Sometimes when you don’t know what to do next, you just have to do the next thing. And that’s how I ended up in France.
Though I studied French in high school, it would be a stretch to say I speak it. I don’t have any particular French family heritage, either. Nevertheless, when my life seemed to need a little jolt of je ne sais quois, it wasn’t a yet unexplored exotic locale that incited my curiosity or the pursuit of long-lost Simcoskys in the Polish hinterlands for which my heart yearned. It was France.
And so, here I am, a month under my belt in the rural Beaujolais village of Bagnols, about to head into Phase II of “Operation JS in France,” and I still don’t yet know exactly why, but I know it is good. (I’ve been very well fed, at least.)
* Exchange two weeks next summer in a one bedroom Salem condo for four weeks this August in a four bedroom French country house through invented-city.com. DONE
* Get the regional arts magazine Art*Throb to dedicate its entire September issue to all things France. DONE
* Gather a community of friends new and old from near and far to share meals, take long walks and create new traditions. DONE
* Eat in a traditional Lyonnais bouchon. DONE
* Eat in the dining room of the neighborhood Michelin rated chateau. DONE
* Have a home-cooked dinner with the neighborhood Michelin rated chef. DONE
* Meet the neighbors (and a taxi driver) and get invited home for dinner. DONE. DONE. DONE.
* Speak more French. PENDING.
Phase II. . . brings us back to that “next thing” dilemma. I flew to France on a one way ticket knowing that I had a month in Bagnols, then. . . je ne sais quois.
I’d thought I might volunteer at the infamous Parisian English language bookstore Shakespeare & Co founded by a fellow Salemite where volunteers work an hour a day, read a book a day, and get to sleep in the stacks, but in true hippy-dippy fashion I could never get them to commit to having a place for me.
I’d thought there might be ongoing work with my current employer somewhere on the Continent (and there still might be), but those negotiations have lingered.
Then before I had time to start fretting about what might be next, a French friend from last summer’s walk across Spain came to visit Bagnols. When he heard I had an open agenda, he invited me to stay some weeks with him in his hometown of Dijon when he returned from the long vac that is August in France. And since I had been working through the complete oeuvre of the great American food writer M.F.K Fisher for whom moving to Dijon was a seminal moment in her life and love affair with food, I really like mustard, and I had nothing else lined up, I said “D’accord.”
So tomorrow, Phase II begins. I’ll take a bus from Bagnols to the “free city” of Villefranche-sur-Saone where I’ll catch the train to Dijon where Raphael will fetch me and introduce me to his three twenty-something roommates who don’t speak English and with whom I will live for some weeks.
I’m afraid it’s finally going to involve speaking more French.