Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sat, Sep 19th, Happy Day


It didn’t start out as such a good day. We’re still getting our sleep cycle in gear, so we both woke up at about 4am, and couldn’t get back to sleep for two hours. I discovered that I had made a stupid mistake that cost me the Garmin. Lesson #1 is you don’t try to charge it from a USB port on a plug going into the wall electrical socket. They’ve different voltage here, and an adapter is needed. I knew that but forgot. Now that beautiful friend who helped us navigate the roads from Charles De Gaulle Airport to here is gone.

We woke back up at almost 10am, and raced downstairs to take advantage of the continental breakfast. We were impressed with the fact that the lobby of the hotel contained a large screen which showed a number of camera views every few seconds of the kitchen staff. It was a little like watching a silent version of Top Chef, except they seemed to be a lot happier preparing the meals. Our guess was right. The juices were all fresh squeezed, and contained multiple fruit. The breads and jams were exquisite, and the cereals a plenty. This had to be an indicator of even better meals ahead.

I think that each year, you should experience at least one day in which you can truly say that it was one of the happiest 100 of your life. Today was such a day for me. There were long periods during the next twelve hours in which I thought my heart was going to bust with joy. It started out while photographing the farmer’s market which started outside our hotel door, and meandered up the village streets to the village center. I listened and watched time after time to young and old residents greeting and kissing each other, picking up pieces of French conversation, and beginning to become immersed in a culture that called out to me from my grandmother’s lap. The excitement grew stronger as we visited a small museum near the city’s ancient walled gate which contained information on its history. There in a tiny room was the beginning of my day’s exposure to a history I am a part of, with photographs, documentation, and local celebration of the journey of the 100 of its residents who signed up to make the trip to New France between 1626 and 1634. Seeing the names of Zachary Cloutier and Xainte DuPont in the display presentations, and proudly announcing my heritage to the smiling museum staff, kick started a deep happiness of having found my ancestral home.

It didn’t stop all day long. We learned from the Information Office of local museums and villages where we could explore further the lives of my ancestors in the early 1600’s. As we did, I could hardly contain my passion. At several points, Pat must have thought my laughter and antics a bit crazy. I felt like stopping, running out into a newly-cut corn field, laying down and making snow angels in the fields. I wanted to soak in all of the essence of this beautiful landscape, and leave signs of my being here all over. I reserved it to just squeeling in delight, and wiggling in the seat every few minutes, to Pat’s amusement as I drove.

The peak of the day came in the late afternoon when we spent time at the Museum of Emmigration in Tourvre, about 50 kilometers away. I got to see Zachary’s contract to join the 100 Associates, view posters which described their journey and establishment in the Quebec area, read accounts from his (my) family’s lives, and watch a film of local re-enactments which occur periodically with character-dressed actors in celebrations.

Returning to Mortagne au Perche, we attended an outdoor play behind our hotel which was one of the finest I’ve seen. Almost two hours in length, the physical and vocal skills of the actors was outstanding. The barrier of our not understanding the French lines was significant, but reduced by their impressive visual performance. We got the essence of the plot, and stayed with it all the way. I photographed it, and audio-taped it, and will prepare a video when we get back home.

The day ended with a great dinner at the hotel. Little did we know that the restaurant is Michelin Star quality, and we experienced two and a half hours of gastronomic delight amidst lots of local residents dining up on a Saturday night. We left for our rooms completely satisfied that we had been treated to one of the better (and most expensive) meals of our lives. I am sure it was one of my happiest.

To see all the photos taken today, click on:
Sat Sept 19th

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