10 August 2009

2006: Home Again

What I Won't Miss (to get the rants out of the way quickly)
  • Tailgaters. Self-explanatory
  • Narrow, one-lane (plus, in some cases) country lanes that have highway designations, and drivers who believe that 50 feet of visibility is enough for 60mph
  • Petrol prices. I promise not to bitch about prices in the US. Remember that, and beat me upside the head if you hear me complain about petrol in the US. My treat.
  • Difficulty in finding photo shoppes that sell professional equipment and products. My fault for not having packed an adequate supply of CCD cleaning liquid, but still, one would think it could be found in large cities here. Nope.
  • Handwashing laundry because the closest laundromat is a 35+-mile roundtrip. Expensive due to petrol prices without taking into account charges for 30-minute washes and 7-minute drying
There, that wasn't so bad, now, was it? A pretty short list for such a holiday, I think.

What (and Who) I Will Miss, A Much Longer List and Much More Important
  • First and foremost, Madame Bernadette. Even though she sometimes scares the living bejesus out of me by coming unannounced into the apartment, I feel like she has taken me under her wing, has given me a French culture lesson I could not have acquired any other way. I provide her with chocolate, she provides me with a wonderful laugh (especially when I have to run back into the apartment to get my French/English dictionary), a ready smile, questions regarding my day, where I've been, and the occasional courgette (zucchini) grown by her daughter, said vegetable the size of several large and illegal Cuban cigars. We talk about the weather, her flowers, and occasionally laundry. She has forced me to learn French, something you can't get from a book. And, while I have a very long way to go before we can just sit and talk (in my opinion) about the world in general, she cannot be faulted for my inability to always keep up with her.
  • Madame Simone, who lives two doors down. Between Madame Bernadette and her, two 80-year-old women, I was well-looked after. As an aside, they've both made me promise to go back to school as soon as possible. The subject: la langue Fran├žaise.
  • Bertrand and Lesley, who live the next town over. British retirees, they moved to France to live upon retirement, and are flourishing. When asked by a perfect stranger to help with a personal matter last month, they offered themselves without reservation. For their help, they have asked only that I "pay it forward," asking nothing from myself in return for their generousity. Their wish will be done.
  • the French People, in general. When they are confronted by someone who butchers their language as easily as I can (and do), they usually go out of their way to help, or find someone who knows a bit of (and sometimes MUCH more) English. I can't think of an instance where communication was just an impossibility, and it was almost always due to their wanting to help.
  • the Food. Need I say more? I never once ate in a restaurant or small takeaway stand and didn't find the offerings worth every penny. From freshly-baked croissants, crepes, and baguettes to fruits and veg to the "run-of-the-mill" strawberry preserves, chocolates, and dijon mustards, it was hard not to become jaded by what was readily available. And I must find importers for a specific young Gouda cheese and those milk chocolate bars with nuts...
  • Limoncello. My best Nederlands friends hooked me on the good stuff one incredible evening. the American equivalent isn't
  • Visit to Rye (9 mile walk, tons of birds)
  • Lunch with many old friends on Sunday
  • Chinese food at You's
the list continues, but the most important:
  • Ambrose and Les. They made this trip possible, and I can't conceive of a better birth anniversary gift than their friendship and trust.
Thank you, Boyz...

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