My French Heaven

COUNTRY LIVING & JOIE DE VIVRE

A late celebration of Spring

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It seems a little late to celebrate a season that will be over in a matter of days, but I found some photos of my first picnic of the year and thought I would share them with you.

I had been visiting my friend Corrine at her lovely chateau the afternoon before and came back with a few of her delicious eggs (free range obviously). We’d even been chased by her geese on our way back from the chicken coop at the end of the garden. If one should ever think one is too insignificant or too small to make a difference in this world or impose their views upon others, they should spend some time with geese. These bitches are fierce I tell you!

I do love to visit Corrine. Beyond the stately house, what I like most is the atmosphere her and her partner André have managed to create there. The way each room welcomes you and the sunsets alike. The way cats and dogs play and lay… Every little thing, from object to host inspires calm and instills well-being.

Anyway, over easy eggs, fresh salad and some cherry tomatoes, a blanket and a lawn… red wine and primroses everywhere… The perfect picnic!

My French heaven indeed.

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Martin and the invisible moon

We had a four day weekend this past week and my friends Quitterie and Laurent invited me to join them at their beach house in Cap Ferret. Cap Ferret is located on the coast, West of Bordeaux. It feels a lot like the Hamptons without the crazy ass mansions…

They had also invited some of their closest friends. And although Quitterie and I have known each other for some 30 years, I did not know a single one of her more recent friends. They were quite fun to be around and I think we all appreciated the introduction. One couple had their baby with them. A little girl named Mathilda. The best behaved toddler I have ever met (note that I have 23 nephews). Cute as a button to boot…

We had long walks on the beach, played cards and had delightful meals with the freshest seafood, lovely wines and the very first strawberries this season that did not taste like cardboard. We added red wine, sugar and herbs to our strawberry salads: HEAVENLY!

Now about the tittle: as we were walking in the woods heading for the beach one early afternoon, 4 year old Martin was told to look up the moon. The moon was almost full and quite obviously visible despite the sun. Martin looked up and kept staring at the deep blue sky. He couldn’t see the moon. He became very upset and told us how impossible this was. Funny how the mind works. He’d been told his whole life that the sun and the moon couldn’t be in the sky at the same time. Some children’s songs and bedtime stories mention that too. So like the Indians who couldn’t see the European ships off of the American coast, Martin simply couldn’t see the moon. It just didn’t compute in his brain. He ended up seeing it after a few seconds of course, but we all thought this was quite interesting… If we can so easily be conditioned to not see what we believe doesn’t exist, what does it mean for all of us? Have we been conditioned to not see some of the best things that life has to offer? Can we truly notice the love or happiness that’s right under our noses?

Enough blabla. Here are some of the pictures I took:

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About thoughtfulness

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I have never been superstitious, but I truly believe in the awesome power of thoughtfulness. And therefore, this one tradition I love!

On the French labor day (May 1st every year), you will see many people with little flower stands on the side of the roads, selling lilies of the valley… It is said to be a good luck charm and must be offered to all the ladies among your family and friends. They must have 13 bells and still be covered with dew to be considered truly lucky. It really is a subtle and light hearted way to show the ladies in your life that you love them and appreciate them. Although adults do partake in this, it is something little boys have always done for their moms and the whole thing has that charming air about it. I am just so fond of the memories this tradition has created for me. The idea of a little kid on his tippy-toes offering the delicate flower to a loving mom. I don’t know how to express this the way I intended to. So here you have it: lilies, charming little boys, happy moms. There! Everybody happy?

Sorry. I’m high as a kite. These flowers sure smell strong…

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It is indeed a very old French tradition (and Belgian too I think) dating back to the Renaissance: On May 1st, it was customary in the French country side to offer people a branch of something (anything really but mostly flowers) to chase the curse of winter. In 1560, King Charles IX visited the Drôme region where he was offered lilies of the valley. The gesture pleased him very much, and the following year, he gave lilies of the valley to all the ladies at Court as a good luck charm.

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In the first part of the 20th century, it was a tradition amongst Paris designers to offer a branch of lilies of the valley to all their “petites mains” (seamstresses) and clients. The lily of the valley was the flower of the house of Dior. Dior’s 1954 collection was named after it.

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And as paper or cotton represents a couple’s 1st year anniversary, in France, lilies of the valley represent their 13 year anniversary. Their good luck charm is supposed to overpower the “unlucky” number 13. I think in America 13 is lace…

muguet-lily of the valley

Today’s pictures were taken in my garden. It is raining cats and dogs, but the little white bells made me forget the gloomy weather for a few minutes. Giving some to mom just made my day. The is me and mom below… some 45 years ago…

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