Friday, August 2, 2013

France is (also) home.

While I was indulging in Dostoyevsky-like musings and ruminations in Russia, Flo paid a visit to his family in France. It began with a stop at the French Riviera to visit his old friends Antoine and Marina.

La plage. Nice, France. Pas mal.
Our friend Marina and her son Valentin.

Charming Nice (pun intended). 

After a weekend of sipping Pastis on the beach and dining on foie gras terrine in open air terraces (life is hard, n'est-ce pas?), Flo proceeded to Jura, a region just west of the Swiss border, from whence he hails, to do the rounds with family and friends. Presented below is a short photo-essay of his visit. Some things you can't put in words, I suppose. The man is not verbose when it comes to his roots - although he keeps threatening to write an exposé one day - but he sure can take a nice picture. Enjoy.

Typical summer weather in Jura.

Damparis. Homebase.

Dole, a charming medieval town near Damparis. We got married here. The weather was nicer then.



The cathedral of Dole

Back home. Uncle Gege with a hearing aid.

Flo and his dad, Jean-Claude (JC)

La famille.

Sister Annabelle

Sister Laure

Dad's wife - Marie Odile

The man of the hour - Captain Cleanup.

off to the country house.

Flo's family has an amazing little country house in the bucolic village of Brery - it has the original stone farmhouse structure built in the early 19th century, but has been renovated inside to be quite cozy and modern. All work was done by Jean Claude himself (and Flo, who was conscripted into servitude every week-end in his teenage years until he could make up excuses good enough to escape)
Brery, inside.
view from the house.
interior detail
cellar/function space
exterior, Brery

lunch at home.

JC showing off his kitchen prowess.

There's even a wood fire oven. I'm sorry I missed this lunch. Traditional Flammkuchen featured here.

How 92% of his time in France is spent.

The fact that we take "separate vacations" almost annually to visit our families does not go unnoticed by our friends. We do get the occasional question about it. Some people think it's strange, and perhaps it is; we also wondered at first if we're sending the wrong message, even if only to the families themselves. But at this point, we've realized that this is the only sensible thing to do given our particular circumstances, and the raised eyebrows were eventually lowered. We've found a balance in seeing our families separately and then meeting up somewhere in Europe, for a romantic rendez-vous on neutral ground, to explore together, recount our adventures, and share our ever-evolving experiences of "home".

The idea and identity of "home"- as in - ancestral homeland - is a touchy and convoluted subject for both of us. We both have many conflicting emotions about the countries we call home, many unique reasons for leaving them in the first place, and many unique reasons for coming back again and again. When we're in the US, we often find ourselves defending Russia and France, respectively, when they come up in a negative light. Conversely, when we go back to visit, we often find ourselves put off, disappointed, even infuriated, by what we see and hear. And in between, we struggle between a nostalgic, patriotic love of a childhood abode, and what we see as tragic failures on their behalf. It's a complex relationship for both of us, much like a familial relationship with a difficult person, and our experience of our homelands is certainly steeped in these complicated emotions. We are not tourists at home, and that makes it difficult to bring a tourist along. The language barrier exacerbates this a lot. The many long and heated conversations we have with our friends and families, the peculiarities and nuances of interaction in our cultures - would unfortunately be completely lost on the "guest". While the "host", in turn, would feel guilty that the other person is bored and left out. This is not speculation, this we know from experience.

Lastly, maybe we would try to overlook all that and go together anyway, if we weren't bound by the infernal 2 week American vacation (ok, we have 3 weeks, but still...). When you have eight trips to take that same year, you just can't afford to take that much time for one of them.

So, yes, we take this time as our own time, to go our separate ways, and experience "home" the way we need to (and we do need to), with all its peaks and valleys, without having to play tour-guide to a hapless spouse. If anyone has ever experienced guilt (internal or inflicted) at this approach, I say that it's perfectly sensible and to not give yourself an ulcer over it. It makes meeting up afterwards surprisingly refreshing and interesting. Think of the stories you will have to tell each other, and the reactions you could get!

And so, we went, we saw, we pondered, and afterwards - we met up in Denmark for a few lovely days exploring this lovely little kingdom.

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