Wednesday, October 18, 2023

France 2023 - Perfect Hygge

My plan to get up early and go for a walk and swim is scuttled by a cozy duvet and inviting bed and we don't even wake up until 8:30. The weather forecast looks unstable for the next few days with plenty of rain and wind expected. But we didn't come at this time of the year for the weather; any sunshine we get will be a bonus.

After a leisurely breakfast and coffee we pile into the VW and drive to Uzes, a town about 20 kilometres east of here. It is a gorgeous little medieval town and today is market day so there are dozens of vendors in the main square selling food items.

Anna picks up a round of croissants from one of their favourite bakeries and we have a mid-morning snack in the shadow of architectural wonders. We learn about one of France's many interesting food laws - croissants made with pure butter (croissant au beurre) are always straight, while the lower quality ones made with margarine have the stereotypical curved shape. Care to guess which ones we eat?

We arrive at Comptoir Numero 7 just in time for our lunch reservation. Our server is a very young guy and what a pro he is. Perfectly groomed, clearly spoken, impeccable movements - it's impossible to think we could be anywhere else in the world right now besides France.

Our meal is incredible and we enjoy a slow, deliberate lunch. None of the other customers here are in a rush either. This is a real treat for Ana and I as we rarely go out for meals at home, and when we do it's simply nothing like this, as we can't get this quality of food and experience without spending a mortgage payment's worth of dinero at a fancy restaurant in Toronto.

After stopping to pick up six bottles of carefully chosen wine at the local wine shop, two platters of charcuterie from the butcher, and some groceries at the hypermarket, we return home and Ana and I embark on a solo walking tour of Vezenobres. We muscle ourselves up the steep streets, winding back and forth, through narrow passageways and shadowed paths until we reach the viewpoint at the top of the village, guarded jealously by a free range cat, part of a gang of felines who patrol the town and keep the villagers in check.

We take the long way down and pass by the bakery to pick up a fresh baguette then return to Chateau Olson where I take a lovely dip in the pool while Ana chills out in our room for a bit.

It is dark by the time we are into apero, this time around the coffee table in the primary living room, which is expansive and filled with custom furniture crafted from airplane aluminum. Anna's favourite spot is a curved desk which makes her appear either as a hotel concierge or as if she is sitting in a hot tub, depending on one's vantage point. There is also a Dr. Evil/Mork from Ork egg shaped chair with acoustics perfect for singing or humming to oneself. Michael's day perch is at the large aluminum table, on which is splayed out a rat's nest of video equipment, cameras, cords, converters, adapters, drones, and, strangely, tourist brochures.

But in this moment, we gather round the expansive wooden coffee table with our platters of charcuterie and drinks, while the weather outside gets progressively nastier, and soon the dark sky is alive with lightening flashes and strikes. The further into the night we delve, the stronger the light storm becomes. But what also strengthens is the perfect hygge - the now trendy Danish concept of coziness, something I learned about while living with my friends Martin and Marianne in Odense, Denmark nearly thirty years ago - and have never forgotten it.

Chill electronic music spills from the Sonos system and a hardwood fire rages in the fireplace, the heat circulating through the living room by the quiet fan. Nine votive candles flicker and burn on the table, creating shadows on charcuterie snacks and wine glasses. Indirect lighting casts a perfect orange yellow hue and backdrop to the intense bolts that erupt in the sky, visible to us from the deep windows cut into the stone. Our conversation flows easily and dances from topic to topic as we laugh and tell stories. Time passes gently. There is no rush and there is nowhere else we need to be right now. We are living in the present, our best lives, in the company of people we love. And the moment is not captured by photographs, because it simply couldn't be. It will live only in our memories.

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