Where does the idea come from that the French are grumpy and blunt? Some of my friends are convinced of this, but our experiences are different. Or are we simply lucky, and are we islanders in a sea of indifference?
We spent the night from Wednesday to Thursday in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat with Jonathan and Solaine, a young couple who started a chambre d’hôtes five months ago. We sleep the night from Thursday to Friday in a former monastery in Brive-la-Gaillarde. The monastery is now used as a hôtellerie, and is run by six priests and a handful of volunteers.
Two islands, and both are good places to stay.
‘No wine with dinner’
Solaine and Jonathan have yet to learn the trade, but are so infectious that you forgive them for serving only water, tea and coffee. No wine with dinner, not even a Coke or Orangina, and with a jar of homemade jam as the only spread for breakfast.
She spoke in rad French and a good bit of English; a quicksilver girl, with a twenty week pregnant belly. He prepares the meal and cleans up the remains, a silent force that speaks only its own language. When asked about their dream, Solaine replied that she would like sheep and ten chickens for the eggs, a donkey and a goat. Not a word about their guests, except that she would like to receive pilgrims with a donkey, and that the eggs are for the guests.
‘Two great accommodations’
The priests and their volunteers run a professional hotel; an enclave of greenery and tranquility on the edge of the busy city. Sober, but very neat. And with dinner they serve a delicious wine.
Two great accommodations. With the added attraction of Solaine and Jonathan that they own an island in the river La Vienne. I spent the afternoon there, with only the fish and the birds for company, while Henk and Sjon prepared the bottle of wine that we – with foresight – had brought ourselves from the small town of Saint-Léonard.
And then I would almost forget that today we had to shelter for two hours on the way from a huge downpour, complete with thunderstorms and strong winds, in the garage of a friendly Frenchman, who very hospitably provided us with coffee.
Four islands of kindness and hospitality. Where is that sea of indifference? Are we lucky, or are we just inattentive?