Yearly Archives: 2006

Gods of football, I repent!

Having been brought up in a very rugby-crazy city and educated in a particularly rugby-crazy prep school, I have frankly always considered that football (soccer in North America) is strictly a sport for pooftas. All of that rolling around on the pitch in agony when their ankle gets a little kick, whereas if a rugby player has their ear ripped off in a scrum they just bandage it up and soldier on.

So it was with alternating groans of annoyance and barks of derisory laughter that I watched France’s first couple of games in the World Cup. And then there was that match with Spain, and I wasn’t laughing so much as cheering them on…and then they beat Brazil…

So now, one day before the final, I have only one thing (OK, a few things) to say:


Off to buy red, white & blue facepaint.

Les Soldes

In France “les soldes” (sales) only come twice a year and are very heavily regulated by the state. Outside of these specific dates – two weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter – stores are not allowed to put merchandise on sale unless under very specific circumstances (bankruptcy or liquidation, for example).

Believe it or not, I am not a rabid shopper. I was in my teens and early twenties, but that got beat out of me with the advent of children and having to try to shop with a two year old in tow, as well as having to start to pay for boring things like groceries, a mortgage, gas, etc.

Now I shop mainly to decorate the gites, and that, I must admit, is a heck of a lot of fun. Especially on days like yesterday.

For many months I had been lusting after a gorgeous and HUGE hand-made Venetian mirror in one of my favorite boutiques in Beaune (called Colour & Tendance – just across from the Place Madeleine). I knew it would be perfect in the apartment, but, sniff, it was about twice the price I was willing to pay for it.

When “les soldes” began last week I went to see if it had been reduced. It had, but only a measly 15%.

Then when I was back there yesterday, trolling for the perfect light fixture, I looked up and had a religious moment – the price of my mirror had been reduced by 50%. I swear I could hear angels singing.

So now my mirror is waiting in our basement, and in a week or so it will be hanging on one of the walls in the apartment. I haven’t decided exactly which one yet, but that is another one of the fun parts.

"Colours", or "How to scare a French Painter"

We just got back from a meeting with the painter who will be painting the apartment (which we have baptised Le Relais du Vieux Beaune – a stroke of genius on Franck’s part).

He gave us a queer look as we walked in the door.

After the customary “bonjours” I kneeled down eagerly in front of the four huge pots of paint stacked by the front door.

“Are these the colours?” I asked, feeling like a kid in a candy store.

“Ahhhh…yes,” he said, slowly.

Our two village houses, La Maison de la Vieille Vigne and La Maison des Deux Clochers both sport mainly yellow walls, albeit Les Deux Clochers a more lemony hue and Le Vieille Vigne more like creamery butter. I love yellow, and it is always tempting to use as it is so easy to live with, but there are just so many other colours out there…besides, when we finally get around to redoing our website and make it photo-rich, as per our plans, I want people to be able to tell the difference between the three different properties. If they are all yellow, it may get a tad confusing. So at the start of the renovations of Le Relais du Vieux Beaune I took the very bold step of declaring the apartment a Yellow-Free Zone.

I started opening up the paint pots one by one – a cornflower blue (kitchen and hallway), dusty lilac (living room), mauve (one bedroom), and a gorgeous bluey-green (other bedroom). I sighed with delight. The painter stared at me, confounded.

Franck laughed. “She likes colour. At first I was very worried about it, but it always turns out looking great when its all done, so now I just shut my mouth and trust her.”

The painter looked unconvinced. “Well,” he said. “I guess I’ve seen worse.”

Oh, he of little faith.

I have always been drawn to colour. White walls look very nice in magazines, but when I am living within them I always feel vaguely wary, as though a blood test or a rectal exam might be in the offing.

More importantly, when there are all these glorious colours out there just begging to be enjoyed, how can I possibly resist? Maybe it runs in the family – my older sister Suzanne has a long-standing love affair with pistachio, and one of the happiest days in my youngest sister Jayne’s life was when she bought a new red couch.

I remember when I first painted the green bedroom in Les Deux Clochers seven years ago. I had always dreamed of an apple green room, but as it turns out I was a bit of an oddity in that respect. I had villagers stopping in the middle of the road outside the house staring into the bedroom, and then going and getting their friends to come back with them and look some more.

I continued to valiantly paint away, assailed by doubters on all sides. Franck swore that he could never sleep in such a bedroom because the colour tickled his brain.

