In June we stayed overnight with friends Edith and Christian near Paris. I had asked Edith to suggest a local hotel and she responded that their place was the best 'hotel' she knew, so we must stay with them. They live up in the hills above the Seine, and their place is accessed by a track that had been badly washed out a few weeks before in a violent rainstorm. Christian descended to the nearest village to escort us up as we were not in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
They both love to produce delicious meals and are very knowledgeable about all manner of beverages. For instance, who knew that there are some very fine Canadian beers?
Christian was in charge of the evening meal, as Edith was hobbling from a recent knee operation. He served a variety of salads to start, then enquired how we liked our steak cooked. This opened the way for the usual joke from a French person to my father about well done being like the sole of a shoe. Then there was some very fine cheeses and to finish a pear and chocolate tart. In amongst all this food was a variety of drinks. Before dinner both red and white wine (an organic Colombard from a friend's vineyard), beer from the north of France and an orange coloured aperitif that I can't remember the name of. During the meal, more red, more white, a bottle of champagne, and at the end of the meal the star of the show -- an Armagnac.
Christian is from Gascony. When he was 17, he made and laid down some Armagnac with his family. On his 40th birthday it was opened, and he is now (not quite) 50. It was such a privilege to be offered this precious liquor, and Christian was tremendously generous with it! Both he and Edith have the gift of making guests feel totally comfortable and welcome in their home.
The next morning we were out for a quick look around their 'paradise' as Edith quite rightly calls it. Christian built their spacious home himself, and has a large workshop full of tools and machinery -- some of which are his own invention. Edith and I are friends because we are both interested in nature, and she is a fine nature photographer. We 'met' on an online nature forum, and now I practice my French on her and she practices her English on me.
Here we all are watching Simon take a photograph -- you can just see the cerise dot that is his subject in the grass. You will observe that Christian is the archetypal Frenchman -- elegant, groomed, stylish and conscious of appearances (sorry Dude, but Edith said I could tease you...)
And here is the Pyramidal Orchid that Simon photographed.
For more on orchids, please click here