Why do so many travelers that I know have such negative things to say about the French--particularly the Parisians? I don't really enjoy arguing with my friends, but when they begin trouncing on people who I enjoy--I feel compelled to state my opinion.
So even though Bastille Day is still a month and a half away (July 14), I say "Vive la France" and will share one of many stories that I have about the graciousness and kindness of many of the French who I have met.
This journal entry was written during our September 2009 hike in France on the GR653 from Dourgne to Saint Oloron de St. Marie.
Saint-Cricq, FR. We are in a gite etape, La Croisee De St. Cricq, which is very comfortable, not gloomy, like the last. A gite etape means shared accommodations. In this case there are five beds in our room, but we have the room to ourselves. We're on a ridgetop on the outskirts of town.
|Our hostess, Chris, welcomes us to their gite.|
"The hosts here, Chris and Marco, are very friendly. She greeted us before we were halfway up the walk, and brought us lemonade to cool us after our long day's hike. He welcomed me with kisses and "enchante!" Her English is minimal, but he seems fluent.
"Dinner tonight was over the top! Our hosts just could not hold back and they brought out delicacy after delicacy--almost all of it had been prepared at home and much of it was homegrown. We had olives and crackers; wild pig pate and baguettes; a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs; chicken in creamy, duck-fatted sauce with mushrooms, cheese and grapes; cookies and vanilla chocolate mousse. Accompanying the meal was homemade red wine (walnuts had been used in the flavoring), and the piece de resistance was a bit of house-produced Armacaq. We learned that both Armacaq and cognac are made from five varieties of grapes, but the percentage of each is different.
"Our hosts were also amazing. Using Marco's pretty good English and our smattering of French, we managed to have a very entertaining evening. Marco's infectious joi de vie kept us all laughing. He could hardly contain his excitement at sharing dinner with us Californians. We consumed too much as it was, and if we hadn't resisted, Marco would have plied us with even more wine and we would have all ended up drunk.
"But, it was not just the delicious food that was shared. Intense, hyper Marco would suddenly jump up from the kitchen bench where we were seated to put on a different kind of music. We had Mozart one moment, then African! Then he'd hop up to get another bottle of wine. Chris just laughed at his effusiveness or impetuosity; he really was a little kid at heart and an irresistible one.
"We shared our stories and learned that they had moved from Paris, to Toulouse, and then to St. Cricq. The house here has involved a great deal of renovation. As Marco put it, "Christa did not like the rain dripping in the kitchen," so "I've been working on the roof." They've installed electricity and more recently brought in every conceivable kitchen tool possible.
|Next day arrival in Auch (in the midi-Pyrenees)|
Obviously they love their food and their life and with hosts such as this, how can anyone suggest the French people are not friendly to Americans!
If you pay attention to the conventions: greet shopkeepers and others with "Bonjour, Madame" (or "Monsieur") when you enter a shop, and avoid becoming the "Ugly American" (loud, boisterous, or demanding) most people will treat you kindly in return. Vive la France!