France Day 6 - Huet Family, Parce, and monks!
Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
77Trip End Sep 01, 2008
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Off for a lunch date with two of our French host family's closest friend, Vincent and Guenola (who picked us up on arrival). A quick 40 minute drive brings us to Parce, a village too beautiful for words. Really. And their house. ... I feel like an idiot at how many times I said things like, "WOW!" , "This is amazing!" ..., "This is beautiful!" ... things like that.
The nifty GPS unit that my buddy Bruce lent to us for the trip has worked really well here in France, ... better than Spain actually. Thank you Bruce! ... We navigate to Parce easily enough, but their house and street aren't coming up on the map, so Vincent runs to the town center to meet us. The house. Have I mentioned their house? Its ... AMAZING
The house was built in the 16th century some time. Yes, you read that correctly. Its ... awesome. Just look at the pictures. AWESOME.
We get the tour of the place and find something that we've seen several times now in Europe. Their house is not 100% finished. They purchased the home, but were not able to afford finishing all of the living space. So, they did what they could, and left a portion of it unfinished ... away from guests' eyes of course. Through the children's rooms, through a door ... and you find yourself in a large attic area that will soon be cleaned up and worked on, effectively adding 2 new bedrooms and a toy room. What a great idea! ... We saw a similar deal when we were in Spain. Buy a shell big enough for what you will grow in to, but only finish what you need today. Very very cool.
Both Vincent and Guinola are teachers. He teaches 6yr olds, she teaches 7 and 8. And they have 3 wonderfully adorable children. Their oldest is a boy, 7 years old ... named Leo. A cheerful clown. Very friendly. After thirty minutes or so ... he and Samuel were having good fun playing and making mischief together. The two twin daughters, Juliette and Lula, age 5, are beautiful quiet little girls. Every so often I'd look over to them and find them staring intently at me or Janice or the kids ... surely intrigued by our foreign language and ways.
So, this beautiful house ... we are done exploring the cave and wine cellar, the attic, the rooms ... and then Vincent asks if I'd like to see the garden. "Garden?!", I ask. The backyard is plenty big already. "Where is the garden?" ... Out the door, a short block to the river ... turn right down an old path ... to a Secret Garden sort of door covered in ivy. This is their garden ... next to the river. Look at the photos. Be amazed. ... I'm the bold type, so I just jump right in and ask, "How much did you buy this place for?!" ... Get ready for this. ... 160,000 euros. Surely he had the figure wrong. "Maybe 1,600,000?", I clarify. ... Nope. 160k. He is sure of it. ... I'm in shock. This place is a paradise. Local markets, the river a block away, huge cathedral five blocks away, their seven year old boy walks to the bakery each day to get fresh bread in the morning, house doors aren't locked when they leave
And now, on to lunch!
We are told proudly by Vincent that Guinola is "the best cooker in France!". And I get a free lesson. She gives me a couple of easy tasks to perform to help her make some of the best home cooked cuisine I've eaten in a long time. Filet Mignon (pork) with onions, mushrooms, bacon type things, with hard cider ... cooked for hours to make a tasty sauce. For dessert, she makes a nectarine and apricot tart. (*Its 9pm as I type this and I'm STILL stuffed from how much I ate, and I'm drooling just thinking about the food again!).
After a quick ten minute walk (cut short by a little bit of rain) ... we come home to eat.
We start with a tray of bread and 'rillettes' and pork pate with 'cornichon' (pickles). The rillettes looks disgusting. Really really gross. Open the jar and all you see is a one inch deep layer of lard. Not kidding. But ... the taste? FABULOUS. Apparently its one of the worst foods in terms of fat content that you can eat, but man is it worth it. SOOO good
Then, we hop in the cars to head out towards one of the items on my "must-do" list ... hearing the monks sing their Gregorian chant plainsong prayers near Sable-sur-Sarthe (http://www.solesmes.com/GB/entree.php?js=1). Before we get there, Guinole and Vincent take us to a nearby village with a delightful little river beach, a beautiful church (with ancient, well preserved drawings on the wall), and a HUGE field of sunflowers. Its great. Its here that a comic revelation strikes me
We end up in Solesmes about twenty minutes before the service begins. We browse the bookstore for a bit and then grab a seat.
Leo, their 7 year old, is soooo cute. He becomes enthralled with the church experience. We are later told its his first time in a church ... and we all agree he is the spiritual one of the family. He was so intent on the standing and the sitting at the appropriate times ... and we all starting shaking with laughter when he mimicked the bowing and posturing of the monks and congregation. All with such a serious and intent look! So precious.
The singing was wonderful. Repetitive? Yes. But beautiful and mesmerizing. The problem was that we had all just eaten a HUGE lunch, drank a bottle of wine, and had been chasing the kids around all day
We say goodbye to Guinola and Vincent for today, but we make plans to try to see one another at least one more time before we leave. They are a VERY nice and pleasant family. Fun to hang out and laugh with. Fun loving, and easy to relate to. Definitely the sort of people we would like to spend more time with!