did i mention the apricots? god!

Um, and so. France was freakin amazing. I set up shop in the kitchen of the flat and cranked out words and words and words. Janny had a couple of friends with pools: Annette, with a walled garden on a hill surrounded by vineyards and wind farms; Ian and Jill, with a pool among prickly pears on the downslope of Villerouge. The kids swam every day, I think, which was lucky because temperatures were in the thirties, or hundreds, depending on where I am. We climbed the hill and sat in the window of the ruined castle. My God, France is just beyond gorgeous, the red earth and the ink-green forests and the vines in their lime-green lines. And yellow grass and the bronze-bright sky.

We had lunches in the cool dining room and dinners on the terrace looking out over a yellow field of grass next door. My God, the food. Tomatoes and cucumbers and greens and avocados and hard boiled eggs and black olives. Cheese! Creamy brie and nutty gruyere. Dense rich baguettes. Jesus God the stone fruit: nectarines so juicy eating them was like trying to eat a mango. Apricots jumping out of Jan’s tree, red-speckled and hot from the sun, intense as concentrate.

We didn’t do much else but eat and talk. I read A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel’s French Revolution novel – this after reading her Tudor novel Wolf Hall in England. Best holiday reading since Hemingway and Gertrude Stein in Paris. We bought a game of Carcassonne in Cambridge and found it to be great fun, like mah jongg; we played it for an hour every day after lunch. Jan took me to the market in Lezignan-Corbieres, where I bought a quilt for our bed that may be the most beautiful and grownup thing I have ever owned. It cost fifty euros.

McKenze and I were chatting so hard we missed the exit to Carcassonne airport. Being Californians, we assumed the autoroute was like the freeway and that we would be able to turn around in a few miles; in fact, it was 17km to the next exit… we made our flight, which was late anyway, and Jan and Jeremy were having fewer kittens than I would have expected. I would have had dozens of kittens, me. A tearful farewell ensued. Jan will be visiting us in San Francisco soon.

Ryanair is horrible. Stansted is miraculous and the express to Liverpool Street was at least fast, but then we were on the Underground in rush hour with all our luggage, and that blew. I remembered we could get out at Lancaster Gate and walk, and that saved us a transfer and four stops, which was good. Our hotel was expensive and our room was tiny, but very very welcome. Grant and Jo met us at a funny little Italian place around the corner and we had a very merry dinner.

Our one day in London was way too long and intense from my trying to pack too much in; but the girls got to see Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge, at least from a distance, and we met Cait and Nora and James and rode on the London Eye, and then Grant and Christian met us for lunch at Canteen and I had Eton Mess, which is always a highlight. Then we caught the bus to the British Museum and I showed the girls the Parthenon Frieze and the Rosetta Stone. And Kirsty and Chris met us in the Great Court for tea and scones. And then we went to Kensington Gardens and had a bottle of wine while the kids played in the playground there, so very civilized, and then we went to a Thai restaurant, and then I had to take the kids back to the hotel and collapse.

And then we came home. The flight was fine/awful. The cat is overjoyed that we are home and I have the scars to prove it. Monday was a public holiday, luckily, so I did two loads of washing and weeded the flower garden and went to the vegetable garden with Salome and Kathy and all the kids, and we harvested the arugula and had that for dinner last night. Yesterday morning I rode Bella, far better than I expected to, but we did have a parting of ways after she took a long spot at a fence and I lost my balance. Talk about coming back to earth with a crash. I’m a little bit gimpy but fine.

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