Our first French Christmas, part four…

Monday morning, we got up, loaded up the Volvo, and as we were about to check out, met our hostess– the wife of the guy who had given us the grand tour of the gite we rented. She was very young and charming as she told us about how they’d only recently bought their house/gite. It turns out she’s familiar with Wiesbaden because she studied winemaking near there at Weinbau Geisenheim.

Our hostess had told me in an email that she and her husband were a Franco-German family. Originally, I figured she was German, but after having met her, I think maybe she’s French and he’s German. I don’t know… but she said that the gite was a side business, as they are opening their own winery here in Beaune, having moved from Dijon. Dijon is a much larger city than Beaune is, but if you’re wanting wine, Beaune is the place to be– for making, buying, and selling it. Perhaps in a year or so, the gite will come equipped with a bottle of their very own wine!

We said goodbye and told her we’d see them Friday. Originally, we planned a two night stay, but now it looks like it could be at least another day or two before we can get out of Beaune. We must first locate either a tire or a tow truck.

The drive to Nimes was mostly uneventful, except for some dramatic scenery and traffic in Lyon, France’s second largest city and land of exotic eating. Seriously… everybody raves about Paris and the cuisine scene there, but Lyon is supposedly even more exciting. I wouldn’t know from experience, unfortunately, because the one time we stayed near there, we were in a suburb and ended up eating Moroccan food one night (delicious!) and Domino’s Pizza the next (drunk). Ah well, maybe sometime we’ll get to stay in Lyon proper and have some really fancy French food… as long as it doesn’t have any offal, strong cheese, or fungus in it.

The landscape really changed as we approached Nimes. It started to remind me of Texas. The sky opened up, the land began to look browner and scrubbier, and there were low slung trees and cacti dotting everything. I had arranged to stay at Chez Pepito, which I learned was on the edge of the Arabic quarter in Nimes. The gite supposedly came with a parking spot. Pepito had written to tell me he wouldn’t be able to meet us personally, but gave us instructions on how to find the keys and let ourselves in.

Bill and I visited Nimes in 2014, but it was by train. We stayed in a cheap hotel near the train station… very no frills, but kind of charming. The hotel has since changed hands, so I don’t know what it’s like now.

Pepito’s gite, likewise, was kind of no frills. It was on the second floor (which is really the third floor), and that meant schlepping our stuff up a few flights of stairs. Since the “parking spot” was actually a very tiny garage that would never fit our SUV, let alone a normal sized car, Bill had to go find a parking spot. He dumped our stuff on the ground floor, and I hauled it all upstairs. That was quite a workout for me. I really should call myself the Fatass and Breathless Housewife… I had some trouble getting the door open, because I didn’t realize that two locks, of the total of three on the door, needed to be unlocked.

I contacted Audra and she and Cyril came over to welcome us. Bill managed to score a rare spot at the parking garage a block from the gite (four nights was 52 euros, but our car was safe). Pepito charges 10 euros a day for his spot, but seriously, if you have anything bigger than a Twingo or a Smart Car, don’t bother. Your car won’t fit.

Chez Pepito has another bedroom, but there was a sticky note on the door asking us not to use it. My guess is that Pepito didn’t want us messing it up, since there were just two of us. That’s fine, although we probably would have closed the door to that room anyway. That’s what we usually do when the gite is bigger than what we need. It was a really small room, so we wouldn’t have chosen it over the other one. WiFi worked well and there were plenty of heaters, although they did a poor job of heating the drafty apartment. I’ve noticed the French are very fond of tile floors, which keep things chilly even when there’s heat. Nimes was not cold at all, but that gite was. Fortunately, there were plenty of blankets.

We had a slight mishap within two hours of our arrival. There was a vase of dried flowers on the fireplace mantel (and no, we were not allowed to use the fireplace). Bill got too close to one of the sprigs coming from the dried flowers and the vase fell and shattered. It was on the edge of the mantel and a bit top heavy, so that was an accident that was definitely going to happen at some point. I just wish it hadn’t happened when we were staying there. Anyway, I messaged Pepito to let him know we’d made it and report the breakage. He was cool about it, which was really nice. For that, we left him the 40 euros we were going to pay for the failed parking spot.

Chez Pepito also features a “rooftop terrace”. It’s kind of cool, I guess. One floor up from the gite, you can unlock the door and hang out. There are a couple of loungers and lots of plants. I think it’s probably nice up there during the warmer seasons, although the furniture is a bit worn out looking. I can’t complain, though, since Pepito’s prices are very reasonable. For four nights, I paid about 312 euros before the “parking” charge. Not bad at all! And the gite is only about ten minutes from where Audra and Cyril live, and very close to shops and restaurants, including a huge food market that makes Stuttgart’s Markthalle look puny.

After we settled, Bill, Arran, and I were picked up by Audra and we went to her house for dinner. Cyril made a lovely dinner of duck and pureed celery, and I got to see Audra’s daughter, Juliette, who is VERY French and speaks excellent English. Arran made fast friends with Audra and we all sat up and talked until about 3:00am! It’s been a long time since I last stayed up that late simply chatting with an old friend!


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