You know that phrase, "I'm one of those people who..."? Well, I am one of those people who always wanted to live on a farm, with no distractions other than dogs, cats, and ducks. To do nothing but read, write, and pet the farm dogs, cats, and ducks. (No success on the ducks yet. And one dog, with the cone of shame, is hard to pet.) I'm one of those people who, at this moment, is actually doing what I've always wanted to do.
I'm in rural France, working on three hundred and fifty pages of stories about living in, sleeping on, and driving around Africa in a 44-year-old Land Rover named Dream.
As I edit "Oh Great, the War is Starting and I'm Naked", or "Stairway to Heaven, Ascent to Rwanda", or "The Rainy Season Red Lagoon Roads of Zambia" I can hardly believe we did these things, or that I would gladly do them again.
A little over three weeks ago, Scott and I flew from South Africa to Paris. We parted ways at Charles de Gaulle airport because Scott is one of those people who has always wanted to hike the John Muir Trail in California. One of his buddies was lucky enough to get a permit to hike it this summer and invited Scott to blister along.
"But what will you do while I hike the JMT?" asked Scott when I told him of course he should go.
"Oh, don't worry about me!" I said. "I'm one of those people who can always find something to do."
And it's true. But it's kind of easy when you're one of those people who likes peace and quiet, and books and animals.
So, I found this place to stay in rural France. It's a renovated 300 year old farmhouse and stables. (I really do like old things.) It sits on the Canal du Midi, which is PERFECT because Scott and I are two of those people who want, some day, to buy a canal boat (picture the Ndoto of canal boats) and cruise this exact canal. I'm doing lots of research. I especially like the old one below that needs work.
The farm is close enough to a small town that I can walk or ride a bike to get groceries. But I have to want it bad, because it's not really that close and there's usually a head wind both ways. For efficiency sake, I had three croissants my first day here, and I only buy what I can carry in a day pack. Baguettes don't weigh much. Avocados and nectarines are HEAVY. I eat simply and I take a lot of walks
It's a working farm, so there's lots of activity, especially now during the vendange, the grape harvest. The grapes are harvested at night when temperatures are right for picking, so there are massive plucking machines, trucks, and flatbeds, which rumble down the narrow road that runs between the original farmhouse and the stables, at all hours of day and night. Oh, and it's hunting season (wild boar, mostly) so there are sudden blasts of gunfire and excited shouting from the fields nearby, also at random hours of day or night. They say, every year some innocent cyclist, or walker, or author on a quest for a croissant, gets accidentally shot by a nearsighted hunter, "Oo la la! Mon dieu! Dommage. Madam, Don't you know carbs are bad for you?"
So I stick to the canal tow path and wear something not bristly so I don't resemble une sanglier.
There are lots of boats cruising up and down the Canal du Midi in August. Big boats, little boats, and boats rented from a company called Le Boat. Everyone seems to be having fun, probably because they don't have to ride their bikes or walk far to get a croissant. They just dock in any little village and voila!, there's baguettes aplenty within a few paces, because, after all, this is France and no one is expected to partake of a meal without bread.
I try not to get distracted by the farm animals but they are so... distracting!
There's one other distraction on the farm. The farmer's wife sells their vin out the farmhouse window for less than $5 a bottle. And it is bon.
As you can see, I'm learning some French. The only words and phrases I knew when I arrived were, Je suis fatigue (I am tired, because I learn how to say that in every country I visit), poisson (fish, because my niece Clare learned it in pre-school and taught it to me when she was four and I never forgot it), velo (bike, because that's how I get to croissants), and croissant (croissant).
So far, I have stayed in a renovated flat in the original farmhouse, and in (because I never say neigh) a renovated stable. I found the farmhouse flat very charming. Mostly because on the day I arrived, I threw open the windows that overlook the canal, and the first thing I saw was an old Land Rover! This was the day after we had put our own beloved Land Rover, Ndoto, in storage in Hoedspruit, South Africa, so I took that as a massive dose of synchronicity and serendipity. The week I stayed there I wrote furiously about My Life with Ndoto (title of Book II by the way).
Then I moved across the lane to the renovated stable. I love the stable. The kitchen and bathroom are downstairs, and the bedroom, writing room, and private patio are upstairs. But, I can't see the farmer's car, the Land Rover, so I have not been as productive. Tomorrow I move back to the flat with the Land Rover view so I've sharpened my pencils, so to speak.
In a week, Scott will join me here, after he finishes the hike and I CANNOT WAIT. Number one, I'm one of those people who miss their husbands. Number two, he can ride a bike faster than I can (to get to croissants). And number three, we have lots more adventuring to do together before we return home in November.
There's only eight or ten homes in this wee ville.
I can buy wine and vegetables from the farmer.
Everyone is tres gentil, very kind.
I feel at home.
It is such a gift to be here.