Week 10 of French idleness

Sitting in glorious sunshine this Saturday, it’s hard to cast my mind back to the misty, damp and overcast earlier part of the week!

Even our usual flea market excursions last Sunday were damp affairs; I was glad to see that the Local History Society at nearby Ban de Laveline had a stall, but didn’t buy any of their publications. Another stall had lots of old woodworking manuals and magazines, but John wasn’t tempted. I ended up with another delightful book for a mere 65p – It feels a bit like book-rescue, preventing all these lovely books from mouldering away. And John bought about 9 baking rings (which he later told my unsuspecting mother were a new game –like hoopla – on Monday, after they’d been cleaned, much to our amusement she asked me where the game was going to be stored and I didn’t know what she was talking about since I knew they were flan rings). I think we were quite relieved to leave the damp stalls and go off to dinner at the Auberge Lorraine in Le Valtin.

The Auberge is always packed on Sunday lunch times (many diners are regulars), and you can see why, given the amazingly cheap 3 course menu. It was a very sociable meal, to welcome Nicola who had just returned from the States and to say farewell to her dog (and garden and house) minders, Ann and Michael. Our group was the last to leave! We stopped off at the Craft Fair in Clefcy. I don’t think that many paintings or other non-edible crafts had sold, but we bought some blueberry jam and blueberries pickled in vinegar (made in the village in the next valley,  Mandray – to be used with hot or cold meats) and Nicola bought a bird perch made by a neighbour’s son.

In the evening I went into to the Cathedral service and then the day was “rounded off to perfection” not with a boules game in the rain, but with an indoor game of Scrabble with my mother.

Monday was also damp and misty, and we were glad that we’d arranged another celebratory meal – my mother’s farewell treat for us. We’d chosen a restaurant in a direction in which we don’t often drive (last time I’d driven that way was with Toby and Leila to the sobering only concentration camp on French soil at le Struthof on an equally damp and misty day. John had also once prospected fruitlessly with Alistair and Ann and disgruntled car passengers for canoeable rivers around there in the summer heat – in winter and spring those rivers flow fast with the rain and melting snow). However, the unfavourable earlier impressions dissipated as the restaurant in Saulxure was lovely and we had a window table with a view over the tennis court, forests and mountains (it lived up to it’s name “La Belle Vue). And the food was lovely, well worth the trip!

My mother’s flight home was on Wednesday afternoon, and she’d wanted a quiet day on Tuesday to pack and conserve a bit of energy for the journey. John and I went into St Dié to hand in all the documents for our resident’s permits as the final translated document about our financial status had arrived in the morning post. Eventually we were given a receipt indicating we could go and collect the documents in two weeks (assuming there weren’t any problems when the information had been reviewed in Epinal). So it seems our health insurance application will be further delayed as the person dealing with that is now on holiday until late August and she needed to know the numbers of our cartes de sejour.

However, we had a lively Tuesday evening as Nicola joined us for a farewell dinner for my mother (alas an indoor one as the weather was still inclement) – she’d not really had a chance to talk to her as they were at opposite ends of the table on Sunday.

The trip over the mountains to Basel airport on Wednesday was equally misty – no views from the Col de Mandray and the Col de Bonhomme. Even the vineyards of Alsace looked dreary. On the way back we stopped at Eguisheim, our favourite vineyard village. It was still very overcast, and Eguisheim felt a bit subdued, despite the wine week which had been advertised, and of which there was little evidence by 7pm apart from one stall in the centre offering tasting. There were some new street fountains and loads of window boxes overflowing with geraniums (no doubt occasioned by celebrations of 1000 years since the birth or death of Pope Leon from Eguisheim). However “our” wine seller, Bruno Hertz, had not done any tarting up!

On Thursday it brightened up a bit and in the afternoon we went over to the book village, Fontenoy-la-Joute, as a craft fair was advertised. However it was most disappointing – 2 or 3 jewellery stalls and a lumpy pottery stall. It was an ill-fated trip, as on the way there was an accident on the motorway to Baccarat which delayed us for a considerable time. We came back along the small road by the river!

On Friday I got up early to take the car to a garage in St Die for its service. Whilst I waited for it to be done, I returned the wheelchair my mother had found so useful, got my hair cut at Self-Coiff (despite the name, you don’t actually cut your own hair, – they do the shampoo and cut and then you can dry it as you want), then sat outside one of the riverside cafes, with a café au lait and some new booklets from the tourist office. As the sun had returned, it was a most pleasant morning.

In the afternoon I joined the St Dié ramblers. I must have arrived just after l’Est Republicain took a photo of the happy walkers about to set out, which appeared in today’s paper! I hadn’t found the walk on the St Dié map, which was hardly surprising as the coach went past Saulcy, past St Leonard, past Anould, past Fraize, finally turned right at Plainfaing and headed halfway to le Valtin! We descended and set out at a cracking pace up the steep hillside led by an old, tanned, bow-legged chap whose pace was relentless in the hot sunshine. Half way up we passed horses with riders wearing cowboy hats (thought of Alistair!) and from the top we could see the old factory chimneys of Plainfaing and the road a long way below us.

Today has been hot too, and we haven’t done very much apart from some tidying though John went to the Cora supermarket to get some distilled water. John wanted move the tractor in the atelier but the battery was flat and a lot of the water had evaporated – it’s not been used for about five years – but topping up with water followed by a few hours on the battery charger don’t seem to have revived the battery (but it was the original one from the Passat which had been replaced). Tomorrow we’re going to the flea markets in Alsace with Nicola (who’s preparing a picnic). Lets hope we get back in time for the two friends who are driving over from Strasbourg!

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