Monday, December 24, 2007

Are We There Yet?

As I get older, I realize that I am somehow reverting back to my childhood in one way or another. Most recently I've become more and more intolerant of long car rides, and I try to avoid them at all costs. I just don't like being in the car! To be honest, I never really have, ever since I was a little girl, but I have vivid memories of the dreaded two-hour (!!) drive to the countryside where we would go camping with my grandparents. Today, of course, a two-hour trip seems like nothing, but it certainly creeped by in the backseat of that beastly hot car, my thighs clinging to the burning material of the seats (not leather, but not plastic -- pleather?!). Even when I drove my own car in Washington, DC, I didn't really enjoy it -- the only part I liked was turning up my favorite music and singing along. But most of the time I was just in a big hurry to get to where I was going, from point A to point B. Which I guess explains the fact that I've never had any particular affinity for cars of any kind, and that I could honestly care less if I never drove again. Unfortunately, I imagine I'm probably not going to be able to get around the need to drive at some point, especially if we end up leaving la région parisienne... A possibility, but not yet a certainty.

Saturday my boyfriend and I took a train from Paris to Le Havre to meet his father, and thankfully we spent the night at his house before hitting the road at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning. We drove with his father down to Besançon, where my boy's younger sister and her little family lives. I slept for the first few hours, but had a heck of a time getting into a comfortable position in the backseat. Again, memories from childhood... I know I was lucky to not have to take the wheel, to be honest, because I don't even think I could have handled it. I still haven't prepared for the permis de conduire here, and I know it's something that will eventually be unavoidable. But in the meantime, I just try to be patient when the drive is long and sleep the time away... When lunchtime hit, my boyfriend and his father were both inspired: they decided to make a detour to Vézélay, a village in the Burgundy region with a stunning basilica at the top of a steep hill. I had already been there once before, but was more than happy to visit again -- after a stop for lunch, of course! We were lucky enough to fall on a really nice local bistrot-restaurant called Le Voutenay on the small départémental leading to Vézélay, in a tiny town called Voutenay-sur-Cure. After a brief mix-up in which we managed to find ourselves seated at the gastronomic side of the restaurant, we glanced at the menu, realized our mistake -- and quickly rectified it!

After settling into our seats in a small, simple room on the other side of the restaurant (the "bistrot" side, as they called it), we chose our dishes and were chatting quietly when we noticed that one of the women at the table next to ours had gotten up to open up the curtains in order to allow some sun into the room, which was admittedly a bit dark. Apparently the waitress forewarned her to be careful, but alas -- a bit too late! As the curtain rod tumbled to the floor, the woman quickly jumped out of the way. My boyfriend's father jumped up to give her a hand, and the scene soon became comedic: as the lady climbed up onto a chair to put the curtain rod back in place, Jacques held onto the chair for her to stabilize it. The curtain rod started falling again, and just as it looked like the woman might fall herself, Jacques took hold of her around the waist and helped her lift the rod back into place... My boyfriend and I glanced at each other, our mouths open, a bit speechless at Jacques' bravado and spontaneity. My boyfriend couldn't imagine doing the same thing if he had been in his father's position, and he attributed it to the fact that his father was a doctor and wasn't uncomfortable about grabbing a perfect stranger like that, even if he thought it was to give her a hand (mind you, I don't think she would have fallen -- she wasn't really in danger, but Jacques just did what he thought was right in the moment). But there there was definitely an impetuous element to his gesture. And we all tried to laugh off the moment of discomfort... (It seriously felt like a scene from a sitcom.)

Of course, the woman's husband had been absent during the early part of the incident, as he must have gone off to the bathroom. And he showed up right at the critical moment, when Jacques was giving his wife a hand -- so to speak! He didn't look too pleased, but his wife kept joking about it, brushing things off and saying she felt "flattered" by Jacques' attention and assistance... And ironically, she was American! My boyfriend leaned over and told me to chat with her (something he often does in situations like this) and I felt a bit awkward, particularly after the curtain rod incident. So he asked her where she was from, and we did end up talking for a few minutes about our origins, how long we had been living in France, etc... But I didn't want to drag on the conversation and figured it was best to allow everyone to enjoy their meal. The funny thing is, the subject kept coming back up while we were eating, and my boyfriend and his father persisted in talking about it, while I kept trying to change the subject. "What are you planning on getting for dessert?" I must have asked at least a half a dozen times... The woman's husband then decided he wanted to make an example of me, kind of the "ignorant American just arriving in France," I guess, and he proceeded to ask me if I knew what he was eating... I guess he was trying to be funny, or friendly, or something, but I don't really like those kinds of things, particularly coming from a complete stranger. I would have thought he would have known better, after being married to an American fo 40 years! He went on to say that it was "tête de veau" and implied, with his tone of voice, that it was something he knew an American would never eat. I just brushed it off, said I had chosen duck myself, and told him to enjoy his meal. But underneath I was boiling...

Well, after that déjeuner mouvementé, we drove on to Vézélay, walked up the hill to visit the basilica, and then walked back down to the car. We didn't linger for very long, as it was pretty chilly outside (to say the least!) and we were all anxious to arrive in Besançon. I thought the second half of the trip would be much shorter, but unfortunately I didn't end up sleeping much at all, and we didn't make it to his sister's house until nearly 8:00. I didn't realize they lived right across the street from the village church, which was a nice touch -- I love hearing church bells chime throughout the day!

