It’s been an interesting week here in La Fouillade. As you know, Matthew left for the US on Friday morning and then Lark and I suffered through a rather long weekend of rain, harsh winds and cold temps. By day 3 in the house alone with my toddler, I reached a bit of a breaking point. We have let her watch certain shows on the Ipad that at least seem innocuous and she enjoys them. This is useful. Coming home from Brussels, she sat in her car seat for 10 hours with nary a complaint. Apparently, it’s also addicting. Which I guess I knew in a way since the research I’ve read says not to let your kid watch any until they are 3 and then only a tiny bit. So, we are crappy, desperate parents. What can I say? On Sunday, however, after Lark asked to watch “Wonder Pets” for the 30th time and I was pulling my hair out trying to entertain her, I told that if she didn’t stop asking me to watch the Ipad, I was going to throw it out the window. She totally perked up and said “Throw it out the window mama”. Uhmmm… okay. So, I did. Kind of. I opened the window, placed it on the roof, crossed my fingers that the raging wind would not carry it off and then told her that it had. She was so sad! “The Ipad mama, it’s gone!” Wehad to go outside and look for it, to no avail. The first big, fat lie of my parenting career. I must say that things have been better around here since the Ipad blew away though. I wish I were not so prone to operant conditioning. That worked all too well. There’s enough guilt involved that I think I’ll be able to refrain from telling lies to my kid too often.
On Monday, the world opened to us again and we got the hell out of the house. After breakfast, I put Lark and the buggy into the little Renault and headed over to Najac. I’d only been over there on my bike and to drop Matthew at the train station in the dark, so I was excited to see the place on a gorgeous day of sun and cloud. It was cold, but no wind, so we parked down at the River Aveyron and got onto an ancient cart path that leads up to the village. This was my attempt to get my body moving after all the time cooped up. The path was about 5 feet wide and went up to the village at about the angle of repose. You can see the old stone that had made up the path, but now it is a jumble of stones and plants and fallen debris from the surrounding forest. We passed several crumbling buildings. They were on the river side of the path which is super steep straight down and yet, 5, 6 hundred years ago, someone decided to build their house there. Crazy! What’s incredible is that the buildings are still relatively intact. They are not falling down the hillside at all. The interior flooring of wood is dismantling itself and the roofs are going, but they are astonishingly intact. I had to stop a few times on the way, just to survey the view, of course, not because I got a little out of breathe pushing Lark up the hill. At the top, we found a little, white, stone bench and had a picnic. The village was silent, which is what happens in rural France at lunch time. We walked and chatted. There were well tended houses butted up to ones that had clearly not been maintained for possibly a century. The roof lines ran into each other at strange and uneven angles and the houses were usually touching, but sometimes there would be a little alley between, big enough just for a person to fit. The main street runs directly down a hill and then up to the chateau, which was built in the 13th century as a guard post for Villeneuf de Rouergue, a town about 20 kilometers away. The chateau is perched at the top of a hill and is a pretty amazing guard point. You can see in all directions easily and the hillside below it is steep on all sides. Very hard to surprise anyone up there! Apparently it changed hands several times despite its great location. The villagers were forced to build the church I photographed last week as punishment for supporting the wrong side in the late 13th century. It is one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” for good reason!
Matthew returned on Wednesday and I’ve never been so happy to see him. I missed him. I missed parenting with someone. Larken was thrilled to see her papa. We are jumping through the various French, bureaucratic hoops to get her started in a gaurderie a few days a week. I think school would be hard just yet, but the guarderie is a daycare so we can drop her and get her as we please. I am going to need that when Matthew travels to avoid desperate parenting moves as much as possible. Clearly I have been spoiled rotten by the amazing care Alina gave to Lark at home. Add that to my fairly inward nature and yep, off to the gaurderie with my social little beastie!
Wednesday evening, we ran out fora short ride with Lark on Matthew’s back. We’ve never done that for a road ride before and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It was a glorious evening with deep, blue-grey clouds rolling in, but raking, golden, evening light splashing across the landscape. We both needed a little exercise and Lark was jumping up and down to go for a ride. So, out we went! We all had huge grins on our faces with the speed and beauty around us. Just heaven really. This place is simply stunning. Everywhere we go are old structures- houses, bridges, farms, churches- resting in the landscape as they have for literally hundreds of years. It’s easy to imagine what it must have been like around here 500 years ago. How did people decide to build things where and as they did? We’ve been exploring more into the depths of the countryside. I drove through a village the other day where it wound down the hill at a fairly precipitous angle and the street was so narrow, I thought I’d scrape both sides of my car on the ancient stone buildings towering above on both sides! Clearly one purchases a car based on where you have drive in this country!
I miss home abit. I heard that my dear friend, Jessica had a baby boy and I felt so sad not to hold him in the first hours of his life as I had his brother. But I am enjoying this contemplative, simple life. It’s good to be in a foreign place. To be figuring out all the little differences. Like that you must always have a 1 euro coin in the car so that when you go shopping, you can get a cart. You get it back when you put the cart back in the parking spot for them, but it ensures that carts are not left willy nilly all over the parking area. It also ensures that your child will lose her mind in the grocery store and start throwing packages of meat across the floor when you have your hands full with a little pull basket full of food, your grocery bags, the kid’s mini cart full of food and now the squirming, yelling kid itself, because you did not have a 1 euro coin in the car and there were no carts actually in the store. Ah yes, France!