Monday, February 23, 2009

New Friends

The recent visit by one of Ellen’s oldest (in terms of years of friendship) friends and her husband was another delightful time. Nancy and Tony had been to Provence before, but not to this area. They seemed to enjoyed all of the mundane activities that we suggested and participated inreadily agreed to join us on Day 3 of our wine course, thea wine tours primarily of Chateauneuf du Pape organized by Philip Reddaway of www.rhonewineholidays.com. . (I must confess that every time I hear about wines from Chateauneuf du Pape, I think about the a Cotes du Rhone Ventoux bottled in France and and soldsold in the US. tThe egg-shaped label for which shows a cat (chat) sitting on an egg (oeuf) – “Chat en oeuf.” Of course, I also still think of “The Lone Ranger” every time I hear the William Tell Overture.)

Not mundane was a day spent with the sister of the woman who managed the B and B at which Nancy and Tony stayed. We had known that Lina – the woman who makes the BEST tapenade (see the earlier posting) – would be in Paris during Nancy’s and Tony’s visit stay at her B&B but we had also met Lina’s sister Eliane, who was going to stay at the house and manage the Chambre chambre d’h├┤tes while Lina was away.

Eliane not only took care of all of the normal B&B responsibilities, but when Tony asked about a place to buy truffles, she investigated and discovered that she knew someone who knew someone who sold truffles. We went with her to purchase them, which we sampled later that evening. She then took us to visit some of the local sites dear to her heart with several stops along the way to point out beautiful vistas or landmarks – including pointing out the Cistercian Abbey Ste. Madeleine, stopping at the medieval top-of-the-mountain-town of Venasque and then on to Pernes-les-Fontaines, the town where she was born. Ellen and I had been to Pernes-les-Fontaines previously with Marge and Charley, but seeing the village from the perspective of a person who had spent a lot of time there made it a wonderful, very personal experience.

One of the sites of our visit that day was the 11th century church in Pernes. The church caretaker obliged us by playeding a CD of Gregorian Cchant music while we were in the church; – which made the church seem even larger as the tones of the chant reverberated off the walls and the ceiling. As we were leaving, Eliane introduced us as her American friends – to which the caretaker responded (in French, of course): “Are you pleased with Obama? He has so much to do…”

During their short visit, I got to know Ellen’s friends Nancy and her husband Tony and we all got the chance to meet and get to know Eliane, who is the embodiement of “joie de vivre.” She has a great openness to meeting and welcoming new people like us as well as a love of France and the French countryside that she enjoys sharing with others. Combine that with such an infectious smile and an easygoing nature – and the attitude to go with it…we couldn’t help but feel more a part of a developing web of friends and experiences in our new bi-continental lives.

We went out with Eliane again at the end of the week. We had coffee in Mollans and then went on to Brantes to tour the little village that sits in the shadow of Mt. Ventoux above the valley of the Toulourenc River. Eliane has a way of bringing sunshine to cloudy days and bringing light to the shadowed valley. She corrected my French in a manner that made me want to get it right. She was so engaging that Ellen lost her reticence in French and was a partner in the conversation.

We learned about farming, about oak fields (where farmers hoped to have a terrain in which truffles would grow), about wine grapes and table grapes and, the important expression “chemin des ├ęcoliers” (the school children’s route to school – the most circuitous route that prolongs the arrival at the doors of the school.)

Later that evening, Eliane and her sister came to an impromptu dinner at our little apartment, to which we had invited them during the course of the day’s travels. Entertaining at our apartment can be challenging because the space is so small but it turned into an evening of learning and laughs. It made me think of evenings with my sisters or with Ellen’s family or with Mark and Dan where the laughter was contagious and continued to the point of hurting. But it “hurts so good” we hope to do it again.