We've been having a nice, quiet Christmas together, and I've taken a few photos, which I hope to eventually post here on the blog (I've also baked a ton of cookies!). But the next few days are going to be hectic, as my boyfriend and I are taking a train back up to Paris tomorrow morning, and then I will be flying to the U.S. on Thursday to visit my family for New Year's. So I may be "out of commission", so to speak, for a few weeks... Then again, I just realized that this is my first post in almost three weeks anyway, so I guess that's nothing new! I'm going to do my best to become a more consistent blogger in 2008 -- we'll see how long I stick to that resolution.

And on that note, I shall leave you, all my dear friends throughout the blogosphere, and wish you a very Merry Christmas (If you celebrate, of course! Happy holidays to everyone in any case!)... See you in the New Year!

22 comments:

La Page Française said...

I hear you on the car thing. Merry (late) christmas and happy new year to you too! I hope you have a good new years trip to the states and looking forward to more of your blog posts in the coming year...

Anonymous said...

merry christmas (yes and i late too!)...but with the idiot guy (asking if you knew what you were eating etc)...don't worry i am sure he is an idiot all around regardless of anyone's nationality. :) take care.
delphine

Linda said...

Interesting curtain scene-something the restaurant should take care of, don't you think? Anyway, I hope you have a great time in the States where I always spend tons of time in cars. Seems like all we do there is drive somewhere.

Destination Metz said...

I hate long car rides too, especially in France on the motorways, it's so dull, dull, dull. As Linda said, the restaurant really ought to have fixed the curtain rod themselves! Funny. And not very nice of the husband of the American, people will do anything to make themselves feel superior to others.

jchevais said...

I don't mind long car rides... but then... in Canada... we get used to it fast.

Merry Christmas and good luck with your trip to the States!

Emily said...

Alice - hope you're having a great holiday and have a wonderful New Years!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Alice!!

tea...coffee...wine...beer...I'll drink anything in the new year with you...totally way over due...

grand bisous
Narelle

Badaude said...

Just wanted to say, Bonne fin d'année!
xbadaude

joy suzanne said...

Bonne année Alice!

maitresse said...

alice, you make me want to bake cookies.
happy new year to you ma belle! it looks like we may not leave til the 11th or 12th so maybe, just maybe, we can find a pocket of time in between your arrival and my departure... xoxo L

Fred said...

Hey Alice. Miss you already and you haven't even left the United Etats yet.... :-(

Love,
Your Bestest Older Bro3

Destination Metz said...

happy new year! hope you're well.

Leah said...

Happy, Happy New Year!!

Leah said...

Happy, Happy New Year!!

The Late Bloomer said...

Hello out there! It's me again, I'm finally back and diving on-line. I've got a lot of catching up to do, but I wanted to thank everyone for your recent comments. Happy New Year to all, and I hope you had an excellent holiday with family and friends! Page française, the trip back home was as expected -- restful for the most part, not really eventful, but filled with lots of mixed emotions. Ah, the life of an expat, right?! Looking forward to catching up on your blog as well as everyone else's in the coming weeks -- I have a feeling it's going to take me awhile!

Thanks Delphine, for the kind wishes, and I hope you had a great holiday too. Linda, totally agree with you on the time we spend in cars in the States -- that's definitely something I don't miss! I'm no longer used to the long car drives, as I said in this post, so even the drive back home to my parents' house from the airport was tough... Rochelle, thanks for your comment and your new year's wishes -- hope your holiday was great too!

Jenn, looking forward to catching up lots soon, thanks for the note. Emily, hope you had an excellent holiday! Narelle, so great to see you here -- when are we going to get that coffee-drink together?! Let's shoot for SOON!

Bonne année to Badaude and Joy Suzanne, thanks for the wishes!

Lauren, it was SO great to see you last night before your departure to Japan at the end of the week -- you are in my thoughts and I wish you both the best of luck. It's going to be a great adventure! BISOUS!

Fredster, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You know I miss you already too and I still can't believe the trip back home is already over... Argh, back to the grind! Hang in there with school and work. LOVE YA!

Happy Belated New Year to you too, Leah, and to all once again! :-) OK, I better get blogging, huh?!

A Novelist said...

I LOVE your blog! Happy New Year! :)

barb michelen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Destination Metz said...

Hey again. I may be in Paris around the 1st if you're free. Not definete yet but it's a possibility..

Julia said...

Haven't caught up with you in a while, but hope you had a lovely festive season and that the new year is treating you well x

The Late Bloomer said...

Thanks novelist for such a nice compliment -- I checked out your blog and it looks great! Will be sure to stop by again soon.

Rochelle, I should definitely be around on Feb. 1st -- I think I may have something going on the afternoon of the 2nd, but it's not definite yet. Otherwise, I would love to see you for drinks, etc. on the 1st!

Julia, thanks for the note! I hope you had a wonderful holiday in Amsterdam as well. I popped into your new blog on your life up there at the end of the year, but I'm having a hard time catching up on everything since I got back to France about 10 days go. I'll be sure to stop by again soon... All the best to you in 2008! May the year bring you many more exciting adventures, lots of happiness and love.

Le Tigre said...

Hey Alice, I'm over here now
http://www.letigreinfrance.blogspot.com/

Amy H said...

just catching up on my blog-reading. Happy New Year Alice!