New Scenery

19 May

Well it’s hard to believe that I am in France.  It is amazing to me as an American that you can get on a train in Germany, travel ten hours or so and get out in a totally different world!

I am beginning to settle in to my new place.  It is called Les Battees.  It is a 19th century wine growers house converted into a Bed and Breakfast.  My host is a kind English man who moved here about 8 years ago to restore and run it as a business.  I am also enjoying the company of his mother here on an extended visit. So far life and work here has an easy leisurely pace.  There have been rooms to clean and some other work to do, but life seems to flow in a balanced way.

I find I am reluctantly turning in my German danke, ja and tchuss for French merci, oui, and au revoir!  It is a change and a delight to walk down the street and be greeted so casually with “bounjour”! I studied French in high school more than twenty years ago.  I am learning that if I pay attention I can successfully pick out words and understand fragments of conversations.  It is exciting to listen and learn, but it is also a little exhausting to swim in the language that is indeed very foreign to me.  Unlike Germany where I understood nearly nothing, I at least have a small glimmer of understanding French and will continue to “show up” in conversations to explore my comprehension and capacity to communicate.  My host here is English but has found his way pretty successfully through the French language.  It is fun to watch him easily switch from our regular English conversation to speak a visitor or on the telephone in French.  His mother speaks  English so once again I find I am living in a mostly English speaking cocoon.

I ventured out a few days ago as there was a quiet afternoon here with not much work to do.  I took a stroll to the near-bye village of Couches… a hearty walk away from Les Battees.  I was impressed with the rolling hills of the surrounding French landscape sitting there innocently unaware of their beauty.  After walking for a while and nearly to my destination, I reached a fork in the road with no sign pointing the direction of where to go.  Still getting my “french” legs and a little weary and nervous in my new space and transition, I have to say I “panicked”… just a little.  I waved down a Frenchman driving by and used a little French and pointed to my map to ask for directions.  He spoke to me in French and mostly… I did not understand him.  I picked out the few words I did understand ( “gauche”  means left) and headed in the direction he pointed.  I found myself back where I had started… but at least I wasn’t lost.  I retraced my path hoping this time I would find my way.  Alas, there I was again… at a fork in the road.  Luckily there was a couple outside and I did my best with a little French to address my needs.  She spoke.  I smiled a lot and felt clumsy in my mostly American language and ways.  But she rerouted me and happily I found my way to Couches.

A tiny village, my primary mission was to find the tourist office there to get a little information on surrounding bike routes and also events in the area for the summer.  I stopped by an Antique shop to ask for directions.  “Parlez-vous Englais”  I asked!  “Oui” he said and then proceed to speak in some English words, but mostly French.  I smiled like I understood and then continued down the road.  Still unsure of my route I found another friendly looking shop to help guide my way.  I was greeted by a friendly woman who sweetly led me down an alley clearly pointing me to my destination.

Today I took a stroll down a path behind my new “home” and made my way to a near-bye canal.  The canal is lined with a path suitable for bicycling, walking, roller blading… you name it!  The original path was used for the horses to pull the barges down the canal.  Today it is part of an impressive network of paths suitable for bicycling around the area.  My host has bicycles I can use so I am looking forward to spending some time there!

And for now… mostly I am… adjusting… to being in a new space, around new people, and in a new country.  I have already been awakened to the beauty of French cheese (oh my!) and French wine.  I have met a few of my hosts friends at a dinner party.  I have eaten wonderful vegetarian meals prepared by my host. And I am getting my French legs.  I admit I am a bit wobbly.  I even tumbled down a  couple of stairs the other night while carrying a few dishes down to the kitchen.  Ah, c’est la vie.  I suppose I just need to take it literally one step at time.  In the meantime, it’s good to be in France!

One Response to “New Scenery”

  1. Jean Vegas 19/05/2012 at 22:21 #

    Happy to hear you are doing well and enjoying yourself.

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