Sometimes I share my mornings here with the neighbours. They’re very friendly if they think you’ve got food for them.
Seeing as it’s been nearly a month since my last post, there’s a lot to write about. I still have to upload the pictures I took in Paris, and school probably deserves a post to itself, so I’ll do them later. But first I want to write about the past couple of weekends, because they have been perfect. Every one. Totally amazing. Let me just get a piece of the perfect fresh-baked French bread we had with lunch and I can begin.
I’ll start with the weekend before before the last (that’s two weeks ago), because it’s the first. I spent Saturday being a bum, lazing around the house and generally enjoying my freedom from the craziness of French high school. Sunday, however, was fun. Really fun. It started out pretty normally; sleep in, tasty breakfast and reading for most of the morning (Wuthering Heights: I felt it was time I started on the classics). We had a really long lunch; my host mothers’ parents came over and we had a birthday thing for them, which ended up being over two hours long after we had finished dessert. No complaints here – French food on special occasions? Yep. It’s pretty good. After lunch my host brother and sister (Charles and Victoria) and I went to Charles’s friend’s house. Since my arrival in France I’ve seen some pretty nice houses. This one made them look … lacking. In what, I don’t know, but their house was the most amazing I have ever set foot in. It looks like an old farmhouse from the outside – rough, aged, grey stone exterior. High, dense hedges. Ivy covering the walls. The front gate is huge; old wood with simple iron fittings, set into the high stone wall. Inside the gate there’s a sort of covered courtyard, then an open bit of grass with a really nice pool in the middle. On the other side of the pool there’s an open bit of lawn with a veggie patch and a huge chicken yard, and opposite, a seasonal creek with an awesomely creepy patch of gloomy pine trees on the edge of the property. On the other side of their property they have a huge raspberry vine, a big hazelnut tree and various other fruit trees.The family also owns four cats, some donkeys and a goat. You get the picture. They have a nice house.
So we went to their house after lunch for a few hours to have a swim, but the weather was cool so I got out after a while. After I got dressed I went raspberry picking with Charles’s friend’s mum, Martine, and we picked a huge bowlful of the freshest, sweetest, juiciest, tastiest raspberries I have ever eaten – though the bowl wasn’t as full by the time it got back into the house. After that I picked my first hazelnuts with Martine’s daughter, Salome, and Victoria. There were tons on the ground, many of them chewed through, and they explained that there was a squirrel who regularly came and decimated their crop. They didn’t seem to find it as cute as I did. Next we collected fresh eggs from the chicken hutch and by that time it was starting to get cold, so we went back inside, where we used hammers to crack open the nuts on the kitchen table. Afterwards Martine and I made clafoutis (with the fresh raspberries and eggs, of course) from a French recipe book: my first foreign cooking class! I learnt a lot – some interesting verbs (tamiser – to sift, beurrer – to butter), some nouns (âne/anesse – donkey, écureuil – squirrel), and made three new friends – all of whom happen to be cats. One of them jumped on my lap while we waited for the tart to cook and purred so loudly I wondered that he didn’t choke. We were also joined every few minutes or so by a very inquisitive rooster who wanted to know what was so interesting inside the house, and why he wasn’t allowed in. We eventually had to shut the door in his beak, but he was mollified when Martine gave him some cheese. Who would’ve thought a chicken could be so fond of dairy products?
We took half the tart with us when we went home and had it for dessert. It was pretty good… if I do say so myself. But I suppose that’s French cooking for you.
Last weekend was also about a nine out of ten on the amazingness scale. Saturday was a good day – I talked on the phone to my dad, who was at my brother’s house for his and my sister-in-law’s fifth wedding anniversary, which was nice, then Skyped with my mum later that afternoon. The rest of the day was spent reading my latest novel (To Kill a Mockingbird – I finished it yesterday) and being lazy, two of my favourite pastimes. Sunday lunch was again spent with my host mother’s parents (eating good food) and afterwards Charles and I rode bikes into Bruz and met up with one of his friends. They told me we were going to see the pony club (I’m a self-proclaimed horse fanatic), and maybe ride around Bruz a bit afterwards, but we ended up spending quite a while riding around the club grounds: there were heaps of bike trails with these cool little clearings and odd paddocks hidden away. I thought we were only going for an hour or so, but we ended up spending about two and a half riding around the area. I got my first real look at the countryside, and it was amazing. We spent a while exploring the pony club, then we rode out and followed the river to this huge open field with a gravel track running through it, and from there we got back onto the road and followed it home. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures, but riding bikes through the open yellow fields, passing white stuccoed farmhouses and the odd cow or two – it felt very French.
It’s funny: at the end of every week I think to myself, ‘life cannot possibly get better than this,’ and every week I prove myself wrong. I wonder what the next nine months will bring!