A bastide in South France

by vpundir | September 17th, 2007

The plan for Sunday is to go around the village, have lunch at home with some folks that have been invited, and then go around to check out the little château and maybe hike in the hills a bit.

Like yesterday, though, we start a little late. After breakfast, we walk down to the village and have a look around. The local bar used to be a members’ only club, and technically still is. It is also a gathering place for hunters, and the many awards are displayed in a case. Incidentally, today marks the beginning of the hunting season.

We walk around through the winding little paths, through the football field, the church, and the local school. The weather-beaten houses are equipped with modern dishes for television and Internet connections.

Then my friend remembers a little sulphur stream, and we decide to check it out. It is a little bit of a disappointment as they have plumbed it into a water-pipe, and the stream has reduced to a trickle anyway.

The sun is getting warm, and it’s time to get back to the farmhouse. The farmhouse is amazing, to tell the truth.

The driveway is lined with trees. Inside, it is tastefully painted and decorated. Outside, there is a nice pool, a fold for goats, a hammock and even a pétanque court. Speaking of pétanque, I learn to play the game when we get back from the village.

Pétanque is a very French game that originated in this province of Provence. Since we are four people, we play doublets, i.e. two teams of two players each with three boules per player.

Here’s how it is played: First, a playing circle is drawn at one end of the court. Then one player tosses the jack (a small plastic ball) so that it stops around 6 to 10 metres away from the circle.

The player that tossed the jack then plays the first boule, trying to place it as close to the jack as possible. Then the opposing team must get closer to the jack and keeps playing until they succeed. When they do, it is back to the first team to do better, and so forth.

A player may choose to ‘place’ a boule (get it as near as possible to the jack) or ‘shoot’ it (attempt to displace another boule). When one team runs out of boules the other team plays their remaining boules. When all boules have been played, that is the end of a ’round’, and the winning team scores a point for each boule that is nearer to the jack than the opposing team’s nearest boule.

The team to reach 13 points first wins. It is amazing that the new recruits (my classmate and I) are doing better than the “pros” (the father and his friend). Perhaps this is what’s called beginners’ luck. We end the game at 1 match each for both teams when a family that my friend’s mother invited for lunch arrives.

Their little girl Isabel is very shy and speaks only in whispers, while the son Jack is the sporty type.

The lunch is takes a leisurely couple of hours. We finish a course, and chat, letting the food settle down, before the next course is served. Oh, this is fantastic. Superb food, and excellent way to enjoy it. The breaks don’t just ensure that one doesn’t overeat – they actually separate the courses so one can actually taste the different foods separately from each other. Excellent!

The food is sumptuous, just wonderful. And apparently, the lady of the house had to make an extra effort – she had to cook a vegetarian version in addition to the regular recipe. My friend tells me that her mom is trying to make up for last night’s fondue…she thinks I didn’t like it.

But I did! I’m just not a great compliment giver, and I never got the fundamental politeness of complimenting the hostess’s meals down. So anyway, I do manage a word or two about the delicious lunch this time around.

Lunch over, some of us jump into the pool, while the others decide to have a look at the goats. After checking out the barn, it’s time to leave. My friend’s mother tells me that it was her pleasure to host me and that if I improve my French, I’d be welcome to visit even when my friends aren’t there.

I am overwhelmed with all the love & affection and hospitality that I have received in these two days. I am grateful and I am speechless.

Click here to check out my pictures from the bastide of 09 Sept 2007.

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