The Blue-eyed Boy

We’ve been having real Spring weather these last couple of weeks. In fact at the start of the week it was actually unusually warm for this time of year. The old ladies in the village keep saying “we’re going to pay for that in summer!” Please no!

I was out for a walk the other morning and noticed a daffodil, all on it’s own. No other flowers around – just a wide expanse of agricultural crop. And an elegant daffodil – boldly showing off its colour, daring all to look at it!

I was brought straight back to this time five years ago. When I was looking at the daffodils that had peeped through in the garden of our home in Galway. I was getting ready to make phonecalls. Lots of phonecalls. To tell family and friends that I was pregnant and that we’d made a pretty big decision. We were moving to France!

In for a penny, in for a pound!

It’s a funny thing, this blog. It’s been a really good way of thinking back over the last few years of my life in France. In some ways it doesn’t feel like five years at all. In other ways it feels like we’ve packed an awful lot in (and dealt with more besides!) so it’s surely been longer than five years!

It’s been a way of keeping a record of all the little things that have happened along the way. I find myself jotting down memories a lot of the time now. Thoughts flit in and out of my head. Little details that I would sometimes let float away like butterflies. Now I’m trying to catch them in a net, for fear that I’ll forget them.

Now, little details have taken on a different kind of importance. Previous exchanges with people, that didn’t seem to hold any weight or signifigance at the time, have turned into pieces of a jigsaw. They have led us to the overall picture of our life here and now.

I have written before about how my mind completely stilled on our ferry crossing from Ireland to France. It was a much needed opportunity to quiet my mind from all of the activity that went with uprooting and changing the course of our family’s life. However when we landed on the shores of France, and set off into the French sunshine, a sense of adventure began to take hold.

It was a very strange feeling, driving through Brittany straight after the crossing. Even though I had been to France to visit family so many times, this drive was filled with emotion and a different way of seeing the country. This was the first time that I was looking at France from a settler’s perspective.

That little space suspended between one minute and the next suddenly seemed so huge and full of questions!

We weren’t a young couple heading off on our travels with nothing but the wind and our fancies to carry us! We were parents with another baby on the way. Our first priority was going to be finding stability, normality and establishing routine. We were also hoping to inject everything with a sense of adventure to help take the sting out of leaving friends and family behind for our eldest girl, La Grande, as they say here.

I was going to have to register with the maternity hospital as soon as possible. We needed to find somewhere permanent to live. So many things frolicking around in my head on that journey! Never mind the fact that I was also pretty queasy. I never had morning sicknes so to speak, with either of my pregnancies (lucky!). But this feeling of queasiness used to roll over me. Like I had eaten too many Irish breakfasts!

When we found that little village where we had that first breakfast in France as prospective emmigrés, I found myself evaluating every little detail. I was like a sponge – trying to absorb everything. Analyse everything. Trying to make the unfamiliar more familiar to me!

In that little village, we noticed that we were being noticed too! There was a little kid zipping around on his bicycle. Circling us. He seemed to be looking for a reason to chat to us! Mon homme gave him a reason! We were looking for a spot to get water for the dog. The little kid was delighted to be helping us. He introduced himself as Yohan and fired out a whole heap of other details besides. How old he was, where he went to school, who lived where. We got the low-down on the village in nano seconds!

Of course he was very curious about us. Where had we come from? Where were we going? Why did I have a funny accent? How old was the dog? I got the impression that not much traffic went through the village, and the traffic that went through kept on going! And there was Yohan, the blue-eyed boy, doing rings and rings around the village square hoping for someone to stop and chat someday!

When we told him that we were moving to France he got really excited. He said “What? You’re moving here!!!” His little face lit up. This was probably the most exciting news ever and he was ahead of the pack and had the scoop! Then, when we clarified that we were moving to Burgundy, and not to his little village, he looked so crestfallen! The poor guy. No major news for him that day!

We said our thank yous and goodbyes to him and carried on. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw him set off again in rings around the square on his bicycle!

We were making our way to stay with an old colleague and friend who had settled back in his hometown and opened a pizzeria. It was a little town, not far from Lorient.

This part of the journey is a bit hazy for me. Unfortunately the queasiness and tiredness didn’t really lift, and I pretty much spent the following two days in bed, or on the couch! I left the adventuring to mon homme and La grande.

When it was time to head off on our journey again, we had to pick somewhere to stop off for a night. I came across a guesthouse in the Loire valley on a website and didn’t expect much from it. You can never tell from the photos! We just wanted somewhere reasonable to lay down our heads for the night!

What a surprise when we rolled up the beautiful driveway of this gorgeous chambre d’hôte! It was heaven. An old farm. The farmer himself, now “retired” decided to open up his home and grounds to guests. The rooms were beautiful. Plenty of original features and lots of grounds to explore. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the farm, or the nearest town, which gives you an insight into my condition at the time! Normally I’m like a human GPS. I get my kicks out of maps and everywhere I go I’m like a computer whirring – absorbing every twist and turn in the road. Recalculating!

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This little guesthouse was a haven! When I walked into the en suite bathroom, and saw the little French style half-bath, I knew what I was doing straight away. That bath restored my normality! I also had a foot massage thanks to mon homme and La grande took the tension out of my shoulders!

I was a new woman. Determined to go for a walk and take in the evening air, we set off and took in everything the warm evening had to offer. Then at twilight, the bats gave a performance worthy of a Russian ballet.

I headed off to the wrought iron-framed bed and slept like a baby! The next morning, over a breakfast of warm bread, home-made jams and yoghurt, we got to chat with the owner a little more. It was then we noticed four elderly ladies with English accents, sitting on their gîte terrace, drinking their morning tea, having a right old giggle! We nodded towards them and said to the owner – “those ladies seem very happy!” He replied, “yeah – they come back here every year. I don’t know why! They must think it’s nice or something!”

I smiled to myself and thought that some people are so unassuming. They have no idea of the comfort, beauty and joy they have to offer!

I felt completely restored leaving that farm. Ready for the adventure ahead as we set off into another sunny French morning!

Feel free to comment…
  • March 28, 2015, 4:51

    Ah this is such a lovely post, Carmel! I like what you said about blogging making you notice/remember the little details. I’ve found that too, you become more aware of recording things! That farmhouse is beautiful and sounds like my kind of place.
    Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere recently posted…Vilnius: Photo EssayMy Profile

    • March 30, 2015, 8:51

      Writing about somewhere / something makes us zoom in on the detail a bit more and slow down and think about our experiences. You have your beautiful photos as well Grace, to revive your adventures!

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