1. From the Gardens of Marqueyssac, walking the cliff ridge that overlooks the Dordogne River valley in the Perigord
Bring out the sun, the smell of boxwood, the sound of bees in rosemary bushes and tractors plowing the fields below, back and forth, back and forth. Point me to the view of the river with rows of poplars at its side. Steer me to a warm rock. I’ll sit and not move for hours.
boxwood, trees, castle
bee in rosemary
on the banks - poplars
around the river bend, cliffs, with a village at the base
Still, by the time the small cloudburst comes, I am at the café at the park’s entrance, finishing off a salad and a glass of rosé de Bergerac.
I move my plates under the umbrella and wait for the dessert of Perigoord honey and Perigord walnut ice cream, along with a noisette. The good view stays with me.
Back when I entered the gardens, I was handed a folder with descriptions of plantings, birds and minerals, with a few poems thrown in.
Somehow it felt more English than French to be hiking with a folder of poems. Though the growth of boxwood is pretty limited to Mediterranean climates, so England is out one there.
Always, a whiff of boxwood will remind me of the summer I spent (as a teenager) with my parents in Sochi, by the Black Sea. Decisive summer. I concluded then that life cam be less fretful outside my childhood home.
2. From Sarlat, a small medieval city in reaction to which one writer exclaimed: is everyone here engaged in the production or sale of foie gras?!
The answer is no, not everyone. Consider my purchases today:
black truffles [see insert below]
chocolate covered walnuts
home made nougat
a painting [see chapter 3 below]
Note the absence of foie gras. Imagine me bringing foie gras as a gift for friends back home. I may as well wrap a fur around my shoulders and drive out in an SUV.
In any event, let me assure you that this place is not all about geese and duck livers. Much goes into the Perigord pot.
So alright. In the high and lofty pursuit of honesty here, on Ocean, I must admit that yesterday I set foot in a foie gras store and let the sales person smear some free samples for me on a fresh slice of baguette. Moreover, today at dinner, I was served an entire appetizer portion of foie gras de canard.
And I have to say that foie gras de canard is a great improvement over the liver I was asked to eat as a kid so that I would be less anemic. I am, most likely, still anemic having neither eaten much liver in my life nor downed spoonfuls of cod liver oil once I left Poland (for the first time). So, count this dish as medicinal.
Besides, I looked in on the geese and ducks yesterday at one reputable foie gras producing farm and they looked about as happy as any French farm animal. Make of that what you will.
[insert: the purchase of a truffle was a big deal. Like caviar, it belongs to a food group that is not part of my usual shopping orbit. Indeed, I have never purchased beluga caviar nor Perigord truffles before. But isn’t it time?
Madame at the store was trying to talk me into duck pate and I was resisting, for reasons stated above, but not resisting so much as to decline her samples of the stuff. Having chomped down her foods, I felt compelled to shake out a few Euros for something.
So I purchased my first truffle. It’s good until 2010, so I have three years to decide what to do with it.]
3. From a tiny gallery in a back street of Sarlat, love springs eternal
I ask Madame the painter this: why is it that every French artist (I'm thinking of the moderately prominent rather than someone who already commands a city audience, say in Paris) I have ever met or bought art from is a woman? I don’t especially seek out women artists, but I have a wall of painting back at the loft and they are all French and they are all done by women. Why is that?
She smiles. Yes, I know! But this is only recent. In music, too. Suddenly you see women musicians everywhere! We have exploded with our talents!
At least this is what I think she is saying. She is too southern -- bah this and bah that and I lose it after a while. Besides, I am distracted.
I'm looking at her paintings and I'm thinking of my new condo back home, which has yet to be mine in any sense of the word and I do what I usually do under the circumstances: I fall in love.
It is easy to love in France. The country has strived for centuries to perfect the art of stimulating our senses, or hormones, or something, so that love flows. I am in France most often alone. Short of pouncing on guides, waiters and whomever else I encounter in my ramblings, I have no choice but to love the wares that people place under my nose.
Last June I purchased a painting that I loved passionately in the Languedoc, though now I think it was a foolish one-night stand.
But this night I am in love. Without doubt. Here, she is holding the object of my affection:
Love, enduring love. Damp cave walls, new condo dry walls, display it as you will. April in France. Buzz of bees, roll of tractors, paintings on walls. The many shades of love.