Franck’s father Andre dropped by one day as I was almost finished and surveryed my work with a grim look. “Maybe it won’t look quite as green with furniture in it,” he said, at last.

But very quickly that bedroom became Franck’s favorite room, and Andre was actually right in the end. Coloured walls look very overwhelming in a bare house or apartment but when the room is furnished, with pictures and mirrors on the walls, the colour fades into the background. It sets the mood with a whisper, not a shout.

And this will be the same for the apartment, or at least I hope…

The mystical gougeres

Had the priest who is baptising Camille, Pere Yves Frot, over for dinner last night. Franck thought it would be a nice gesture to thank him for accomodating us so nicely. When we told my parents (who were visiting for three weeks) that they would be dining with a real died-in-the-wool clergyman they blanched.

You see, we have never been a religious family. And as luck would have it the ministers / priests we have been exposed to in Victoria over the years have proved by and large to be a rather uncommendable lot. Amongst them were wife-beaters, fiery bible thumpers, addicted gamblers (and this one was a bishop who committed the spectacular faux-pas of betting and losing all of the diocese’s money on a not-so-blessed racehorse) , plus a scattering of your everyday holier-than-thou, judgemental types. No surprise, then, that Mom and Dad seemed a tad apprehensive about our approaching tete-a-tete with Pere Frot.

Putting aside the outrageous hypocrisy practised by the motley gang detailed above, there is also something else unnerving about being around clergymen. If you are not familiar with churchy things, it is rather like feeling as though you will be expected to perform a dance to which you have never learned the steps. What if you say something unintentionally (or intionally, I suppose, but we are talking about Canadians here) sacreligous? What if they are going to ask you to do something weird, like all hold each other’s hands and pray?

I tried to get across the notion that as far as I could see, Pere Frot wasn’t really that kind of priest. He had married Franck and I, baptised Charlotte, and had also accompanied Franck on a memorable calvados-fueled church trip to Normandy many years ago.

So the time of the dinner grew near, the lamb was rubbed with olive oil and herbes de provence and put in the oven, the gougeres were warm and in their basket, the wine glasses were put out, and Mom and Dad were looked shiftily at the front door from time to time, contemplating possible escape routes.

And then the Pere arrived. Larger than life, doling our excuses for his lateness, doing the rounds of kisses and hand shakes, and just basically acting like any other nice, gregarious dinner guest.

Everybody seemed relieved; that is, until we took our seats around the table and then Franck suddenly leapt up to tend to an urgent lamb-related issue in the kitchen, leaving us alone with the priest.

The gougeres were tantalisingly steaming from their baskets, and the little rounds of cut saucisson sec gleamed up at us, just begging top be eaten. However, I was suddenly overcome by panic. What was the protocol here? Could we just go ahead and eat? Or should we say grace? Or should we ask him to say grace? I could tell Mom and Dad were as unsure as I was, and they kept there hands obediently under the table. I, on the other hand, used mine to illustrate the nonstop rattle of words that flow out of my mouth, unchecked, whenever I am totally flummoxed. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, I made up some pretext and dashed into the kitchen where Franck was completely absorbed with basting the lamb.

“Get back in there!” I commanded.

“What?” he asked, patently annoyed to be bothered during this all-important basting juncture.

“Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“But we need you! We have no idea what to do. Should we ask Pere Frot to say grace or can we just go ahead and eat?”

“You haven’t started eating yet?” he said, incredulous.

“Of course not! I need you to tell me what to do about this grace thing.” I was quite put out that Franck didn’t seem to be grasping the urgency of the situation.

“I don’t know,” he said, distractedly, refocusing on his lamb. “Just do whatever, but merde, get everybody eating.” Clearly, his Burgundian fear of being unhospitable far outweighed my ecumenical crisis.

So I reluctantly took my place at the table again, and observed with no small amount of agony that the situtaion had not become unblocked during my absence. My parents were still sitting demurely with their hand on their laps, and Pere Frot was smiling at the lot of us in a polite but increasingly frightened way. I resumed my non-stop monologue about something inconsequential and babbed on for a few minutes more, while debating what to do. Finally Pere Fort escaped, and rightly so, in to the kicthen to talk with Franck, whom he must have concluded by this point was the only sane person in the house.

Seconds later gales of laughter came from the direction of the kitchen.

