Tag Archives: Les Battees Guest House

Final Days at Les Battees

27 Aug

Wow.  It is hard to believe it is the end of August already.  Time feels full and good.  I am doing my best to stay grounded as I walk through my final days at Les Battees, making the beds, cleaning the kitchen.  The weather is amazing as I breathe in the fresh clean country air that by now I have become accustomed to.  It seems that summer is beginning to slide away here in the Burgundy region of France as you can feel something fresh in the air ushering in the new season.

Thankfully there have been a few breaks in the busy Les Battees schedule these last few days.  Time to catch up on a few things like cleaning the kitchen,washing all the sheets and towels, and breathe and rest a bit preparing for the new set of guests.  The relentless nearly unstoppable pace of July and early August has dwindled.  It seems now the is a day or two to take a break.

Life has been good here at Les Battees.  Roy, my host has been quite busy lately preparing dinners for guests known in France as table d’hote, which literally means “host’s table”. He offers an optional vegetarian meal to guests who stay here for an additional cost.  Over the summer I have come to appreciate Roy as a chef.  Now also mind you, at his root he is a scientist with a Ph.D. and background in food science and research.  His scientific manner bleeds through in his cooking, methodical and precise, but also consistent and filled with the utmost care and concern for the quality and authenicity of the meal he is preparing.  Roy has a policy with the food her serves at the table d’hotes… he never serves a recipe or meal to a guest without first testing it on friends to make sure that it is a high quality, enjoyable meal.

One of his favorite dishes lately has been a polenta and olive dish served with roasted vegetables (sweet potato, fennel and red peppers) accented with yummy goat cheese (you haven’t eaten goat cheese until you have visited France!) and a fresh mint herb salsa on the side.  The dish is a real treat to eat.  It is an earnest pleasure to enjoy the meal surrounded by other guests appreciating the care, freshness and taste of the meal.  I caught him once dipping his bananas into orange juice as he was preparing a dessert featuring bananas.  “What are you doing?” I asked him… wondering if perhaps the ceaseless days of work had finally gotten to his head.  He informed me that dipping the bananas into the orange juice keeps them from turning brown.  That is the kind of care he puts into his cooking!

Over the weekend Roy and I took a quick escape on Sunday to the local brocante.  A brocante in France is somewhat like a rummage sale or an antique or flea sale in the states.  It is a mostly organized occasion with local people bringing their antiques, finds or excess items to sell.  I have come to love these events as I can pick up a little of this or a little of that for extraordinarily good prices.  I bought a camera at a brocante and at this most recent brocante I found a sweater that I liked for the outrageous price of 1 Euro and a  jacket as well for 2 euros.  As someone who has been living for the past year solely on work exchanges, it is a joy to make little purchases that fit into my traveling budget!

 I have learned that wherever I go, wherever I travel… I am unmistakably American. Being American is something that leaks out of me as I try to speak French making a purchase at the local brocante.  It is distinct as I speak to guests visiting here at Les Battees from Begium, England, the Netherlands.  “You’re American, aren’t you” they say.  Roy informed me that the giant size dishes that we use to serve dinner, the dishes that are too big to fit into the dishwasher and have to be washed by hand, are called by the French “Les Americans”.  Funny.

I have just a few days left here at Les Battees.  My plans are mostly set although I find I am still a bit quite about them as the final details weave and fold into place.  But for now I am content to breathe in the fresh French air and let myself be for a bit.  Feeling the excitement of the time I have spent here and the good of what is to come welcomed in by the brisk almost autumn air.

The photo is of a beautiful blossoming dahlia in the gardens of Les Battees.  Always the source of information, Roy shared that dahlia’s used to be grown for their somewhat potato-like root and eaten.  But apparently today they are mostly enjoyed for their beautiful bloom.

The Sweet Life

7 Aug

It’s another mild day at Les Battees.  The coolness of the summer breeze leaves me feeling content and relaxed while the warmth of the sun has me melting, happy and satisfied.  Our busier pace continues here at Les Battees.  July is the typical travel time in Europe and now bleeding into early August.  The chambre d’hotes has been booked full and we have been busy workers!

