates a hot summer evening with a repas de rue (street meal). 

But even more significant than sharing the sites and tastes of our petite partie of France, we had the singular opportunity to connect with family: une belle-soeur we hadn't seen in years and un neveu who previously had been just one of a large clan. We gossiped, we talked about U.S. politics, and we laughed a lot. We established bonds that will continue through the years.

It's unlikely they'll come back and visit again, at least in this configuration: mother and son. But, we now have shared memories.

And, fingers crossed, they will give us a good review on the family/friends version of Trip Advisor. With the right word-of-mouth, peut-être, we'll get some more company. I mean, come on: We have two, count 'em, two, guest rooms and a spare bath. Ken's a gracious pilote. And I'm a pretty good cuisinier, if I do say so myself. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Plaisir de la petite ville ... small town fun

Donkey cart rides at Lauzun's Comice Agricole 2013
Our village celebrated Fête Nationale de la France with an agricultural-themed festival and fireworks at the lake. 

Food booths: I recommend the
brochette with canard and prunes.
Tout le monde loves vintage cars.
Farm machinery on display

Bouncy fun for the kids

Petites filles check out the livestock.

The egg race: It ain't as easy as it looks.

Try your luck with a plastic duck.

Pompiers demonstrate their skills.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Celebrating the Fourth in France

I've been with Ken for three decades and I can't ever recall hearing him suggest, "Hey, let's have a party." Inexplicably finding himself with patriotic fervor, he decided we should celebrate the Fourth of July by inviting our new French friends (along with a couple of Brits) to have a beer at our local bar. Ken did it all ... he let Jean Paul know what time we'd be there and asked to run a tab. He created the invitations and revised them with the help of our neighbor M. Dubley. He hand-delivered the invitations, which featured a picture of General Lafayette, and was a jolly host to the dozen or so guests who showed up.

The next day, the Lauzun Tourism Office mentioned us on its Facebook page, and we're already planning next' year's fête,

"I just wanted to show the French how grateful we are for their help in the Revolution," Ken explains. 

As for our British friends, bygones, eh?  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Easy Riding - Le Canal Part Deux

The second leg in our quest to bike the entire Canal des Deux Mers begins at the northwestern end where the canal meets the Garonne River on its way to the Atlantic.

Small signs in the village of Castets-en-Dorthe note that this is the place the canal begins (or ends, depending on how you look at it), but this is no tourist attraction; without any pomp, the river branches off into this amazing feat of engineering. It's the beginning of the canal's 270 mile (433 km) journey through France to the Mediterranean Sea. But for Ken and I, today's promenade will be an efficient three-hour round trip to Meilhan-sur-Garonne.

In the weeks since we decided to bike the canal, Ken has been telling our friends how easy it is.

"You can just coast along for hundreds of meters," he boasts.

Putting his theory to the test, I calculate a 10-second limit to my coasting. Despite the easy, mostly paved flat bike path, I still work and sweat for every one of the day's 40 kilometers.

I snap some pictures along the way, of course, but I am not quick enough to capture the day's most memorable encounter. We meet several groups of petits enfants, out for a ride with their teachers to celebrate the end of the school year. One group is stopped at the side of the path where the teacher is not having any luck putting the chain back on a little boy's bright yellow vélo. Ken to the rescue! He fixes the chain and amid cheers of "merci," they're on their way. And so are we.