IMG_0765We had a reunion last weekend. Two sets of neighbors who had moved away came for a visit, spurring a long, chatty lunch with the entire gang. We dined en terrasse, where it was borderline hot. The day before had been incredibly windy–my laundry was ripped off the line and scattered across the yard. But on the appointed day, there wasn’t so much as a whisper of a breeze. The sun shone. The birds joined the jazz playing. It was perfect.

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As I don’t show photos of my friends here, you are treated to a gallery of French pâtisserie shots.

It wasn’t last minute but not with great advance warning either, so the food was simple. One neighbor brought nuts and charcuterie for the apéritif; another brought cheeses and apple pies (three! homemade!) for dessert; we supplied barbecued ribs and non-meat options–spanakopita, hummus, Patricia Wells’s red peppers with cumin. One of the returning neighbors has been vegetarian since before it was fashionable the last time, as well as a yoga teacher since well before the Beatles discovered yoga. My role model.

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Even the frozen stuff at the supermarket is amazing. “Chocolate-raspberry obsession.” Yup.

Everybody was thrilled to be reunited. Truly tickled pink. We’re several years older now, and it’s these gaps in gatherings that make everybody look back and realize that OMG Time Has Passed. My role model remarked on how much our palm trees had grown since she moved away. She kindly didn’t mention how many wrinkles I had acquired. But back when the palm trees were shorter than me, my face was smoother.IMG_0763That’s the least of it. So many medical issues, all around. They seem to give everyone an urgency that life is short and precious.

There is also, for me at least, a hard-won intimacy that comes only with the passage of time and true affection, though I always think I should do more. The others, for example, helped dig each other out after the historic flood that hit before we arrived. They did each other’s laundry. They had each other’s back. Muffin deliveries can’t measure up to that.

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‘Le Petit Zeste”

Yet, little by little, it happens. I’ve learned which ones got pregnant before their weddings and other little tidbits that are water under the bridge and no longer anything that would raise an eyebrow but not usually common knowledge either. These stories amuse me to no end and make me love my friends more than ever.

In town, there’s a group of friends I call the Fashionable Glasses Group. They are in their 70s, all meticulously dressed, and all with very not-ordinary eyeglasses. They meet at the same café every Saturday morning at the market. One time I was sitting at a table next to them, and more and more of their friends came and asked to take the empty chairs at my table. Eventually I suggested they also use the table for their coffees, and somehow I finagled my way into their conversation, which was brilliant.

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Another supermarket freezer treat: Sublime with berries and almond milk.

Recently, I once again was seated next to the Fashionable Glasses Group. A guy in the same demographic came up and started chatting, then sat down. Eventually his wife, as immaculately dressed as he (in coordinating colors with him–post on that coming up) arrived, flicking her hands sharply with the south-of-France gesture that means “extreme/lots/you wouldn’t believe it,” and saying she was held up because, as she walked down the street, she just kept running into people! I couldn’t help myself. I eavesdropped. I did more that that. I took notes.

The gentleman then explained that he likes to go to the forest. He described preparing his thermos of coffee. He rhapsodized about the whispering pines, the piercing stars at night, the song of the cigales, or cicadas, in summer.

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Thanks to the Boulangerie Papineau and the master pâtissier Rémi Touja, both just steps from our AirBnBs in Carcassonne, for these works of art.

One time, a cigale drowned in his pool. “She wanted to save it,” he said, gesturing at his wife. “What could I do? Mouth-to-mouth?”

“It didn’t move. The poor thing was dead. My sister gets crazy from the song of the cigales. You know, it can drive you mad.”

At this, the Fashionable Glasses Group nodded in agreement and interjected their own tales of having been driven over the edge by the incessant ch-ch-ch-ch-ch of these insects. There also was a tangential discussion of how big they get, which I thought resembled some fishermen’s stories.

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How about that mega-macaron on the right?

“So I wrapped up the dead cigale and put it in an envelope to send to my sister as a joke,” he continued. “A few days later, I went to put the envelope in the mailbox. Just then, it started vibrating! It was alive! I opened the envelope and the cigale flew away! So I didn’t get to play a joke on my sister.”

When you see a group of classy, bourgeoise French friends sitting at a café and talking animatedly, now you know: this is the kind of stuff they are discussing.

I love it.

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I want to bellyflop into this.

If you want to know the names of some of these, click here.

35 thoughts on “Sweet Friends

  1. OK, my new favorite post! It’s a toss-up between the LUSCIOUS pastry photos, and the juicy conversation tales – stuff I just LOVE. By the way, what are the smaller units of currency that make up the Euro called?

    Love your blog,
    Mary Katherine

    Liked by 1 person

      1. When I lived in France in pre-Euro days the currency distinction was between ‘nouveau’ and ‘ancien’ francs. “Deux mille balles”, someone would say, and someone else would ask “nouveau ou ancien?” Nostalgia indeed. I sometimes still have difficulty saying the price in Euros rather than francs.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Gorgeous photos of delicious cakes make this a delightful post but what resounds with me, even more, is what you write about your friends. Friends are a precious and priceless gift and I miss my UK friends when I am in France, except when they come to visit, of course. I have met lots of people since we bought our house but they are more acquaintances. I realise it takes time to make proper friends and it doesn’t help that we don’t live here full time… Anyway, I’m pleased to say that we finally made it to Carcassonne Market last Saturday. The weather was glorious and we enjoyed coffee in Place Carnot. I can’t wait to repeat the experience but next time I will be on the look out for the Fashionable Glasses Group. They sound amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh man, how can anyone stay away from all those cute, two bite-sized wonders? I would be in line EVERY-SINGLE-DAY to buy some. I need to share this post with my girlfriends when we meet for coffee at Starbucks. Things are just generic around here, no imagination at work. Only frozen packaged treats that can be served at light speed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a great post! How wonderful to have friends like you do. And the eavesdropped conversation was just perfection.

    On our last visit to Paris (such an age ago – 2006, maybe? I’m so scatterbrained for details these days that I would need to check, haha!) there was a Picard store near our hotel and we weren’t entirely sure what it was, what with the white lab coats and pristine laboratory fit out, but curiosity led us in. Lo! What a marvel! I brought home the shoppe catalogue and kept it for a goodly while. It was more culturally fascinating (and so potentially delicious) than a fashion magazine!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wish my French was good enough to understand conversations like these. Thank you for sharing and how special it was that you and your neighbors were all able to get together. Don’t worry about what they thought of your wrinkles because they were probably wondering what you thought of their’s!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We live so far away from friends as family that some times it’s difficult to make a long trip between work and, well, life. My best friend and I have always provided much amusement for our daughters. We never knew that we talked the same way on the phone that we do when we’re together. Gesturing with our hands, making faces, etc. We always have tea/coffee and a special dessert or two (we both live near “real” bakeries). Our daughters took pictures of us talking one day and what fun we had laughing about how our habits are the same whether we talk on the phone or when we’re together! The one things that has always amazed our daughters is that we send each other the same gifts, mostly for Christmas these days, as birthdays are fun, but just being able to talk with your dear, oldest, best friend is the best gift ever.
    I love all your post, but this one is the best. Here’s to more fun times with dear, dear friends for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The first time I had a strawberry tart on my first trip to France, I almost fainted, it was so good. They are still as awesome, but I have to try to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s hard, standing in line for bread, and passing these displays!

      Like

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