I originally found out about Les Battees through the website helpx.net.  Roy, the owner of Les Battees, and I traded emails exploring the possibility of a visit to determine if it would be a good fit.  The general agreement through helpx.net is work in exchange for room and board. I mentioned in an email that I don’t eat refined sugar.  Not a drop.  I asked Roy, “would that be a problem?”  “I don’t know why it would be,”  he replied.

Living life without sugar has become a regular way for me.  People may ask or even assume that I am allergic to sugar and that’s not quite the truth.  I describe it more as being sensitive to sugar.  I am like every other “good” American raised on plenty of sugar and sweets.  I never would have considered cutting sugar out of my diet until I saw a friend reading the book Sugar Blues by William Duffy about 8 years ago. I was in the midst of a major personal health transformation and willing to make any changes necessary to feel better. I was intrigued by the book and decided to give it a read for myself.  After reading it I considered the possibility that sugar may be acting like poison in my body and impacting my mood and well-being.  I decided to give it a shot without sugar and see what a difference it made.

The first thing I noticed was that sugar is in everything.  Spaghetti sauce, bread, mayonnaise… you name it.  I became a fervent label reader and with persistence successfully explored a diet with no sugar.  Without sugar, I noticed my mood felt a bit lighter, my anxiety reduced, and my anger and mood swings lessened.  As my body was no longer used to sugar, even a tiny bit of sugar immediately triggered my mood to drastically turn for the worse.  Additionally my body just no longer “felt right” when I ate sugar.  So I am very clear… no sugar for me! When I say sugar I am referring mostly to refined sugar.  I still enjoy moderate amounts of natural sugars… honey, agave nectar, fruits and fruit juices.

I was recently turned on to a website called radiant recovery.  The founder of that website, Kathleen DesMaisons Ph.D, is a scientist and the website is based on her working theory of sugar sensitivity.  According to Dr. DesMaisons, someone is sugar sensitive if they have unstable blood sugar, low serotonin and low beta endorphin.  She has created a 7 step diet that when followed can help create balance.  This diet, strangely enough, includes eating a potato before bed.  She has written a book about this called Potatoes Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity.

Life without sugar has not been a bad thing for me!  In fact, here at Les Battees I am definitely living the sweet life!  My host Roy doesn’t hesitate to replace sugar in some dessert recipes with honey.  I have enjoyed, in moderation, wonderful apple pie, roasted apricots and rhubarb, all sweetened with honey.  And of course, there is never sugar added to Roy’s wonderful vegetarian main dishes.  Fabulous savory tarts and cobblers.  No deprivation here!

It has certainly been worth it, this adventure in the sweetness of life without sugar.  I am a lot happier and feel better.  And there are still plenty of wonderful foods to enjoy along the way!  Bon Appetite!

Photo of olive polenta served with roasted vegetables prepared by Roy Patchett, owner of Les Battees.

Chalon Dans La Rue

23 Jul

It feels like a beautiful fall day here in Dennevy, France.  Except, of course, that it is the middle of summer.  I am not complaining mind you.  The sun is shining and there is fresh cool breeze in the air.  I remain, after living in New Orleans for over ten years, a tropical climate body and I have to laugh at myself as I walk around in France in July wearing fleece and… I hesitantly admit.. a scarf.  It feels good to be tucked up and warm.

I took an outing away from the land of Les Battees last week.  My first excursion on my own since arriving in France.  It wasn’t totally on my own as I “hitched” a ride with my host and his girlfriend to Chalon sur Saone for the street theater festival, Chalon Dan La Rue.  After months in the shelter of the mostly English speaking Les Battees and the company and companionship of Roy’s mum, Marina and Roy as well… I was, shall we say, hesitant to strike out in the land of French on my own.  I was like a little baby bird being kicked out of the next.  It was time.

