I drove west, somewhat heavy-hearted but light-headed.

It wasn’t late, but I wanted to get home, so I took the Autoroute A9. The easy drive gave me the chance to reflect on my adventures, mixed with the pleasant music from the radio. And the traffic wasn’t too bad. I had, over the years, become accustomed to the habits of French drivers in the south, so, trailing a lorry seemed a good and safe idea.

I finally got home in the early evening. I decided to sit on my terrace, have a glass of wine and look at the haul of things I had bought with me.

Patron’s parcel went straight into the fridge. I couldn’t resist the temptation to peek inside. He had fulfilled my secret wish. A generous portion of “Gardiane de Taureau”. What an absolute delight. What a sweetie he is.

Sitting in my familiar surroundings, the warmth, the clear sky, full of stars, my glass of wine helped my brain start to spool like a film.

I began to think about the old man and his grandchildren, so, Antoine and the four young men. The bond I felt amongst them was close and unique, perhaps typical of the “gens du voyage”. It was tinged with nostalgia connected with their faith and pride. They were so accepting of me, a stranger who came from nowhere and went left to go back to nowhere.

All the intense moments I had just experienced, made me so joyful, it brought tears to my eyes. It was emotionally overwhelming. It was at this moment that I stopped thinking and slowly sank into the comfort of calm and relaxation that was beginning to engulf me. It was time to get some sleep.

Next morning, Geneviève came for a coffee. I was still asleep, but she showed no mercy and rang the doorbell forever.

“Well, you look bright and cheery,” she said, as I opened the door.

“Oh, ha, ha. Just look at me. I need more sleep”.

“No you don’t! You need a good coffee. And, I’ve bought a baguette and some croissants. So let’s go into the kitchen for a coffee” she said.

“Fiiinne”, I yawned, “if you say so. But let’s sit in the courtyard instead”.

Once we had settled down, and I could feel the coffee slowly bringing me back to life, Geneviève started her interrogation.

“So, now, tell me about your encounters.”

“Hmm”, I slowly said, trying to get my brain sorted, “Where would you like me to start? You remember I did stay in a Château.

“Yes, so exciting. Did you meet anyone interesting? A fine, handsome young prince?”

“Perhaps”, I said, somewhat demurely.

“Was it successful or not?”

“What?” I asked, a little confused.

“Your adventure.”

“Well, that depends. There’s Maurice, who was nice…but a little reserved, then Arnaud, but married, but his wines are superb, Antoine, a gypsy, but too old, Jean, married and with his farm, René and his snails, hmmm, not my cup of tea…the two liquoristes…but they are females so no….. and then some funny Bavarians, a couple, and definitely “non”, but….”

“You prefer the southern “hommes”, non?”

“Hmmm, I suppose. But those I met were a little too young for me!”

“Oh dear. One too old, others married, wrong gender, too young….you should stop being so fussy. You’re not getting any younger.”

“Well, thank you for reminding me. But that’s the story of my life. You know, I’m constantly sitting between different chairs.”

Geneviève looked at her croissant.

“So, now that we have the important things out of the way, how was the rest of it?”

I bit into my croissant.

“Where did you get these from?” I asked,

“I had to go to the supermarket. Pascal was exceptionally closed today. I’m sorry. They’re not the best, are they?”

“Hmm, definitely not. But it doesn’t harm to compare now and then, I suppose.” I mused, studying the croissant a little more intensely.

“So, tell me, how was the rest?”

“A little overwhelming. I thought I had learned the French way of life, but it seems I haven’t finished learning.” I said, trying to beat the taste of the croissant with the coffee.

“And, did you follow the food?”

“Oohhh yes, most definitely. It started with wine. There was a whole bottle waiting for me on the balcony of my room. And a glass. And a corkscrew. Irresistible”

“Ooh, how lovely. And did you meet any interesting producers?”

I contemplated my dry croissant again and thought of those delicious ones Hélène would bring me. Worlds apart.

“That really was the best part. Jean and his beef, René with his snails, the two charming ladies with their cassis, there was the mustard, but sorry, I didn’t meet the owner, ditto the nougat. And my Pink Lady was absolutely overflowing with goodies.”

“Sounds like you had fun then?”

“Hmm, I suppose so”, I said, deciding to give the rest of my croissant a miss.

“And the hotel?” asked Geneviève. “Pictures were lovely”.

I looked up, mock horror on my face. “The Château, if you don’t mind. It was out of this world. The bathroom was incredible, the dining room very pink, and Hélène and Arnaud, just the most perfect hosts you could imagine. They’re coming here in a few weeks with my wine.”

“Hope I can meet them.” said Geneviève.

“Sure you can. I’ll cook something for all of us.” wondering if Patron might want to help.


“It was just an incredible experience. I still need time to process it, but the warmth, the charm, the open arms welcoming me, the pride, it was so, so, so wonderful. But, like I said, I still need to ….you know, it’s almost spiritual. Difficult to explain.”

“ I guess everyone feels differently…it really sounds like you had a fantastic experience.”

“I certainly did.” I said getting up to make more coffee.

I needed it, and the food was welcome too. And we spent most of the day just talking about everything and I showed her some of the goodies I had brought back.

When Geneviève left, I was back in my little world. I was slowly beginning to understand the spirit I had encountered. The warmth of the people, the dedication to their work, their products, the pride, the enthusiasm, and their love in sharing all of this with total strangers. It moved me deeply and it was something I wanted us in my little catering company to share and to do even better in the future.

I got up and went inside.

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