Vivi in the Champagne region of France. Vivi married a frenchman two years ago, and hadn't yet had an official celebration in France, so she had planned a BBQ for friends and family in a park in Troyes. We joined her to help with the preparations, and of course to enjoy the festivities.
The trip didn't start out promisingly, as our train was cancelled not once but twice. When we finally got on the train to head to the small village of Romilly-sur-Seine, we realized that the air conditioning was broken, and the train car was about 44,000 degrees celsius.
Though many of the french people around us weren't even sweating (we really don't understand how they can deal with this), we were all drenched in perspiration, fanning ourselves madly with the little fans we had stuck in our purses, and icing our necks with the frozen Coke bottle of water that Kathy had so thoughtfully prepared.
A group of SNCF workers came through the train, carrying tool boxes.
"We are going to see if the train car's air conditioning is broken, and if it is, we are going to open the windows!" announced the leader, while sweat ran in rivers down the back of his pressed white shirt.
"I think it's broken," I said, but they ignored me and continued on to make their diagnostics while we suppressed the urge to revisit our lunch by sucking on Regliz (anise candies) and sipping water and sodas leftover from the lunch we had eaten in one of the trains that had been supprimé (cancelled).
About twenty minutes later, they came through the car and opened the windows, which (thankfully!) dropped the temperature to only a scorching 33,000 degrees. We amused ourselves by watching the French ladies not sweat (and wondering aloud in English how the heck they do that) and giggling at the lady who fell asleep fanning herself, and would wake up every 5 seconds to continue flapping her évantail, only to fall asleep again due to the heat.
We arrived in town, and Vivi met us, after spending the waiting time in a pub drinking sirop diabolo (grenadine syrup with fizzy water) and eating ice cream. We got in her car, and as we drove through the countryside, all three Midwestern Parisiennes noticed that the land of the Champagne region looks an awful lot like the familiar rolling hills of the great plains states of Kansas (only with less trees), North Dakota (only with more trees), and Michigan (don't know about the trees.) We drove the 40 more minutes to her home, and heated up the kitchen to prepare more rice and pasta salads for the next day's party. After supper, we took a walk through the lovely little village, and turned in after heated games of Extreme Uno in which a new word was created by Steph, "Yellova!"
The next day we packed up and crammed into the car to head into Troyes for set-up at the party site. "Yellova" tablecloths, flower arrangements, tape, and napkins swirling filled the hours as we prepared for the big shindig. We hooked up the stereo, planned a drink table and a buffet, before sardining ourselves in the car again for a last-minute trip to Leclerc and McDo for lunch.
Following lunch (where I ate the Salade Recette Fromagère and a Sundae Façon Crumble Nectarine/Pèche, which you will never find on the menu at an American McDonald's), we went to Cultura (where I picked up a book on the Tour de France for Dr. B, a french movie for us, and some supplies for a gift I'm making), Leclerc (where I marvelled at the huge Hypermarché where, unlike Paris, stuff isn't super-duper expensive, they have everything, it's air-conditioned, huge, well-organized and clean), and a frozen food place for more things that we wouldn't eat because they bought way too much food. (Isn't that always the way with parties?) As we walked out, we realized we had forgotten the dragées (candies) for the wedding favors, and chose some in the lovely color of "Yellova!" from the Confiserie outside of Leclerc in the shopping center.
The party went extremely well, despite the french guests not understanding what a buffet is and setting all the tables rather than forming a neat and orderly food line like a proper Anglo Saxon would (isn't buffet a french word?), running out of serving utensils, knives and forks (if they had just done the line like we asked, there would have been enough for everyone, but nooooo...), and the absolute overabundance of food, and we spent the night talking, laughing and enjoying the wonderful company of Vivi and Steph's family and friends. (And squirting each other with an Evian Bromisateur. What a wonderful invention!)
Congratulations to V & S, on two years of marriage, moving to a new country and adopting a new way of life, and still behaving very much like newlyweds. May you have many more years of happiness and joy in the heart of the French Countryside.