The three of us arrived in Chalon and I was escorted to the tourists office.  I was armed with a map, a bus schedule and a schedule of the events for the street theater.  I looked at Roy with the eyes of an abandoned child and left to allow them some privacy for their date.  I jokingly said in departure… “If I never see you again… it was nice knowing you…”  Sometimes my nervousness strikes in me without my permission, and there it was as I left on my own for the day.  The best cure for that?  Practice.  So I set out to enjoy my day in Chalon.

Listening to Roy’s advice I headed towards the center of town and followed the people.  It was a coolish rainy day as I wandered around a bit seeking the best direction.  I saw a few colorful characters that reminded me of my days and times living in New Orleans.  And then, while walking around in the center of the city square it seemed that someone was following me… It was a woman… and when I moved to the left… she moved to the left.  When I moved to the right… she moved to the right.  Yes, she is following me, I thought with my suspicions protective lens.  So I decided to test her and made a sudden u-turn in the square only to greet her friendly french face and discover… that she was… part of the festival…a mime of sorts.  And she was following me.  She handed me a harmless red foam square and did her best to explain her project to me in her modest English.  It seemed they were handing out the red squares to people and inviting them to leave them in a public space… anywhere… and take a picture of it and then send the picture and why they placed it there  to their website.  Harmless.

Following my nose and the crowds led me to a small stage just outside of the center of town.  A band was setting up so I settled in, ate a little lunch and waited for them to perform.  They were a “young” group, likely in their early twenties, all dressed up in funky band uniforms.  They called themselves the Pullup Orchestra and when they started playing my mind, my body and my spirit were met with some relief.  Their funky sounds and playful performance put some of my nervousness at rest.  They were from Switzerland and surprisingly fun.  They had a brass band sound but also added kind of a hip-hop feel.   Here is a little sample of what I heard!

Using what I now see are basically remnants of French from my studies in High School, I was able to handle the basics in French in my day.  I got directions to the bank.  I bought myself some food and I found a bathroom!

Walking through the streets, I stumbled to the next “act” driving down the road on a coach of sorts pedaled by one of the lovely performers.  It was three women dressed in costume, the woman at the lead was singing opera with a beautiful comical air.  It was in French so I did not understand what they were saying, but watching I was entertained just the same.  They brought their carriage to a halt and engaged in an amusing display.  The lead was singing and taunting, with their “cyclist” dismounting the carriage to apparently select men for the lead actress.  It was a quite a routine, the men being sprayed with what I can only assume was some sort of “love potion” by the woman fetching men while the men were serenaded and seduced by the lead on the carriage.  When their business was done, they saddled back up and peddled away to their new destination and I went to look for mine.

I had a schedule for the day which was in French, but I was able to fend my way through it.  I caught a show on the other side of town that just blew me away!  The group was called Urbaphonix. It was such great street theater, a collection of youngish men arriving in suits with some urgency, exploring the landscape around them until finding a perfect spot.  They attached some sort of electrical device to that and other spots… and began to play.  Balconies, bicycles and street signs were transformed into music instruments.  It was so “smart” and their performance so engaging, it was really a fresh experience.  Here is a little sample.

I stumbled upon a few more acts for the day, all of which were really excellent in a way that impressed me, and then began to make my way to the bus station.  Relying on my map to point me in the right direction, I easily found the station and my bus back to Les Battees.  One Euro fifty cents later, I was on the bus and on my way.

I arrived back at Les Battees with the house to myself for a little bit, enjoyed a dinner of leftovers and a movie accompanied by the companionship of Picsou the dog and the day was complete.

For today it looks like a fresh easy day at Les Battees.  We have guests upstairs at the Chambres d’Hotes staying for a few days, which means we can rest a bit.  I am hanging out in my room newly accompanied by my venus flytrap plant… an offering from Roy to aid in reducing the number of flies wandering around my room.  It is a good day for just chilling out and listening to the roar of the fall-like summer wind.

Photo of the traveling serenading carriage at Chalon Dans La Rue.

