Saint Cyprien’s main street with fleurs, boulangerie and shoes!
“Go, go, and go to France.” The theme to each of my stories could be tagged with those words. Get ready to flip-flop that notion because I’m planning to scare you silly.
Setting the scene, it was early May in Southwest France about three miles from Saint Cyprien, a picturesque medieval village with narrow streets climbing to the hilltop twelfth-century bell tower. A colorful Sunday market overflowed through the twisting lanes with fresh flowers, spices, pretty clothing, fragrant soaps, delicious fruits and vegetables. Art galleries, boulangeries and cafés beckoned me to linger and savor.
So far, you are not scared, huh? Sit in the back seat. Oh, and don’t forget to buckle your seat belt. Jim and I were only minutes away from our destination when he asked, “Which way do I go now? You Google-mapped this place so many times that it must be embedded into our computer screen at home.” The sign directing us to the rental appeared on the right almost immediately. He was to the heart of the matter about the Google-mapping. I was in eager anticipation for our month-long stay in a three-bedroom stone house in a serene hamlet. The pictures of the house promised an idyllic French house with a wealth of exposed stonework, massive beams, a huge fireplace, pretty blue shutters and a terrace that overlooks Chateau Roc.
We were finally there, just moments away and turning to follow the signs to the dreamy French cottage. Leaving the paved highway, the road narrowed to a rutted, gravel and rock surface snaking through the woods and marsh, dipping into mud and then climbing up the hillside. Approaching the hillside at a flip-over-backwards angle, the road did a sharp meet-yourself-coming-back turn with a boulder-faced wall ready to embrace us eternally. I use the word “road” very liberally since it narrowed into a goat track. I held my breath, kept my mouth shut, cringed into a rigid statue of an old lady who wished she had taken that last pit stop. Not a word, bleat nor scream – that was stuck in my throat – were uttered. I’ve been married way long enough to know to – “stifle” like Archie bellowed at Edith in the TV series – when we’re under X-treme circumstances. Jim was navigating between rolling down the hill and never being found again and, or smashing MY side of the car! It was no time to sound off directions since I was the one who chose this house with the Thunder Mountain roadway, and it was my fault until I could devise some way that it was his fault.
Le curve, a masculine he man curve! Or, is it La curve, a she-devil monster? I’m keeping quiet. You can express your opinions later!
The wall on MY SIDE of the car when we did our first test drive
Sweethearts R+F For Life (Vie) – I just hoped it wasn’t J+D Mort (dead) on this wall!
We were not out of the woods yet, literally. The goat track took a blind curve to the right, so we could not see if vehicles or goats were headed our way. With no room to pass, we would have to back up if faced with oncoming traffic. What a sickening thought! We made it safely around the curve and followed the pathway around the hill through more woods. Chateau Roc was peeking regally through the tall trees in the distance to the left, but I kept that observation to myself since I was still stifling in a moment of silence while Jim kept us from harm’s way.
Le blah blah erupted here when the car stalled
We left the woods behind and climbed the hill to the hamlet. Jim was faced with another sharp left at the top of the hill. He stopped since he was facing a house under construction and two driveways with potential traffic of backhoes, trucks or toddlers that could create a traffic hazard. Our rental car had reliably submitted to the trail of rocks and shocks so far. With its front end pointed upward and another car suddenly joined to its back bumper – it stalled! The French car had manual transmission; you can’t rent automatic transmission in Europe unless you are dripping rich. Trying to crank the car and not roll back into the lovebug joined to our backside, Jim maneuvered expertly and almost moved forward. At that moment, I decided to start with my blah blah and le blah, blah. “I’ll jump out and ask the fellow to move his car backwards so you won’t have such pressure to move the car. I know it isn’t easy for you and you might roll back and hit him. You’ve driven a long way with jet lag. Don’t worry. I’ll be right back.” Hot under the collar, Jim told me to keep seated and other words of endearment. He made the sharp turn to the left, jostling me in the seat but only slightly disturbing the pretty poppies growing on the stone wall as they swished only inches from my window.
One last quick curve before we make it past the barn and miss the stone wall – Whew!
We crept past a garden and a sweet older couple by their front door, draped in a red climbing rose. Their faces wrinkled in puzzlement showed they were wondering what the neighborhood was coming to when we flashed our bewildered smiles. Jim wedged between an ancient barn and a steep bank, not knowing what was ahead over the hill, and there on the left we saw our French blue-shuttered, beautiful home for a month in France. Ahhh! Wasn’t that worth it all? You may enjoy reading more about our month-long stay in the lovely house if you are new to A French Opportunity. Just click here for “Heart of the Lion” and especially “Bonjour and Hi Ya’ll”
Looking down our lane for the month of May – gorgeous blue-shuttered house on the immediate right
Truthfully, Jim got the hang of it and drove like an expert Frenchman. However, we only went out at night once! Riding a French roller coaster, goat track in the total darkness is not our idea of a good time! Jim has driven where we had to close in the rear view mirrors to drive through lanes in medieval villages. He has entered walled villages with narrow ancient arches, and he has made it through flocks of sheep, goats and cattle. When we’re out of the thick of trouble, he doesn’t mind it none at all when I go on and on with blah, blah and le blah blah when he is getting the praise.
I gave Jim my story to read and review. Yes, I know, what was I thinking? He saw the French le in the paragraph and said, “You are all wrong there with your le and the blah, blah. Le is masculine. You should be using “la” the feminine French article. Everybody knows blah and blah, blah started on the feminine side!” He laughed at his cleverness, but inside I had the last laugh because he never did figure out that the road to nerve attacks was my fault – at least until he read this.
I hope you weren’t too scared and you will ride with us again. We did learn to ask more about the roads to any potential rental houses. We will keep going our way independently as long as we feel we can safely do so. This isn’t for everyone. I would like to suggest a wonderful alternative. Perigord Tours can take you to the beautiful places like you see in pictures on this website and arrange nice accommodations. They find the special out of the way villages, and you will not have to worry about the potential hazards. English is spoken. Jim and I met the lovely family who manage Perigord Tours, and we know they will welcome you and make you feel comfortable. They have two adorable daughters who will charm you with their polite manners and English accents. Now, don’t you feel better about travel to France already? “Go, go and go to France!”
I borrowed the “blah, blah and le blah blah” phrase from Bobbi French who lives in Canada and is also a writer and author. Click here for Bobbi’s blog. She is extra funny and maybe spicier than the Southern lady who travels with romanticism and Opp-timism. She is more than one up on me because she lived in France and then on to Switzerland for a while. We have a few things in common since she is crazy about her husband Rusty who is the cook in the family, and you know already that I feel the same about my crazy husband who is Chef Extraordinaire. Who knows? Maybe we will have a Canada-Alabama bake-off! Thanks to Bobbi for being such a good sport and mixing up with us Southerners! Next thing you know, she will be eating collard greens with cornbread and washin’ it down with a tall glass of iced tea. Thank ya’ll!
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Click here for more narrow lanes on the French-storytelling and pictures page. Thank you very much for your kind words and especially for the comments in the reply area. Could you perhaps tell us about your harrowing accounts on the road whether in France, Alabama or even Canada? See other reader’s comments and enter yours.
I must add that I greatly appreciated the heartfelt support of the Adams family last week. I was touched by the comments I received both here and on Facebook. Thank you very kindly.