Our French Family

Sometimes we meet people who feel like family. In 1996 we were experiencing “empty nest” syndrome, because our three sons and our Swiss exchange daughter had all left! One son was in Japan on a one year exchange through AFS with a marvellous family with whom we subsequently became great friends. So we offered to be a support family for another student staying with an Australian family. That is how we met Claire!

Claire was from France, and after a little discussion while the dinner cooked we discovered she came from a town dear to my husband, Perigueux. As an architecture student he had studied great buildings, and his favourite was the cathedral of St Front. We had been to visit in 1979, so he pulled out his old sketchbook, and showed Claire the drawing he had done of the town square. We all burst into tears as she exclaimed, “but you are sitting on my seat!” It seems she liked to sit in the same spot and enjoy the view, just as we did.

We saw a lot of Claire that year, and since then we have been to France twice, each time staying with both her family and Claire briefly. In 1998 Matthieu was an organist in St Front, so we enjoyed a brief bone-shaking recital of the wonderful big organ.

Visiting the Gardelles at home 1998

Late night farewell at the station, Matthieu, Juliette, Jean-Jacques, Claire and Nicole

Claire’s whole family came to visit us in 1999, part of a grand Australian tour.

Gardelle family in Australia 1999

Last time we were in France Claire was living in a tiny attic room in an old part of Bordeaux, yet there was room for us, and we went out exploring vineyards and markets, indeed discovering “must” the young wine only available for a few weeks after the harvest. Since then we make our own must when our Chambourcin grapes ripen in February.

Farewelling Claire, Bordeux 2006

This time we were delighted to learn that Claire and the whole family would be in Paris the day after we arrived. They were celebrating Claire’s birthday, and we were invited. First we met the young ones, Claire and her sister Juliette, and their partners. Drinks and nibbles in the Jardins de Luxembourg,

Jardins de Luxembourg, Paris in 2011

birthday drinks and nibbles

before dinner in a perfect little restaurant in Gobelins.

Sophie, Matthieu, Me and Stuart

Juliette, Claire and Sophie

Next day a family celebration with Claire’s parents and Juliette and Matthieu’s daughters. Matthieu played his harpsichord for us, and we feasted on fine French food.

family group with Jean-Jacques, Nicole and Marion, Sophie and Claire

Now that our son and daughter-in-law are living in Paris, they can enjoy our French family connection. Juliette and Matthieu are also in Paris, with their two little daughters, so we are hoping they might all see a bit of each other. No doubt we will be travelling to France again next year, and we have promised to spend a week or so in Perigueux, or at the new beach place on the Atlantic coast. How wonderful to have met Claire, and her loving family. And how thrilled we were this visit to meet the love of her life, Sophie. We love you all, dear Gardelles!!

2 thoughts on “Our French Family

  1. Chris, what you ve written there touched me so deeply. Pictures speak for themselves. And yes time flies but how good it is to see ces liens qui evoluent et perdurent dans le temps… Merci, merci, merci!

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