When we first looked at the house we now own, I almost dismissed it because there is a high bank in a neighbor’s yard which is visible from one side of the garden, and there was an old orange tractor parked there. Though the farmer doesn’t park it there anymore, I’ve come to wish he still did: I now see it as a kind of colorful rural garden sculpture (see photo, left).
The farmer with the most “vintage” tractor in town, whom we shall call Monsieur M., was born in the village, and is even older than his tractor. He speaks the local patois, so he’s difficult to understand. But he and his wife are as kind a couple as they come, and a part of the rapidly disappearing French village life which has been somewhat altered and enriched (or so we hope) by expats. Sadly there’s no commerce in our village, but there once was: when they were young, Msr. and Mde M. ran a bar in their barn, which turned into une boite (nightclub) in the evenings for dancing. There was a mezzanine in the barn, so parents could sit there and sip their wine while chaperoning les jeunes, dancing to the music below.
The other day Msr. M. descended from his rickety relic, in his typical overalls and battered straw hat, to survey what is a magnet for a guy of any age or nationality: my elegant French neighbor from Marseilles, Jean-Marie, has a lipstick red Morgan. Of course if you were looking for a bit of French yin and yang, the new France and the old, you couldn’t find a better example than these two neighbors, plus the Morgan and the Tractor. (Both vehicles are brightly colored and both have four wheels, and there the similarity ends.)
You can see below, what happened next: Msr. M. fascinated by the car, and my neighbor gallantly installing him in the passenger seat, for a cruise about town. Msr. M. protested, but Jean-Marie insisted, and off they went, both beaming like schoolboys. A bridge between two different French planets. And lucky me, to arrive on the scene just in time for it to touch my heart, and to capture it for yours.
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In the COMMENTS: Anne of the Music and Markets blog, good luck on that Aix kitchen reno! And you can keep up with the goings-on in Aix at her blog. And as to buying houses, not everyone makes it as hard as I do: Julie in Dijon, unlike me, bought the second house they looked at! (Be sure and read Julie's very important post on the locks on the bridges in Paris, at her blog, Traveling Through.) Martin has a good point: it's a fact that the notaires have house listings as well as the agents, and it's good to inquire if you're hunting.
Favorite Reads: Herm Meyer is a regular reader of this blog and has his own blog, where he writes poems which he often pairs with photos. He's studies French too--check out his musings on the power of Words.
And other fun stuff: Loyal readers Kurt and Laurence lived in France a long time, and now import tablecloths, napkins, and other French linens at their site, Occitan Imports, that will sing to you of Provence. And the prices are VERY reasonable (I actually own a set of the serviettes, pictured right). Christmas is coming (or maybe a gift for yourself?). Check them out here.
If you want to learn about collecting French antiques, or just drool over them, try our reader Lidy's gorgeous site, French Garden House. Lidy also sells antiques on her site, as well as blogging about them. I loved her post about collecting French ironstone, as below.