Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday: Montpellier to Gordes for lunch

6.15 pm Sunday evening. I’m on the train from Avignon to Montpellier, a singsong chorus of French chatter on all sides. Early this morning, we drove from Montpellier to Gordes, where Lynn and Denis lived for many years in a big house they go to mostly now on weekends and that their kids return to in summer with their own families. Today there were local elections so they had to vote, and had invited old friends to a huge Sunday lunch. Denis cooked leeks vinaigrette and a shoulder of lamb with vegetables the night before, so we brought it all with us, along with a mountain of cheese.

Driving through Provence in late March – green everywhere, trees, fields bursting into green, though the gnarled, ancient vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see are still grey. The almond trees have already lost their flowers, but the other fruit trees are coming into bloom, and there was forsythia. Forsythia! We celebrate the Forsythia Festival in Toronto in early May. And then we began to climb up the side of a mountain and there it was: Gordes, officially – the signs say so - one of the most beautiful towns in France. Denis stopped so I could take yet another picture. Breathtaking.

 We stopped in town to buy bread.
Ready for after the meal.
Lynn makes salad.
Denis rubs his sore leg by the fire.

I remember their house so well – I first came with my husband and Anna when she was 3 and I was pregnant with Sam, and returned several times, including with both kids when they were about 13 and 10, and most recently in 2009 for the wedding of my goddaughter Jessica, the fourth of L and D’s five children. Jessica married an Australian, so the house was full of an international consortium including lots of jolly Australians.

Now, after holding so much life, the house shelters no children. Jessica lives in Sydney; L and D’s other daughters live in Kathmandu, Dubai and Cameroon, and their son lives in London. They have seven grandchildren as far-flung as it is possible to be.

The friends we were meeting for lunch, Dan and Magali, are a similar couple in that Magali, like Denis, is from an old and highly respectable French family (in her case, actually aristocratic – she grew up in a chateau) – and Dan, like Lynn, is from North America - Arizona. Like L and D, Dan and Magali met working at L’Arche, one of Vanier’s communities where the handicapped and the able-bodied live and work together. Their two sons both live in the U.S., their daughter here. So of these two couples’ eight children, only one, the youngest, lives in France. Must be hard. Made me glad my kids live on the other side of the same town, so near, so far.

We did what French people do on Sundays – we sat eating a huge meal for a very long time, drinking a fine wine and talking. When I visited L and D in 1979, I ended up working at the L’Arche community called Le Moulin for seven months with Magali; Denis was our boss. Lots of reminiscing. Magali still works in a community, Dan is a writer. They're going to Corsica next month; L and D have of course been there, so D got out six guidebooks and maps and there was much talk of Corsica. And there was a book of Sempé drawings, one of my favourite artists, known now in America for his tender, wry, moving New Yorker covers. We showed them to each other and laughed. 

This, says Lynn, represents all of France.
I am reading, by the way, two books Lynn wanted me to read: Thomas Merton’s “Seven Story Mountain” and Nick Hornby’s “Juliet, Naked.” That’s the span of our interests. We talk of deep and spiritual issues and also of how thick and relatively inexpensive the cashmere sweaters are at Galeries Lafayette. (Lynn is wearing one now. Mine comes from Joe Fresh. There’s a difference.)

We went for a walk to the Moulin across the street, our former community now being turned into a hotel. The actual moulin - mill - dates from the sixteenth century. 
Lynn teaches tomorrow morning and I leave for Paris, so at 5.09 the two of us got the train from the stunning little town of L’Isle sur Sorgue to Avignon, and now on home. Outside the window, fields, twisted trees decked with white blossom, towns and villages of pinky yellow stone with red tile roofs, the train itself crowded but modern and comfortable and of course on time to the minute. We have just pulled into Nimes and it is hailing outside. Lynn tells me that for 3 weeks before I came, it was hot and sunny. The minute I arrived, it turned cold and wet – and right now, extremely cold and wet. But I am full and warm.

How much time people spend here thinking and talking about and preparing food. I am very glad they do. But I would not, could not do it myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment