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Meeting Friends in our Travels

Good day Mr. Maxa: I listen to your radio show on Saturdays, here in the Twin Cities area on Minnesota Public Radio, KNOW, 91.1 FM. I always enjoy listening to others' travel tales. Recently you asked if we had met folks on our travels that developed into long term friends. I would like to relate our adventure and meeting a family in France to you. In April/May of 1997, my wife, Pam, and I went to Europe for our first, and only, so far, time. My wife is a lace maker and we wanted to visited some of the historic lace making areas of Europe. We saw many in Venice, France, and Belgium. We took some many pieces of lace work she had made and gave them to people we met along the way. It was a great way of meeting people and thanking them for extending their friendship and assistance to us in our travels. We also traded lace pieces with other lace makers we met in their shops and museums. We also have Italian friends we visited, but the story I want to tell is of the family in Le Puy, France, we met and have become friends with. We wrote a diary of our trip from landing in Amsterdam, traveling on Eurail through Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy (with a side trip to Sardinia, The Emerald Coast - you must do a show on this area and the historic sites, cathedrals, and nuraghes of northern Sardinia - many people pass this by on their Italy trips. We took the ferry. Only need to do that once. It was our Mediterranean cruise), France, Belgium and back to Holland. We had a great fifteen days, carrying all we needed on our backs and having no reservations and just a sketch of a timetable (only had to be back in Amsterdam for the plane ride home). I was fifty and Pam was 45. Still we stayed in youth hostels and pretty much acted much less than our ages. The weather was great and tourist crowds were small. Anyway, following are pieces of our diary describing our meeting with "le famille Dendievel" in Le Puy, France.

Saturday, 3.5.97: We arrived in Le Puy last night about 2000. Never had a passport check in France, yet. We did have a most beautiful and comfortable ride all along the way to Le Puy, catching connections easily and within minutes of our arrival and departure. Our trip from Lyon to Le Puy was graced by a pleasant conversation with an English speaking French woman who taught English in the school and by two young French women who are both studying English in Lyon and lived in Le Puy. They were grateful to speak with us to practice their English. The mother of one is a lace maker in Le Puy, making bobbin lace, which is the same method Pam makes some of her lace. In French, lace is "la dentelle". The girl, Juliette is her name, arranged a meeting with Pam and her mother for this morning. Pam presented each of our fellow travelers a tatted lace piece. She carried many small pieces just for these occasions.

Right now I am in a Laundromat doing our laundry. Pam is exploring the lace shops in the town. Later we will visit a lace museum here. We decided to say an extra night here and travel to Paris tomorrow. We need the rest and this is a pleasant small village and a comfortable place to rest up.

The weather is wonderful and has been the entire trip. A couple of periods of quick rain in Rome but not sufficient to matter. On the train ride to Lyon we saw para-gliders, sailplanes, and hang gliders catching air currents from the mountains. We saw people fishing in the streams and saw several small villages each with an old castle and cathedral of some size in their proximity. So far, France has been very beautiful in its scenery and friendly in its people. It is now 0945 and I just had to put more money in the clothes dryer. This Laundromat is just like home, only different languages in instructions and coins used. I have had no problem using the machines, making change and understanding the coins and currency. I will close for now, finish my laundry and meet with Pam who is exploring the town. At 1100 we will meet with the friends we met on the train and Pam and Juliette*s (the young woman on the train, age 20) mother, Mary, who is a bobbin lace maker.

1000: Laundry done. Clean clothes again. Now ready to explore this unique village. I had read a book called, A Year in Provence, written by a British writer. It is about living in a region of France that is close to where we were. I finished reading it only a few days before our trip. I have another book by the same author, again about France from a non-French person*s point of view. A non-French person, but a lover of France. Both books have helped me see this region of France in a very positive light. That favorable impression I expect will continue.

Saturday: 3.5.97: Now it is Saturday afternoon about 1600. I am sitting at a table at a sidewalk café having a beer. The place where I am serves no wine (strange?). Pam and I met with Juliette and her mother, Mary. Pam and Mary visited about lace, with Juliette interpreting. Juliette is the young woman we met on the train to Le Puy. They drove us around town and showed us the lace school here in Le Puy. Unfortunately, for us, they had plans for the day and could not spend more time with us. Pam and I walked around the town that is full of lace shops, friendly people, medieval cathedrals and modern conveniences. We have heard no English spoken except for ourselves and the few French people who have helped us with their limited English. I believe French is a beautiful language. After touring the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Le Puy - WOW! what a structure, built about the 10th century on top of a hill, (how did they do that?), we had lunch. (Some serious translation to get that) We then walked around, visited the lace school and lace shops and came upon a street fair in the town, complete with elephants, tigers and lions, as well as venders and businesses selling their products. It reminded me of the commercial areas at the state and county fairs. We also waked past a small park with a beautiful fountain and a small animal zoo (small animals and small zoo).The town was very crowded in this area as today was a festival of sorts. Earlier, Pam came across an early morning vegetable market. We also passed by, in the same square, later in the afternoon, a television production filming some sort of show. We were quickly ushered off the scene. This is a wonderful town. I am glad we stopped here and decided to spend an extra day. This is the beauty of our trip. No schedule so tight it can*t be changed. We may have to shorten our stay in Paris, but we have seen the best of France here. Paris, for us, only holds a couple of attractions that we would like to see. Now Pam is shopping for some fresh vegetables, breads and other foods for us to take on the train tomorrow to Paris. We leave here before 0800 and plan to arrive in Paris about noon.

So, that was from our diary we wrote of our trip. We have kept in contact with Juliette and Mary and "le famille Dendievel". We have exchanged more lace pieces and patterns and photos of family and letters and phone calls and have become good friends. I think by being open to new experiences and traveling without schedules and reservations allowed us to be more free with our time. Sharing a love for lace art helped to break down language and cultural differences and made our trip much more interesting. Sure, we did not see some of the "must see" sites of Europe, but we saw a whole lot more of the countryside, people and "out of the ordinary history" than most would have seen. We certainly want to return for another visit. Keeping a diary was a wonderful way of remembering the day and now, three years later, the entire trip. Recommend that to your listeners. Thanks for an interesting show.

Richard and Pam



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