Patience

14 Jul

It’s the fourteenth of July… a national holiday in France, Bastille Day!  I am told there will be fireworks in town, about a kilometer up the road, to celebrate the holiday. Today is Saturday and after serving dinner for ten people last night … Roy, the chef and owner of Les Battees, and me the lovely assistant… are in need of a little recovery.  We spent at least some of today digging out the kitchen until… alas… all is clean and mostly dishes and pans are happily tucked away in their proper homes.

I am starting to make plans for my “what’s next” when I leave Les Battees.  Attempting to strike that balance of being present and making preparations for the nearish future.  I said to Roy today, “traveling is a full-time job…”  And so it does take time to investigate new possibilities, get in touch with people, wait to hear back, and continue the process.  I shared today at lunch out in the garden that one of the lessons I am learning  is how to explore the possibility of many things without attachment to one idea being “the way”.  I have learned so far on my journey that it does me no good to get attached to an idea of what is next… sometimes plans work out sometimes they fall through and sometimes an even better idea comes along.  Presently I am practicing balancing multiple options and ideas and making room for possibilities when exploring what is next.  It is a new act for me – an act that require practice and patience… patience as what may be next comes into focus and unfolds… patience in not knowing what exactly will be next just yet and patience with myself when I get a little frantic about it all.  Some days I feel light with it.  Some days I don’t.  Patience.

What is new at Les Battess you ask?  Well we are in Roy’s busiest season, the month of July.  July is  when most French and many Europeans travel so we are more likely to be busy and filled with guests during the week as well as weekends.  This means more ironing of sheets, laundry, changing rooms and beds and dinners prepared.  And more guests!  Guests visit Les Battees from all over Europe.  Many are Dutch, stopping off at Les Battees for a night or their weekend as part of a larger holiday on the way to the South of France.  We also have some French guests, English, Belgium and Swiss.  On occasion… you might just spot an American!  A rare bird here at Les Battees, but not completely unexpected.

Lately there has been less time  for play off the grounds of Les Battees… but still plenty of time for a leisurely walk or some fresh air in the surrounding countryside.  Last week the local farmers came and harvested all of the wheat that was on the fields behind Les Battees.  Ever the city girl, it came as kind of shock that all of that beautiful wheat was there…to be harvested!  Trimmed down the bare ground, there is now a more barren but still beautiful look to the French hills.

Tonight… it is leftovers for dinner!  Not a complaint with Roy’s good cooking.  We enjoyed the Lentil tart from last night’s dinner served with some fresh green beans from his garden.  It’s a cool night tonight with spots of rain.  Perhaps a night for fireworks… but maybe a night for staying in.  A few guests are still to arrive.  And I am tucked into my room with the fresh cool breeze wishing me well.

Photo of a visiting French snail I caught traveling across the kitchen window of Les Battees. Reminding me, take it slow…all in good time…

Summer fun

4 Jul

It is a quiet day at Les Battees.  My host Roy departed for a one-night escape and I am here hanging out with the resident K-9, Picsioux the dog.  Between the two of us, me and Picsioux, we are handling the basic responsibilities of the quiet mid-week Les Battees.  I have to say, I am doing most of the work.  Washing sheets and bedding, hanging them to dry and making beds and completing cleaning rooms before the weekend rush.  What is there still do you ask?  Ironing!  Yes, ironing the sheets.  I imagine I will have to do that by myself as well.

Life in Les Battees is a bit different post- Marina, Roy’s mum.  She returned to her home in England last Sunday after a three-month stay here helping Roy with the daily needs of his Chambre d’Hotes.  Truthfully… it was a little jolting for me when she left.  Since I arrived at Les Battees I have seen people and guests come and go.  But it was a bit strange for me to see Marina leave.  She had been here since I arrived.  She was there with Roy to pick me up at the train station.  She was my partner in cleaning the kitchen (“many hands make light work” she would say…) and making beds.  She lived across the hall from me and sang songs with me while we were cleaning.

