Our Final Week

And so here it is, our last week of housesitting in France. How soon it has come around and while we are sad to be leaving this lovely place, we are looking forward to seeing family, returning home to the USA to see children and grandchildren, and planning our next trip!

Our last week has been a week of ‘lasts’:

- our last Monday trip to Aignan and the weekly market. I saw the white bearded vegetable guy, who we’d ‘conversed’ with on occasions here and at other markets in the area, with his jaunty hat, white beard and who was again gruffly chastising another customer. I’m glad it wasn’t just me who caused him to groan and grumble and throw his lettuces at me! Au Revoir Monsieur – I’ll never look at a lettuce quite the same again.

- our last meal at La Brocante, the quirky little restaurant in Aignan that served Thai food on Thursday nights and which had become a regular event during our stay here. Nancy, the owner, was a real character; from the Netherlands, skinny as a rake, and scantily clad, with a huge welcoming smile and as disorganized as anyone I had ever known. On our first visit, she quite openly told us her knees were essentially f***d, and she was about to give up on the restaurant, which was still for sale, and proceeded to break a glass every time she served a table. The food was good though and cooked by her son who we saw on many occasions following his mother, trying to clear up the glass, spilt food, and trying to appease those customers she had forgotten about or had served the wrong dish to. Her obsession with trying to move the parasols so that no-one was in the sun was endearing considering that the sun kept moving and when the wind blew, the parasols came away from their wiry skeletons allowing the setting sun to shine directly where she didn’t want it. As the weeks progressed, we became better acquainted with her and she even sat down with us and helped us drink our wine and revealed her life story, which was colorful, but quite sad. Marcel was almost ready to buy the restaurant from her to help her out of her current situation. We enjoyed evenings of Pad Thai, Chicken Curry, Nasi Goreng and Laksa – the best we have had since leaving Asia – with extra spice of course. Who would have thought we would come across this in a small rural French village.

- our last mowing of the lawns! The weather has cooled a little, and the grass has not been growing so fast these last weeks, so we managed to leave the mowing until the last week. Luckily the ‘bone shaker’ mower had the steering repaired so we were able to use both mowers. As much as it is a chore, it is actually quite therapeutic, sitting atop the machine, watching those lines appear in the grass, chomping down the weeds and spindly dandelions. While the steering had been somewhat repaired, I felt it would only be a matter of time before the wheel would be spinning again, and it certainly hadn’t done anything to improve the comfort of the machine. Still, a few hours later, the lawns, fields, paths and hills were looking short and sharp and a little more green now that the sun was mellowing after the blazing summer.

- our last trip to the supermarket, the small Carrefour where we had become familiar with where they kept the eggs, when they did and didn’t have bread, where we would have to watch our ankles on market day lest we stepped in front of the local ladies out on a mission doing their weekly shop, wanting to get the best cut of meat, the freshest bread and the choicest tomatoes. I’ll miss using the little baskets on wheels, which we had become adept at maneuvering around the tiny store, the small conveyor belts at the checkout,  one traveling up to the cashier, where your purchases are ‘bleeped’ and sent down another where you are waiting to place them into your shopping bag – no plastic, no baggers, but a very nice ‘Bonjour, merci, bon journee, au revoir’ that was said with sincerity, rather than a line from the training manual.

- our last trip to the ‘dechetterie’. This is the recycling and trash stop. Something of a ritual for us every few days. There’s no trash pick-up, but dumpsters in each town and some in between where trash is disposed of. Brown bins for regular trash, such has food, which must be in a black bin back. Yellow bins for paper, plastic, plastic bottles cans etc. And the wonderful glass bottle bank, where it gave us great pleasure to throw in, one-by-one, the wine bottles, beer bottles and any other glass item we had. I’m sure they deliberately installed very tall bins, so that the sound of the shattering glass could be heard by everyone in the near vicinity. There is something very satisfying about hearing the smashing of glass in a safe environment, and there were times we were disappointed when one didn’t break, almost wishing we could find a secret entrance to pick it out and try again… we did however, hope that nobody came by at the same time as us, as we were sometimes there for quite a while. We did buy boxed wine occasionally, and also had our canisters filled at the pump, so some weeks we only had a couple of bottles to smash. It wasn’t too much of a chore, but there were times when we put the trash, stinky bottles and other refuse in the trunk of the car, only to go sailing past the trash site, on our way to the store or a restaurant. Then we’d be looking for another, only to find that suddenly we were on a road that had no trash areas for the next 20 km. Not pleasant in the heat of the summer when salmon and shrimp had been on the menu the night before. So, that little ritual will not be missed.

- our last walk with the dogs, which is the saddest part of this week of lasts. Our walks have been enjoyable, even when it has been foggy and wet. The landscape has changed over the five months we have been here, and every day brings something new to see, new flowers budding, trees and bushes laden with fruit, deer, badgers and birds crossing the fields during the dusk hours. We’ve seen all kinds of farm machinery, cutting, mowing, reaping, and sowing, and the fields change from hay, to sunflowers, from peas and maize back to meadows and beautiful wild flowers, and of course we have looked across the wide valley to the Pyrenees, which we are still drawn to as every day, depending on the weather, they appear anew, sometimes clear and angular with white snow caps, other times dark and grey, feeling closer than they really are on those days. Of course, our walks are always eventful as we have the dogs. We have enjoyed taking care of Sapphire and Blackberry and have come to enjoy their personalities and company. They have been a joy to walk twice a day and to watch, frolicking in the fields, burying their heads in the ground looking for mice, tails up and wagging. We have enjoyed watching them splash and swim in the lake and come running to us for treats when we call, expectant expressions on their faces. They bring us shoes in the morning, signaling its time for their walk and every evening, come running to remind us of another walk before dinner. We will miss them.

I told a lie – not our last trip to the dechetterie. We have to say goodbye to our faithful attire that has seen us through our walks and gardening endeavors over the last five months. Our boots are worn, soles with holes, ripped and torn and now molded to the shape of our feet, after traipsing through the morning dew. Our pants soft with wear, faded with the sun and stained with the juice of blackberries, peaches and cherries – the fruits of our daily walks. Shirts are ripped from the thorns of roses, stained with sweat and grease from the machinery and ragged and tatty through constant wash and wear. Socks are stiff, and t-shirts are stretched and pulled. Our boots have been faithful to the end and so deserve a spot in our photo album as a reminder of the work and wonder of our house sit in France.

Click on Photo Below to be taken to a Larger Gallery.

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Our Tired boots