We bobbed up and down the dirt track to our lunch venue in the country. Out we tumbled, not sure what this mystery would reveal, it was not on our itinerary; and there, was the gate. I knew it, I glanced towards her, and she knew it, and the tears rushed down her face.
I have a friend who is a chef. She is an amazing woman who puts food together with soul and beauty. She lives by her heart and is guided by stars and magic. One day I managed to convince her to come with me to France to cook. I still remember sitting in her restaurant telling her my plans when it just made perfect sense for her to come with me. Emails flurried between us that night, and by lunch time the following day she was committed.
Some background: I had a lifelong dream to visit France and be everything French. I bought maps and plotted and planned for two years before I decided to commit. For anyone that knows me well, I don’t do anything in halves. If I was going to France, I needed to learn French, so I booked into the Alliance Francaise and before I knew it I even had my own personal tutor, a delightful creature of a girl, who challenged me on a weekly basis, and became my friend. I had discovered the perfect trip which involved cooking in France in the ancient village of Charrroux, a chance to connect with a totally new friend I had made in the course of one dinner in Mauritius in Pompois in the Loire area, and then another fortuitous connection with a delightful man in the South of France in a little village called Cezan.
She; had a yearning for travel and after years of gut wrenching hard work to establish her restaurant, decided to take this chance. The cooking part made sense and the sound and pictures of Charroux captivated her. A cautious being, she puts things out to the universe (I am only learning to do that now…) A mentor had probed and prodded her, questioning her on how she had got to where she was, where did she want to go, was she allotting enough time for herself etc, and when pushed to try and imagine the most idyllic setting or situation, she said that she pictured coming across the most beautiful gate in country surrounds. She believed that she was going to find this gate on our trip.
We left South Africa at different times, and were due to meet up in Vichy, at the station, for our rendezvous to get to Charroux. Her plane was slightly delayed and this slight blonde beauty was terrified at not getting there on time. A Frenchman on a huge motor bike saw her distress at the airport, offered his transport service and on she leapt, helmet smashed onto her head, a little frown between her eyes, and held on tight. She arrived in true style.
We were transfixed with the scenery and the beauty that is France as it flashed alongside us. We connected with all our fellow foodies and were well and truly happy. We cooked up a storm, we bought produce at markets, we drank beautiful wine and champagne whenever we felt like it, the cheese, the mustard, everything was sublime, I was, however becoming a bit jumpy about this elusive gate, which we had not even spoken about since we had arrived.
I think it was on our fourth day, we had been at a market and suddenly we were on a way to “a friend who met her French husband at the railway station when she was about to leave, fell in love, and now lives in her country house, loves hosting lunches, and is expecting us”. All fairytale stuff of course that I am totally drawn to.
Our vehicles had parked in between hay bales leaning up against the shed with its antique looking tractor parked inside. From the bottom of the driveway this magnificent grand but shabby house welcomed us. A massive table was covered with beautiful white linen, laden with silver cutlery, baguettes and platters. The others in our group, chattering in excitement started through the gate and up to the house. We were transfixed. We both knew that once she went through this gate, she had entered an entirely new time in her life. Almost like a time traveller.
This was a true journey. It could have been a silly dream, a silly prediction, but her commitment and belief made it real. She taught me that day to not only get to the gate, but open it, enter and discover what awaits. Live and love well.