Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Explain...

When we go to France at the end of the month, we won't be staying in Paris, but going on to Bretagne where Michelle has a summer home. You can "see" the location by going to Google Images and typing in Loctudy, France. The following is an account of what happened to us the first time we visited her there...

HOW TO GET ALONG WITH THE FRENCH (from "Dispatches From a Born-Again CYNIC)

We (Richie, Michelle and self) were lazing on the roofed-over outdoor terrace of the Soleil d'Or in Lesconil, a fishing village in Bregane. Among us was that easy camaraderie of shared interests and humor of many years' standing.

It was mid-May, but summer was far from appearing. All the drive down from Michelle's home near Versailles, the sun had flirted with the clouds; sometimes it was bright -- glowing off of the backs of the cows basking in the fields; sometimes gray as if it was just about to rain.

A festival was taking place. In a parking lot in the distance, a merry-go-round spun, children screamed and a loudspeaker boomed that pecularly French music -- no matter the material, the beat is alwys Thump! Thump! Thump!

Opposite us, on the water side of the think little street, vendors sold caramelized peanuts, garish candies, local cakes rich with butter; crepes prepared in a special skillet over an open fire. The aromas were enticing. Richie bought some of the peanuts and we ate them, a little greedily at first. Lunch had been awhile ago.

The six people at a table across from us had reluctantly departed -- their faces bore expressions of happy fatigue, the result of eating an apparently very long and ample lunch. Their table was littered with overflowing ashtrays and balloon glasses with dregs of the alcoholic cider so much a part of this region.

We sipped our beers and watched the people -- many with their dogs -- and commented idly on what we were seeing. I was just remarking that the dogs in France seem much more socially oriented than the ones at home -- they greeted each other genially with never a bark of a lunch -- when a small van pulled up at the side of the terrace and parked.

A man and a woman got out; she went into the restaurant of the Soleil d'Or and he began opening the van's back doors. She was smartly dressed in black slacks and sweater and had a purposeful air about her as she strode through the bar door.

The man, probably 6 ft. 3 in., 220 pounds, had shaved his head, but kept a bushy black moustache. He was wearing jeans, a faded chambray shirt and cowboy boots. The shirt, open to mid-chest, let passers-by admire a massive charm of some sort on a heavy gold chain around his neck.

By the time the woman came back out, the man had finished unloading and carrying in his equipment. Giving him a disinterested peck on the cheek, she got into the van and drove it away.

"Must be tonight's entertainment," Richie said. "Mmmm," responded Michelle who had closed her eyes and was basking in the feeble sun. Michelle loves the sun like a cat.

The man caught my eye and started toward us. Arriving at our table, he said, " Americans, right? How ya doin', guys?"

We said we were fine, thank you.

"I'm an American, too," he said, "Born in Seattle, did studio gigs in Los Angeles; been here in France for the last nine years."

"You must speak French," I said.

"Mais, oui, certainment," he responded. He looked at Michelle so unmistably Parisienne in her trim-fitting navy sweater and slacks, double rope of pearls as small and white as a toddler's teeth around her neck. He began speaking in swift, colloquial French to her. She smiled that reserved smile that the French do so well. It's polite, certainly civil enough, but not particularly warming.

He chatted on for a minute, asking Richie (who was wearing a Dodgers' jacket) how the team was doing and then nodded toward the restaurant door, said he'd be seeing us and left.

We went in to dinner. (To be continued)

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