A Day in a French Life...
To see our village through an outsider's eyes--C'est le top!*--as my son would say; it is a cadeau* that doesn't come in a box, won't send me rummaging for an empty vase and scissors, and will not require a swirled ink remerciement* along with a fifty-three cent timbre.*
Each moss-covered medieval stone, brass doorknob and wooden shutter--if it hasn't charmed me already, is now shooting Cupid's arrows at my heart. Over the week-end I had the chance to faire decouvrir* an ancient hamlet and in return discover a new appreciation for our niche here in the Var region of France.
"What does this village date from--the 1500's?" my guest asks.
"The twelfth century," I reply, bursting with fierté,* as if I'd lugged each and every stone up the hill myself, and set every rock in place. "It's medieval," I add, stressing "med-ay-ee-val" because it seems more dramatic that way.
We walk past a row of village gardens, individual terrains* of French dirt passed down from one family to another for centuries. On some plots, a shack or cabanon* sits, its door now flung open in a warm weather welcome, a marcel-sporting* Frenchman shuffling in and out, garden tools en main.* In the old days, and if this were l'hiver,* he might take a break from tending the vines for a few swigs of red wine. The alcohol would warm his body, giving him "le courage" to return to the windy field and resume work.
"Look at the strata," my cousin says, pointing to the plateau ahead of us. A road for local traffic was carved from the plateau, revealing several clay-red layers of earth. "A geologist's dream," her husband replies. We cross the concrete pont* atop a thirsty river-bed, before walking up an ivy-flanked dirt path to the village.
Admiring an intricately pruned arbre fruitier* and delicate lily pond in the medieval part of the village my friend remarks, "It doesn't take much," and we shake our heads in unison, awed by one villager's souci* for the three square meters of terrasse* before his home. I watch Madame next door shower her plants with a peculiar watering can--a one-gallon plastic bottle that once held thick, scented laundry detergent.
At the top of the medieval village we stood, faces parallel to the sky's belly, looking up at la tour,* mystified by its huge rectangular slabs of stone. "It looks like these stones have been quarried from the sea," my friend says. La mer* is 25 minutes--en voiture*--from where we stand. It is incomprehensible how the heavy stones could have been carried back to the village in the 12th century and used to build the tower. I gaze at the porous stone and imagine the possibility, deciding not to consult a guide book. I want to believe that every stone came from the sea, a harmless illusion that suits me just fine.
References: c'est le top! = it's the best!; le cadeau (m) = gift, present; le remerciement (m) = thanks (une lettre de remerciement = a thank you letter); un timbre (m) = stamp; faire decouvrir = to discover; la fierté (f) = pride; le terrain (m) = piece of land; le cabanon (m) = cottage; shed; le Marcel = that classic French tank top; en main = in hand; l'hiver (m) = winter; le pont (m ) = bridge; l'arbre fruitier (m) = fruit tree; le souci (m) = worry (concern); la terrasse (f) = terrace; la tour (f) = tower, castle; la mer (f) = sea; en voiture = by car
fier, fière (fyer, fyeruh) adjective
1. proud; high-minded Also: la fierté (f) = pride
le courage fier = lofty courage
faire le fier = to show off
fier comme Artaban = as proud as a peacock
fier comme un pou = "proud as a louse" (arrogant and vain)
être fier de quelque chose = to be proud about something
être trop fier pour mendier = to be too proud to beg
se tenir sur son fier = to hold a high-and-mighty attitude
Citation du Jour:
Au lieu de raturer sur un passé que l'on ne peut abolir, essayez de construire un présent dont vous serez ensuite fier.
Instead of scratching out a past that cannot be abolished, try to construct a present that you will one day be proud of. --André Maurois
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety