Friday, December 2, 2011

Verneuil sur Avre, day four

Rest day. Everyone was too tired from the couple of days we have spent on the road to get back in the car. So we decided that we would stay on our little cottage and enjoy the serenity. As luck would have it, it was also a day of rain, so sitting around in the heating and doing not very much had the weather in agreement.
No day can really begin without going to the boulangerie and getting all kinds of pastries and treats. The kids slept in and Myles and I wandered around the town and checked out the food shops. Verneuil sur Avre is not a big town, you can walk around it in about forty five minutes. But regardless, it has about seven very good bakeries and a couple of excellent butchers (they wrap the meat with such love ...) and some delis. All the town residents walk around with baguettes under their arms on their way home. It is hard to imagine Macleod (which is a bigger town that this one) being able to sustain this level of food options. But we think that buying rubbish bread from the supermarket is somehow OK. The kids are already speculating on how they are going to survive back in Australia without this option of bread at every turn. I can see why some many people have written so extensively about France and food. It is not only the food, but the attitude of the French people, and their committment to food and the eating it. The kids still can't get over the fact that pretty much everything closes down between 12 and 2 while the population goes home to lunch properly with their familes. Paris is at the point that he now clock watches - warning us that the shops will close soon, and what will we eat then? You have to admire the dedication. Perhaps he is secretly French.
After the kids finally woke, we insisted that they dress (they were preparing for a day in pajamas) and that we go for a walk. There are two tourist walks; one is a moat walk and the other a history walk. We decided on the moat walk because it was a hour (the other was two hours) and the rain was coming down with some intent. It was very pretty, walking along an old moat which is now really just a funny stream that circles the town. At one point, we stopped and I speculated that perhaps, on a hot day (NOT the one we were currently experiencing), it would be a nice stream to dandle the feet in; to paddle. Just as I was doing this (not actually paddling or anything), an old bloke came along and joined us. 'Poisson', he said. Myles decided that he was telling us the moat was poison. 'It's poisoned,' he told the kids. But they (and I) had watched The Little Mermaid often enough to know that our friend (Pierre? Etienne? Claude?) was speaking of fish. 'Oh oui,' Claude assured us. And with his hands, showed us the size of fish you might expect. We then had a chat that was really all done through mime. Claude walked with us around the moat and the kids discovered that part of the walk was a kind of exercise regime with equipment and signs with demonstrations of what to do. Some of them made no sense. While Paris demonstated the exercise based on what he could discern from the signs, the rest of us fell about laughing.
The rain continued to fall upon us. Claude showed us his watch (one o'clock, mon dieu!) and departed for his lunch (and more wine). We cut short the walk a little because we were wet and Paris predicted that at this late hour, even the last opening boulangerie would be shutting its doors. Turned out, this was indeed the case, and Madame was in the throes of shutting down while Monseiur the Baker was putting on his coat and heading out the door. We caught them just in time to buy a series of savory tarts and some biscuits. That was as far as our day went. In the moments after we returned home, the kids were in their pajamas and selecting movies to watch for the afternoon. I insisted we clean the house a little (OK, they agreed glumly). Then it was a marathon of film while the rain fell and Myles and I websurfed and hung out.
Then Monseiur Paris ('David, please') arrive to do the garden. In the rain. He was completely charming and told us all kinds of stories about this and that. But we had to go. We had incurred another parking fine (this time, only seventeen euros and no wheel clamping) and Myles, who is prompt in this regard, wanted to walk up to the police station and pay the thing. David told us where we had to go. When we got there, the police officer looked genuinely shocked that we were there to pay a fine (even had some trouble working out what he had to do), and had no change for our twenty euro note. Perhaps no one pays their fines. And certainly not on the day they are issued. Those English, they are crazy.
We had a wet and misty walk in the early evening looking at all the Christmas lights. And then, to the local charcuterie for dinner. I think you might never have to cook really in France. You can go into the charcuterie and buy fresh salads, and pies, and sausages, and all kinds of things. The kids couldn't wolf down the sausages fast enough. The beetroot salad challenged them a little, as it the two kinds of cabbage but with bread, butter and sausage, there can be few complaints at the table.
This life is what I was born to ...

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