mid-March 2021

 

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About Intimate France — We travel every spring and fall to Europe's most beautiful destinations. Our small groups (usually eight travelers, never more than 16) guarantee you the utmost in personal service and attention to detail. Learn more about us or contact Intimate France.
 

Wikimedia Commons   

The beach at Fouras, on the French Atlantic coast.

 

JEAN, DOMINIQUE & THE MEAL WITHOUT END (WITH WATER MOLECULES!)

 

By George Nevin

Founder-owner, Intimate France

 

In the early days of my love affair with the French language, and everything French, I was like an awkward teen — eager, shy and inexperienced.

 

It was in this state of ignorance and bliss that my friend Jean and I decided, in 1993, to take an epic trip to France. We would rent a car at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, head through Normandy to the coast at Honfleur, and work our way down France's west coast to Fouras, a small beach resort on the Atlantic north of Bordeaux and just south of La Rochelle.
 
Here we had been invited to spend two nights with Jean's friend Dominique, a young(ish) man she had met a couple of years earlier when she took her two teen-aged kids to the Club Med outpost in Tahiti.
 
In that Pacific paradise, her son, Jason, had been matched with Dominique as a roommate, and the familial friendship blossomed from there.
 
This time around, after many adventures along the way, Jean and I arrived in Fouras and met up with Dominique. This being the days before email or even widely available fax machines, she had made all arrangements with our French host by letter and the occasional phone call.
 

Google Street View  

Boat harbor, Fouras, from near Dominique's home.

 

After a day's sightseeing on the Île de Ré, we found Dominique's house on a hill overlooking the small boat harbor of Fouras and the wide Atlantic. We settled in to his traditionally built house, with a roomy three bedrooms, one for each of us. My window looked out on the harbor, while Jean had a view of the Fort of Fouras, a 15th century fortress strengthened in the 17th century by Vauban, the granddaddy of all French military architects.
 
The next day, Dominique had a rendez-vous somewhere with someone, so Jean and I continued our sightseeing, this time visiting the charming Île d'Orléron, renowned for its succulent oysters. At Dominique's request we picked up some oysters and fish for dinner that night. 
 
Dominique wasn't home when we got back late in the day, but around 7:45 p.m. he arrived and promptly decided that we had WAY too little food for dinner, as he had invited some friends, a couple living nearby, to join us.
 
He asked Jean, "Do you think the seafood selection is better at the Intermarché (supermarket) close by or the Carrefour (around six miles distant)?" Jean and I had been in both stores, and she told him, "Carrefour is much better." So Dominique and Jean set off for some shopping.
 
Jean takes up the story: "When we got into his car I didn't fasten my seat belt. We got out onto the highway and he accelerated to 190 kmh (around 96 mph). I thought it would be an insult to fasten my belt at that point, so we drove the whole way with my life in mortal danger."
 

Patrick Despoix, Wikimedia Commons  

Fort of Fouras, rebuilt by military architect Vauban.

 
At the store, Dominique went on a shopping binge. Cheese! Bread! Fruit! More oysters, more wine, more fish!
 
Back at the house, Dominique set about preparing this feast and his guests arrived — Camille (the husband) and Nicole. They did not have a word of English. This night would be conducted entirely in French. In my case, barely adequate French.
 
While Dominique shucked the oysters, Camille drifted over and started an incredibly abstract conversation with me. None of this, "So where are you from?" No, his first question was: "What do you think about the theory of the immutability of the water molecule?"
 
Incredibly, I'd heard about this: the notion that the bonds that hold the components of water together (the hydrogen and oxygen atoms) are so powerful that individual water molecules essentially do not break down — they last forever. Thus every water molecule on Earth circulates, totally unchanged, between stream and lake and drinking water pumping station and tap and human body and elimination and evaporation and clouds and rain and ... so on. Or so the theory holds.
 
Thus I was able to make a semi-coherent reply: "Yes, very interesting — the same water molecules that are in our bodies today existed in the time of Julius Caesar and Napoleon and Hitler, and we are literally sharing water with all the humans who have ever lived."
 
Nicole leaned over, rolled her eyes, and apologized: "He does this to everyone."
 
 
 
Dinner is served around 9:30. Olives, cashews and Champagne. Then a dozen oysters each, smoked salmon, and wine, wine, wine. After this I am ready to call it a night, but I know what is to come — fish!
 
Dominique pulls it out of the oven and unfolds the aluminum foil — the fish isn't done! Back into the oven. More feeble attempts at conversation. Naturally, more wine.
 
Now the fish is done — but who can eat it? Obviously, we can and do. Even Camille and Nicole are flagging. Jean, who is an early-to-bed person, is near death.
 
It's 12:30 a.m. Entire nations have risen and fallen, civilizations have been founded and destroyed, since we began dinner. Now I remember that Camille and Nicole brought a cake. It appears. We eat it. Dominique disappears and returns with plates of cheese. We eat it. 
 
That night, to paraphrase Peter Mayle, we ate for America.
 
