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15 May 2010

Circadian Rhythms

Ceou river valley

I just had three great hours of sleep. Time to get up, drink some wine and blog, I guess, because it's one in the morning (7.23 pm for you all).

One remark that is constantly tossed between us all is that we can't quite believe we are in France. It's not that feeling of being overwhelmed by your luck or being awed by your surroundings (which we are very much aware of) but rather that we somehow just landed here and here we are. No real passage of distance or time occurred. We are also struck by how much the Perigord Noir looks like Colorado- smells, vegetation, altitude, the air..except everyone speaks French and no one is wearing Prana.

I will back up a bit and begin at our arrival at Les Esparoutis. It is a tiny hameau (hamlet) of several buildings, some owned by the gite's owners, Ian and Ien, but also their 2-3 neighbors. It is set just above the river Ceou ("say-ooo") in the river valley.

Piq-nic on the Ceou

This valley (and river) joins up with the mighty Dordogne, which provided a passageway for wine sold to the (royal) Brits long before they bought up everything in sight here for vacation homes. All the buildings in the area are made of the same honey-colored Perigordian limestone, with red tile roofs surrounded by modest gardens and tiny vineyards, really thrown up where ever there is a few meters square. Here, in Esparoutis, we are staying in the Gite, which is bordered on one side by a small outdoor patio and accompanying orange striped tabby cat (with whom I made friends by pretending not to care the least), a garden and then a short gravel drive with a long limestone barn. One the other side of the property sits the sechoir, originally built for drying the copious walnuts growing just to the side (secher=to dry). This is where the owners are staying and they call it "the Nut House".

Front door of the Gite

Pool to the left of Front Door

We got in completely exhausted but exhilarated, made our meager meal of the grocery list below and then proceeded to stay up extremely late because our bodies had no idea what just happened. Ian thought he might have to call an ambulance when he realized there was no movement the next day until after one pm, when we finally awoke. Well, half the day was gone before we managed to leave, but leave to Sarlat, the famous market town of the region, we did.

Centre ville, Sarlat

We happened to land in France on a national holiday ( I have still not determined the name or purpose...) which, because it occurred on a Thursday this year, resulted in a pont, or a bridge, to the weekend, which means Friday is a wash as far as work is concerned. This meant that Sarlat was insane, although not nearly as insane as the July-August influx of all the Europeans and many Americans on vacation. We crawled in to town and into a huge fois gras festival, where all the local vendors were hawking their specialties accompanied by a loud speaker (think county fair) and bad music from the 80s/90s. I can and cannot believe this is still going on as it was when I came here 20 years ago. Maybe (ahem, not maybe) French pop music is rather inferior to bad American pop. Very strange to be wandering the winding medieval streets of a beautiful village with _________ playing.

M. Bubby et Crew

We ended up buying some local salami (taureau/beef, porc and epice/spicy) using some patched together language, of which the vendor merrily took part. He warned us that this must not go in the "frig". I thought he was speaking French and couldn't understand, ditto for Jason and it was finally, Ruby who understood that he was actually speaking English but kind of guessing at the word.

Cured hams hanging in the window

Here is a note on language:

For me personally, it is of the utmost satisfaction to be speaking in French again. It feels as though I am speaking English and feel no fear whatsoever in diving into conversations or requests. This is a dramatic contrast from the last years of being paralyzed by Polish in Poland and now tentatively taking steps with Arabic. It is a pleasure that really can't be quantified. For his part, Jason is fearless- something you rarely see in a beginner. He just walks right up and says whatever he can in French and mimes the rest and pretty much gets what he wants. To our great humor and slight embarrassment, he waves and calls, "Bonjour!" to people when we stop for them to cross a road. They hurry on, trying not to look at the lunatiques Americains in the car. Ruby and Henry are adding one word a day. They both manage a "bonjour, merci or au revoir". We will go to the market in St. Cyprien tomorrow, and they will have a chance to buy things and thus speak (well, they will be forced to by their mother).

There were a few questions:

driving occurs on the same side of the road as the US. We are beginning to understand that everyone in France drives like Julie and they understand that there are times when you have to yield the center of the narrow road and let the oncoming traffic have their side, also just like Julie. And, yes, we all fit in the car! I wish we owned it. It is like driving a Subaru Outback with extra seats.

The rest of our afternoon was spent at a giant grocery store (Carrefour) after which we loaded our trunk with individual grocery items because we didn't know about bringing your own bags. Arriving home, we immediately began to drink wine, feeling the day winding around us and stomping on our heads. We dined on roasted chicken with white beans, prosciutto and leeks with mache salad and baguette on the side. All of a sudden it was 11 pm and Mossy and Cormac still ran around like it was 4 pm (which it was as well). The rest of the evening was spent in very good conversation with Ian, getting the Australian view of the Bush years, what it's like to renovate, live and visit in France and all about archaeology (he is an archaeologist), so those of you who know Jason can image the intensity of the conversation. Ruby and Henry managed to nurse their 12 hours of no internet on their various i-thingys until ungodly hours and stumble off to bed.

So, tomorrow, we will have croissants, bushwhacking and mammoth stories to tell and then it's on to food!

Bonsoir tout le monde!


  1. I was so happy to check your blog and see that it was updated and with so much. I loved the pictures and your writings. I almost feel like I experienced it too...almost. Thanks for answering my questions.

    I can't believe that you guys are walking around in shorts and little dresses. It's brrrr-cold here. Rained all day today and yesterday and I had to turn the heat on. I wish that summer would just get here already.

    I am so glad that you guys are getting to experience this adventure and your trip has solidified my resolve to study abroad before I graduate. I found out that we wouldn't be the first family to go on the program and that there are even host families who host families, as opposed to individuals.

    We watched Kevin get hooded for his Masters today. You cannot believe how satisfying that was for me, personally.

    I have started to call you or Jason a couple of times to tell some thing or other and then remembered that you're not here. Once, upon driving up to my house and seeing your car, I got excited about the Peter-Macs visiting, but then I remembered.

    I sat next to a very chatty guy at the hooding ceremony who is from Montreal. We are going to stay in touch and I plan to have conversations with him when I'm taking my French courses. He's pretty knowledgeable about a lot of stuff and I can see you and Jason really liking him and his Russian fiance.

    Get some good sleep and write again soon. How about some pics of Jason and of Ruby. Also, I want to see the inside of your place. Please post a tour.

    Love to all.
    P.S. Are you checking your emails?

  2. Hunkered down for bedtime stories from France...we laugh at all the antics a bit wistfully I think...thanks for this Molly.

  3. We are reading intently so we can prepare ourselves for our stay in le sechoir. Would like a read on the weather. 70's can mean jeans or shorts, sandals or boots.

    Knowing we will get to share a little of your adventure makes it much easier to read. Otherwise I might be consumed with envious longing.

    It's wonderful to get a feel for the children's experience. I am particularly excited to hear that Jason has dived right into the language. I thought he might since he never failed to use what he'd learned each time we talked.

    But it is your immersion which leaves me hopeful that I might get a smidgeon of your skills. Keep them coming.
    Signed Anonymous cause I couldn't figure out how to sign my name.
    Love, Maggie