Friday, February 15, 2013

Yankee Invasion - Wave 1

Vauvert -- from the Cafe at the square downstairs from our apartment
I was a little worried that our first visit from an American friend was going to be a disaster. Ian was in hospital again and Peter was due in to Vauvert within a few days. Peter was doing a European tour planning a study group for his photography students which was going to take place the following summer.

Peter, me and Ian at the Nimes station
Peter Glendinning is an accomplished photographer and professor of photography at Michigan State University.  At the time Ian was in the hospital, Peter was in Paris on his way to Arles to check out the International Festival of Photography. The festival is one of the most important photographic events in the world of photography. Last year it drew 84,000 people (including over 5,000 journalists) so this is an important stop for Peter’s students. Our little village of Vauvert is just 36 km from Arles and Peter was only in for an overnight stay on his way to Marseille. Both Ian and I were looking forward to showing him our little corner of France. Peter was more than happy to just help me out where he could if Ian was still in hospital but we lucked out and Ian got home 2 days before Peter was due in. 

We drove to Gare de Nîmes (train station) to pick him up. Naturally, there was no place to park and between us trying to find a place to stash the car and Peter looking for us in the wrong spot… it was a comedy of errors but we finally met up. 

Peter and me at the Cafe in Nimes
First stop was the café across the street from the train station.  It was a hot day so sitting outside for a cool drink before we drove back to Vauvert was a nice way to re-aquaint ourselves.  I hadn't seen Peter since... well, let's just say forever ago... putting a number on the years really seems to make us ancient.

We got back to Vauvert and installed Peter in our village hotel, which was quite nice.  Le Lys d'Or in Vauvert is just a small 2-star hotel, but it’s clean, charming, had a shower, air conditioning and free wifi… what else do you need? My sister and her friend stayed there as well when they came in to town. 

Our local hotel ... Le Lys d'Or
As it was late in the afternoon when we were finally all settled, we sat downstairs at our café and had an apero. Then we went up to the apartment and Ian cooked up a storm. Not knowing the culinary tastes of our American friend, Ian played it safe and made turkey. Turned out, Peter would have been enthusiastic to participate in Ian’s affinity for game or lamb or rabbit or bull meat (I would have stuck to potatoes and veggies) … but turkey it was. All through the starter, main course, cheese course and dessert… the local wines were flowing. I have to admit, we really do have the best wines in the world right here in our area. By the end of the meal, Peter and Ian were feeling no pain. While I did the washing up, Ian walked Peter back to the hotel. Although it was a short walk, I was a little worried about him walking back alone given he really just got out of the hospital… but when Ian sets his mind to something, stubborn doesn’t even define his resolve. So I was glad when he got back to the apartment without incident.

trying to figure out how to get to Nimes
from Vauvert is not as easy as you'd think!
The next day Peter met us downstairs at the café armed with all kinds of breads and croissants and baked deliciousness from our favorite boulangerie for petit déjeuner (not so petit as it turned out). We then went back to his hotel to get his luggage and check out of the hotel. Next stop was the Vauvert bus station for a ticket back to the Nîmes train station. After some typically French confusion as to routes and times, we managed to secure a ticket for the afternoon bus.

Off to the Cave Cooperative; where the natives go to fill up their jugs, plastic bottles and containers with the local Nîmes wines.


Cave Des Vignerons de Vauvert is always a favorite stop for visitors to our village. It’s pretty cool in that it hosts artwork from local artists as well as huge vats of wine with a hose and gun attached to fill hungry plastic jugs. Next to the Cave is the winery where the actual winemaking (or vinification) takes place. Sometimes you can catch them in action. We are surrounded by vineyards, so it’s not hard to imagine the process of vine to barrel. Did you know that the time from harvest to drinking can vary from a few months for Beaujolais nouveau wines to over twenty years for top wines? However, only about 10% of all red and 5% of white wine will taste better after five years than it will after just one year. Factoid!

