It’s been a busy time and the days (and nights) are flying by. Don’t want to leave!
Barbu (French card game) at BJ’s with Ken and Lauren, with many stories from BJ that were funny and interesting. Lauren leaves early the next morning to catch a 6:00 AM flight home. So sad to see her go.
That night is Cooking Club with Geoffrey. We decided to do as a theme: “Spontaneity and Serendipity” (my Culinary Questers Cooking Club: sort of ala Kathy Decker, as a tribute to her…remember her wonderful hosting with no recipes?). We just bring ingredients (mostly from the outdoor market or specialty shops) and throw them together. Everything was delicious. I was so happy, as I’ve waited two years to cook with Geoffrey. Definitely worth the wait!
Dom is a new addition to our group. He’s from the U.K. and brings a wonderful creamy chocolate, almost a tarte, but not as solid. Ken and I brought, among other things, a Chateau Neuf du Pape. Usually sells for $80 in the States. We found it here for under $15! It is like liquid velvet, especially paired with the cheeses Geoffrey provided: Comte, Morbier, St. Marcellin, Brillat Savarin a la truffle, and Roquefort. The Morbier was interesting: it’s the one with the streak in the middle. They take the milk from the morning, make cheese from that, put ash on top (the streak) and then take the milk from the afternoon and make cheese for the top. The Brillat savarin a la truffle was like nothing I’ve ever had. The outside looks like brie, but it is so creamy and delicious, especially paired with the Chateau Nuef du Pape. Heaven for our mouths! I also learn that the Roquefort, the blue cheese, is an artisan one, as opposed to my favorite one here that I have found: Papillion (means butterfly – its symbol). Papillion is made industrially. It is still wonderful. We cannot get it in the States due to the ban on certain molds used to make the cheese. We get home late, almost 1:30 and catch the last tram.
The next night is the “Quiz” (Trivia Night) at the Robin Hood. Our favorite bar from last time. Alex, Asaf, Monica (Monica’s parents who are visiting) and Alexander all meet us there. We have lots of fun and Ken and I remember those Monday nights from last time we were here fondly. We get 4th place, mostly due to the younger members on our team knowing all the contemporary questions. The quiz doesn’t even start until 10:00, so another late night. It’s just the culture here. The restaurants don’t even open for dinner until 8 or 8:30. We are adjusting to this new timing extremely well.
I notice I am speaking French more (definite plug for immersion programs) and people are responding to me in French and not automatically responding in English. I am still TERRIBLE, especially with my Midwest twang accent, but I can sort of get my point across. If we come back to live, we will really have to become fluent, I think. For a month or two or three, you can get by, but, especially if we buy property here, we will have to be able to operate within the language.
My brother, Gordie, and his new wife, Darlina arrive for a visit.We introduce them to a restaurant that was our favorite last time we were here: Saveurs et Sens. (Flavors and Sense). We have a wonderful evening with outstanding food and wine. Much less expensive than a similar meal in the States.
We start with an “Amuse Bouche” (amusement for the mouth) to get things started.
The appetizers (called “Entrees”) include extremely thinly sliced beef or salmon with all
sorts of interesting things on top. (Don’t ask me what they were, but they were delicious).
There was also a foie gras with a pesto sauce in a little shot glass. For our main dish, “Plats”, I had a duck breast with the best risotto I’ve ever had in my life. There was chateaubriand, that was outstanding, for the guys. Darlina had some sort of cod that looked divine and was delicious. Desserts, of course were marvelous, as was the wine. A true French meal.
On Thursday, we are in for a real treat. Maugan, Michael and Odile’s son, is giving a concert with his band (L)OUD. Another thing I’ve been waiting to do since the last time. We love his music (as did Lauren), and he was the one whose studio Lauren and I got to go to when she was here. Every time I play his CD at home for friends, they all request it first thing the next time they are over. Think he would be a sensation in the States. Michael and Odile are there, of course, as well as the keyboarder’s (Michael) parents, Nigel and Karen (who we met 2 years ago). Nice to catch up with them and they have brought some of their visitors to the concert, too. Odile has many of her choir friends attending, so it’s a lot of introductions and the standard 3 kisses on alternating cheeks/trying to communicate in halting French. A lot of fun, but the best part was the concert, of course. It takes place in a small place that sells wine/beer, so I of course plant myself right up front to really focus on the music. The guys sound even better than they did 2 years ago! What a treat to get to see them play!
The days are still passing quickly. We show Gordie and Darlina around our “home” city, and they both are very impressed by the urban planning, how easy it is to get around, the vibe of the town, and just the general atmosphere. They both can see how we have come to fall in love with this place.
We take them 30 min. away (by train) to Nimes, which we have never been to. It’s a beautiful town and you can really see the Spanish influence (most of the towns in Southern France were founded by the Romans, except for Montpellier, but the borders shifted continually, so some of the cities were in Spain at one time). Nimes is the only city allowed to fight the traditional bull fight (where the bull is actually killed). They have a venue that looks like the coliseum in Rome, so it all seems very authentic. We have lunch in a delightful little café which serves tapas, off the beaten path, even ordering bull steak (tastes like a beef bourguignon, with a slightly unusual undertone – it was actually pretty good).
That night we go to a concert in Montpellier at a wonderful venue called the Corum. (Montpellier has two such places: one new and modern, the Corum, and one old and traditional: the Opera House). Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Dvorak were on the program. The city orchestra is wonderful and the conductor gets many encores. No worries about translations…Music: the universal language.
As we walk home from the concert after the long day, I get a text from Geoffrey: he had been at the concert, too! Would have been fun to meet up with him there. Then I hear my name being called (with a French accent, of course) and it’s Alex and Alexander out with some friends at an outdoor café that we are walking past (remember, this is late at night in Southern France and someone is calling my name!). The next day, as we walk toward the Outdoor Market, we run into Asaf and Monica parking their car near there to run some errands. This all sort of blows my mind: we keep running into people that we know when we are out and about. We are a part of this community!
We wind down Gordie and Darlina’s visit with making dinner together with items we have purchased at the Outdoor Market. A little more sightseeing today and they are on their way home. It’s been a nice visit.
The trip for us, too, is starting to wind down as we leave so soon! It has been speeding by, especially compared to last time when we were here a lot longer. This week is jammed packed with varied social events with friends each day and evening. I will write about them in my next, and probably last, posting.
For now, just a few thoughts that have been running around in my head. Ken and I like to talk and dream about what our future might look like. We love where we live in SC and the friends and life we have there, but we definitely want to consider trying to come here for a year or two. Michael has been wonderful about supplying us with real estate booklets! There are many tax and visa issues, but we think they are worth looking into. Who knows? It’s good to have information to be able to make a decision.
And of course, who knows what life will bring? Weddings, grandkids, health issues, etc. etc. One step at a time. For now, just living in the present, feeling very blessed to experience what we have been able to experience up until now.