Posts Tagged ‘customs’

Bonjour Madame’…….The chiseled face of a custom’s official peered at me across the counter as I slid my passport over towards him.  ‘Bonjour Monsieur.’ I nervously straightened up my carefully considered ‘French- arrival- outfit.’ I only had a few French phrases that I could retrieve if need be and that was one of them! I had been traveling for over 12 hours so hardly as fresh as a fleur de lis and the said outfit looked like it had been pulled from the ironing basket! But the sight of Nice nestled up against the azure Mediterranean Sea and the sleek yachts from the air were enough to blow any sleep deprivation away.  The excitement welled up inside me. I felt like a child with a new toy on Christmas day!  It was a dream come true….a visit to the south of France.

The road less traveled...

The road less traveled…

 We took the ‘road less traveled’ and wound our way through the French countryside. Medieval towns stood proud on vantage hilltops. The ancient walls of Tourtour, Entrecasteax and Villecroze charmed the historian in me. Besides the restaurants, life went on as it had done for centuries past. The old man sat in the sun with his dog at his side, the young woman carried her sleeping child through a narrow passage and the bell chimed out the midday hour. I took a sip from the crystal clear water in the village fountain and savoured the fact that I was actually in France! I could not help feeling a sense of déjà-vu. The Mediterranean plants were so reminiscence of the Cape flora. Agapanthus, star jasmine and wisteria grew wildly in terracotta pots. The fragrance of rosemary and lavender filled the air in potager gardens. Stately Cypress demarcated formal areas and skillfully crafted iron gates adorned entrances.

Local brew against the backdrop of antiquity.

Local brew against the backdrop of antiquity.

 The steep roads wound down the mountains and through the vineyards and silvery olive groves. There were stops at small cafes tucked away on narrow streets. Crepes dripping with fig and melted Camembert washed down with a local beer. Then the cherry on the top…….We were treated to the splendour of a lunch at the Domaine de la Baume. We took our time to enjoy the elegant French cuisine and fine wines. I had to pinch myself at times to make sure that this was a real experience and not some dream or fantasy! The added delight was the formal gardens that surrounded the chateau.  I can safely say that I am officially labeled a ‘kyk daar.’ I could not refrain from just pointing out all that caught my eye.

Formal gardens at the chateau.

Formal gardens at the chateau.


  Years of poring over French books did not disappoint. My visit to the south of France was just as I imagined it, but oh so much more thrilling! It has filled me with a joie de vivre that will hopefully sustain me through our cold Canadian winter.  I have stored these happy memories up safely and will relive, reflect on and savour over the next few years. What a wonderful 60th birthday experience. It will live on in my heart forever.

La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin.

Life is too short to drink bad wine.




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You can always count on me and I will plant you a maple tree…….

We planted a maple tree today in honour of Canada Day…… all 4 metres of it. It is thin and scrawny but the bright green leaves indicate that it is a healthy specimen. It stood in our ravine at the bottom of our garden and was cosseted by the many elms and grander maples that surrounded it. But in this position, it fought for light and sustenance as the bigger brothers took preference.

I will carry you on my wings……

The birds protested as we gently carved it out with a big ball of soil attached to its roots. I think they thought that some larger disturbance was afoot. It made the journey up to the front garden perched in our wheel barrow. It looked rather ungainly as we trundled up the side rocky pathway and the leaves shook in protest as the gentle wind blew around us. Its new abode awaited it in the front garden.

I will build you a house of stars and give you safety while you sleep…..

It was to be the only shade tree on the front lawn, a bastion to welcome us home at the end of a long day. It had a position of importance with no competition for sustenance. The hole which will nourish it for years to come had been filled with all ‘the good things for trees’ like bone marrow and rich garden soil.

The most beautiful place in my heart belongs to you……

This tree carries hope for us as a family here in our new country. Like this tree, we have been pulled out of the ground and replanted. Thankfully, we have carried with us ‘our soil’ i.e. the customs, memories and traditions. We have carved out a new environment and the food to sustain us comes from the support that we have received. The faithful friends and family back in South Africa who keep in touch and from the Canadians that have shown us kindness.

You can climb up on the peak……….

A maple tree is meant to grow to 18 metres, we have a long journey ahead of us, but it is sure to be an exciting one!

Our young maple tree.





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