Monday, June 18, 2012

Busy Weekend in a Small Village

I love the blues and the forms of penstemons

Last summer a young, attractive couple rang our bell just after we had checked out a house full of clients. We were in the process of stripping beds and laundry lay in towering piles in the hallway. Their names were Gregoire and Morgane and they had come to book our entire house for their wedding day, which was planned for this past weekend. Gregoire is the nephew of Catherine, the châtelaine (the woman who owns our local castle).

When the day for the big event finally arrived, the weather was overcast and rainy. Morgane was discouraged. At breakfast she characterized it as "pas terrible" which literally means "not terrible" but in usage means "absolutely terrible". She, her mother and grandfather had spent two days with us as they fluttered around the village preparing for the events of Saturday afternoon. The wedding was planned for 4PM.

At noon the house came alive with activity. A hair dresser, manicurist and make-up artist and various friends arrived. Furniture was moved around to turn our yellow room into a beauty salon. Pizzas were delivered and consumed in the kitchen downstairs and the gate stayed constantly open as various people came and went in fevered activity. The weather slowly improved as the day went ahead. The rain stopped and from time to time the clouds would disperse, allowing here and there a small patch of blue to appear.

 the hair dresser, looking charming in his yellow plaid pants and chic fedora

As the hour approached, the excitement mounted. Flowers arrived and guests began to gather outside the church on the Place in front of our house. We mostly tried to stay out of the way but were called upon to direct people here and there, lend out our stapler or various other items as requested. A Dominican priest arrived all the way from Paris to perform the ceremony, dressed in ornate cream-colored robes. He found us in our studio and asked for a glass of water. Our sink, which has an energetic sprayer, splashed all over the front of his beautiful vestments, causing some consternation and concern!

the bride's bouquet arrives

Several adorable little girls with huge flower wreaths on their heads took their places. Many of the women guests had elaborate hats and brightly colored shawls.

guests and flower girls await the moment

Morgane's father awaited her on our terrace, and when she arrived promptly at 4, he led her, camera's flashing, to the church and the ceremony was underway.

Morgane on the arm of her father

The church bells began to ring joyously at the end of the wedding. At the very moment the young married couple stepped to the threshold of the church doors to walk out onto the Place, the sun came out from behind the clouds and bathed them in light. The entire crowd cheered. A dixieland quartet struck up a lively tune.

on the way to the reception

Gregoire's father owns a property in town and the reception was held there. Rick heard the happy couple, the parents, grandparents and friends arrive back to our place at 4AM. A 12 hour party!

We expected everyone to sleep in late, but in fact when we went to set up for breakfast a little before 9 on Sunday morning, the grandfather was awaiting us. He was anxious to get back on the road for his home, close to Orleans, a couple of hours away. It was voting day for the legislative seats in France. The country would decide if the new socialist president would get a mandate or not (as it turned out, he got a resounding one.)

Papi, as Morgane called her grandfather, is a very distinguished white haired gentleman, a little hard of hearing, but elegant and friendly. He complimented us for our house, as most French people do. It pleases us so much how appreciative the French are of what we have done with Maison Conti. He was dressed smartly for his drive home. He wore a crisp starched white shirt with blue stripes, a thin black wool cravat, impeccably tied and a beautiful moss green plaid jacket.

The others arrived more slowly, but by noon the house was empty again and all the activity of the past day was a memory. Early in the afternoon, just as I was settling down to a quiet moment, the church bells began to chime again announcing some new event. When I looked out the window, I saw that a child had just been christened. The bells told the tale.