Franck and Pere Fort shortly came back to the table together, still shaking with laughter.

“What?” I demanded icily.

“I told the Pere Frot about you guys all waiting for the prayer,” Franck said.

I sent my husband the traitor a very dirty look indeed.

Pere Frot took his seat. “And I said,” he continued the tale, still wheezing slightly from laughing so hard, “Good god no, let’s just eat.”

And as He said it, so it was.

Wedding at the Bastion des Hospices

We went to an amazing wedding on Saturday evening – a wedding that could have only happened in Beaune.

The parents of Charlotte’s buddy Anne-Louise were getting married, and her mother, Marie-Joelle just happens to be the director of Human Resources at the Hospital / Hospices of Beaune. The wedding was all built around a “Beaune” themed – the invitations and menus were printed up exactly like labels from the much coveted wine sold at the famous Beaune wine auction on the thrid weekend of every November, and then there was the wine list itself…it contained no less than thirteen wines from “Les Hospices” and took up an entire page of the menu – enough to make oenophiles collapse in spasms of jealousy.

Each table had an appointed “caviste” with the all-important repsonsibility of keeping everyone’s glasses full of the appropriate wine for each of the wonderful courses being served – foie gras and fig compote for starters, for example. Hard job but someone has to do it!

And then there was the locale for the reception and dinner – none other than the “Bastion” of the Hotel-Dieu. This incredible medieval room is used every year for the prestigious closing dinner of the annual “Vente des Vins”, and for other gala events, but is otherwise closed off the the public. The vaulted room is actually inside one of the medieval fortifcations of the town, and is decorated with priceless tapestries dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

So it was in this awe-inspiring decor that we and the girls (who were thrilled to be sitting at the “children’s table” with its own separate menu and waiters, far away from the parents) wined and dined and danced until the wee hours of the morning.

Baptismal express

As usual our life here in France is going along at breakneck speed. We just got back from a sun and sand and paellla filled week “vacation rental swapping” on the Spanish Coast. We were scrambling to catch up with work, laundry, and cleaning our house, which, not having been left in the tidiest of states, closely resembled a nuclear testing site.

In the midst of all this it dawned on us that although we had coordinated all the dates with the family members and planned a big celebration of Camille’s baptism on May 25th (no small feat) during my parents’ visit from Canada, we had somehow forgotten to find a priest to perform the ceremony.

This is actually our second attempt to have Camille’s baptism – we had planned a similar celebration when Camille was five months old and we were visiting France. Everything was organised down to the “dragets” – the little sugared almonds that are traditionally given away as party favours. The only problem was that the night before the appointed day Camille came down with terrible case of the measles.

So, following the protocal of the paroisse, three days ago Franck held his breath and crossed his fingers for good luck and called the priest directly responsible for our village. The priest asked Camille’s age and when Franck informed him that she was now four he poo’d poo’d the idea of baptising her at all. Apparently in his books four isn’t an appropriate age to be baptised – it’s far better to wait until the child is eight, for some random, unexplained reason. This phone call left me grumbling ominously about how the Catholic church was hardly in a position to start rejecting people interested in joining given their current demographic problems, mutter, mutter mutter…

Undaunted, Franck called Pere Frot, the priest who officiated our marriage and Charlotte’s baptism, and, who, incidentally, Franck accompanied on a Calvados-fueled church trip through Normandy several years ago.

Pere Frot was our first choice any way, so we were thrilled when he said that bien sur he could do it, and why didn’t we come down to Nuits-Saint-Georges, which is his paroisse, that very afternoon to discuss it further.

He has always proven himself to be a great priest – accomodating, inclusive, flexible (agreeing at the last minute to have our whole wedding ceremony translated blow-by-blow into English by my bilingual friend Emmy who had just arrived from Oxford) and down to earth. He obviously feels very strongly about his beliefs, but in a way that radiates outwards instead of excluding or judging others. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a certain Gerard Depardieu’esque appeal – more than one female guest at our wedding expressed curiosity about what was underneath his cassock.

So it looks as though Pere Frot has saved the day once again. We’re meeting with him again tonight to go over the details of the ceremony, and now our menu planning for Camille’s baptism on May 25th can begin in earnest.

