Living in a foreign country is a humbling experience. Sometimes trying to integrate into French society make us feel like teenagers who are too square to know how to say or do the right thing. This has nothing to do with the French, who have offered us their friendship, laughed with us, not at us, and welcomed us into their homes. This feeling is just something that goes on in our own heads, where our cultural savoir-faire is American, and that often leaves us guessing about simple French rules of comportment. In order to avoid revisiting all of the insecurities of our youth, we like to spend some of our travel time each year in familiar places where we have some level of cultural comfort.
This summer, in order to round off that square feeling and to rest up for our next big adventure, we returned to Saint Jean-de-Losne, our very first familiar place in France.
St. Jean and the neighboring village of Saint Symphorein-sur-Saône were where our French life began, so we settled in for a couple of months to enjoy the amitié of our local French friends and of the extensive and always lively boating community that makes these two small villages into very interesting places to visit.
We moored in the basin of the Canal de Bourgogne, near the Saône River, where from our back deck we could see the first lock that we ever passed through 7 years and thousands of locks ago. Before we learned how to pilot our barge, that lock gave us the willies every time we looked at its narrow entrance. Locks are full of surprises, and we have learned to respect them, but they don't scare us anymore.
St. Jean is on the Côte d'Or and with our car rescued from its garage in Roanne, we were free to travel on familiar roads to towns like Beaune, Dijon and Dole, where we don't feel at all like strangers. Market days in these towns have always been a delight for us. It is easy to get carried away there, and while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, somehow local cheeses, pâtés, tapenades, and other tasty treats always find their way into our baskets.
We drove to Monthelie, a village neighboring Meursault to visit one of our favorite vigneron. We had to go back to Domaine Charngarnier because the friends who were with us when we discovered this winery years ago, were visiting again. Combining the wines we bought that day with treats from the Beaune market, dinner on our back deck on that warm summer evening was a little bit of heaven.
Between the summer festivals, the blessing of the boats on the Saône river, the private fire museum near Beaune (where we felt so warmly welcomed that we became members), and visiting with friends old and new, we had a great summer.
At the beginning of August, refreshed and relaxed, we went through that formerly "scary first lock" one more time and headed toward the Canal de la Marne à la Saône on our way to our winter mooring for 2006/2007. Comforted by a couple of months spent in familiar surroundings, we felt prepared to tackle the hustle and bustle of city life.
Last summer while we were staying in the Port de Plaisance Paris-Arsenal, they told us that we could have a mooring for this winter. Did we have to think about this offer or talk it over? No, we both said yes at the same time which was just about immediately. Wintering at the Arsenal had been our dream from the beginning, and we had been on the waiting list since the year 2000. Even though we love Roanne and plan to return next winter, we jumped at the chance to spend a winter in the center of Paris.
We arrived at the Arsenal on the 15th of September and quickly began to settle in for the winter. We ordered a land line with high speed Internet, signed up for French classes and conversation groups, became Amis du Louvre, got our Navigo passes, picked out our favorite cafés, made a few friends, even got our photo taken by Google Earth, and so far, nous sommes heureux comme des poissons dans l'eau.