Monday was Memorial Day in the United States and, thanks to the timing of Easter this year, it was also le Lundi de Pentecôte (Whit Monday) here in France. While Pentecost Monday was removed from the list of French state holidays in 2005, traditions die hard here and it made a quick comeback just a few years later. No one wants to be deprived of a three-day weekend, of course, and the French have rebelled for less. So, while my American friends were hitting the road to go to the beach or were gearing up for a weekend of barbecues and pool parties, I was doing the same.
My destination: the Burgundian countryside.
A friend of ours has a country home in Burgundy — an old farmhouse renovated into a magical little oasis far from the bustle of Paris — and we were invited along with three other friends to spend the long weekend there. How could you say no to that? So, Saturday morning, we headed off down the A6 and the A77 to western Burgundy, towards a little hamlet called Picarnon. And when I say “hamlet,” I mean it. Our friend’s country home is nestled among ten or so other houses located just off the main road, surrounded by rolling fields and woods. It was postcard picturesque and absolutely peaceful … even with the self-described “charming” neighbor, who seemed just a little too intrigued by the presence of six obviously gay guys splashing around in the inflatable pool next door. But she was nice all the same.
We spent three relaxing days eating and drinking, shopping at the open-air market in nearby Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire, tasting wine at Domaine de Couet in Saint-Père, eating and drinking, convincing ourselves that the water in the inflatable pool was warmer than it really was, checking out the offerings of the brocante (flea market) in Donzy-le-Pré, eating and drinking, and … eating and drinking. Despite the fact that I’m a vegetarian, I certainly didn’t have trouble finding something to sate my appetite. While my companions were chowing down on grilled everything from chicken to beef spareribs, I was savoring the smoky flavor of grilled Tofinelle and seitan steaks and the rich, buttery goodness of blue cheese and sheep’s milk tartelettes. The only real temptation for me was when the saucisson secs (dry sausages) made their appearance during the apéritif hour. The one regret that I have about being a vegetarian is that I decided to become one before coming to live here, forever forswearing this delicacy. Even the pork and donkey sausage had my mouth watering. Yes, I said “donkey.” Oh, the things one can find at a French country market!
Check out this slideshow from the weekend:
It was a magnificent weekend among friends, and it was so hard to take the road Monday evening to come back to the reality of life in La Courneuve. Less than an hour after getting back home, as if on cue, an arsonist set fire to a car parked across the street from us. Nothing like roiling black smoke and the smell of burning rubber to say “Welcome home!”
“So, um, Alexis, when are we going back to Picarnon?”
© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved