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Monday, July 27, 2009

Loches, part II

Something is fishy with the computer. I wrote last night for several hours and then lost the whole thing. So this part of the tale is actually being written for the second time around, and I am saving and publishing more frequently. Sadly, this account of my visit to Loches will likely be shorter. And we packed an amazing amount into a mere thirty hours together. Which I will now attempt to re-recount, still struggling, mind you, with a French keyboard where a's are q's and l's are colons and periods are, strangely, upper case and exclamations and parentheses are lower, and I can't even begin to deal with French accent marks though I would love to use them. All this interspersed with people asking me how to say, for instance, flush the toilet, in English!

Everything procedes wonderfully well with the mosaic, aside from the fact that we are coming down to the wire and are a little concerned about the time. Yesterday, Monday, about half of the group worked several extra hours, by choice, and we may all need to do that today.

So, back, for the moment, to Loches.

When we were in school together here, all those years ago, Marie and I would go down to Mont Felix together on some weekends. At that point, the chateau was elegant and a bit forbidding and I must confess to having been a little awed and intimidated by Marie's father, although that may have been more me than him.

Now, Marie's sister Francie owns Mont Felix, and rents it out by the weekend. It had gone into somewhat of a deline, and also a theft of many of the furnishings, after Marie's father's death. Francie has restored it, installed new bathrooms and plumbing, and it looks great again. Some parts are closed off, I guess because they don't meet housing standards. Francie has also installed a pool with a small poolhouse that has a chalet type look, totally at odds with the chateau, but understandably a draw as far as rentals.

We went to visit and do some work to prepare for the arrival of a family of guests that afternoon, although there is a woman who looks after the property and does most of the work. The family arrived promptly at 4pm, as scheduled, seemingly to the surprise of Marie, Tim, and Marie's brother Charles, who I had finally met for the first time. He and his son, Victor, live in California and visit periodically. They have another small building on the property that they are restoring.

The family was a man, a small boy, and what appeared to be three young women. Perhaps one of them was the mother, I don't know. They spoke, and sounded, English. Marie thought she detected an accent, perhaps Dutch, that I didn't hear. Everyone but Marie, who was happily deadheading roses and geraniums around the house, wanted to leave so as not to intrude on the family. Marie said we were doing something positive for the house, that they would appreciate, not mind. I wondered if the family knew that aside from me, everyone was a relative of the chateau owners, or if they thought we were the gardening staff, which I guess we actually were.

Later, we strolled down the road to another property on the family land, previously a farmhouse and before that, a few centuries back, a monastery and way station for pilgrims on the way to St. Juan de Compostela, if I've got it right. Marie and Charles remember that when they were kids there were cows and horses on the property. Now their brother John and his wife Brigitte, having lived around the world working for the UN High Commission on Refugees, have retired here and restored the buildings beautifully and live there. We sat outside and had tea, along with visiting American cousins, from, of all places, Newton Ma. Polly is the daughter of Marie's aunt, her father's brother. Walter, her husband, never really knew his father, who died as a medic in World War II. After his mother died, he discovered a cache of letters from his father to his mother, and researched and wrote a book. Now he leads trips to the Normandy battlegrounds. This is his 11th year doing so.

Well, time to head out to work at the mosaic atelier. More later, I have barely begun relating the details of my brief sojourn in Loches.

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