Thursday, February 11, 2010

Josselin by Night

All five of us would confess to having spent a most distracted day, as we knew that tonight an invitation had been extended to us to dine at ("how magical does life get?" Iris asked me when I told her) the house on the island!!! We discovered it a while ago, and it's been an important part of Baby Pink Dragon stories (there's usually a heroic water rescue by one of the dragons (there are four in the crew now), and always a great feast at the end. Our wonderful hosts were just as magical as the bedtime stories they'd been the mysterious stars of all this time!

All sorts of realizations started coming together as we walked along the canal at dusk (its own beautiful experience - here you see the camera struggle to capture it all): that aside from Skype and dear Hallie and Matt, we hadn't really had a meaningful dinner conversation with other adults in 6 weeks; that this would be our first time eating dinner out of the house since we've arrived; that life is wonderful. There's something very special about that first meal in a home (not a restaurant) while living abroad - you're in the presence of someone who has made their life here, has made sense of things in ways you can marvel at. In dining with a fellow expatriate (as one of our hosts was), you get the best of both worlds: love of France and thoughts about the love of France expressed in English! The kids were completely charmed by our hosts and shared all sorts of things with them: Eleanor received her enormous notebook from the maternelle, and so vocabular quizzes were in order; Iris had written a beautiful "I'm looking forward to being there" note and one already thanking our hosts for the wonderful evening (always thinking ahead, that girl); Oliver had brought (uh, what's the name of that book again? oh yes) Harry Potter, but wound up telling jokes, doing magic tricks and engaging in profound plots of mayhem with one of our hosts. Mac and I loved being in the flow of adult conversation (everything from Edith Piaf (icon, no besmirching of her name allowed!), to the voile intégrale (that conversation is a must), to the giant elephant of Nantes (back to him in a second), to Brittany in the 1950s, to looking at 28 mills on rivers before finding the perfect one right here in Josselin). It was utter bliss. Add to all this that it snowed today, and was bitter cold tonight, that there was a roaring fire in the wood-burning stove, a gorgeous meal (Oliver had seconds of everything), and all this great company, and you begin to feel the warmth in our bellies and the gladness in (yes!) our hearts. We feel connected here in a whole new way.

If you clicked the link above and saw the phenomenal structure/experience that is Le Grand Éléphant, rest assured that we will be going there next week during our vacation. How amazing is it??? it's half performance art, half medieval comedia dell 'arte, half fairy tale (maybe something out of 1001 Arabian Nights?), half 19th century World's Fair... it's just fantastic! I tried to figure out who's behind it and have a vague sense about a culture and patrimoine branch of the government - think I'll stick with the eccentric 19th century World's Fair theory. :-) We can't wait to see these marvelous machines - whew, good thing there's a two week vacation coming up!

Oh, and did I mention that there was an enormous Bernese Mountain dog in attendance tonight? He was just as gorgeous as the one you see in the link here. He and Iris bonded immediately, and when I saw his huge, loving head in her tiny, eager lap, I knew again that this little girl needs a dog. She has a loooot of love to give and dogs totally get it with her. She's just so calm around them (and did I mention this Bernese was sizable?), sucks her thumb, twirls her hair, and strokes the dog. She looks like she's a million miles away, and I always wonder what she's thinking about.

The walk home in the dark along the canal was intense for the kids: Iris was muttering "be plucky, be plucky" and Oliver kept wondering out loud what was preventing us from walking into the canal by accident exactly? (Eleanor was in Mac's arms with not a care in the world). There's a book about night in the Middle Ages that drove home to me how overwhelming the forces of nature (and korrigans and wizards I would now add) would be when night blanketed everything so completely. The kids were overjoyed when they saw the lights of the castle (and yes, that is a snow flake that got too close to the camera and was flashed) (do they now know how weary medieval travelers felt? Eleanor swears yes) - pretty swell if you can know if your little kid heart that you know your way home from the castle!

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