These last hot sunny days are ticking away, we’re almost on stolen time, snatching what we can whilst it’s available. Making the most of glorious weather and deliciously warm evenings, hours after dark where we can dine on the terrace with friends, kidding ourselves that it’s mid August and we have weeks of these lazy days ahead of us. And whilst it all sounds like a life of poetry it’s actually been a hectic week of events punctuated with enormous highs and lows.
It all kicked off with the excitement of the Tour de France, Stage 10 in the Charente Maritime. The first time ever that the Tour would take in two islands in the same stage. It started on the Île d’Oléron and finished on the Île de Ré. It is an event that not one of us had ever seen in real life and the fact that it was passing through the next door village was an opportunity not to be missed.
It meant a day off school for two of our girls, justified by the fact that we all felt they would learn far more from this experience than a day in the classroom. We needed to avoid crowds and we wanted a vantage point and so a plan was hatched. We would go by bike as all the roads were closed to cars from 9am onwards. In blisteringly hot sun we set off across the Marais. Backpacks bulging with a delicious picnic, our spirits were high as we peddled through the open marshland. After about 6km we took a detour through the woods and down some farm tracks, arriving at the road where the riders would pass by in a few hours time. There were already a handful of cars and tables set up in the shade, families eating lunch, playing pétanque on the dusty track under the trees, a scene so typically French. So relaxed, so unhurried and so utterly normal to be eating beside a main road with a proper table, chairs and tablecloth and glass of rosé to hand! We left our bikes against a tree, donned our masks, said ‘bonjour’ to everyone as we passed and walked a hundred yards down the road to a shady spot. We were totally alone and set up our own mini feast. Nowhere near as glamorous as that of our fellow French Tour followers! But to be fair we had bikes and they had cars!
We had a long wait but we were prepared, the first thing to pass about a hour and three quarters before the race itself is what is known as the ‘caravan’ a 30 minute long procession of cars and floats, all decorated in every guise possible. Music playing, each advertising some large national company; a supermarket, an organic shop, olive oil, insurance, anything and everything. They throw out tiny cheap freebies as they go past, keyrings, funky hats, laundry detergent, flags, bandanas, candy, mixed nuts, the list went on and the excitement mounted. It’s all part of the day and a really great fun part, especially when you’re there with teenage children and they are throwing themselves into the spirit of things with gusto.
This was followed by a lull of an hour or so before a couple of cars came past announcing that everyone must wear a mask and that the race was close. Then another car and some motorbikes and then they were upon us.
They came by so fast, in literally a few seconds they had gone and all we could see was a bunch of bright colours speeding towards the horizon. I was amazed at the speed, around 55kph. We were standing within a metre of the closest riders to our side of the road. The noise of the wheels as they turned at such speed, that’s all I could hear. Thirty seconds or so went by and then there was the second group, held up due to a crash a few kilometres previously. Another frenzied few seconds and they too rode off into the distance. Our Tour de France was over. But we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Slowly we gathered together all of our things, all of our free goodies and headed back across the Marais on our bikes. The keen wind in our faces making it slightly tough going and I was more than happy to stop for five minutes and take photos. Normally I pass through the Marais in a hurry from one place to another and it’s difficult to park on the side of the road so I made the most of being on two wheels and enjoyed every square inch of my surroundings.
The rest of the week passed by in a bit of a manic blur. Jack was leaving for university in Bordeaux on Friday and we had A LOT to organise. No matter how organised we thought we were there was still more to do. We had lists, shopping to be done, clothes needed, accessories for his studio apartment. And then there were the things to be sorted at home, boxed items we had stored for when the next one of our children headed off on their own. They all had to be found, cleaned, sorted. The list of jobs was endless.
In a normal world it wouldn’t have been so bad, it is after all less than a two hour drive south. We would see him every couple of weeks or so and if he was short on anything I could drive down, but the Covid world is an altogether different place. I truly am not sure when he will come home again, he’s now firmly ensconced in a “red” zone, Bordeaux featuring heavily on the list of cities with a major problem. New stricter measures are to be applied there on Monday so I have read. But he wanted to go, he was so excited. He even said to me, he would take a gap year and skip this year if it would make me happy, but how could I do that to him? Covid is something we all have to learn to live with.
I’m not worried because it is another one flying the nest, he is number three to go and we have two more at home, I encourage them to spread their wings, I love watching them turn into incredible young adults and I’m so proud of them all. But this time I shed more than just a few tears, not because he was going off, but because with covid I am scared. I feel we are safe here in the country, in a small village, in a safe part of France with not a lot of socialising. But university life in a big city with an ever increasing number of infections is another matter. Still I’m proud of him and happy for him and I do know he will be careful.
So that has sort of been my week, up and down. There have been some other major developments which I cannot go into right now, some exciting and some exhaustingly difficult and stressful. I have certainly been pushed to the extreme the past few days.
And then last night I felt as if I had come up for air. After a day of cleaning and disinfecting to the highest levels possible new guests arrived in the cottage. I always enjoy welcoming people here, even with our new stringent methods it is still so much fun. I love picking fresh flowers from the garden to fill vases for them to enjoy.
We’ve always had such incredibly nice people staying, guests who have arrived as strangers and left as friends. Yesterday was no exception, another lovely couple. We stood and chatted (with our masks on of course) for half an hour in the late afternoon sun.
In the evening we had friends over for a bbq. I took a deep breath and remembered to enjoy all that life has to offer. We dined on the terrace, the night air as warm as could be. We drank local red wine, ate salad straight from the garden, we’re lucky and I needed to remind myself of that.
And in case you are wondering why I have written all of this today, it’s really quite simple. This blog and my facebook and instagram are always meant to be real. Just because we live in France and I write about all the positive things does not mean that life is a constant bed of sweet smelling roses and we just drift by on a perfect cloud. Life is good here but tough, super difficult a lot of the time, covid has hit us hard, there have been more disasters than I can mention. But and it’s a big but, there have been enormous highs, the bad making the good so much better and as I said making us realise how really lucky we are. I try to keep it real here. This road which passes through a neighbouring village is on my daily school run. How lucky am I to have such a gorgeous route to take each day?
And if you’ve made it this far with my ramblings can I just have a final word to remind you that this is the last day of our End of Summer Madness Sale. Click Here to go straight to the shop. There are huge savings of up to 70% and the discount is automatically applied at checkout. We’re making space for some super exicting new developments and new things to come in the shop. A n enormous thank you to you all for everyone who has already supported us and to anyone new. Thank you so so much xx