After eight months of high society in Portland’s haute Pearl District, Louise and I now inhabit la France profonde, which is pretty much the Pearl’s opposite. We feel like pages ripped from a Fitzgerald novel, come to rest in deep France, where it’s quiet as a monastery and urban influences are as scarce as feathers on a frog.
How can I capture this place? How can I put in words what we’re experiencing here? Maybe that’s it: I’ll use words, but only a few. Five, maybe. Five words that reflect the essence of our cloistral identity.
The first: Hibernation.
From what we can determine, there are basically three categories of residents in Martizay at this time of year: farmers, lifelong residents, and Brit expats. They’re all hibernating.
The farmers are enjoying a winter’s respite. The fields are dormant. The equipment is repaired and maintained. The firewood is stacked and the hooch is safely tucked under the floorboards. The farmers stay indoors at this time of the year, knitting or making hooch for next year. We know they’re home by the smoke from their chimneys, but we rarely see the farmers themselves.
Martizay’s lifelong residents ride bicycles and pedal to the boulangerie in the morning for baguettes and eclairs. They sip tiny thimbles of the region’s wine at the pub. They keep to themselves (everyone keeps to themselves) and the tiny thimbles of wine don’t last long (besides, the pub—there’s only one—closes at dusk), so we don’t see much of them, either.
British expats love la France profonde. They love the summer weather and the strong pound sterling. But it’s not summer now, so many of them hop in their brakes and head for Spain—southern Spain, where the beaches are sunny and the shelves at the mercados feature eighteen brands of tonic. Fortunately for us, a few have stayed behind: gregarious, witty, and generous, we thank Steve and Kay, Chris and Sue, Allen and Christine, Terry and Maureen, and of course John and Jackie. Were it not for you, by now our social skills would have atrophied to some point between blithering and “call the authorities.”
We’ve tried visiting some of the local chateaus, but most of them are closed until spring. We’ve tried to find restaurants that are open at this time of the year but they’re only open on Wednesdays, or they’ll resume business after March 20, or they close at 2:00. One grocery store we visited was closed between noon and 2:30. We arrived at 1:00.
So we sleep in. We linger over coffee and croissants. We nap. We take long baths. We read. Louise beads. I write. We have a dishwasher but wash our dishes by hand cause it takes longer. In the evenings we cook, linger over a glass of wine (no thimbles for us), read some more, and retire early.
It’s hibernation all right. Someone has to live it. Might as well be us.
Photo credit: eyeLINE Photography, http://masterpiecefx.blogspot.fr/