Ever heard of Hiersac, France? Probably not. I stayed at a friend’s house in the countryside of this small town that is difficult to find on most maps, but located in a lovely area overlooking vineyards and an old church. The kind where directions are not signposts, but scenery and landmarks. “Turn left at the church and take the first fork,” is a typical direction for this area. Driving is on the same side of the road as in the US, but it didn’t matter on these one-lane roads, more like gravel paths.
Keep in mind I do not speak French…at all. I even murder the language when I try to read it! It is a source of constant amusement to my family.
Getting to this small village was already a challenge because road signs are not as obvious as around here. First you need to know where you are headed, since signs point to final destinations rather than the next village or town. Many are numbers that aren’t on the map. Then you need to be able to figure out the direction of the arrow. Most of them are at crazy angles not pointing at any direction in particular. After making several wrong turns, some kind of intuition finally kicked in and they seemed to make sense. Don’t ask me why.
Now arriving just a few houses from the one I was staying, I couldn’t figure out which was the correct house. None of them had numbers or names on them and they all had large wooden gates that you couldn’t see through (I had seen a photo of the house, much that it would help me)! Oh no, now what? I saw two women about to get in their car. So I asked them, in English, “Where is Gerard Vigier’s house?” OK, I tried to make his name sound French, the best I could. Picture me pronouncing his name about a dozen times with emphasis on different syllables…slurring the name…basically sounding like a bad Peter Sellers imitation. Finally, one of the women says, “OH…Gerard Vigier,” and walks around a corner and points to a specific gate. Whew, saved! Of course she probably didn’t understand my “Thank You” either.
Remember I don’t speak French. A nice, I guess, neighbor came to talk to me when I was walking on the road one day. He was very pleasant sounding…since I don’t know French, I have no idea what he was saying. I did hear the name “Gerard Vigier”. He probably was asking if I was staying in his house…or maybe what was I doing in his house. I have no idea. He brought out his wife and introduced her…and his dog. He talked to me for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes and I do not have a clue what he said. But it sounded friendly. He smiled a lot…and waved his arms around…
Ok, now to the bread truck. The supreme advantage to living way out in the countryside of France, way, way off the beaten path…is the bread truck comes to your house every day! Oh my gosh! Fresh warm French bread made of real wholesome ingredients, still warm, in baskets in the back of a small truck that arrives with a cute sounding, “beep, beep.” I almost hurt myself getting money out and running out to stop the truck. She was turning around to leave when I got the heavy gate opened and yelled “Stop!”
I guess she knew what I meant, because she stopped, got out and opened the back of the small panel type truck. Out poured the most amazing yeasty smells. I bought a couple of loaves of regular French bread and CHOCOLATE croisants. Oh my gosh…and they were warm. Somehow they vanished almost immediately. The chocolate in France is to die for!
Watch for more adventures off the beaten path…