Since Marina has left, with just Roy and I at the house, a few things have changed.  Mostly we eat meals in the kitchen now instead of setting the table and eating in the dining room or outside.  The sheets are not as neatly organized without Marina to collect them and carefully distribute them… a skill I am developing and honing.  And the house, in general, is a little less neat and tidy.  I try to pick up some of the slack.  But I also seek the world that Roy too seeks… balance.  Balance in that there is a time to work and a time to rest.  A time to clean and a time to take it easy.

Roy and I exercised our balance muscle last weekend on a busy Saturday.  It was a beautiful warm sunny day outside and Roy had one thing on his mind… swimming!  There is a swim-friendly lake just a few kilometers away from Les Battees and Roy was determined to soak up a little sun and take a dip.  I was a willing and accommodating accomplice.  So Saturday morning after the guests left, Roy and I joined forces to clean and prepare the rooms as quickly as possible, left the kitchen downstairs in a bit of disarray, packed a picnic lunch and headed for the lake.

The water at the lake was coolish, but not too cool… and inviting.  As I swam around floating luxuriously on my back I felt like a sea-serpent or a mermaid.  I headed out to the middle of the lake and felt the tug of my “inner mom” cautioning… not to far… don’t swim out to far.   I moved and swam and felt the nourishment of the water caress my body and being.  Months of tension left as I floated on my back… laughing and smiling!  After a swim we enjoyed a light picnic lunch, some extended time in the sun and then, content, headed back to Les Battees to be there before the evening guests arrived.

In the quiet of the week my mind has been wandering and wondering about… what is next… aware that I am here at Les Battees through the end of the summer and that time can slip away oh so quickly!  But in the meantime, I am here in France…. with English influences.  I am learning the subtle (and sometimes not subtle) differences between speaking  English and American, enjoying the veggies fresh from Roy’s garden, and appreciating the quiet lingering days at Les Battees.

Making Pastry with Marina

22 Jun

It is a Friday evening here at Les Battees.  The slow pace of the week is giving way to more activity here on the weekend.  The four bedroom Bed and Breakfast style accommodation is booked full with guests attending a nearby wedding.  Roy, my host here at Les Battees, has begun cooking the evening vegetarian meal for the guests.

Roy’s mum, Marina, is preparing herself this weekend for her return to England.  Roy’s girlfriend, a French woman surrounded by a bunch of English speakers here at Les Battees,  is also visiting this weekend.  There is a fair amount of activity about.  A little bustling in the garden.   A little cooking in the kitchen.  But it is still the general laid back tone of Les Battees.

Earlier this week I spent a little time with Roy’s mum, Marina, in the kitchen.  She is a busy woman and easily leaves me in her dust.  She has been baking up a storm these past few days preparing to leave plenty of baked goods in her wake.  She was gracious enough to include an apple pie cooked with honey, not refined sugar, as part of her repertoire as I am sensitive to and cannot eat refined sugar.

I had asked her casually a few weeks ago if she would show me how to make pastry.  I was impressed with it because both she and her son Roy can make pastry like they are tying their shoes.  It seems to be just part of their kitchen language expressed easily and… around here… frequently.  Dessert is a house word at Les Battees and I have eaten my share since arriving a month ago.  From Marina’s apple pies to Roy’s homegrown rhubarb roasted with honey in the oven, my dessert palette has been well-tended to.

When Marina told me she was going to make her crust for the apple pie and asked if I wanted to watch… I didn’t pass up the opportunity.  I can’t say that I could repeat it, or do it on my own.  But here is what I learned.  Marina’s crust is made very simply… with self rising flour (or flour with baking powder added) and butter (Marina uses a combination of margarine and lard when making at home… but at Les Battees it is butter only!).  She told me she thinks it is better if you mix it by hand, but these days she uses a food processor.  So there she went, adding the flour and butter then lightly adding some water until the dough started to form and clump.