As quiet as our little village can sometimes be, it is never dull. There is always some important life event being celebrated.

family and friends gather for a baptism


Although it has been a very discouraging spring weather-wise, there are some advantages to living in a corner of the world where there is plentiful rain. The emerald green landscape never ceases to enchant my eyes, and when the sun does come out, it is revelatory.

rolling green hills below the fortified walls of the town

On Sunday afternoon we went to the garden. The day was extremely fine, warm and sunny with the occasional puffy white clouds. On our walk we pass all the vegetable potagers of the locals. Their gardens are neat and tidy.

our village garden plots

Garden man and his wife were out picking strawberries. Believe it or not, the large basket that the wife is holding and the large white plastic container that Roland is holding, are filled with strawberries, all from just two rows of plants. I asked if they were going to be making jam and Roland answered that he preferred his strawberries at the bottom of a full glass of red wine!

picking strawberries

Our flower garden is an anomaly, but we gets lots of compliments on it. It is looking particularly pretty at the moment.

our flower garden

Probably our favorite rose is this apricot David Austin, which I believe is named Grace. It is such a generous plant, during the season continuously offering its perfect and very fragrant blossoms.

David Austin rose

It is not a long stemmed rose, so we generally float the blooms in a bowl of water.

crystal bowl holding our garden roses

I rather love the fact that the wall that borders one end of the garden still has holes where archers could shoot their arrows to defend the town. These walls were built long before our house, which was a structure of the renaissance, after siege warfare had been abandoned.

a hole in the defensive wall that borders the garden

Even if our garden is mainly dedicated to flowers, we do have a few salad supplies growing — lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and some herbs. These heads are perfect and they tasted delicious. I don't even like lettuce, but these were an exception. I might yet come around.

two delicious varieties of lettuce we've grown this year

Late Sunday afternoon we walked back home from our garden, stopping to share greetings with Anne, Christine and Monique. The Place was quiet after a very energetic weekend.


Since I've been a bit tardy in my blog posting, I haven't yet reported on our visit from James and Adric, which happened the weekend before. It was not brilliant weather, but a particularly wonderful time despite that. We had a lot of fun cooking, eating, watching the finals of Roland Garros and results of the preliminary French legislative elections.

We also took a kayaking trip together which I could not photograph as the camera would have been destroyed in the effort. It turns out that our area has quite a few well-defined and exciting river kayaking possibilities. We got a map of the routes and took one of them with the boys. This one has you descending over two small waterfalls in the process of navigating the route. We were all soaking wet by the end of the ride, as it also poured rain during part of the adventure. Still, I can't wait to go again.

James sewed a tablecloth and Adric figured out how to play Mahjong, an activity I enjoyed with my brother in my youth. I own a beautiful old set, but we hardly ever get it out, as it requires four players. Adric read the old rule book and taught us the details of set up and scoring, which I had forgotten.

We all became addicts of this really wonderful and very sensual game. Rick, who often gets restless with these kinds of activities, won most of the rounds, so even he kept repeating "what great fun!"


  1. Waouh ! what a large post Nancy ! and you seized so well this old aristocracy class spirit which commes from the spirit of this wedding ! I could not prevent me to think of Emily's one ...It seems as an invasion in Maison Conti, nice and unusual but ... I think, to-day 2 kinds of people have such weddings : high class (which is not the same high class as in the States), say old fashionned noble class (even if there is no more aristocracy in France, legally speaking) and low class which takes opportunity of to try to show they can afford it and also to make it a very special day even if it is a ruin for them.
    Then, I wonder what people like you can feel when there are 4 week end elections almost on a range and the result changes all the face of the political country ? I remember a lot of american people were afraid when Mitterand arrived as president! This is also because "socialism" is not the same meaning and background in both countries I suppose.
    Fortunatly, quietness was back in Maison Conti ! and ... James and Adric close the post for our great pleasure. I like James sewing and Adric explaining Mahjong rules but I dont understand the sensual side of the game (do you mean the beauty of the box or the touch of the pawns?

  2. Exactly right, Françoise. The set I have is made of real ivory and bamboo and the "money" is made from bone. It would be so illegal these days to make such a thing! Besides the tiles are very pretty and the ritual involved in setting up the wall, breaking the wall to begin play and all of the formal ways one must proceed during the rounds is so lovely and anachronistic!

  3. Robert & I love reading about all of your wonderful events. Our love of France is clear, and your home to so many pivotal celebrations is so delightful to experience. Thank you so much!! xo Joanie & Robert Ballard