Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A spot I got I like...the Lot

We made our final road trip last weekend and drove to the Lot river valley where we stayed with Pierre and Camille.

In the summers they live in a home near the village of Puy l'Eveque.

It is nestled in the hills which create an undulant labyrinth of narrow lanes on which you can walk or pedal past beautifully tended vineyards whose vines almost surreally out of chalky white rocks beds.
Pierre's home is part of a small compound of three houses and a barn which dates back to the first half of the 18th century, some of the buildings quite a bit older, and which has been in his family for generations. Gradually over the years they have worked at renovating things. Of all the places we've visited this year, this place came closest to a kind of bucolic paradise such as you might find on the outskirts of Cove, Oregon.

They put us up in the basement apartment which opens directly out onto the hillside in back. A few paces from the door one find under a canopy of bushes and trees an old stone oven once used for making bread (Pierre is restoring it and plans to have bread from it by the end of the summer!) and the ruins of another old house - an indication that a small community once was here but which has long since abandonned these hills.

Even though it looks verdant and lush in the photo (due to an unseasonably wet and cold summer so far), Pierre told me that water is not quite as abundant as one might think. I saw him carrying a water bucket down the hill to water some squash plants and I kidded him that he reminded me of Jean de Florette, the character in Marcel Pagnol's novel (and film) by the same name. He smiled and said that the Lot valley had much more in common with Pagnol's Provence than one might think. He told me how his father loved to tell the story of a nearby farmer who had found a hidden source (spring) on a hillside which unfortunately ran into his neighbors land barely missing his own property. He took some dynamite and blew it up in an effort to divert it his way but unfortunately succeeded only in stopping it up altogether. The source disappeared and perhaps resurfaced elsewhere. For those of you who know the story of Jean de Florette it is an uncannily familiar plot line. As we walked back up to the terrace, Pierre paused, his head cocked.
"Les cigales!" he said.
It was the first evening he had heard the cicadas this summer. It is a sound which is supposed to herald good luck and good weather. As it turned out, one of two was plenty good.

Beth took long walks with Camille and came back each time with that flushed and blooming look that tells me she is where she wants to be...in fact she volunteered the observation that this place reminds here a great deal of Tuscany, without the olive trees.
Pierre and Camille endeared themselves to us forever with an easygoing and amiable demeanor that allowed us to relax and simply enjoy their company. The weather was not great, in fact it drove us indoors for stretches of time but in retrospect even that was a blessing since the four of us ended up spending some very pleasant hours together around the table, nibbling, chatting and playing games like Taboo and Pictionary (en francais bien sur).
Both Camille and Pierre are teachers, she teaches Spanish at a college and he teaches sciences economiques where I worked this year. We traded lots of anecdotes about favorite books and films, observations about language, travels, and teaching. I talked a bit about TPR (total physical response) foreign language teaching methods which interested Camille a great deal. Another item of interest to them was the phenomenon of Netflix. Apparently it hasn't gone international...I wonder when that will happen?

Our kids have become remarkably adept at adjusting to new environs. They quickly got the lay of the house and the land. They befriended a couple of girls, cousins of Pierre and Camille's two sons (who were off to summer camp for a couple of weeks) fifty meters down the lane, and basically had no need of any extraordinary help in thoroughly enjoying themselves...a good thing since Camille and Pierre have no TV or internet here.

The only unfortunate thing was that our camera's batteries died and left us incapable of documenting some of the beautiful things we saw. Our only regret is that we didn't have more time to spend with Pierre and Camille whose company suited us as well as anyone we've met this year. It would have been lovely to know them earlier in our stay, but better late than never.
We have only three days left in Lege and then it's on to Paris for four days and finally home to Oregon.
p.s. - I'll be cramming some last minute posting in in anticipation of an upcoming hiatus from blogging... feast then famine.


Anonymous cjones said...

Mmmm. The Fulbright sojourn is nearly complete. It's been a rare pleasure to be a Freehand blogophile these past months. You and Beth have certainly created a remarkable, thoughtful, discerning, and heartwarming year for your family, friends, & colleagues -- in Lege, La Grande, and elsewhere. Kinda corny, but I feel a certain "I know them" pride in all you've done.

Safe travels -- and while you're "cramming" last minute posting, don't forget to cram those suitcases too. Bon Voyage.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous erin said...

I agree with everything Chuck says! Love you guys!!!

2:28 PM  
Blogger kc said...

Just the thought of our valises gives me a backache.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Jose said...

To ease the backache, just sing along:

"Valise Navidad, Valise Navidad..."

9:30 PM  

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