Tuesday, October 16, 2018

chez les parents bis

I visited Maman and Papa for lunch today. According to Dominique, they were delighted to hear that I was in town, and they've insisted on taking care of me this week while Dom and Véro are at work, and the kids are all at school.

A bit of background: Dom's entire family used to live in the town of Carquefou, not far from the historically famous city of Nantes (the same Nantes as in the Edict of Nantes). That's where I first made everyone's acquaintance. Over time, the four sons went their separate ways; Dom and Véro moved to the other side of France to the town of Colmar, in the Alsace region. Eventually, Dom decided to move back west, which is how he ended up here, in Le Vanneau-Irleau. His parents, meanwhile, had become empty-nesters who felt that their spacious house in Carquefou had become too big for just two people. So they moved to their current digs, a home that started out as a farmhouse and barn, but which Dominique, his brothers, and a contractor crew massively renovated over the course of three or four years to make it the impressive dwelling it is today.

So today, Papa gave me the grand tour of the place, talking about how the house started out, and what sort of effort was involved in converting it into a livable space for an older couple. I have to say, there was an impressive amount of mason-work, tiling, resurfacing, painting, and sledgehammering going on over that three-year period.

The end result: a work that's still in progress, but which now sports a full kitchen, dining room, living room, den, several bedrooms, three full bathrooms, and a huge amount of square footage for housing farm equipment and a workshop, in which Papa can do his bricolage. Papa heaped a ton of praise on Dominique, who is apparently quite the handyman, having knocked out several walls and done the flooring for much of the house.

It's funny to think that Dom's parents saw themselves as moving to a smaller space: Papa told me the house is capacious enough to house several generations of Ducoulombiers; in fact, one time, there were thirty-five people at the house. I hope that gives you an idea of how much free floor space this former farmhouse-cum-barn has. What impressed me most was that, according to Papa, the house was pretty much unlivable when he and his wife bought it. Now, it's practically a palace, and it's arguably bigger than the house they had left behind in Carquefou. At least now, they're only 700 meters away from Dominique, and only a few minutes' drive away from two of Dom's brothers. (Xavier, third oldest, lives and works in China. His wife and kids are there with him.)

I didn't take pictures of the house during my tour; I probably should have. But I'll be back to see Papa and Maman later this week, so perhaps I'll get some pictures then. Meantime, here are some images of today's lunch, starting with garden-grown tomatoes and homemade mayonnaise:

The main course was herbed pork chops with lentils and mushrooms, plus garden-grown potatoes. Simple and delicious.

It wouldn't be a French meal if there weren't any cheese. Here's a variety of cheeses, laid out for our delectation:

And some cheese on my plate:

Dessert began with homemade flan:

Phase Two of dessert was chocolate:

Phase Three was moist little cakes:

And finally, another shot of my French parents, who took such good care of me in 1986. I took the shot right as Maman was saying "Cheese" in English, which is why she seems to be in mid-speech. It's a cute moment.

I helped Maman navigate her MacBook Air, a device that utterly mystifies her, but in which is stored a trove of legal documents and family photos, a cluster of which we tried to find. Papa broke out his laptop and showed me pictures of the house from before the renovation. The difference was like night and day.

A package meant for Dominique arrived at his parents' house while I was there; when it was time for me to leave, I took the heavy box to Maman's car, and we drove the short distance back to Dom's place, where Maman dropped me off. I told her that I'd be trying to walk to Niort tomorrow (a distance of about 20 km along the waterside paths), and that I'd be up for visiting her and Papa again on Wednesday. It's been rainy today, like yesterday (everyone says this is a much-needed rain because it's been dry all summer); tomorrow and Wednesday will be nice, in theory, then the rain begins again on Thursday. I need to get some distance walking done while the weather is pleasant.

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