[The date is approximate. I evidently wrote a whole month at once from travel notes. Google told me the date for Easter in 1982.]
Riems or Rhiems is pronounced something like “Reh”. It boasts the cathedral where Joan of Arc stood beside the King at his coronation. Her statue and a ratty old banner are near the altars. Another Marc Chagal window is in the East widow, visible from the rear over the altar. (The last window we saw of his was in Chichester Cathedral.)
We had been driving on fairly flat land when suddenly the road turned to limp spaghetti, and we were twisting and turning through the Alps. What gorgeous views! It was still winter up that high, with snow everywhere. $ was extremely tired and began to cry, because no train appeared on the narrow gauge tracks running beside the road. He had a keen disappointment.
We stayed overnight in Nyon, Switzerland, over-looking the lake. After the children were bedded down, we walked up the steep footpath toward the town. Beside the twisting steps were several springs delighting our ears, pouring water into troughs, basins, and pools. Looking up, we could see a castle-type building lit up against the dark sky. We certainly knew we were in Europe.
In the middle of a very long day in the car, $ began to cry when it was time to get in the car again. By the time we got to Sylvie’s house, he was full of energy and mischief. He adored that house where doors were always open to the warm spring breezes. Sylvie was the French exchange student one year while we were in college, and John had kept in contact with her.
The architecture was so different from northern France. In the north, roofs are dark, long slim windows “French windows” have dark shutters, and the houses have a clean, square appearance. In the south, things are more rounded – patios, walls, doorways, and porches.
In particular we loved Sylvie’s and Freddy’s home. They designed it themselves to suit the mountainous area. Three doors that wouldn’t look mean on a carriage house, had large expanses of glass and shutters opening onto the patio from the living-dining room. The guest room had a window and shutters on the second floor over the living room and a private bath. Lise and Kate had one of the boy’s rooms in the attic, complete with three beds and an alcove with sink and the most unusual bath we’ve ever seen. It was about half the normal length, three feet deep under the taps and a seat molded in the other end.
We noticed many open round reservoirs of concrete, shaped like above-ground swimming pools. Freddy explained it was for watering the grounds; most are at the top of the property so that you can water by gravity. Water from the mountains is plentiful.
Sylvie took us on walking tours of an old French town, the town she lives near, and Nice. Cars were forbidden in many places, and the streets were tiny. We each touched the water so that we could say we’d been to the Mediterranean Sea.
I liked the public fountains in all the little towns – water continually pouring out of one to four spouts and two rods under each spout for resting a container while filling it.
All you’ve heard about French cooking is true. Sylvie fed us course after course of superb dishes beautifully prepared and presented. Breakfast was the simplest meal – toast with coffee drunk from a cereal bowl. Lunches and dinners were hot meals! Sylvie said NO French woman would serve her family sandwiches for a meal. She served drinks before we sat down, sppetizer, meat, followed by vegetables separately, then cheeses, bakery cakes, and after clearing the table, coffee. Lots of fresh, crisp French bread was passed with every course, particularly the appetizers and cheeses. Sylvie served most of the things herself rather than passing the dishes. $ ate and ate!
I’m going to list the foods so that I don’t forget them.
- Radishes, chicken and mushrooms, boiled potatoes, strawberry flan.
- Boiled egg with mayonnaise and tuna, lettuce, tomato, ripe olives, roast beef, scalloped potatoes, ice cream
- Chicken in patty shells, green beans, cake
- Radishes and a different kind of celery cut like shoestring potatoes with mayonnaise, chicken in cream, potatoes and beans mixed, tart St. Tropez.
Kate showed lots of improvement in the dog department. She shrieked the first day, but by the time we left, she just stood stock still whenever the dog walked by.