Friday, August 24, 2007
My New Best Friends
OK, forget the food log. I just can’t keep up. I am too busy. I’m biking all over the place, sometimes in the rain, along the most incredibly picturesque roads in France. Actually that is not the only reason. I am enjoying so many little courses of wonderful food three times a day that I actually can’t remember all the things I’m eating. Keeping a food log would be impossible unless that was all I was doing. The French so enjoy what I like to call “the art of the meal,” that keeping notes would be totally inappropriate. Plus I am busy using all the items of silverware in the right order, keeping track of my beverages, and trying to be a fascinating dinner companion to my husband and my thirteen new friends.
I have been watching for French boys to observe and write about, but I really haven’t seen any. So instead let’s concentrate on the thirteen new friends. There are the two leaders of our Backroads (www.backroads.com) tour. One is the lovely Alicia, a 30-year-old American who lives in Paris. She is a musician, wonderful conversationalist, and has a life full of travel and adventure. She even drives in France, which after seeing the roads and road signs up close for the last several days, really impresses me. She speaks French very well and knows everything from terms of endearment to how to swear effectively in her second language. One of the things I really like about Alicia is that she really loves her job and so obviously enjoys life. She has so integrated into the French lifestyle in the four years she has lived in Paris that she has never seen YouTube. I’m not entirely sure she knows what a blog is either. You see, the French are not so into technology. They are too busy enjoying long luxurious meals. Pretty much the opposite of where I live.
Then we have Davide (dah vee DAY), our other leader. He is a very charismatic guy in his early thirties (you’d guess younger trust me) who is both French and Italian. He lives near Grenoble, also lives a life of travel and adventure, and plays the accordion. His English is peppered with many funny and slightly offbeat turns of phrase. He is enthusiastic and has a smile on his face all the time, except early in the morning, before his breakfast, when he is concentrating hard on waking up. I think early morning for him is before 10 am. But he is up with us, getting bikes ready to go, much earlier than that.
Alicia and Davide, both young, not married, seem to get along very well. My husband and I were starting to create a love story for them in our own minds until we discovered that Alicia has a serious boyfriend.
Some of the couples on the trip:
Chip and Mary, the turbo bikers from Florida
Despite the fact that they finish their biking before the rest of us make it to lunch, I really like them. They are both funny, smart, and ambitious. They are really devoted to each other. Chip told us on the first night “It ain’t the first rodeo for either of us.” He also told us he got arrested on his very first time out of his home state, but has gone on to be an self-made success and has been to Europe now 44 times. He told us about he and Mary visited a goat cheese farm nearby and how he was assaulted by a male goat, which seemed to be very attracted to him. His wife told us how crazy it was to smoke pot – which is legal—in Amsterdam. He told us how he mastered his stutter, and then decided to get some of it back because it worked so well for him in business meetings. He told us how he likes to give young people a hand, but never a handout. He is self-deprecating and funny as dog poop (a borrowed expression).
Connie and Peter, the power couple from Washington D.C.
I can’t tell you their last name or I’d have to kill you. He is a VERY powerful person in D.C., a very pleasant person to talk to, keeps his opinions close to the vest. He loves biking. I mean LOVES it. He has some amazing calves. He is very successful in his business and loves spending time with his family. He has a killer wink that says, “ I hear you” without saying a word. His wife is more quiet initially. But tonight I had an opportunity to talk with her at length (over, guess what, dinner). She is a very powerful attorney in her own right, working for the government for a long time and more recently in private practice. They live in a house older than the state I live in, dating back to the civil war. Connie is also very well traveled, although I think she wants to do a lot more traveling if she can get her husband to retire. Connie has been recognized as an outstanding person by President Bill Clinton and visited the Oval Office at his invitation. She’s got a great perspective on being a woman working in a man’s world in D.C. She has also got an amazing zest for life that is really displayed as you hear her talk. Her and Peter met on a blind date.
Jennifer and Pete, the New Jersey-but-really-from-Connecticut Couple
Peter has got some of the best facial expressions I have seen on a man. Although he is very articulate, I’m convinced he could express himself perfectly as a mime. He works in the pharmaceutical world, travels quite a bit, and likes to run. His wife is ten years younger and they do not have children. She recently stopped working but does a lot of volunteer stuff. She grew up on a farm. When her Dad first met Pete, he didn’t like him because he didn’t drive a Ford. Didn’t matter that he had an Acura, manufactured in America. That’s OK though because when Pete’s sister met Jennifer for the first time, she screamed “So my God how old are you anyway?”
Terra and Ethan from (West) Hollywood
Terra is Connie and Pete’s daughter, see above. I haven’t gotten to know them very well yet, they are rather quite and it appears that they have been dragged on this trip with Connie and Peter and they haven’t quite figured out where they are and what the heck they are doing here anyway. Terra is Connie and Peter’s only child, and she is doing her best to keep up her role as daughter although she is here with her husband. I have a sense that Terra lives in LA but is certainly NOT an LA kind of girl, and that Ethan has a wickedly funny sense of humor. Again, just an inkling since I haven’t spent much time with them, and they are rather quiet and reserved, concentrating on their respective daughter and son-in-law duties while chasing after her parents on bikes all over the French countryside. I have seen not one cross word pass anyone’s lips, an amazing feat on this kind of family trip I think. (I later find out that Ethan works in the entertainment industry and is also a stand-up comedian.)
Moshe and Maya from Manhattan
A father and daughter on a trip together before she goes away to college. He is spending time with his youngest of four daughters before she leaves home, and his pride and enjoyment are tangible. He is having a great time. Moshe was born in Poland and lived in Israel before immigrating to the US. Maya is his youngest and obviously holds a very special place in his heart. Maya herself is off to Dartmouth soon. She and her father originally planned a trip to the Amazon, but her mother stopped it because she didn’t want Maya to contract malaria before starting college. She is an incredibly poised, confident young woman for the age of 18, and she’s got some damn cool D&G glasses and beautiful shiny long brown hair. As my husband says, “Wow, she’s going to have some dudes chasing her.”
Adelle, the Woman of Mystery
The woman of New Jersey, Martha’s Vineyard, Vermont, and France. The single mother of two girls, the kindergarten teacher. The woman of incredibly great skin (does she get facials every other day or is she really that lucky?) The woman of independence, of “Oh, I won’t be joining you for dinner because I am flitting off the Paris for dinner with my French boyfriend.” Will we get to know her better? I really hope so but so far not.
Oh my gosh, I have to go. As the card I found in my room states, “Le repas du soir est une fete. Evening dinner is the highlight of the day, for which an elegant form of dress would be greatly appreciated by your fellow guests.” I’ve got to get myself ready for this evening of dinner theater.