Love to France
One damp, dark, supposedly winter but almost spring Friday evening, we had a wonderful Champagne Bonnaire vertical tasting (1980-2009), where we sat next to a man who is connected to the French Institute of Latvia. He was expressive, stunning, and from the art world (I assumed but found out later that it was true). We started to talk about France, about our kids being part of the French school system (they go to French-language school), and about all that is France, and he asked us this question – why France and why the French language?
We have never had a precise answer to that question. Why France? Where did we get the love for France that is bigger, sometimes, than the love for our native country? I have no idea, but alI I know is that it has been there for a long time, and sitting at a cafe next to someone French has turned out to be a friendship for, oh, so many years. That meeting in 2010 was something that sucked us even deeper into the weird world of the French and their culture, a world that seemed so strange then, but so understandable now.
That meeting was long after the legendary 2006, when we went on our honeymoon to France by car from Latvia. I think that was one of the biggest turning points with all the dark and damp Cognac roofs that smelled like the spirit itself and the streets of Bordeaux and our three-day stay in a French family’s 3rd floor room, where no one spoke English but served us the most amazing fresh bread and jam breakfast. With the medieval streets of Salat, the beautiful walnut tree alleys, the smell of Sauternes wine in the city of Sauternes and the charming streets of St. Emilion that just enchanted us.
I still like to wander in my dreams along the streets of Sarlat and hold the vanilla beans in my hand in the morning market. I like to go back and sit in that small restaurant somewhere in the middle of the city, eating foie gras and then good old duck confit. I still tell people the stories about how we ran away from that spooky chambre d'hote in Sauternes to the smallest and most charming room in St. Emilion. I could write a book about this trip – the missed lunch at Martel chateau and the best duck confit somewhere in the middle of Perigord.
It has always been France – with its cuisine, buttery croissants, sweet-as-hell macarons, smelly cheese, oysters in Arcachon and champagne in the small cellars of Champagne. It is not a place that everyone loves and understands, but we do, and when we don't, we pretend we do.
Story and pictures: Signe Meirane
Camera: Sony Alpha 7s