The rest of the time Peter had remaining in Vauvert was spent shopping for souvenirs in the village and another stop at the café before heading back to the bus station for his trip back to Gare de Nîmes. From Vauvert he was headed to Marseille. Peter’s visit was a welcomed break from our constant hospital/health scare merry-go-round. Ian and I both enjoyed it. We wished he could have stayed a few more days so we could show him more of the area. But we look forward to seeing him again when he comes back to Arles for the International Festival of Photography 2013.

au revoir Peter, a bientot -- your visit was
short but sweet and we loved
showing you our village!
Ian continued to feel good, but after the usual 10 days out of the hospital the acute vertigo and nausea started again. Soon we were back in the hospital. This time when he was released from the hospital the vertigo hadn't dissipated. So he went straight from the hospital bed into our bed. It got to the point where he couldn't leave the bed. Our General Practitioner gave him different vertigo meds but he said they may take weeks to work. Poor Ian was in bed all summer. He could barely sit up enough to eat. Poor me, I spent my first summer in France in a hot apartment. The only time I got out was to go to the store and lug heavy supplies out of the car and into the stairwell. Once the supplies were safely in the building I got to deal with cursing French drivers because I was blocking the road so I’d yell back in English (and international hand gestures), then get in the car and drive around trying to find a parking space. Walking back to the apartment was the easy part. It was lugging everything up the stairs to put them away that offered the sauna treatment (too bad a mani/pedi didn’t come with it).

So, for what seemed like an eternity, my days were spent making meals, washing up, and making the next meal, sorting medications, trying to make Ian comfortable, bringing him what he needed when he needed them, sitting with him in the over-hot bedroom to keep him company (in an uncomfortable chair), and cleaning up the messes when he’d get sick. It didn't help that we also had a leak in the roof, so I had to deal with huge messes when it rained as well; all this without benefit of a clothes-dryer and no terrace/balcony to hang wet clothes out on.

It was a hard time for both of us.
Luckily it was the beginning of the end. 

As time went on, we easily got on each other’s nerves. I tried to be as patient as I could, knowing how sick he was, but there’s so much complaining and criticizing you can take when you’re doing your best under difficult circumstances. Ian is not an easy patient. Not in the hospital and not at home. Maybe it’s a guy thing. My dad wasn't much better as a patient in the hospital. Or maybe it’s just the frustration of being sick for so long with no answers in sight. I can understand that, but it’s no picnic being a caregiver either… as anyone who’s cared for an incapacitated person on a daily basis can attest to. Ian finally got to the point where I could roll him from the bedroom into the salon on the rolling office chair. He couldn't walk it because he couldn't stand all the way up or he’d get dizzy. I pulled out the sofa-bed and he spent the rest of the time in there. That worked out pretty well because I was able to do more with him out in the larger room with the tv. Sitting out there was much cooler because we have a small air conditioner but you have to put the hose out the window. If you know French windows, you know that they don’t roll up and down but open out. The hose hanging out the window left the window basically open, so cooling down the room was a joke. But it got so hot; we appreciated the cool air we got from it, even though it only cooled about a 5 square foot area. 


Ian slowly started feeling a little better. He still couldn't stand up, but I was at least able to get him on to the rolling office chair and into the bathroom and he was able to sit up better to eat. A few months earlier he arranged for my sister to come out for a visit in October. It was a very generous and very kind thing for him to do. He did it as a surprise for me. Part of me wished we had discussed it first, because the money we would put to that visit could easily have moved us into a ground floor apartment or gotten pieces of furniture/attractive storage baskets/boxes I desperately needed to store my belongings in. I’m so tired of my things being in plastic bags in the corners of the apartment. But it was an act of love and I really did miss my sister. Now the date of my sister’s visit was rapidly approaching and Ian was still sofa-bound. I was totally exhausted and weary. I was not ready to figure out how to entertain my sister and her girlfriend, both coming to France for the first time AND take care of Ian as well. If there wasn't already so much arranging and cost invested in it, I would have tried to reschedule it… but at this point it was too late.

NOTE:  I planned to write the "Yankee Invasion" in one post but my sister's visit encompassed 3 countries and the blog was getting crazy long.  So I broke it up by visit.  Peter's visit was one day.  Joanne and Kathy stayed for almost 2 weeks so the next blog will be all about our adventures... which were many!  I should be done writing it this weekend, so stay tuned... another blog to follow shortly.  It will be fairly long, so get your coffee, wine, smoke of choice and or snack... curl up on your favorite chair and get ready for a nice long read... talk to you soon !


 ~ a la prochaine ~
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