Tuesday, 6 February 2018

We made it to February 5




We made it to February 5, our day of departure, and against all odds we were ready. Busy until the very last minute and with the pressure of being the only responsible parent, I had no time on that last day to give in to excessive emotion. The children on the other hand cried through the morning, again on the bus home from school and as I turned the key for the last time in our beautiful old wooden door before hiding it under the stone in the corner of the garden bed near the barren wisteria, and taking my seat in the car. This time our suitcases, like us, were well-travelled and worn; this time the excitement of our departure four years previously had been replaced by a dullness, and this time, it was not the rain but the snow, which had stopped falling to make possible our departure, which started falling in earnest the next day. (extract 'But you are in France, Madame')

It is hard to believe that five whole years have passed since our return to Australia. I look at the photos of the castle above, as we looked at them every day and in all seasons from our balcony in France, and the emotion is still there. I was weary, exhausted actually, from packing up a whole house, three children...our entire French lives. Some items, I sold on the French equivalent of eBay, le bon coin; some things I gave away; I sorted and packed boxes and boxes to be shipped back to Australia; our travel suitcases had to be carefully packed to include items that we would need immediately upon return; utilities had to be cancelled; the house had to be cleaned; friends had to be farewelled and normal everyday cooking, shopping, washing and mothering had to be fitted in, too.

We arrived back early in the morning to a hot summer's day. On the other side of the world, we had been suitably dressed in jeans, jumpers, thick coats and scarves but sweltered uncomfortably through the long customs queues in Sydney. Fragile and smelling less than desirable, we emerged into the Australian sun where underneath the animated chatter of our reunion with my husband we were silenced by the different light intensity and the sounds and smells that were no longer familiar.

The following day, I ventured into an Australian supermarket feeling lost and decidedly out-of-place. I wandered aimlessly picking up, putting down and picking up again a packet of Hot Cross Buns from the shelves, needing the comfort of my favourite bun despite wanting to resist the judiciously placed display for an Easter still far away. To these I added a few items that I thought I could use for making up the long-forgotten-about school lunch boxes, wincing at the copious layers of wrapping that enveloped all of the easy morning options. That was enough, I had to leave. Passing through the checkout, I realized that I only had one little foldable bag with me, a grabbed souvenir from the roadside throwaways on the Tour de France and apologized to the male cashier as I was trying to squash everything into it as quickly as I could. He looked at me and asked kindly if I was ok packing my own bags. For a brief moment, I had no idea what he was talking about and then realized that that was no longer how things were done. (extract 'But you are in France, Madame')

For many of you who have been following our adventures through this blog, or who have read our story, you will know that the adventure did continue. But, in both directions, I still make mistakes. It takes time before I remember to take our re-usable bags to the supermarket when we return to France, to say 'bonjour' before beginning a conversation, to find the right words once everything is properly back in French, to anticipate the shops shutting at lunchtime, or to hop into the driver's seat on the right side of the car in order to remain on the right side of the road. Despite the passing years, the emotion is still strong. Our last week in France is always hard, as I countdown not only all the jobs that need to be done to restore our house to perfect holiday rental conditions, but the days left to savour morning walks to the bakery, throwing open the shutters to greet the day and the mountains, unashamedly sitting idly by the window watching the snow fall, anticipating the treasures that I will find (not necessarily buy) at the permanent second-hand stores, perusing the lunchtime set menus and knowing that there is no need to schedule further afternoon activities, catching up with old friends, walking and skiing amidst the grandeur of nature...

To finish, let me share some village news. Jean Sulpice, head chef and owner at Le Père Bise in Talloires has just been awarded two Michelin stars, which is another excellent reason to visit our special place in France. Click here to read the full article from L'Express

I am again linking up to All About France. Head over to read other French-themed stories.

Or, as always, if you would like to read more of our family story, 'But you are in France, Madame' please don't hesitate to contact me on cb222@me.com or click on the following link for a Kindle copy








20 comments:

  1. I can imagine the culture shock when you returned to Australia and the subsequent shock whenever you go back and forth. When I return to Canada from Spain, it is a similar experience. Although the driving is the same, fortunately! It is great to be in both worlds.

