Tales from
the Loir

A Weekly Column

September 25, 2002 - Suburbs of Paris

We have heard many stories about the danger of traversing the suburbs of Paris so we are pleasantly surprised to learn that not only is it safe, but it is also a beautiful walk through quaint little neighborhoods. The tree-lined sidewalks remind me of the neighborhoods of Georgetown and the other upper-class neighborhoods around D.C. We pass through the villages of Montrouge, Chatillon and Fontenay-aux Roses. The guidebook of Francois Lepere gives a detailed description of the route and guides us through parks and back streets where there is very little traffic.

It only takes about one day to escape the suburbs but we take our time and spend two leisurely days strolling the villages. The people are friendly and stop us from time to time to ask if they can help us find our way. We only get lost once. In the town of Chatenay-Malabry the guidebook wrongly instructs us to turn right on rue des Montgolfier while the turn is really to the left. A missing street sign and rain compound the problem. Aprille, dripping puddles on the floor, enters a hairdressers shop to ask directions. A parade of ladies in curlers and gowns come outside in the rain to point at a street across the boulevard and debate the direction that we should take. After everyone agrees on our route, the ladies return to their hair dryers while we make our way up the street and into one of those domainal forests that pop up all over France. We spend the rest of the day walking the long, straight forest roads up to the village of Igny.

Unfortunately Aprille has to leave for a sculpture exhibition at the Musee Renoir in Cagnes sur Mer. We take a train back to Paris then head for our cave in Lavardin to get Aprille packed up for her trip to the south of France. When I arrive at the cave, I see the red light blinking on the answering machine. There is a message from Compostelle 2000 saying that they made a mistake in selling me the bourdon. It belonged to the president of the association and was not supposed to be for sale. They asked me to bring it back and exchange it for another. Immediately, a dozen excuses run through my head like: I don't speak French and I don't understand what you are saying; offer and acceptance of a legal consideration makes a binding contract; I never got your message; it was I who pulled it out of the stone; and I am the chosen one. But after reflecting a while, I know that I have to take it back. How can I walk fifteen hundred miles praying to the relics of the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene with a bogus bourdon. I have to take it back.

I return to Paris the next day and head for the Compostelle 2000 office. Monsieur Deleval is not there. Another enthusiastic volunteer named Nicole is minding the store today. She knows nothing of the telephone call and does not know what to do about the bourdon. She says that it is true that the bourdon was not for sale but that she cannot replace it because the others are not for sale either. While discussing the matter she looks admiringly at my bourdon and comments on its power and beauty. I ask her if she know what is in the crystal tube in the secret chamber of the hilt. She does not know and is surprised that it unscrews. I unscrew the hilt and turn it upside down to extract the tube. I want to ask her what the gray substance is but it won't come out. It has become wedged between the construction sand that I put in it a few days ago and the walls of the chamber. I give it a good shake and the gray dust in the tube comes out in my hand. The tube is still stuck but the top must have come off of the tube. Suddenly I realized that the gray dust, which looks like ashes, might possibly be the cremated remains of a loved one, or worse, the family dog. As Nicole looks on curiously, I try to pour the ashes back into the small chamber. Half of it showers to the ground while the rest remains stuck to my sweating palm. I wipe my hand on my trousers and quickly reattach the hilt while trying the divert Nicole to another subject. She has become curious to see the contents of the tube and is a little baffled at my transition to today's weather report.

Finally, Nicole makes a telephone call to someone who asks if I would be willing to relinquish the stick and get my fifteen dollars back. The stick has lost its magic and I am ready to abandon it to its rightful owner. Nicole consoles me by dissing the old bourdon as too heavy and too pretty for the rigueurs of the trail. As this point I am happy to get rid of the stick and get back to the pilgrimage.

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September 18, 2002 - Saint James

September 11, 2002 - Le Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle

July 10, 2002 - Flintstones, meet the Flintstones

July 3, 2002 - Bugs

June 26, 2002 - Summer

June 19, 2002 - French Property News

June 5, 2002 - Emmanuel de Broglie

April 24, 2002 - Election Day in Saint Rimay

April 17, 2002 -Surprise Review

April 3, 2002 - Spring in Lavardin
March 20, 2002 - Guest Columnist /Furman Magazine/ John Roberts
March 13, 2002 - Tête de Veau
March 6, 2002 - Table Etiquette
February 27, 2002 - A Country Boy Can Survive
February 20, 2002 - Driving in France
February 13, 2002 - The Circus
February 6, 2002 - History of France
January 30, 2002 - THE BEST I EVER HAD
January 23, 2002 - Miranda This
January 16, 2002 - Charlotte Observer Interview
January 9, 2002 - Walnut Wine
January 2, 2002 - Sloe Gin
December 26, 2001 - Winter Solstice
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000



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