Dreaming of Utopia

Yesterday I was dismayed to watch a beleagured Dominique de Villepin back down on the much bally-hooed CPE (contrat de premier embauche), which basically allows employers here in France to hire just out of school youth without having to, as it stands now, promise to employ them for the rest of their lives, regardless of whether they:

a) actually do their job properly
b) even turn up at the job at all
c) burn down the premises
d) have a torrid affair with their employers’ spouse

The youth are all in a froth (albeit not a violent froth, unlike what CNN would like to have you believe) about demanding iron clad job security.

The French are very enamoured with the myth of themselves all being revolutionaries at heart, and none more so than the youth. I can relate in a sense, as at eighteen I would also have undoubtedly been marching around holding a banner or sitting blocking the high school gates while beating a melancholy tune on a tam-tam drum. That is simply what we need to do when we’re eighteen – flip the bird to society-at-large.

However, from what I can garner, what the french youths seem to be asking for here is to have the right to get a steady, secure job right out of school, and then just coast there, doing as little work as possible until it is time to retire. So what they are fighting for is the right to be an overpaid, underworked, underchallenged fonctionnaires

Huh…dare to dream.

The Sacred Twig

Think I made a bit of a faux pas yesterday.

We had gone to pick up Charlotte at a friend’s house, where she had been having an overnight the night before. We were welcomed with typical french hospitality and asked to stay for a bit and have a chat and a drink with the parents.

Shortly after ensconsing ourselves on the couch all the girls treated us to a rousing “spectacle” (the girls are very into “spectacles” at the moment, reminding me of my own childhood when myself and the rest of the neighbourhood kids treated our poor, bedragled parents to a two hour adaptation of “The Wiz”).

The girls’ performance included a lot of strange dance movements, accompanied by singing “hallelujah” at random intervals, and waving branches around over their heads.

It turned out the branches had been brought home by the mother earlier that day. That morning she had attended the french equivalent of the Palm Sunday church service, and, as I guess there are a distinct lack of palm trees in Burgundy, branches, called “rameaux” here, take their place.

The “rameaux“, however, must have been sitting around for a while before being dispensed to the holy masses, as they shedded leaves left, right, and centre during the dancing. After the girls had taken their final bow Franck and I set about picking the detritus off the tiled floor as the father went to get us our drinks. Franck gave his leaves to the girls to dispense with and I went into the kitchen and, right in front of the father, threw them into the garbage can.

I thought no more about it until it was discovered that a lot of rameaux shedding had also happend in the front hall in the lead up to the performance, and the girls were duely ordered to clean up.

However, as they set about with a broom the father said, in a rather curt tone.

“And you must NOT throw the leaves in the garbage.”

I gulped, feeling like a naughty preschooler.

“They have been BLESSED,” he continued. “You can put them in a pile somewhere and we’ll have to burn them, but whatever you do, don’t throw them in the garbage.”

I started to wonder if these directions were being doled out with such vigour for my benefit.

“You can put them anywhere, but NOT in the garbage,” he repeated.

I decided that this was ridiculous. I had thrown the leaves in the garbage right in front of him, for heaven’s sakes.

I gathered whatever scraps of maturity I possess around myself and cleared my throat. “Well, I threw them in the garbage,” I confessed. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t know. I’m not very familiar with this kind of thing.”

He just shrugged, but still seemed a bit put out.

And then coffee was served and the conversation resumed as if nothing sacreligious had happened and I was left mulling over the enigma of the sacred twigs. Obviously if I had known they weren’t to be thrown in the garbage, I would have respected that, but I sincerely had no idea. How in God’s name was I supposed to know? Everyone in the world was not brought up a Catholic.

I still can’t figure out if it was a simple misunderstanding, or one of those spacy, tired parenting moments on his part, in which case I can certainly understand, or if I was really being chastised.

If so, what ever happened to “judge not, and thee shall not be judged?” Or, I think that’s how it went…

Valentine’s Day and the Jura

Was working away at my desk this morning, feeling rather stressed as have a mile-long list of things to do before we leave for Italy on Thursday (feels very strange to be just hopping in the car to drive to Tuscany, rather than packing colouring books, crayons, etc. for long trans-atlantic flight), when Franck walzed back into the office after driving the girls to school with four long-stemmed red roses. I had completely forgotten that it was even Valentine’s day up until then – but what a nice suprise. Now we’re both back to staring at our computer screens once more, but it’s nice to feel a bit swept off one’s feet for a brief moment in the midst of the chaos of everyday life.

