Two weeks ago today we arrived chez nous. The weather has been beautiful and we have spent a lot of time relaxing and immersing ourselves in the peace and quiet.
We have also been out and about and met up with friends in a way that not many months ago seemed not possible, and in fact there were times when we wondered if we would ever do it again. Coming from a place that is all consumed by the coronavirus, one way or another, to one where everything is so much more relaxed has taken some getting used to. When I say "relaxed" I don't mean careless. We have been impressed how people here have managed to enjoy themselves without taking risks.
On Monday we were invited to join a group of friends for a walk around the lake at the leisure park at St Cyr. It's about an hour from home and when we set off to meet them it was literally pouring with rain. Which was rather inconvenient as I discovered that I literally have no coat or mac of any kind here! I do have a lightweight kind of summer trenchcoat that has been left here, like all my summer clothes, for years. But it was nowhere to be found. It seems I must have taken it home with me last winter but goodness only knows why.
However, I needn't have worried as by the time we got to St Cyr the sun was shining and in fact it was perfect weather for a walk, sunny but not too hot. Everyone kept their distance, drifting from one set of friends to another whilst staying safe. There was much to catch up on.
It's about 5km around the lake. We began with coffee at the little café and strolled along in a very relaxed but careful socially distanced way, what a joy it was to be part of a group of friends again. It hardly seems five minutes ago that we were on our own, day after day, not meeting up with anyone else at all.
How different it is here.
I can't believe we have lived in this area for so long and never been to this parc before!
After our walk we had lunch at the golf club restaurant which overlooks the park, the lake and the golf course. We had the set menu du jour, which was reasonably priced and fairly ordinary but the regular menu looked very promising and we will certainly go back another day. We are grateful to our friends for including us and introducing us to the place.
Feeling so much more relaxed about things, we organised a lunch party for some of our friends. All were English (or Welsh!) people who were finally allowed to be at their holiday homes in France, several months late, and in some cases which a huge gardening task to do.
All were feeling a bit awkward about things, concerned that locals and friends who live here full time might not welcome their presence. It's understandable that people might not feel ecstatic about the arrival of visitors from a country with the highest death toll in Europe.
We made every effort we could to make everyone feel comfortable about getting together but remaining safe, keeping our distance, hand gel everywhere, individual towels for the bathroom and so on. No wandering around at the table or queueing at the buffet table. Everyone was very careful, considerate and understanding.
Our guests each brought a delicious contribution to the lunch and we had a fabulous time, catching up and enjoying good food and wine. In traditional French style, the long and lazy lunch finished about 5pm!
Later in the evening we went into the village to celebrate the reopening of one of the bars.
This bar has been through several incarnations since we arrived here in 2007. Then it was called the Jean Bart, a very traditional village bar with fabulous woodwork inside (the bar itself and the staircase), a beautiful old tiled floor and - an outside very old style toilet. I will let you use your imagination on that but let's just say that sitting was not an option!
At the end of last year the bar closed again. Friends posted photos of the equipment and furniture being sold by auction on the outside a few months ago. A sad loss for the village.
Anyway, it has reopened and will again be serving food. Hoorah!
We went to the opening night but we didn't stay for long. The local trio "I don't know" were playing to a huge crowd of people outside and whilst it was great to see the place buzzing again and to know that the village has one of its great assets back in business...…...but we we did not feel comfortable. There were too many people there for us. The adherence to social distancing and wearing of masks seemed very loose and we felt nervous about it.
We wish the new owners every success and will certainly be there before long to enjoy a drink and a meal when there are fewer people milling around. Having been in France for two weeks we feel much more relaxed but are not quite ready yet for the big crowds.
For more pictures see Jim's post here.