After four months, the time has come for us to leave Quillan, and I am as miserable as the weather at the thought.
With our arrival to fine autumn weather in late September, routines and networks to establish, activities to start, a B&B to run, a book to write, new territory to explore, and further European travel to look forward to, our eventual departure seemed a long time away.
Now, after so many weeks, the routines are familiar and old hand, we have expanded our network well beyond expectations, we are members of various local associations, we have successfully managed the B&B without any major calamities or complaints, the travel is done, new territory has been explored and the first draft of the book is complete, if nowhere near publishing.
Where we enjoyed all the ‘firsts’ that followed our arrival, we are now onto our lasts.
We have already had our last walk with the local walking group. When I asked Tomos yesterday what he would miss about living in Quillan, if anything, he readily admitted he would miss the walks in the countryside and the opportunity to glimpse the local wildlife. I too will miss this regular activity and the friendships and interesting exchange of conversation it has brought. The ability to easily walk the local hills and valleys is one thing we love most about this area.
Last Wednesday we enjoyed our final weekly lunch out – at the Cafe de la Gare. This place may not be the epitome of cleanliness or haute cuisine, but the friendliness of the staff is unrivaled and the food is good. Nicholas did not want to leave, he was having so much fun with the bucket of animal toys. The lovely owner invited him to choose some to take away with him, so we have a family of bulls to add to the existing toy animal collection to bring home in our suitcase.
We have had our last Saturday night pizza and movie. Late in the piece on our last trip here, after having made do with pretenders, we finally discovered Quillan’s best kept secret (actually not so secret if custom is anything to go by) – the best of the restaurants in town to buy pizza. This time we cut straight to the chase and have made it a regular event.
On Sunday morning we had our last trip to Esperaza market – in the rain, so Tomos could select the final crystals he has earned for his last three weeks at school.
On Sunday evening we had our ‘last’ dessert treats from the boulangerie, having carefully selected them in the morning. Actually, we can’t bear to say goodbye to this treat, so we have agreed to have a final round for our last dinner tomorrow evening. That will absolutely be our last…
Tomorrow we will enjoy our last bakery breakfast of banette and pastries fresh from the boulanger, M. Lambert’s ovens. If he’s up to it, I will send Tom for a last run to the boulangerie and the opportunity to use his French.
Tomorrow will also be Tom’s last day at school. He has a collection of 14 crystals, which proves he has been at school here for 14 school weeks – and without a single sick day. I am a proud mother. I can’t claim the same clean record from my own time in French school – I know I pulled sickies all the time. He is now much more proficient in French, and even enjoys some of the activities, if not all the ‘boring stuff’.
Tomorrow we will also make our last trip to the Cafe du Fleuve for a morning (and possibly an afternoon) coffee, depending on the weather. I am filled with sadness just at the thought of it. No more peeking out the window, spotting people I know, and popping down for a natter and to watch the world go by.
Over our time here, despite our best efforts, we had acquired a few bottles of wine that needed drinking, more than we could reasonably drink ourselves in a final 24 hours. This seemed like the perfect ‘excuse’ to invite people round for ‘farewell’ drinks.
At very short notice, I fired off emails and texts to the eclectic mix of people of different nationalities we have come to know through our various connections and activities, and was delighted to have a ‘full house’.
Despite my moments of loneliness, and ‘aloneness’ during our time here, it turns out we have made lots of connections, and of the best kind – those we can pick up again effortlessly where we left off, when next we meet. We are very fortunate.
We are asked when we plan to come back. We don’t know yet, but, as one of those gathered noted: “Now that you have friends here, it’s easier. You can come back any time.” I am delighted to realise, this is true. We do have friends here.
The impromptu gathering was the perfect excuse to open and share the bottle of home made ‘vin de noix’ – a treat given to us by our lovely French friends in the Jura for Christmas. The French friend at the table was even able to tell us in some detail how the wine is made, having lived in the Dordogne and gathered walnuts for this purpose herself, previously.
It is raining for our departure, but we will take away fond memories of our time here. As our French friend said on her way out the door: “It is not adieu, it is au revoir.”