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    1. We do share similar experiences, so I know that you understand the emotions. Yes, the driving takes some concentration each time in both directions!

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  2. I would never want to leave either with a view like that! It's terrible on the last day, or even a few days before, knowing that you are leaving such a special place.

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    1. Hi Cheryl, It is hard, isn't it! We are just lucky that we can do what we do.

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  3. Fantastic photos of the chateau! Is that your house below it in the second picture? Looks like a dream location. I enjoyed your book very much, and do hope you are working on another. Maybe something light contrasting the cultural quirks of each country? A humorous take might encourage a publisher to match your text with an illustrator's work and publish it as a companion travel book that people would buy along with their Michelin green guides or Eyewitness, Lonely Planet, etc. You are such an excellent writer, Catherine. More, more, more.....!

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    1. Hi Ellen, No, the house in the second picture is the house that we could see from ours. It was a dream house and location although where we are now is just as good. It is hard for it not to be in the area. Thank-you as always for your kind words. Your ideas are great. I am working on a project which requires illustrations. It has been a long time in the making - nearly 14 years already!

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  4. Bonjour Catherine ! En lisant votre post plein de souvenir et de nostalgie après votre séjour hivernal dans votre 2e "chez vous" à Talloires, j' ai eu peur que vous ayez vendu les meubles et "Le Cormoran" aussi !!! Heureusement j' avais mal compris à cause de mon faible niveau en anglais...// Hello Catherine! When I was reading your post full of souvenir and nostalgia after your winter stay into your 2nd Home in Talloires, I was afraid that you have sold all the furnitures and "Le Cormoran" too!!! Thankfully I've misunderstood due to my weak level of English... I'm looking forward to read your always interesting posts to come.Bonjour de Lyon.

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    1. Ah, mais là, votre niveau d'anglais n'est pas faible du tout! Non, toujours des australiens dans le coin mais pas aussi souvent que nous aimerions... Merci Philippe.

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  5. Super to know you’ve got something new in the works. Bonne continuation!

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  6. Merci beaucoup Ellen. A vous aussi.

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  7. That castle is incredible. It must have been difficult to leave it. But life goes on and new adventures await around the corner, as you have no doubt discovered during the last 5 years in Australia. I would hate to have to go home (got that, Brexit?). AllAboutFrance

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    1. Hi Harriet, it was difficult to leave and that's a little how the book came about - it was therapeutic writing it and reliving France! As for Brexit - what can I say, that was just as hard to believe and accept. I hope that you keep loving your French life.

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  8. It must have been a big culture shock to return to Australia after France. I would certainly find the same going back to the UK after 20 years here. I don't plan to, but you should never say never. At least you obviously still come back to savour la vie française. #AllAboutFrance

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    1. Hi Vanessa, it was a huge culture shock, strangely perhaps for one who had grown up in Australia. I enjoy reading your posts about life in SW France.

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  9. What an amazing castle to look out at. It doesn't look French to me, more German. It must be hard living your life between two places. I've moved country often in my life but don't go back; a different kind of hard. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance

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    1. Hi Phoebe, in essence, we also decided that we couldn't go back, so moved to a different city in Australia. As you say, a different kind of hard. The castle in all seasons is beautiful. I miss it! Glad that you are enjoying a bit of fun in the snow.

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  10. I'm often to be found wandering in UK supermarkets too and put me in a coffee shop (ie Starbucks) and I have no idea what I want and there never seems to be time to make a decision, it's rush, rush, rush! #AllAboutFrance

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    1. Hi Jacqui, it is disconcerting. What should be a familiar space, is strangely uncomfortable.

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  11. We both struggle to leave whenever we have to head back to the UK - we know we have to at the moment, but it doesn't make it any easier.i recognise so much of what you write about, shifting from one set of expectations to another, but it is worth it all.. #AllAboutFrance

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    1. Hi Julie, I feel that with distance and time, particularly time, some things (familiarity, memories, habits...) are slipping away. Thanks for your comment and enjoy your next visit.

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