From City to Countryside : JWH Design & Cabinetry in FranceSwitching cities is a major shift of gears– from one extreme to the other, and equally wonderful!

Leaving from Paris-Bercy train station, in the midst of the Fashion Week arena, I felt the pulse of Paris all the way to Nevers for the transfer.  The train was fully equipped with wifi and charging ports, seats were assigned, and far nicer than trains at home (and I was in second class!) When they announced my transfer in French, and only French, I realized that I had reached the countryside.  No escalators or elevators to change between tracks so it’s best not to need assistance.  The train to Cosne sur Loire was 1/4 the length and virtually empty.  I was the last stop with 5 other people at this tiny town station.  I had practiced my question:  “ou sont les taxis?” but the signs were easy to follow.  It was more concerning that there was not a taxi in sight.  The Uber app gave me slight hope that this service might exist in this town, but it only served to indicate that my hotel was 24 miles away and a driver couldn’t be located.  I don’t know why my heart didn’t start to race, and those general feelings of anxiety did not start to creep in, but I was calm.  It wasn’t dark yet.

From City to Countryside : JWH Design & Cabinetry in FranceI do believe I have a guardian angel that steps in at times, and she sent me a lovely French couple, with whom I could NOT communicate, who used her phone to call me a taxi.  “Bien, bien” she assured me as they loaded me into the front seat with a young driver, also non-English speaking.  We didn’t have much natural communication during the 40-minute drive, but I Google-translated sentences including “that nice woman helped me” and “I’m going to French school.”  These practiced lines help to pass a little time until I blurted out “je t’adore.”  I meant to say “j’adore Paris” but he smiled at my exclamation that I was in love with him. We parted ways after 46 euros, a few mercis, and “I’ll call you for my ride on Friday!”  The proprietor of my hotel will need to call him to make this reservation unless my French is dramatically improved.

Through the double carriage doors, painted bright red, but not an obvious sign that read “Le Cep en Sancerrois,” I quickly realized that my “hotel” was actually a Bed & Breakfast and I am the only guest.  In this large antique home, I was guided through several living spaces to reach my private room up the tricky winding stairs.  With high ceilings reflecting the steeply pitched roof, the amazing exposed beams dating back to the 18th century, and views out both sides over the Sancerre countryside, it is definitely a unique and special space.  And the proprietors, Giselle and Phillipe could not have been more welcoming.  As I was given the quick tour of the bedroom space behind the curtain, the desk area to set up my laptop, and the little kitchen (I will never use), I quickly appreciated my short stature of 5’3″.   My head barely clears the dropped beams in the main room and the height at the end of the tub is even lower!

From City to Countryside : JWH Design & Cabinetry in FranceReady to take advantage of the remaining daylight hours, and locate my school for the morning, Philippe sent me out with a local map and instructions to follow the red line on the streets.  I really wanted to cover as much territory as possible, as well as stretch my legs after the 3-hour train ride, so I wandered up and down every main and side street.  Amazing views over the Sancerre vineyards, and the charming old buildings lining the narrow streets, gave me lots of great photo ops along the way.   The end of the red line landed at a gorgeous sunset spot for a glass of Sancerre blanc overlooking the countryside.

As dusk settled on this quiet Sunday night, and my morning yogurt was no longer holding off my appetite, I entered the empty restaurant on the corner of my block.  Totally empty.  I waited a few minutes to inquire about a table, without a soul in sight and decided this was not a good choice for my first night.  Fortunately, my guardian angel directed me through a few more winding streets and a livelier tavern caught my eye.  I was seated next to a table for 3 speaking 1/2 French and 1/2 English, a felt a little relief.  They turned to introduce themselves and turned out to be 3 of my new classmates who were already finished their first week and we’re starting the second week of classes.  “Courage” was the word of advice they offered for the start of my French immersion!

Starting my second day of classes after a morning tour of a 12th-century chateau.  Gotta run or this will never get posted.  Thanks for reading!

-Jennifer Howard