Oh, yeah. Italy. Tuscany, actually, a place I have been lusting to go to for many years now. We’re swapping vacation rental houses with a realtor and his wife from Victoria who own a place about an hour from Florence. I’ll be out of email / computer contact while I’m there, but I’ll be sure to post when I return.

But speaking of hopping in the car…one thing that I love about Europe, and especially Burgundy (which is just so central) is that you can drive in any direction for an hour and find yourself in a new place with a completely different landscape, local cuisine, house style, etc.

We did this last weeknd, when we hopped in the car with our great friends Martial and Isabelle and went to the Jura for the day. This is the region just slightly South-East of us here near Beaune. Within an hour we had stopped in the alpine village of Pontigny and were admiring an incredible landscape of frosted trees and deep ravines.

We meandered our way through the snowy pine forests to an amazing restaurant that Martial had found in his work (he sells enameled street signs, and in France when you are in sales you generally know all the good restaurants). The restaurant, called Les Louvieres, is on top of a mountain and so isolated that all you can here is the sound of frost crackling on the tree branches.

To get there you have to negotiate a steep and narrow road, only wide enough for one car to pass. I asked Martial what would happen if a car came down at the same time we were going up.
“Well, I guess one of us would have to practise our driving in reverse,” he answered, nonplussed as usual.

The restaurant was created (including all of the work on the building) by a Franco-Canadian couple. Although I didn’t meet the french half, Phillippe, who was very busy in the kitchen, but the Canadian half, from Manitoba, no less, welcomed us with warm Canadian hositality. Us two Canucks almost cried with relief to be able to “tutoyer” a total stanger.

Les Louvieres was a total revelation. The decor was simple, warm, and inviting, and the food was original and delicious, and NOT something you would expect to find on a mountaintop in the Jura. Just to give you an idea, our starter was foie gras sushi dipped in a maple syrup vinigrette.

Continuing in this vein, we had an amazing meal and lots of laughs and then finished up with a lovely espresso and chocolate (I love places who serve you a little square of perfect dark chocolate with your coffee) in front of the roaring fireplace. This galvanized us for a walk through the forest where snowshoes had obviously passed not long before. We’re already planning on coming back in the summer, when Martial says we can eat outside under great big tree.

We hopped back in the car and made it down the mountain in one piece. After that we went around to check out the ski hills nearby, which would be perfect for a ski holiday with our kiddies, and lastly we went to Morbier to buy several hunks of freshly made cheese to stink up the car on the way home.

When we got back home I felt as though we had just visited a foreign country rather than the neighbouring departement.

Fait accompli!

The Saint Vincent 2005 is offically over. The decorations are still up, but on my walk this morning I witnessed the porta-potties being picked up, as well as the wealth of empty wine bottles strewn here and there.

It’s still too early for the official word on whether it was considered a success or not in terms of attendance, arrests, and the like. However, I do know that Franck and I crashed into bed last night very contented with our Saint Vincent weekend.

It started Friday night in frigid -10 temperatures and a brisk glacial wind curtesy of our friends the Russians up North. Earlier that week we had been given boxes of crepe paper flowers made by Franck’s great grandmother and his aunt in Volnay, but come Friday we still hadn’t got around to decorating our house yet, and the girls were giving us serious grief about it.

So as soon as we got home from picking the girls up at school Friday evening we set to work bedecking our nut tree out front with blossoms. The girls’ enthusiasm waned after about ten minutes in the freezing cold. At that point they declared that they were going inside and would watch us work from the window. After about fifteen minutes Franck and I still had two full boxes of flowers to go. It was getting dark and I could no longer feel my fingers. We eventually had to turn the headlights of the car on for light, and by the end we were just sticking them on any which way – esthetic considerations be damned!

But when we got up Saturday morning our decorations didn’t look nearly as half-hazard as they should have. We bolted breakfast, bundled up, and went in to the centre of the village in time to greet the cortege of Saint Vincent statues coming from Magny-les-Villers. Each village has their own wooden statue of Saint Vincent, and some of them are very, very old. Of course, everyone thinks that their villages’ statue is undeniably the most beautiful.

At first we thought we had missed the parade. But then the thin sound of an accordian wafted through the air, and we started walking towards Magny.

