I spend a lot of time ranting about French arrogance, French bureaucracy, all the rest of it. Then, every once in a while, I’m reminded of why I bother. This is a view of the Rhone Valley from our hotel room in Cliousclat, a village known for its potters, though artists in many media live and work there. It doesn’t look all that different from the Napa Valley. However our room cost about the equivalent of a nice dinner in Napa, never mind a whole room. While the whole California wine country scene is hyped and priced beyond belief, the French countryside is dotted with charming hotels, small serious restaurants — two just in Cliousclat! — good wineries and talented artists and artisans. While some places, generally catering to foreign visitors, are crazy expensive, many others are affordable, if not exactly cheap. And yes, I brought home a lot of very nice pottery, more than you see here.
Come to think of it, even the walnuts are small production, if not exactly artisanal. France is still a deeply Catholic country, dotted with abbeys and monasteries; I get the feeling convents are, these days, often called monasteries, though I haven’t really sorted that out yet. Anyway, I have a kitchen full of liqueurs and foodstuffs, made as a way of keeping these places self-supporting. I can highly recommend everything I have tried.
This whole concept of the French way of life is finally making some sense to me. In the cities it’s basically a marketing concept, that or a way for unions to justify stultifying labor laws. In the countryside it really is how people live. They grow things or make them and they are proud of what they do. Factory farming, which unfortunately is what is done around my house, and hypermarkets not only spoil the view, they drain the economic and ecological life from areas like this. Eventually, perhaps sooner rather than later, that is what will happen here. That view and my little bowls will either disappear or become so rare that the few that remain will be priced out of reach of most of us.
So, that is what I learned this summer. Fortunately that is not all that I did. I have a new crop of adorable grandkids. They spent a week at the house. No, you can’t see photos; the moms have requested otherwise and I respect the moms. I got a few things done. I got used to living here. This is now home for me. On balance, I like it.