France has been great fun. We keep hearing how the fall has been unseasonably warm and sunny, and we are loving it. It feels like the very best early September Ontario fall day, over and over again.
What has really made the time special, though, is the people. In the summer we visited Rich’s friend from university, Aurélie, in France. Our kids and her four kids hit it off immensely, and the adults did too. One of our goals for this trip was for everyone to improve their French, and after 4 days with Aurélie’s family, everyone was speaking more French than in the 3 weeks previous in Tunisia.
We also were so lucky to spend almost two weeks with the Gorbets in Amsterdam. It’s funny, wherever they are in the world, it always feels like coming home to be with them again. [cue cheesy song That’s What Friends are For].
We went to Museums and on bike rides and the kids made dinner and built things together and just played all day. The two pairs of big kids loved the 10 days of sleepovers, that’s for sure!
After Tunisia, we came back to France to live across the street from Aurélie, and mingle our lives together for a little bit. Our first night, we drove way out into the French countryside to see a circus show in a circus tent and have a dinner under the stars. It’s not how I imagined life in a small French village would be like. Their lives feel like a surrealist ideal at times. There are so many quirky events to choose from nearby.
Most nights we eat together (that’s 7 kids and 4 adults!!) and sometimes we drop off or pick up the kids at school. Right now we are on a holiday in the Pyrénées, and it is beautiful. The mountains cut the horizon into a bowl, and the stars seem close enough to touch. The kids, meanwhile, play all day in a two-language tangle of limbs and balls. Apparently language is less necessary when the play is deeply physical; although, tonight, they played several games of BINGO together, taking turns calling out in their second language. I actually feel like I am living in a dream. Do kids seriously work like this?
It’s not just new people, but old friends here, too. We spent a weekend with Jo Wedge and Seb and Sophie, who are spending their second year in a small village outside of Bergerac. Our kids were so happy to speak English and play with people they knew. Tayo had hysterical fits when we left. She intended to stay with them (well, actually, Sophie) forever, stamps it, no erasies. It was a wonderful weekend of pony riding and a medieval chateau and the utterly fabulous village market, with the best oysters I have ever tasted, ever. The oyster guy even gave is his shucking knife so we could open them. Plus, we got to talk and talk and talk with Jo, uninterrupted-ish. And also dive into her library. I read three kid novels while I was there.
Next, we met up with Raja in Nîmes for a weekend, and Sara Porter, too! She was on a writing retreat. We inveigled her out of the retreat, but not without difficulty, because massive storms caused the roads to flood. We tried to go and see the Roman aquaduct nearby, but the roads to it were flooded out also, so we diverted to a small medieval town where we could see the aquaduct in the distance. We had a most joyful and surreal lunch, since all of us live within 500 meters of each other in Toronto, but were, instead, on a sunny hilltop in France, eating in front of an ancient church, listening to the bells of the hunting dogs in the fields.
The next day, we met up with AJ in Toulouse. She visited us for almost a week, and Tayo said she had no need to be homesick now, because AJ was here and our family was together. We will see her again soon in Costa Rica. We are so lucky to have our people. The world is so often a small and wonderful place to be.