Journey to France
Have you ever dreamed of living in France? Moving to France can seem rather daunting. Ashley made the big move to France – a dream for many – come true when she picked up her things and headed to Provence via Dover . . .
The White Cliffs
I insisted that we arrive in France by ferry. There’s was something about watching those white cliffs fade into the misty British waters, and arriving by boat that lent the journey the significance it deserved. It could also have had something to do with that Matthew Arnold poem that was drilled into us at school.
We had placed an ad on Gumtree. Something like “young couple seeking work in Southern France.” We knew there was a job description called ‘guardien’ that was an umbrella term for all sorts of work that provided a roof above your head. We thought the roof would be a good start.
For the month prior to our journey I had, Julia & Julia style, been going through all my old Delicious magazines. A side note here, Delicious is the BEST cooking magazine. I picked out 2 recipes for each day while we waited in limbo in England. An effort to cook away my anxieties? I made pear tarts, peach cobblers, Jambalaya, venison and homemade plum compote. The manic cooking made our dingy apartment in that medieval town somewhat bearable. The damp English walls didn’t have to be endured too long due to thankfully, British competency in providing necessary paperwork.
I soon found myself running around that temporary apartment, again sorting through my belongings, again downsizing the things I own so that we could fit somewhat important things like pots and pans into our car. I was still having nightmares of leaving Montréal, my home, and packing until the last minute. Throwing out pens and pencils almost in tears. My childhood squared down into 3 boxes of books. That trauma, is another story.
We arrived in Dover the evening before our ferry. We pretended to enjoy the bracing walk by the sea and ate the last version of fish and chips for a while. Unfortunately, my man likes to be exceedingly early for all transport in a perpetual anxiety that something will happen on the road to deter our arrival at said transportation. Therefore, we awaited France in an enormous parking lot on a pitch black foggy morning. We watched the trucks arrive from our car and drank our last terrible coffee.
A few hours later, with just a phone number and a vague promise of work we drove off the boat into the land of baguettes and cheese. We were indeed, fresh off the boat.
After about 5 hours of driving we came off the péage into the land of wine and those famous dishes made with copious amounts of it such as Coq au Vin or Boeuf Bourguinion. Veritable châteaux could be seen behind gates and massive bushes from the roadside. I had booked a B&B in Burgundy.
Dinner Under a Tree
Our B&B was in the countryside and we cringed at the thought of getting back into the car to search for nourishment. The owner gave us a bottle of wine, a baguette, and told us to walk the 500 feet up the road to the next farm. We did as we were told.
We found a wooden barn door slightly ajar and vaguely welcoming signs of “farm shop” painted onto the frame. We walked into goat cheese heaven. There were at least 8 different ages of the same product made by the same goats. We were allowed to taste and then decide.
With our selection of three creamy cheeses we set out to find the Tilleul tree we were told to sit under. Neither of us knew what such a tree was. In English, it translates to a lime tree. We scoured the landscape for limes? In France? It turns out many French drink tea made with the leaves of Tilleul. The first clue that we weren’t French.
The B&B owner took pity on us and pointed towards a towering specimen with a discreet wooden picnic table under it. We opened our red wine, tore the baguette and sighed with relief. We had made it to France.
The next day, we stopped at a gas station for lunch. Yes. That’s right. It was roast pork, potatoes in rosemary and lemon and green beans. It was the only consolation for the frighteningly high tariffs on the toll roads.
La Route de Soleil
Driving past Avignon, seeing Mt Ventoux from the highway, we headed ever south on the “Route du Soleil.” We had met on the Mediterranean 6 years prior. Our first dates consisted of long drives in the sunshine. It felt good to be heading back.
Arriving in Provence, we found the place that was to be our home with some effort. There was no number or name as is, we later learned, so often the case in La France Profonde.
We were inexplicably given croissants and butter for our dinner. Why would anyone eat croissants with butter? They’re made from the stuff! I know that because I tried to make them for an entire summer. I couldn’t even smell butter for a year after that. Never mind.
We were shown to a guesthouse with walls covered in velvet red fabric, an 18th century bed that hadn’t been slept in for just as long and spiders the size of dinner plates. It was the uncertain beginning of our life together in the South of France.