At an opportune lull in the conversation, I make the first move: "We have to get up early tomorrow (today!) and be on our way. We need to get to the Dordogne." There are murmurs of agreement from the ones still awake. Jean offers to help Dominique clean up — he won't hear of it.
 
We stumble off to bed. I have the beginnings of a headache. I take two Advil, not bothering to brush teeth, and fall into blissful sleep.

 

INTIMATE FRANCE 2.0:

REBOOTING PLANS FOR 2021

Château of Hautefort, Dordogne tour.

 

By George Nevin

Founder-owner, Intimate France

 

In the words of the Alex Baldwin character after he crashed his car in the great movie State and Main: "Well, THAT happened."

 

I certainly had no idea in March 2020 what the next 12 months would bring. Naively, I thought at first that the virus might peak in March or April and that by May, we could get back to travel.

 

Wrong! As of today (mid-March 2021) there is every chance that widespread travel won't be possible at all in spring or summer 2021, and even trips this fall are in jeopardy.

 

Nevertheless, hope (and the urge to see foreign shores) springs eternal. Thus, we at Intimate France Tours are planning to resume travel this September and to that end we're preparing for our tour of lovely Dordogne and, later in September, Languedoc.

 

 

How to enroll for fall 2021

 

We are assembling a no-obligation 'interest list' for fall 2021 tours. Contact us to be put on the list and we'll notify you when conditions allow European travel to resume. See the lineup below or on our website: www.intimatefrance.com

 

When might this be? No one knows for sure but we are guessing that mid-April 2021 might bring some clarity to the travel picture.

 

If you are interested in a tour and do get notified, quick action is advised — as most tours max out at eight travelers, they can fill well in advance.

 

                                                                            

 

Pilgrimage village of Rocamadour, Dordogne tour.

 

Dordogne, France,

Sept. 5-17, 2021  

                                                                               

 

After dark, Cité of Carcassonne, Languedoc tour.

 

Languedoc, France,

Sept. 19-Oct. 1, 2021

 

 

Adorable harbor of Collioure, Languedoc tour.

 

 

WHAT ABOUT COVID?

We've updated our cancellation policy to reflect public health developments in 2021. Our new policy significantly relaxes reimbursement deadlines, giving you far more confidence to book a tour this fall.

 

(You should know that payments for tours in 2020, all of which we were forced to cancel, were refunded at 100% to all Intimate France travelers.)

 

In summary, all deposits ($750/person/tour, due upon enrollment) will be fully refundable until 90 days before tour departure.

 

Full payment is still due 90 days before departure, with the following reimbursement policy in force:

 

TRAVEL BAN OR ADVISORY. All payments will be fully refundable in the event one of the following happens:

 

• United States authorities (or authorities in the home country of the traveler) put the European destination country or specific region of our Intimate France tour on a do-not-travel list, either mandatory or advisory, within 30 days of tour departure.

 

• European authorities prohibit Americans (or residents of the traveler's home country) from traveling for tourism purposes to the destination country or region including the period within 30 days of tour departure.
 

CANCELLATION ABSENT A TRAVEL BAN OR ADVISORY

 

• Cancellation 90 days or more before departure, 100% refund, including deposits and any other payments.

 

• Cancellation 60-89 days out, Intimate France retains deposit ($750/person/tour).

 

• Cancellation 30-59 days out, Intimate France retains deposit plus 25% of final payment.

 

• Cancellation 8-30 days out, Intimate France retains deposit plus 50% of final payment.

 

• Cancellation 0-7 days out, Intimate France retains deposit plus 75% of final payment.

 

All cancellations must be in writing (via postal mail or email) and received by Intimate France within the time periods shown above.

                                                                                  

 

ARCHIVED E-NEWSLETTERS 

 

• OCTOBER 2020 —  DORDOGNE CASTLE  

• DECEMBER 2019 —  TWO GERMAN CASTLES  

• SEPTEMBER 2019 —  MORE EUROPEAN QUIRKS  

• JULY 2019 —  QUIRKY THINGS AROUND EUROPE 

• MARCH 2019 —  BORROMEAN CATS PART II

• FEBRUARY 2019 —  BORROMEAN CATS PART I

• NOVEMBER 2018 —  THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

• JULY 2018 —  THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

• MAY 2018 —  CURRENCY IN EUROPE 

• DECEMBER 2017 — JUST BACK FROM BASQUE 

• NOVEMBER 2017 — JUST BACK FROM DORDOGNE

• SEPTEMBER 2017 — HOTEL MONEY GRAB

• JULY 2017 — THE LATEST TRAVEL SCAM

• APRIL 2017 — DORDOGNE'S NEW CAVE REPLICA

• FEBRUARY 2017 — BEST OF EUROPE PART II

• JANUARY 2017 — BEST OF EUROPE PART I

• NOVEMBER 2016 — MEDITERRANEAN SPAIN

• OCTOBER 2016 — LANGUEDOC, S. FRANCE
• SEPTEMBER 2016 — SWISS AND FRENCH ALPS

• AUGUST 2016 — PROVENCE, FRANCE

• JUNE 2016 — BURGUNDY AND FRENCH ALPS