You know you want to know ~ My Adventures in France ~ part 1

part one | part two | part three

I know you’re wondering what the heck with the no pants running around the courtyard screaming thing.

Well, it really has to do with me and France. I wanted to go to France for years and years. While I was drinking, living in Paris, writing like Henry Miller and Anais Nin, and being the toast of the bohemian Moulin Rouge ball was a huge dream. HUGE. But of course while I was sitting on the bar stool spending my bus money it just wasn’t an option. And then I got sober. And in 2004 my parents took me to France to visit my brother. And in 2005 I went again. How awesome is that? And it was all I ever hoped for and more. The more is the part that should have concerned me. There is no glamour for me in France. No dignity. Nothing but opportunities to shed all my walls and just be me.

There are lots of things that I could tell you about those trips. I can tell you that for 6 weeks before going (I was to spend a week in Paris alone in addition to the time spent with family) I was planning on drinking and smoking. And coming back and never telling anyone that I had relapsed and had 2 days. Thankfully that didn’t happen cuz I told on myself in meetings for 2 weeks before I flew out. I can tell you that the food is all it was cracked up to be in Burgundy. Paris was a crap shoot. I can tell you that standing in the snow, alone, at Christmas time, in the courtyard of the Duke of Burgundy’s mansion in Beaune made me cry tears of gratitude to Her. Standing alone in front of Rogier van der Weyden’s Last Judgement in the Musee Hotel-Dieu in Beaune also made me cry at the amazing vision and fine motor skill of the man. And the eyes on the wings of Michael the Archangel. Oh lordy. That archangel, almost as big as me, is a stunning sight, drop to your knees if the guard wasn’t watching you beautiful and scary and full of power.

But nothing made me cry like the ride up the tram in Chamonix…

The whole family, three generations and two sides of the family, was in Chamonix to stand at the foot of Mt. Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. A quaint town, I made sure to have their famous French Onion Soup and fondue (which had so much wine in it I seriously thought about not eating it but did any way which thankfully didn’t turn out to be a stupid move), the chalets and cuteness are totally fun. They drink their hot chocolate out of bowls and I brought one home with edelweiss on it. Edelweiss! In France. I wanted to be like Heidi with my goats on the alpine meadow singing I Love To Go A Wandering…

Chamonix has a tram… oh wait, pants and courtyard and screaming…

We were eating lunch in the courtyard of Jean’s amazing 300 year old country house. It was our last meal here as we were leaving for Chamonix and then I was off to Paris. It was a going away picnic. We were eating one of the favorite foods of the Burgundian French, smoked salmon. What does smoked salmon do? It attracts yellow jackets. Every time. My brother is allergic as hell. The summer before, during my medieval reenactment phase I had swept yellow jackets up under my skirts three weeks in a row. Three weeks in a row I got stung on my inner thighs. I stopped wearing long skirts with trains. So I was skittery when those wasps showed up. My brother was swatting at them, killing them, and generally freaking out when I felt something soft moving up my leg under my jeans. I jiggled my pants leg to make it fall. More soft crawling. Up up up…. to my knee.

Upon which I jumped up, screaming my head off about bees, ran to the center of the courtyard (I had been against the wall by the window) and pulled my pants down to the ground, bunched around my ankles. My brother ran over to help me kill the bastard but the wasp we never found. I still can’t admit to my brother that I decided that there was no wasp and that I was insane, it must have been the hairs on my legs standing on end in panic. And Jean?

Sat there laughing and clapping and cheering and shouting out, in French, for an encore of the strip tease. You are a beautiful woman! My beautiful little flower!

It was his favorite story for the next year and he told it to all his friends in the village of Pouilly where he went every day for his baguette, turkish coffee, and the newspaper.

That Christmas I knit him a silk and wool hat and on the brim I stitched a little gold bee.

His last words to me were “Ma petit fleur.” Damn, here I am, still crying…

So… Chamonix. Peut-être demain
Part 3 – Raclette

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