I heard someone stirring outside the living room, where I was camped out. It was Alexandre,the 12 year old son of Chris et Sylvie. I greeted him and decided it was time to start the day. Then, I wrote all of the above.
For breakfast I consumed two chocolaty croissant type things. Delicious. OJ, water, I was good to go. Chris took me to work with him. He is the director (animateur) of a children's after school program. It's something like the equivalent of Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA in the US. In his office, I was introduced to his co-workers Marianne et__ as "the American." I checked my FB account and saw that he had announced it. Apparently, Chris is pretty well known here in Autun, a small Roman village with 15,000 citizens, and it seems like having an American here is something of a treat that seldom happens. Most of the tourists here are English or Dutch. Fun times. I'm Ok with being that guy, though.
At work with Chris
At work, I had the experience of the double sided cheek kiss with Marianne, which I believe was my first. She first greeted Chris like that and it reminded me of the things I'd read about the French and had only seen in movies. I always thought that was a cool move and would have liked to adopt it. I remember teaching it to my students, but it was only the females that ended up doing it with the other females. The guys never adopted it.
At the office, I had quite a long conversation with ____, whose friend had visited the US and nearly every state. Chris and I teased each other to his friends about our speaking SNAFUs from CA this summer. His gross mispronunciation of Lake Tahoe, "Lahktah oh" and me referring to his French teammate Carine as hot, "chaude," which apparently translates to "easy" when used in that context.
We hopped in the car and I got some more history lessons about Autun and Chris pointed out where he grew up and where his family lives. What a quaint, charming and beautiful town. The ramparts put there by the Romans envelop the city and the elements of their presence are everywhere.
En ville (in town)
We zipped around cobblestone streets to eventually park and visit his friend the boulanger at their bread shop. I had Chris take my photo as if I had just made some fresh wood-fired pizzas as well with his bread-making buddy. On my way out, I somehow found my black pants covered in flour.
We stopped at the Office de Tourisme, where I flirted with the lady handing out maps and telling me where I was and what to look at. I asked if she could personally give me the tour. We laughed. After that, Chris bade me farewell and returned to work. We were supposed to meet again in a couple of hours to have lunch around 12:15. I went up the street, taking pictures along the way and then went to the cathedral at the top of the hill. It was enormous, but not so intimidating as Notre Dame. Definitely huge for such a small town. After that, I started doing what I always do--start finding my way to the top of wherever I am. Atop this town's highest hill, overlooking the whole area, and visible still, even though far away, was the Croix de la Liberation. I later found out this was built as a celebration of WW2 ending.
I wasn't sure how long it would take me to ascend the mountain to get there. I estimated 2 miles on foot. It didn't look like there was a direct route there, other than following the paved road and signs leading to it. Totally not my style--I'm more of a tangent taking type, but up I went. The roads were still barely two compact cars wide, but I think a total of 8 cars passed me in 90 minutes. Along the way, I took some trails, ended up on the road and finally arrived. It was very peaceful and quite scenic. One could see all of the town and surrounding region. I decided that there must be a faster way to descend, so I looked for another trail. I found one that was a very steep downhill and proceeded to run down it. Chris called me on the cell he gave me and asked where I was. I told him, "à la Croix." He didn't understand, then when it registered, he was in disbelief that I had gone all the way up there. I raced down the hill at breakneck speeds and got back to the tourism office. He told me he had entered and asked if they had seen his American. Again, I'm apparently the only one that's been here in a while. I no longer use my name. I am now changing it officially to "The Americain."
Same old song and dance
I noticed some French stereotypes today. Since I walked the entire village on foot and drove most of it, I feel I now have the authority to make these observations and therefore prolong the stereotypes. Number one: the French love their dogs and bring them everywhere. They like small dogs. Confirmed. 7 sightings in three hours. I even saw a couple of larger dogs, too.
Number two: French people carry their bread home under their arms. Confirmed. 6 sightings in three hours. Number three: I am making this a new stereotype. If the French don't have bread under their arm, then they have a dog, and vice versa.
Chris brought me back to his house, where the children were waiting for us already and Sylvie had prepared lunch. How great! A family lunch each day. Adults can come home from work for an hour or more and so can the kids to convene and eat together as a family! Love it! I had several versions of meat from un cochon (a pig) that were fairly tasty, but only after an aperitif. Chris poured me some anise liquor that was 40% alcohol and some red wine from nearby. We ate lunch, had some bread, steak like hamburger and potatoes. It was delicious and it was neat to experience the different courses, a welcome change from my daily 2 slices of pizza at noon.
Le footing (running)
At 6, we went to this track to run. I was astounded when i laid eyes on it. It was an old stadium from Roman times with stone seating overlooking the track! It was a nice cinder track and fit in just fine with the Roman archtecture. We met with some gentlemen whose names I cannot spell yet--from Morocco and Tunisia. They joined us on the run, which wound its way through the forest of Autun.
Great run, got to see the Roman pyramid made of special stone from the region. It's a mystery why it was created. I just assume that the Romans were bored and had some slaves make it for their own amusement. Great view and nice trails which reminded me of my hometown. Made instant friends with the other runners as is normal and we took some pictures together with the auto timer in several spots on the run, including the pyramid, which, by the way, is a sloppy excuse for a pyramid. The run was mostly uphill and right back down, but I felt great. We finished on the track in the Roman stadium and it was an energizing moment. I love this town and everything about it! This is way better than Paris and everyone is great! Earlier today we had a discussion about attitudes and I said the citizens of Autun are very nice and friendly. The others disagreed, citing that they themselves weren't as friendly with their neighbors as they are towards tourists. I agreed that it was much the same in the US.
Le dîner (dinner)
We had like a seven course dinner after the run, starting again with an aperitif and Chris pouring me some more Rickard, the strong stuff. He waters it down, though. Then Sylvie brings me some wine from her caves. She's Portuguese, so the wines she shows me are from Portugal...Porto. She pours it into a glass smaller than a shot glass and adds, "this is strong stuff." At this point, we hadn't had any food yet, and I had told Chris that I didn't have a strong tolerance for alcohol. I wondered if it was his intention all day to see me enivré (drunk). For dessert, after I had already indicated I wasn't able to eat anymore, Chris gave me some pear sorbet, which he then proceeded to drown in some other off-the-charts strong alcohol. Mon Dieu!
It tasted awful, but I cannot turn down something offered by the host; it's rude, and Chris and I discussed that very thing earlier today.
To wind up the day, Chris took me out to a bar/bowling alley with his best friend Pierre. He ordered me another drink, some pear flavored thing from the region. We had a little toast and he told me to slow down, even though I was only given like a half a shot. I was getting tired at this point and we headed home. What a day, again!