Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wine, Women, and Song

A cafe in the tiny village of Plazac, France. On the menu: vegan gaspacho, an assiette vegetarienne (vegetarian plate), fruit smoothies, and Tibetan momo. Not your average French cafe, in other words.
I met Jachi at Pine Hill Waldorf School in Wilton, New Hampshire, when we were both in the 6th grade and I was the new kid in class. My dad was the janitor there, and later at High Mowing Waldorf School, in exchange for tuition for me and my brother. For a self-conscious pre-teen trying to fit in, this was a never-ending source of shame and embarrassment.

Jachi didn't mind that, nor did she seem to mind hanging out from time to time in our funky cabin in the woods, where our main water supply was generated from an old-school hand-pump, the bathroom was an outhouse, and all our meals were prepared on a wood-burning stove. Jachi was special in that uniquely non-judgmental way, and on many other levels: She was a talented violinist, a sophisticated world traveler, and she possessed a precocious spiritual maturity for an adolescent (she meditated daily!).

Flowers in the French garden Jachi's mother planted and continues to nurture
My favorite memories from that period were sleepovers at Jachi's family's home on Curtis Farm Road, surrounded by apple trees and rolling green hills. She even had her own horse, and on weekends when I stayed the night, I'd help scoop poop in the barn, and occasionally take the horse for a quick ride.

One of our fellow classmates and Jachi's neighbor down the road was Julianna Margulies (she was a year ahead of us in school), and I can still remember the day we walked to her house to deliver get-well greetings when Julianna was sick with the flu. Her  mother, a pre-Raphaelite beauty with long raven ringlets, served us grapefruit halves sprinkled with turbinado sugar, which we ate with special serrated spoons. It was a magic moment! (Even then, Julianna had star quality, and looked like Sleeping Beauty when we sat at her bedside.)

A village scene, avec velo, wisteria, and wine barrel

When my family left New Hampshire to return to California, I lost touch with Jachi, who continued her Waldorf education before heading off to Sarah Lawrence, then Yale, while I graduated from high school then became a vagabond  in Hawaii and Los Angeles before finally settling down for the long haul in San Francisco. Our trajectories were similar, yet different; she attended good schools, studying literature, creative writing, and finally music (the violin, still), while I went to a public schools and studied writing (journalism) and finally entered a graduate program in English literature.

On the road in the Dordogne Valley
Skipping ahead many, many years, Jachi and I reconnected from our respective homes in Brooklyn and San Francisco, never supposing our actual paths might cross again in an unexpected place: France!

Jachi met her husband at a Buddhist retreat in the south of France, in a little town in the Dordogne Valley, and after several years of the fast-paced life in the Big Apple, they decided to chuck it all in and move to his native France. On her way back to New York to put her apartment on the market, she passed through Paris, and we arranged a coffee rendezvous at Gare d'Austerlitz which stretched into a multi-hour middle-school reunion at a nearby brasserie. It was a great feeling to reconnect with an important person from my past, and such a surprise to discover a sense of connection. You never know if you'll have that, but we did.

My temporary home in Plazac sat at the end of this slender footpath
Recently, I received a phone call from my dear friend with an invitation attached: Would I like to attend her first live violin performance in France--in a private chateau!--the following week down in the Dordogne? Why, yes, I would! On a warm and bright July afternoon, I hopped a train down to Les Eyzies, where I was greeted by Jachi's husband. After being deposited at my temporary accommodations in the tiny village of Plazac, I freshened up and met my roommates--Jachi's friends from New York via Italy. Together, we shared a late lunch of bread, wine, and fresh tomatoes, then set off for the chateau ensemble.

One of my temporary roommates--and a bowlful of juicy heirloom tomatoes season with fresh basil
Jachi and her pianist Luba dazzled us with Beethoven, Franck, and Kreisler, each sonata more beautiful than the next. In between and afterward, we drank Champagne and socialized, and I thanked my lucky stars for the chance to experience something so special in a fairytale setting, surrounded by interesting people. Later, we met at a restaurant where 15 of us dined at a big table on the terrace, eating pizza and sipping Italian wines. It was magic.  

The Chateau du Peuch looks much the same today as it does in this vintage photograph.
From the chateau's front steps looking out over the valley and nearby hills.
Twenty-four hours later, I was back at my Paris apartment, savoring the memory of the experience, the spell not yet broken.

Is there any more perfect place for a reunion than an ancient stone house in the South of France?


  1. This is a good sites to give us a good knowledge related with school kids and give other information related wine,women and song.Thanks

  2. I'd be jealous, except I'm just as thrilled as you are that you were able to attend such an event! It's almost like you're filling in history and some holes from your childhood and adulthood by writing your stories here. I guess that's what all writers do, but you succeed well in explaining quickly your past and how it folds into the present. Me? No editing skilz.
    I am so glad you are having fun! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, Beth! Your words always have a way of making my day brighter. Thank you for sharing that gift!

      When you guys finally come visit, we'll have to make a trip to the Dordogne. It's crammed with castles and rivers and rolling hills and wineries and fun stuff for kids. I think you'd all really love it.


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