I had heard rumblings over the past few months that while many villagers were delighted to be hosting the Festival, we were still a long way from unanimity. Not only were there the usual concerns about noise and traffic, but the event also highlighted the feuds between the village winemakers, some of which date back not decades but generations. The upshot of this was that only about half of the ten or so big winemaking families were taking part in the festival and offering tastings. The other ones were firmly entrenched in the anti-festival camp.

So when I walked past the house of one of the rebel winemakers in question, I wasn’t suprised to see him standing on his porch with his hands on his hips, giving the oncoming delegation from Magny the hairy eyeball.

However, I was surprised to have him whip by us seconds later in his huge, expensive car and head straight for the Magny delegation at about 100 km an hour. I held my breath until at the statue of the Virgin Mary, just metres from the cortege, he braked suddenly and turned right onto a small path between the fields. Perhaps he had been swayed by the wildly gesticulating yellow-vested volunteer, or perhaps it was another miracle to chock up for notre Marie. Or, more likely, he had simply made his point.

When we finally met up with the Magny group nobody seemed phased by the incident; there was so much singling, accordian music, and general frivoloity going on that I rather doubted anyone really even noticed.

With Charlotte on one side of me and Camille on the other, we joined in the parade. The girls stared at the musicians and Saint Vincent statues and costumed participants (dressed up as old fashioned vignerons and vigneronnes) with wide eyes, and took the whole being part of the procession thing very seriously.

After our arrival in Villers the saints were all carried to the village church, where there was a special mass. By this point we were all starting to lose essential body parts to numbness so we decided to go home and prepare lunch.

We had invited our Canadian friends Heather and Bruce from Dijon, and our French friends Isabelle and Martial from Ladoix-Serrigny. We had opted for a raclette , melted cheese with charcuterie and boiled potatoes. Perfect calorie-loading to prepare ourselves for an afternoon winetasting in sub-zero temperatures.

In the end we had such a grand time a table, as the french say, that we didn’t get around to walking up to buy our degustation packs (each including a winetasting cup and tickets for ten tastings) until around 4:00. It was only at that point we realized that the caves and winetasting shut down at 5:30. Whoops.

But when we ventured out to hop on the free bus to Magny-les-Villers, we realized that maybe staying for so long at the table had actually been a very wise idea indeed. It was freezing out, with a brisk wind that seemed to blow in straight from the plains of Siberia. We rushed to the Cornu’s cave in Magny, and began tasting like crazy. The cold was great for the granitic whites of the Hautes-Cotes, but the reds were definitely too cold. We ambled on to the other cave in the village, where there was a loud gregarious crowd. Soon we found out why. The ticket taking at this cave was negligent at best, so basically you could drink as much as you pleased for free – something which many of the people there had obviously taken to heart.

We warmed up with an aperitif at my sister-in-law’s house in Magny, and then headed home, all unanimous that the amount of winasting we had done was just about right. That night, Heather had made a reservation for us at Le Charlemagne, the incredible Japanese-Burgundian fusion restaurant in Pernand-Vergelesses. A meal here is always a highly special event, and the food was amazing, as usual. I think the highlights for me this time were the tube of foie gras on a gingerbread cracker with a celery jam. Well…and then of course the dessert (no surpise there) – a pyramid of chocolate and coconut with sugared red beans that was out of this world.

The Sunday Franck and the girls and I took one of the free buses to check out the decorations in the neighbouring villages, which were truly amazing. Every village was bursting with coloured crepe flowers, some of them looking so real that you really had to look twice to convince yourself that they were not. There was also a good dash of whimsy everywhere you looked; fields of corn with crepe cornflowers and poppies, huge painted butterflies, and even a sandy “beach” area complete with a lawn lounge and beach ball.

After that we had everyone we could think of in for waffles and cider in the afternoon. There was a bit of a panic getting enough waffle batter ready, but Franck put his friends Martial and Jean-Yves to work.

At one point I walked into the kitchen to get another bottle of cider and through the smoke I could see Franck poking at the waffles heating in the oven while shouting out to Jean-Yves how much flour he needed to add to the batch of batter that Franck had him making. Martial, meanwhile, had donned my green and white striped apron and was going for broke with not one, but two waffle makers. When I had the gall to question whether it was cider or calvados that they all had in full glasses beside their makeshift work stations, I was chased out of the kitchen with shouts of “the men are at work!” and “no women allowed – it spoils the batter!”

But the waffles were delicious, and we spent a great afternoon catching up with friends and eating waffles in front of the fireplace. I would say a good Saint Vincent was had by all.