A glass of good Bordeaux the other day brought back some lovely memories.
They were of my friends Jean-Paul and Lizzie Chausatt who live in Bordeaux. I have visited them three times.
Lizzie's parents lived in Pittsfield, MA, where I was their Rector. She would visit them every year and that's how I got to know her.
Lizzie had studied in Paris and was returning to the U.S.A on the liner "France". Jean-Paul was on that liner, he was coming to the States to teach. They romanced on the ship and in due course were married in the Chapel at St. Stephen's Parish, Pittsfield with the then Rector Malcolm Ekcel as Officiant.
The second time Lizzie was in Pittsfield she came to the 8:00 service. After which I said "Lizzie, it's so good to see you". She was shocked that I remembered her name from the year before (and so was I).
That gentle encounter led to an invitation to visit the Chausatt's in Bordeaux (sister City to my home City of Bristol U.K. since 1947).
I accepted the invitation and drove from Paris. They were tickled pink that I drew up at their home on the day and time we had agreed. My two later trips were by T.G.V. from Paris.
Between 2000 and 2006 (my Cambridge years) Lizzie and Jean Paul came together to visit her family. On at least three of those visits I was able to meet them at Boston's Logan airport and drive them to Lizzie's cousin in Needham, MA, and then at the end of their visit to meet them in Newburyport, MA (home of Lizzie's Aunt and Uncle) and drive them back to Logan.
On one such trip I gave them a grand tour, taking them to the house in Cambridge where Lizzie once lived, and also to temples of higher learning (Jean-Paul was an educator) such as Harvard, M.I.T, Boston College and Boston University.
Jean-Paul teared up in Harvard Yard. He explained that he had always venerated Harvard, but had never believed that he would visit the Yard.
As for my visits to the fine City of Bordeaux - well I can only give you a sample.
A. Seeing the monument to the ill-fated Girondists.
When I was there at Fair time we took a ride on the Big Wheel. It stalled when we were at the very top, and I panicked!
B. Taking a trip to the pretty town of Verdelais, there to see Toulouse-Lautrec's grave,
C. and so many more
Walking along the banks of the Gironde and stopping for a tipple at a riverside tavern. There we drank Port (why the heck were we drinking Port in Aquitaine?!) and being assailed by a million and one flies in a rather dirty bar.
Driving out to the Vineyards and admiring the Vineyard Châteaux.
Twice within three years visiting their dear friends Jean and Claude (Jean is the husband, Claude is the wife) at their country cabin. Each time Claude served Duck breast cooked over the glowing embers of a wood fire, with Cept mushrooms from the woods. A bit later she confessed to Lizzie her embarrassment at serving the same meal each time. I asked Lizzie to assure her that Duck breast twice in three years was a wonderful treat.
Walking to the local bakery with Lizzie each morning to get a freshly baked baguette for our breakfast meal.
On a day when Jean-Paul and Lizzie were to be busy I took the train from Bordeaux to Lourdes and back, via Narbonne, using my Eu Rail pass. I surprised my Protestant self by being deeply moved at Bernadette's Grotto.
A glass of wine brought all these (and many other) memories to mind. So I called Lizzie today. It was such a delight to chat. Jean-Paul is frail with Parkinson's Disease, she bears a heavy burden, and was glad to hear from me.
I have been so blessed to be able to travel and to enjoy international friendships.
They also gave me two bumper stickers of Region Aquitaine. I had one on a car which I no longer own. The other has been on my kitchen window for 11+ years. Not one guest has ever asked my about it!
1. Lizzie's father was the long term Curator of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. I think that his first name was Stuart, but I can't for the life of me remember his last name. Thom Smith of Dalton, MA will be able to remind me.
2. When Lizzie returned to Bordeaux as Jean-Paul's wife he said that he would only speak French to her. She said that she cried incessantly, but that it was in truth a great gift, enabling her to be super-fluent in the French language, so much so that I sometimes forget that English is her native tongue.