Tuesday, August 30, 2016

French AC

It’s sizzling hot here in Bourdeilles. The entire village is shuttered up to keep out the menacing sun. The streets are empty except for the few unfortunate tourists sipping beer in the hot shade of the bars.The river is full of splashing, whooping youngsters. Even the river is succumbing to the long, dry summer with only ankle deep water from one bank to the other. For over a week now the thermometer has gotten to between 90 and 95 degrees by late afternoon.
It’s so hot that when I put the laundry out I set a timer. I’m afraid that if I leave the clothes on the line too long the clothes will be scorched or maybe even possibly just combust. I feel like I might combust if I venture out between 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock.  Just in case, Tom follows me around with a bucket of water.

Happily I haven’t needed to go anywhere in the afternoons. 
The other day I skidaddled out in that midday sun, tossed the laundry in the hamper and hurried back out of the solar oven as quickly as possible. The laundry was low on my list of things to take care of so the basket of unfolded items sat on the bed for a couple of hours. Later looking for a distractions from whatever I was supposed to be doing I stopped to fold the laundry. The clothes were still emitting sun waves and smelled of heat and dryness. I was startled by the contrast between the heat from the sunny outside world and the cool freshness here inside my bedroom. No, there is no air-conditioning here, only 2-foot thick stone walls that act like a summertime ice box. It’s so cool in here that I pretty much have to put on a sweater as soon as I enter the house. Believe me, I do every thing I can to avoid leaving my “air-conditioned” haven.
It’s been a while since I showed you our home. It was built in 1850 by a man that had grown up in Bourdeilles, went off on Napoleonic expeditions into the Middle East and came back with the idea to build a home that reflected the exotic architecture he had encountered there. The idea was easy to execute as the house site is only a few miles from one of the region’s best stone quarries. The entire house is beautiful white cut stone. Inside and out. Thick stone makes a great insulator. Stones are a product of nature. They keep the worst of nature at bay. It makes it hard to imagine living in Vermont with only a few inches of wood and insulation between us and the elements. A wolf could just blow that house down.
Of course there are measures that have to be taken to maintain my icebox. The most important is to welcome in the cool night air. We are extremely fortunate that even in the midst of this heat wave the temps drop down into the 50-60’s overnight. So, the windows are flung open after sunset to let refreshed air pour in. Windows are promptly closed first thing in the morning - not even a cup of coffee before this task is taken care of. Our neighbors close their shutters as well as the windows. I smugly find that there is no need for that. Having grown up in Virginia with no AC I am fully aware that what keeps this system working is the lack of humidity. Humidity in Bourdeilles seems to be running at about 50%. Compared to the steamy, clammy, pearl gray sky summers of my childhood in Virginia, I’ll take the dry heat anytime. 
I hope we will all remember how cranky we were with this heat when the inevitable dreary, rainy days set in. Last winter I was able to keep my promise that I would never complain about the cold weather, but then the weather stayed fairly mild. Here’s hoping that we can keep a little of this warmth in our bones and spirits as the season moves on.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Serendipitous Encounters

Serendipitous encounters started to happen right away on my market mornings.
Brantome Market
Brantome was my very first outing. I had set up shop and was nervously waiting to see how the day would play out. Would there be any customers? Heck, it was already 10:00 and there was just a small trickle of folks wandering among the vendors stalls. Somehow when I wasn’t looking a lovely couple came up to the stand and introduced themselves. I thought this a bit strange until they said, “We’re your neighbors and we know you from your blog.”  How amazing!?  We had a quick get to know ya visit and then they were off. They were leaving France the next day. I’m counting on them introducing themselves the next time they are in Bourdeilles as I am the pits with faces and names, especially when caught in the shock of being recognized. As far as the world of blogging goes, I am usually pretty anonymous.  

My second outing was into the fray of the narrow streets and the oceans of crowds in Sarlat. Thousands of tourist stream by all day long. There are hundreds of vendors.  In the frenzy of vendor overload, the tourists get a glossy look in their eyes as they wash down the street past our booths. Feeling invisible and worn out by sellers’s angst, I looked up and there was a Virginia Tech baseball cap heading my way. I couldn’t resist accosting the man wearing that cap. I had to find out if indeed he did have any Virginia connection. And yes, he is a Virginian. To be more specific he is from my home town, Lynchburg, Virginia. Better yet, he was a math teacher at E. C. Glass High School my alma mater. I never made it to his level of math, so never encountered him, but what the heck - we’d walked the same halls. Spooky fun!
Market Day Montpazier
During my search for the perfect markets someone told me to try a market in Monpazier, an hour away from home. It is one of France’s best preserved Bastide towns. A true gem of a village.  Again a first morning encounter - a gentleman walked up to the stand and said - “so you’re the blog lady".  Now I love each and everyone of my faithful readers, but there just are not all that many of you and to encounter a “fan” out of the blue, a long way from home,  well, that was a shock, an honor, and a joy. We had fun chatting about how we had discovered the Dordogne, our favorite places to visit, and how amazing it is to immerse oneself into the french lifestyle even if it is just for a month or two at a time. It adds a warm feeling to the day to know that I will see a familiar face on Thursday’s market.
Saturday Morning in Sarlat
I will repeat that I am honored by the kind words I hear from you all. Writing this blog has been a great source of reflection for Tom and me. What we love about these small articles is that we find that we are constantly looking for sweet and fun things to write about. This one consistent decision translates to focusing on the charming side of life. The world has been unraveling swiftly over the last year - I am heartbroken by the many senseless tragedies. My way to confront my grief is to look for ways to help others around me and to continue to look for the small things that allow me to keep up my morale, courage and the joy of opportunities offered to us each and every day. I find such joy in the serendipitous connections that continue to present themselves on market days, just another small part of the magic of my market outings.

It’s kind of fun to be a celebrity! Ha!!