July 8: The inevitable Proust in the inevitable garden

A very intense thunderstorm is going on tonight in le Touraine. Rain by the tablespoonful and booming thunder that shakes the house.

Today we woke up wondering about the arrival of Dan’s friend Jim, who is coming to stay with us and ride the roads with Dan on their bicycles. It’s midnight now and he still hasn’t arrived. Communication is difficult with American cell phones – but they did exchange email today, so we hope he’s still en route and not getting washed into the Loire.

Dan spent this morning trying to sort out the internet. It’s really not safe, professionally speaking, for him to be away from email and access to his servers, so it’s pretty urgent that he get it figured out. What we really need is a guy at the Orange store who speaks great English. The biggest city around is Tours and the guy that was working when Dan went in there the other day was not up to the linguistic challenge. Dan intended to buy us the 450MB package but it cut us off after 20MB, so communications broke down at some point, but it’s difficult to figure out what exactly we bought and why exactly it’s not working.

Today’s chateau is Chenonceaux, and there we had our first experience with a kind of crowded tourist situation. As we learned yesterday at E.Leclerc, there are forty million types of deodorant available to people here in France, but after today I suspect that not all of them are being properly utilized. The children had a good time at the chateau, primarily occupied with the labyrinth:

..and the fish of varying sizes in the moats and the river:

They also liked the fact that the chateau is built over the river itself:

...and seemed to really relish the butchering area of the kitchen. I liked the narrative of this chateau – originally gifted to a favorite mistress and then reclaimed by the wife (Catherine de Medicis) when the king was dead. I also loved the attached 16th century farm:

More on Chateau de Chenonceau in another post.

I made eggs, sausage, ham, and bread and cheese for dinner. Dan and I found these things you can get that are little bite sized cheeses with herbs and stuff shoved into them. If you put one on a piece of fresh bread, fold the bread over it, and eat it that way, it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Even Sadie ate some ham and eggs, although she will not eat the cheese. At all. She just firmly mistrusts it. Benny will try anything once, but does not disguise his displeasure if it’s something he doesn’t like. He really loves the brioche – as Dan pointed out, it’s basically a donut – what’s not to like? We also ate some nectarines, which are just wonderful. I haven’t worked up the nerve to order from a menu since the gizzard incident. A good thing about being here for a month is that we can kind of ease ourselves into the food situation. At least, that’s good for the kids and me – I think Dan would eat whatever, as long as it didn’t have wings and any sort of beak.

After dinner Dan went on a bike ride, and I opened another mini-bottle of local wine. I sat out on the terrace drinking it and reading my Proust (I finished Dumas, fantastic white-knuckle ending, bravo!) while Sadie watered the plants. Benny came out with his violin and gave me some very lovely Dancla by which to drink and read. As the contents of the bottle transferred themselves into my stomach, I found myself appreciating that violin music more and more, and by the end of the second glass I had up-ended a watering can on Sadie’s head, as she shrieked and giggled.

It all came to an abrupt end, however, as huge drops of rain began to fall without warning through the sunshine. We ran indoors, and Benny finished his practice by learning the rest of the bowings and fingerings of the largo movement of the Handel. The children bathed, drew in their scrapbooks, wrote out some postcards, and went to bed. And Dan and I shuffled around, wondering if Jim was going to arrive, or whatever had happened to him. Now it’s quite late, Dan is almost asleep over his book, and I’m going to pack it in too. Jim, if you’re coming, we’ll leave the light on for you.

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