As she was cooking… here are the few things I noticed.  Her dough and recipe are quite simple!  She said some people add eggs, but she thinks no eggs makes a better pastry.  Additionally, when preparing her ingredients… how much flour, how much butter… she weighed everything.  That is one of my big cooking/baking revelations here in France (and I think all of Europe… for sure England).  They measure the quantities for their ingredients by weighing them rather than the standard cups and teaspoons used in American cooking.  A standard tool in their kitchen is the scale to weigh out how much flour or whatever ingredients to use.  I am told in England they also have the measurement of a cup, but it is not the same size as our American 8 fluid ounces cup.  My host Roy has a theory about all this.  He begins that Americans in their history were pioneers and that English and Europeans in their culture and lifestyle were much more settled.  Therefore an easy, portable measuring tool like a cup was convenient for pioneering American ways.  A scale, he suggests, was better suited for the  more settled, established European culture.  Roy offers that weighing is a more accurate way to measure as ingredients like flour can settle when measuring.  But still I am hesitant to give up my cup using, American baking ways.

And so the pastry was rolled and the apple pie was made.  Ultimately it was part of a collection of baked goods offered at a little summer solstice tea party here at Les Battees for a small assembly of neighboring English-speaking friends.  The real inspiration for the celebration was the birthing of Roy’s baby bees as Roy is an enthusiastic beekeeper. We took his word for it that the bees had hatched as none of us dared to take a close view for ourselves.  Mead was served, an alcoholic drink made from distilled honey, and cupcakes with little iced bees on the top.

And so it continues…life at Les Battees. The casual walks along the expansive countryside in my new backyard.  The occasional and somewhat awkward French interactions with Roy’s neighbors.  The continuing culinary inquiries at dinner… like what is the difference between a taco and a burrito… Ah, the complexities of American culture!

Tonight dinner will be served to our guests around 8pm and afterwards a little dinner for us.  It will likely be an early night as is somewhat typical here at Les Battees.   I am grateful for that… this easy, laid back way as I listen to the birds and see the sun and trees outside my open window.

Photo of my new backyard taken at Les Battees in southern Bugundy, France.

I Ate Cornbread in France

16 Jun

Dinner last night was great.  My host at the vegetarian Les Battees cooked up a hearty helping of lentil soup with a healthy serving of….cornbread, on the side. No, cornbread isn’t the latest trend in French cuisine.  It is however the latest curiosity of my host and native Englishman here at Les Battees.  With his professional history in food and science, he has an appetite for cultural exchange in the form of food.  A few weeks ago I made pancakes for him and his mum.  The week before it was blueberry muffins. This week it is cornbread.  I have to say he is taking the endeavor quite seriously.  He found a basic recipe online and used polenta as a substitute for cornmeal as it isn’t standard in France or in his cupboard.  Today he took a brief departure to the local bio store (bio is European for organic or whole foods) to purchase some cornmeal… for future cornbread making!

I find with my French immersion in the mostly English speaking Les Battees I am getting more and more English by the day.  Suddenly things seem a bit dodgy to me and I find myself saying I’m gong to the loo.  I don’t wince when I am asked if I’m standing in a queue and I don’t hesitate to say something is rubbish.  It is not a one way street, however, as yesterday my host’s mum asked him if he had taken out the trash can… a clearly American term.  I guess both ways, culture and language, it’s contagious…

We enjoyed a brief excursion today to a nearby village called Autun.  About 30 kilometers away, it was a quick car ride through the hills of Southern Burgundy in my host’s English car… ( that is, the driver on the right side of the vehicle while we drive, hopefully, also on the right hand side of the road… ).  It turns out that Autun dates back to Roman times with impressive architectural reminders throughout the town.  We visited the local Catholic cathedral, Cathédrale Saint-Lazare.  It is always inspiring to me to walk into a place of worship that is so old and that beautiful.  There was a class of children being given a tour while I was there, misbehaving and being given the evil eye by their teacher… a look that apparently is universal.

We spent a little time browsing local shops until noon when all French stores close down for a two hour lunch break.  Then we stopped for a coffee, enjoyed a little bit more of the fresh air and sunny day and made our way back towards Les Battees.  On the way we stopped at a local grocery store and made a few purchases from the International section.  It was interesting to see what food was available in the section… selections from Morocco, the Netherlands, English and Asian foods.  How was the good ol’ US of A represented?  There was a Tex-Mex section featuring a wide array of products by Old El Paso!

