You read about Amy’s love affair with Paris this morning in my inaugural post of A Passion for Paris. Now it’s time to re-introduce you to my second series Beyond Paris. These stories come from people not living in Paris. They live in the other corners of France far away from where a lot of tourists visit. Each region of France has its own unique character with distinct food, dialects and cultural norms. This series celebrates those differences.
I first started reading Sara Louise right before she ran off and got married (she recently celebrated her first year anniversary!). She lives in a tiny village in Provence which has a large cast of characters both amusing and infuriating. Sara attacks her stories with such humor as she details her life that I knew I wanted her to kick-off the Beyond Paris series.
I had originally planned to have Sara on French Friday last week, but she had an unexpected bump in the road so she is Sunday’s star instead.
So without further delay, here is her story from her little corner of France.
The dichotomy of my life in Le Petit Village goes like this… you see I love it and hate it, but the things I love, and the things I hate are pretty much one in the same. (Let me preface this by saying that ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are very strong words but they sound better than ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ so I’m going with ‘love’ and ‘hate’). And because I’m thinking in opposite terms of love and hate, I’ll write in opposite terms of summer and winter, but I’m going to start with winter.
During the winter months, Le Petit Village and it’s 250 habitants practically hibernates. Many of the houses here are holiday homes that sit empty, shutters closed to the cold winds and snow, waiting for their Parisian and Belgian owners to come back and fill them. It can lend a bit of a ghost town vibe for the rest of us year-round inhabitants, and in those winter months, we tend to huddle close, so as to make us feel like we are not so alone in this wintry, mountain village.
There is one bar/ cafe/ restaurant here, and on those cold Friday nights, when the roads are too icy to navigate down the mountain, the same group of us descend upon it. It is always; my brother-in-law, his young wife, her parents, my next door neighbor/ husband’s best friend, my husband, father-in-law, a couple of local farmers, and me. We huddle around a kerosene heater set up in the middle of the room, chatting, and laughing, sharing plates of saucisson, homemade pâté, and bowls of olives. It feels much more like someone’s cozy living room than a bar.
Now for a city girl me, at times I’m screaming inside, yearning to put on my heels instead of winter muddy snow covered boots, and have a vodka martini in my hand instead of the hearty Leffe, while sitting back in a plush banquette in some decadent bar and not in this old bar, with chipped paint, mismatched furniture, and the same old handful of people every Friday night. But as much as I may want to be in that city bar, I’ve never felt as at home and comforted by the super luxe ‘it’ bar as I do on those dark winter nights surrounded by French villagers and wrapped in the warmth of the kerosene heater.
Then as the months pass, and the sun begins to rise earlier and earlier and shine warmer and brighter, Le Petit Village slowly awakens. And with the sun comes the tourists.
During those beautiful warmer months, when the lavender blooms, our winter population of 250, increases to 1000. Where normally I would go for long walks with my dog and not see a single soul, our tiny streets are buzzing with chatter and traffic and there are people everywhere. That same cozy winter bar becomes packed and any chance of finding a table or a bar stool is practically non-existent.
I complain about the tourists; how they take all the parking spaces in front of our homes, they peer in our windows, and buy up all the baguettes, but secretly I love them. I love that when they are here Le Petit Village is at it’s best and most welcoming. We have small festivals with bumper cars and fireworks, a circus, and parties, all to say, “Bienvenue! Aren’t we quaint and charming? Please come back soon, we love the company”, and everyday feels like a holiday, a snap shot into a Peter Mayle dream.
But just when I think I’m tired of the incessant early Sunday morning chatter of stranger’s voices outside my windows and fighting for my parking spot and my baguette, they are gone, and the cold and solitude comes back. Along with those wintry, kerosene cozy Friday nights. And we settle in and wait for spring.
Born in NYC and bred in Texas, Sara Louise spent six years living and working in Dublin, Ireland, before moving to a small village in Provence with her French Husband and French dog. Sara writes about the adventures and misadventures of Provencal village life on her blog Sara in Le Petit Village.
Tune in next week when I return with a new edition of A Passion for Paris!