Un Weekend a la “Campagne” (a weekend in the “country”)

November 4, 2009

It’s been 10 days since I’ve updated! I tried to update on Friday, but I didn’t have time to finish my post before leaving Paris behind for some time away with my host family. That post is not date specific, so it will show up the next time there’s a lull in my social activities, but what happened last weekend is much more interesting!

My host family invited me to spend some time with them in the country over Halloween, and I gladly accepted a chance to take a break from the city and bond with my French famille! Tiburce, Côme, and Ariane had other plans, but my host parents, Théophane and I packed up the car and set off Friday morning. I had no idea what to expect, all I knew was that we would be without internet, and that I would meet two of Monsieur’s 3 sisters.

In addition to time away from Paris, I was happy to spend some time with Théophane, since he was the only one of my host siblings who I hadn’t really spoken with. He is 15, and adorable. He is very much the baby of the family, and in some ways he reminds me of Brooks! I snapped a candid photo of him while we were loading up the car. He looks innocent, but over the weekend we started to develop a healthy “sibling” rivalry!

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Théophane, with his usual Burberry scarf!

I immediately knew it was going to be a good trip when Théophane (who was in the front seat) told his mom that we would listen to her classical music cd’s after Ariane’s cd was over. That was the point when he started blasting Lady GaGa’s “Just Dance” while my host mom grumbled disaprovingly, my host father chuckled good-naturedly, and I laughed and laughed, thanking my lucky stars that my host parents couldn’t understand the lyrics!

My host mother had made other plans for the trip, so we took the whole day to get to our destination, even though it was only a 2 hour drive. On the way we looked at a house (my host family is looking into buying a country home) and we stopped at Germigny-des-Pres, which is an absolutely ancient and beautifully restored church (dating to 806 AD) that has a lovely Byzantine mosiac. We also stopped at Saint-Benoit-Sur-Loire which is another pretty (and much larger) church. I don’t have any photographs of the latter, because my camera died at Germigny, and it hadn’t rested enough for me to fool it into taking more pictures-more on that later!

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Germigny-des-Pres

Byzantine mosaic

When we finally arrived at our weekend destination (a home owned by my host father’s mother) I was shocked to find out that “the country” they had been alluding to was actually a small town! The town is called Briare, and it is south of Paris and east of Orleans if I remember the map correctly. The house has neighbors right on either side and the street is paved! I admit I was a bit disapointed, because I had been imagining a real rural setting, but it ended up being lovely anyways, and the house was enough of a country home for me to feel at ease. I have no pictures of the house, because of the aforementioned camera problems, but it was very comfortable. The house is two stories, and it has a really great spiral staircase leading to the second floor. You arrive at the top to find that there is a circular hallway all around the staircase with doors leading into bedrooms and bathrooms all around the outskirts of the circle. It was a very clever design, and I will definitely take pictures if I ever go back! The yard and garden were definitely my favorite part of the home, because there is a tiny canal going through the middle, with 2 small bridges over it (there are lots of canals in Briare). The man who built the house was British, and he planted nearly 30 different types of trees in the yard, which is amazing! Many of them have died over the years, but the variety is still asthetically very beautiful. My favorite was the Virginia Tulip Tree-it was like being at Sweet Briar! There were also lots of small outbuildings in the yard and around the house, which helped it feel more like a farmhouse, despite the town surroundings!

I had anticipated lots of time for homework, but I was actually kept busy almost the whole time! Maxsense and Berengére (I am not sure about the spellings) are the names of Monsieur’s sisters who were there for the weekend. Berengére’s two sons were also there, so it was just me and the boys! Bertrand is 19 or 20 and Louis-Armand is nearly 22. We had lunch and dinner together every day around the huge dining room table, and the preparation of meals for 8 took up a lot of time! There always has to be a main course, a salad, bread, cheese, some sort of dessert, and of course wine with every meal!  Everyone helped out, whether it be with the cooking, the table setting, or the clearing and clean-up, which was really nice. It felt a lot homier that way.

I took a lot of walks with Madame and the rest of the family, and I discovered that Briare was a bit more rural than I had first thought. The Loire runs through the town, and the trees were absolutely beautiful. There is a lot of water, which made for really breathtaking reflections of fall colors and the migration of many types of birds. I have a few photographs because if I held my camera ready, and turned it on, immediately taking a photograph and shutting it off as soon as it clicked, I could fool my camera into working despite the dead battery (of course I left the charger in Paris!). Seeing a few horses in a pasture and a small flock of chickens (I told Madame what kinds they were, and how to distinguish the different breeds) was enough to make me think of home, and really miss my own farm. But I couldn’t be too sad, because after all, I am spending a year in France!

Outskirts of Briare

Outskirts of Briare

Madame also took me somewhere fantastic and unexpected! Briare is known for their ceramic tiles, and they have a large and well-known tile factory right in the town. Behind the factory is an expanse of woods where all of the rejected, defective, and unwanted tiles are dumped. It is a popular weekend destination for families in the town, because you can find tiles (and ceramic buttons) for free! Many of the townspeople frequently make mosaic tabletops etc, because there is an endless supply of free broken and whole tiles right at their disposal–pun intended! I couldn’t help myself, and neither could Madame, but I promise I only brought back one…okay two pocketfulls. Bits of tile are odd souvenirs (a word which comes from the French Souvenir meaning “memory” by the way) but maybe I’ll find a use for them someday!

The tile factory dump!

The tile factory dump!

I was homesick for my own family all weekend, but there were many moments when I felt that I was finally becoming more of a member of my French host family. Madame and I had a lot of walks together and many interesting conversations, and the rest of the family was kind and welcoming too. I helped out with yardwork on Halloween, we played pictionary at night, and we all went to Catholic Mass on Sunday morning. As I mentioned, Théophane is starting to act like a real little brother, and when I told Madame that I really missed my family, she said “well we’re adopting you, so you can just adopt us too!” which (while less eloquent in English) was really kind of her to say. She even called me yesterday-they stayed in Briare longer, I rode back Sunday with Berangére-just to ask how my day was. It was a little bit awkward, but it really meant a lot.

I need to go to bed, but I will end this entry with a funny story, and my favorite photograph of the weekend.

I went grocery shopping with my host parents and Théophane on Saturday at a supermarket which was about a 10 minute car ride from the house. We had nearly finished shopping when Théophane decided he would walk back to the house, since he’d had about all of the grocery shopping a 15 year old boy can take. We waited in line, paid for the groceries, and then walked out to the car. It was at this point that my host parents realized that neither of them had the key to the car. Neither did I. Which left one person, who had long disappeared! The immediate problem of Théophane having the key became bigger as we realized that he had been walking for close to 10 minutes, so there was no catching him, and he also had leant his cell phone to Côme for the weekend, since Côme’s phone had broken. Madame then noticed that her iphone was not working so she had no way to call either of her sisters-in-law! We laughed really hard, and had no idea what to do, until we saw our cashier in the parking lot. She was waiting for her husband to give her a ride home, and she kindly offered to take Monsieur to the house so he could retrieve the key! Madame and I waited outside with the shopping cart for about 20 minutes, but we had a cart full of food in case we got hungry, and the sun was shining, so neither of us was mad. We were only amused at the situation. Monsieur finally came back in his sister’s car with the key, and no real harm was done. It made me smile though, because walking home with the key is such a 15 year old boy thing to do! There are somethings that are constant in every family, regardless of the culture! A bientôt!

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Canal in Briare

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One Response to “Un Weekend a la “Campagne” (a weekend in the “country”)”

  1. mom said

    so..Brooks is a normal teenage boy, even by international standards 🙂

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