It’s great to be reminded that countries have different names in different languages.  Yes, it might be Germany to me, but in Germany they call it Deutschland and in France it is called Allemagne.  In the international section today, the Netherlands was listed in French of course, which is les Pays-Bas, which literally translates to low country.

Now I am safely and contentedly back at Les Battees.  It is late afternoon and the remainder of the day will likely consist of a little sheet ironing for the Chombre d’Hotes… one of my new favorite pastimes… really, it’s not that bad and kind of … relaxing. Later, there will be some vegetarian chilli eating for dinner.  Served, of course, with a piece or two of  “French” cornbread, prepared by an Englishman.  Delight!

Being Easy

4 Jun

Wow!  It is hard to believe it is June 4th already and that I have been here at Les Battees in Southern Burgundy for nearly three weeks.  I find myself in almost a timeless space here, with most days spent in the countryside living and working at the Chambre D’hotes.

In general, life here is pretty easy.  I have plenty of time in the morning for relaxing and doing my morning rituals – Reiki, yoga, often prayer and meditation.  Summer business so far is mostly on the weekends, and most weekdays offer plenty of time for leisurely work and play.

Even though I am living in France,  I am surrounded daily by the tones, expressions and content of English culture with my English host and his visiting mum.  It is fun to see the similarities and the differences in the language and the culture.  Yesterday I made a comment to my host that he did something “lickety split!”  He looked at me bewildered… and perhaps even a little afraid.  I retreated sheepishly…Oh, I got it!  American slang! You have no idea what I just said to you!  I quickly rearranged my verbage to a more friendly and accessible phrase.

My hosts sister and partner have been visiting this weekend, expanding the British encounter.  We joined them and visiting guests on Saturday night out on the terrace for dinner.  It was an even split for the evening… five french guests at one side of the table and five English speakers at the other.  And in truth there was not much intermingling between the two.  My host mended some of the distance with his conversational French.  My hosts’ French girlfriend was also there, relieved to have some French comrades for the evening meal and conversation.

I am still nurturing and healing my injured ankle from my trip down a few stairs during my first days at Les Battees.  My plans of riding kilometers down the bicycle path along the nearby canal are temporarily on hold.  I continue to find my way in the little things, day to day.  We have had some visiting hedgehogs here at Les Battees, a mama and two babies, living near the compost.  Digging in the dirt the other day, clearing the weeds away from the lavender plants, I discovered my first French snail.  And a few days ago, I caught a glimpse of one of the local birds who sometimes comes for a visit… the Hoopoe.  His distinct call lets us know he is in the neighborhood.  He is a beautiful spectacle and quite something to see.

Today the sun is finally shining after a few days of rain.  The surrounding meadows, flowers and gardens happily greet me outside my bedroom window.  There is a light breeze and coolness in the air and the birds once again are showing off.  My hosts’ garden features roses now in full bloom.

It seems that there is something creeping in on me… from these days of simple living in France.  It almost feels like… rest… all the way down to my bones.  I am giving way, ever so slightly, to the need to predict, impress, figure out or make big plans while I am here.  And in the wake of that I see there is some space to be… present.  Present while ironing the sheets for the Chambre D’hotes.  Taking simple pleasure in its neat appearance when complete and folding it gently in quarters.  And in the space, perhaps the freedom to simply be present I am experiencing some… relief.

My host and his mum are heading for a visit to a near-bye  village tomorrow.  I look forward to joining them as I continue to go with the flow.  It’s nice to leave Les Battees from time to time for a shopping errand to a neighboring town or village.  The wind has picked up outside and soon I will do a little laundry and hang my clothes outside on the line to dry in the sun.  Another day submerged in the easy living of Les Battees.

Plum blossom photo from the grounds of Les Battees.

New-bee

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.