I've just got back from a fantastic weekend in Brittany where we went to for a family gathering to celebrate Romain's parent's 40th wedding anniversary and his mum's 70th birthday. I was a little bit apprehensive about it, as I didn't want to feel like I was intruding on a lovely family weekend. But his family are so nice, they never made me feel unwanted or unwelcome. They always included me. Although there were times when I was totally lost in what was going on; round the dinner table for example there were lots of conversations going on in very fast French which there was no way I could follow. It was quite cool though because you can learn quite a lot about people just from listening to the way they speak even if you can't understand it. And this is definitely a family who clearly love each other's company and enjoying chatting and debating for hours on end, sitting round the fire with a café or a tisan. I felt a bit like I was watching 'Little Women' or something similar. Totally wonderful.
On Friday Pascal took us for a surprise walk to some land which some friends of hers own. It was absolutely beautiful countryside-forests, lakes shrubbery, flowers and lots and lots of wild mushrooms. So with all the family in tow we went foraging for mushrooms. People obviously don't go there very often as many of the mushrooms had grown so so large. So we went spend a good few hours exploring and finding lots of different types of mushrooms. Apparently you can take any wild mushrooms you find to a pharmacy and they'll tell you whether they're safe to eat or not. There was a bit of scare when we were told we had found some deadly ones and we didn't know who had touched what, what had touched what, what would need to be washed but Romain nonchalantly brushed the concerns aside saying it would be fine and we went home to cook up the good ones to put in our galettes. The tastiest mushrooms ever.
On Saturday we took the children for another surprise trip to have a donkey ride. The children were so funny when they found out what they were going to be doing. One of the cousins kept on and on saying how it was the first time she had ever ridden a donkey and it was just the BEST surprise EVER. Again it was a walk through beautiful countryside but the highlight of this day was listening to the funny things children say. Mila proceeded to give Saskia a sex education lesson whilst on the donkey telling her about the donkey's 'zizi' (penis). 'You know Saskia, the thing that they have hanging from their bottom, like Daddy and Papou (Grandpa)' and all the other males in their family. Haha it was so funny, not least because Kaki's (Grandma) was trying her hardest not to laugh out loud! Then in the car on the way back, another of the cousins started asking me about marriage:
'Are you married?' 'Why not?' 'When are you going to get married?' 'Who are you going to marry?' 'What happens if ony our wedding day the glass in the church breaks?' 'What happens if there's a storm and blows the roof off?' 'What if you have to get married in a car?' and so on and so on. It was a bit like the TV show 'Outnumbered', one ridiculously funny childish thing after another.
The final day was the day of the big party and more of the family had come to visit for the day. We had an incredible lunch started with oysters. I tried oysters for the first time a few weeks ago and I've got to say they were disgusting. But since being in France Romain insists I keep on trying the things I don't like as tastes change. For example every few nights he makes me try a little bit of red wine. Now I certainly prefer it now but I think that has something to do with the far superior quality they drink here rather than whatever was the cheapest at university. Anyway I'm not going to change my mind on oysters for a little while. For the main course we had a Moroccan tagine which was incredible and then some of the best puddings I've had in a long time - Charlotte Marron (chestnut cream sponge cake) and walnut tart and meringues and macaroons. Heaven. The children put on a little show for us - a dance and some actions to some French nursery rhymes - trop mignon. They all dressed up in regal outfits and marched and danced around with various musical instruments. This was the hardest day for me in terms of feeling totally out of my depth but it was nice to see such a lovely family occasion.
All in all it was a really fab weekend but I'm happy to be back in L'Etang and get back to Paris life. I really need to crack on with the French. Romain told me his dad learnt Spanish in 3 months. Oh blimey, I've got a long way to go.