Here in Nice, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend with family who rescued Maeve and me when we got stranded in the countryside after a sheep festival. Every year, 1000 sheep run through the village of La Brigue on their return from a summer of grazing in high mountain pastures, and the village holds a festival to celebrate the event.
I took my daughter, Maeve, to the festival by the train des Merveilles that slowly and beautifully works its way into the Italian and French Alps. We had a great time at the festival, petting sheep and other animals, seeing and touching wool at all its stages of production, trying the sounds of different sheep bells, dancing to a gypsy style Italian band and watching a thousand sheep run through the town in about five minutes flat. In the afternoon we returned to the train station well satisfied with our little adventure. We didn’t realize that the adventure was only beginning.
The train for the return journey to Nice simply didn’t show up. No explanation was given. One hundred passengers were stranded in the village. After waiting by the side of the road for almost two hours for a bus to take us to another train station so we could catch a train back to Nice, we began to ask for lifts from people leaving the festival. A couple from a local town and their architect son agreed to give Maeve and me a lift. Once in the car we got stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere caused by one new flashing red light at a rural crossing, and missed the last train to Nice. By then it was pitch black, and we were tired.
I asked whether there was a hotel nearby where we could go. The family suggested we spend the night at their home instead. We had had plenty of time to talk on the road, and I had found out a lot about them, including the fact that, incredibly, they are great fans of the Baltimore-based TV show, The Wire -- or "Zee Vayer" as they call it here. A family from rural France who watches the same gritty show that Thierry and I love -- how could I resist their invitation? I quickly agreed, saying, “L’aventure continue!”
They took us to their lovely home amidst the olive groves and made us a meal of soup au pistou (vegetable soup with a basil sauce), a delicious tart au courgette and fresh homemade bread, a batch of which had been rising on the table when we arrived at their house. We ate and chatted late into the night. The next morning they drove us over the mountain passes back into Nice as they were heading there too.
This past weekend we invited them for lunch at our home in Nice. They came with more of their children, and armed with flowers, a stuffed animal and a bottle of golden oil pressed from the olives on their farm -- nectar to drink, they said. We discussed everything from space to home renovation to olive preparation, and they helped Maeve make her first mousse au chocolat. I think we have new friends for life.
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