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Pouilly le Monial, Ouigt

August 19, 2010

Hey Melinda,
Just got in and found your messages – was away at Sylvie’s parent’s country home in the Beaujolais near Macon for a few days. We met over English coaching at her job at France Televisions Publicité and wound up quite liking one another. It’s been nearly three years now, so it is alright to begin being friends. She was kind enough to invite one of the stranded-in-town – no summer holidays for me this year – and I was pleased to be invited to meet her rather famous mother (a French TV staple of the 60’s and 70’s now in her 80’s) and interested in seeing a new region of France. Really enjoyed it, her behavior-challenged little boy and all. The “Pays Des Pierres d’Orées” (“Land of the Golden Stone” – no kidding!) of the Beaujolais was indeed an architectural construction of astonishing beauty, bucolic, and flush with verdant hillsides clothed in woodlands and summer vines. The quiet of the vineyards (when not overflown by fighter jets on maneuvers or helicopter-school practice runs) holds every town-based stress at bay.
Her parents, quintessentially the eternal mother, father, grandparents, couple, and hosts are simply charming. Breathed the good air and slept like a baby. Did all the local stuff – local sausage, local cheeses, local sightseeing – though no local wine-drinking because apparently the wine sucks in that part of the Beaujolais – even over to local friends for an evening apéro after meeting and being introduced in the local market in the morning. There was a newsstand, but the national papers have been banned from the premises for the summer. Local news around the apéro table over champagne and nibbles, however, is encouraged. A few choice morsels: Those local grape-growers will insist on growing bad grapes for worse wine that no one wants or will drink because this is the way things have always been and will always be in the Beaujolais and part of an ongoing ritual of deeply-ingrained Frenchness. Never mind that these same rustics are regularly induced to yank out their vines, leaving the golden stone and wildflower-covered ground as a sort of reverse testament to defiance if paid to do so, through agricultural subsidies from a European Union they will never bow to or do business with in ways which might eventually involve growing grapes or something else that someone wanted and turning a profit. These are truly working men and women who have absolutely nothing against making a living at agriculture mind you, as long as it can be done within reasonable principles. In the meantime, in order to use up the spare time on their hands gained through mechanization, sulfides, and artificially-reduced yields, they practice scowling, hunting accidents, and local harassment of their newcomer neighbors (only four generations in the area) by yanking out the hedgerows separating their properties to better spy and shoot through, thereby increasing the protection of their lands from pesky outsider upstart tax-base contributors who keep trying to save the place by bringing in much-needed buying power and unnecessary local improvements like drainage ditches and parking areas and toilets for the occasional bad wine-buying tourist. The upstarts appear to revel in all sorts of unseemly behavior, occasionally jogging through the fields in broad daylight, repeatedly walking their dogs, opening small businesses, and even new home building. Much better headlines than anything CNN or Le Monde can deliver.
You know me – this kind of entertainment is what works best for me in France. That, and lots of walks over the hills and through the vineyards playing cache-cache with all of the shotgun-totting locals and sulfide-spewing tractors, and then refreshing myself with mirabelles plucked from the trees at the end of the immaculately mown front lawn my hosts call their pré, and I or anyone else would call a fairway. Mowing, by the way, apparently involves at least two people, one power-assisted and one ride-mower, and about 8 hours of mindless criss-crossing back and forth, particularly around the tree trunks. Bucolic does not come easy. Some freshly mom-made mirabelle jam for breakfast, spread to the smell of morning coffee with beurre de motte from the local cheese maker onto merely semi-local bread (both of Pouilly le Monial’s boulangeries being closed for the month of August – we are, after all, in la France profonde) to round things off, and my experience is complete. I just eat it up – and did.
Anyway, have a great time in the States, and send a line by email if you get a chance about all of my dispirited countrymen on the other side of the pond. I do hope things get better there soon – if only because when America sneezes, Europe gets swine flu. Tell your twin sis hi for me, and bring me back some whole pecans so I can make my gingered pecans for all my Gallic friends for the holidays. I’ll email some photos of my stay… Take care – C.

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