26 May

Here I am!  In France at Les Battees, the Chambre D’Hotes in Southern Burgundy that is my refuge in Europe for the summer.  Still adjusting to the fact that I am indeed… in France!

I took a bike ride today in the reasonable heat and inviting sun.  Les Battees is located about a kilometer away from a seemed endless canal lined with paths suitable for bicycling, jogging, you name it.  This was my first spin out on the bicycle since arriving a little over a week ago.  It was good to stretch my wings out a little under the warm French sun.   I rode about 4 kilometers up the canal.  A test run of sorts.  Getting used to the bicycle on loan for travelers at Les Battees. Still nurturing my ankle after my spill down a few stairs last week.  And getting a feel for “how far I can ride” as alas when heading in one direction eventually, you have to turn around and come back. Riding along the canal I passed clusters of homes assembled in a way that looks like perhaps a small village.  I passed many happy French cows, as for some reason they look happier and healthier here nestled among the French hillside than they do in the States.  I was passed by French roller bladers… leaving me in their dust.  They rode in tandem with one skater in the lead followed by their partner holding on to their backpack, skating nearly in unison.

Adapting to being in France is coming along.  The owner of Les Battees is English as well as his visiting mum so I am often “spoiled” by the ease of being able to speak my own language.  Although I have learned that English and American aren’t necessarily the same.  It’s not just the accent, but also the culture, context and even words.  On more than one occasion my host’s mom will innocently ask me a question only for me to look at her quite perplexed in need of a translation.  My host is well adept at switching to French when needed… greeting French guests or at least guests who arrive wanting/expecting to be spoken to in French while in France.

I have had the opportunity to speak meager sentences of French since arriving.  I am pulling out words from the remnants of my memory from high school almost 25 years ago.  I find that when I am listening to a french conversation while I recognize words and fragments, often I have no earthly idea of what they are actually speaking about.  But still when invited to speak French or there is an opportunity to speak a little French I admit I get a secret thrill.

Life here at Les Battees for me so far has been pretty simple.  My host seems to have a laid back attitude about work and a basic expectation of the work for me to do here.  His mother has a good motherly work ethic and likely keeps us both in check.  This past week has not been busy at the Chombres d’Hotes, but the weekend is booked full with guests.  When guests are here my host handles the simple breakfast of Croissants and coffee offered in the morning.  I get to step in to clean rooms and change beds when guests have left.  And then later in the evening while my host is preparing the meal, I do my best to help out in any way that I can.  My host likes to cook the meals mostly on his own.  So far I have chopped a strawberry here and there… but mostly I have been of assistance with serving the meal and cleaning up.

During the quiet of the week it seems that all three of us find our own way.  My host’s mother spending much of her time in the garden.  Often I take advantage of the luxury of a long morning… enjoy time with myself and chanting, reiki and yoga.  If there are rooms to be cleaned I tend to those, but sometimes there is not even that to be done.  I lend a hand with ironing sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers where there is ironing to be done.  And other wise I may find a little project to do in the garden.

One of my hosts favorite projects is tending to his bees.  When we are driving around the countryside he is ever on alert for the latest blooms in the area to tempt his bees.  A few kilometers from home we see bees lingering about… considering if they are his bees out at work.  Last night he got a call from Dutch friends down the street who also own and run a Chambres d’Hotes.  They had a bee swarm develop from a hive that was nestled within the wood floor of their building.  Ever the beekeeper, he responded with enthusiasm.  Apparently a hive swarms when there are too many bees and they are looking for a new nest.  So my host gladly collected the bees and is now feeding and nourishing them in the cellar.  His new-bees, as he likes to call them.

We all eat lunch and dinner together.  Lunch is usually a simple meal of whatever is left in the fridge.  Leftovers of yesterday’s dinner, bread and cheese, sometimes some humus and fresh veggies, perhaps a fresh salad.  And dinner has always been prepared fresh by my host.  He cooks every evening preparing some sort of lovely vegetarian meal.  Even where there are no guests to prepare for, with his cooking I always feel well fed.

Our guests here so far are from throughout Europe.  We have had guest from the Netherlands, England, Germany and of course France since I have been here.  Often we will join them for the evening meal.  It has been interesting to be around travelers from other countries and to be in a collection of people needing to agree on what language to speak.  I am fortunate that many people in Europe speak English, but there are times when segments of conversation are in another language and I am left in that foreign but somewhat familiar space of simply not knowing what is being said.

But here I am…a “new-bee” in France.  Not used to drinking much wine.  Still distinguishing bon soir from bon soirée. Enchanted by French cheese!  And spoiled by the warmth of the sun, the songs of the birds of Les Battees and the rolling hills of the quiet countryside of Southern Burgundy.

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