Honestly, it's Thursday and I think my blood alcohol level is finally more blood/less alcohol.  The Canadian and I went on a pilgrimage to, what I consider to be, the Promised Land: Provence.  All the wine you can drink, all the cheese you can eat, all the lavender you can smell, medieval ruins, blue skies, stars, sunsets, sunrises and the sweet sound of French drifting around me.  I mean for real, it's bliss.

You might remember I took this little pilgrimage last year around the same time? (Here are the stories: Part 1 and Part 2) And that was the first time I met Sara from Le Petit Village - and I love me some Sara Louise.  (If you've read her blog, you know it's awesome -- but if you haven't the rest of this post might not make tons of sense)

Things we have in common (aside from our same name): Lots of moms (moms, stepmoms, in-law moms) and only one dad. Our dads are only children our moms come from enormous families. We're both Texans. We both wake up crazy early in the morning regardless of when we went to bed the night before. We married foreigners who are in love with raw meat (gross). We've both taken the train between Brasov and Bucharest in Romania (I know other people have done this, but I swear I've never met one...).  And, (and I forgot to tell Sara this), my VERY best friend from junior high, like the one you get into ALL the trouble with? her middle name is Louise. See? Love.

So, you can see why I wanted to hang with my sister from another mister for a weekend -- and I wanted to meet Gregory (um, I love him) and bring the Canadian down to my Holy Land. 

Now, Sara Louise loves lists, she makes one every day, so in honor of our visit, here's a list of how my trip to Provence went (not necessarily in order):

  1. Our rental car was a Mercedes Convertible (thanks upgrade fairy)
  2. Even though Sara lives in a new Le Petit Village, I got to see the original -- and I love me some LPV (even the old village with the nazi ghost zombies)
  3. I met Gregory, the Husband (and I can say that because she outed his name the day I got there!).  He is the most adorable teddy-bear in the world. And honestly, I have never laughed harder at some of the things he says...laughter to the point of tears. The Canadian and I are still laughing.
  4. I drank at Le Petit Bar, and I ordered from the Parisian
  5. The Canadian and I had an apéro with Papa's Wife (and Sara and Gregory) and the Canadian discovered saucisson (french sausage).  He bought some, and when he got back to London he inappropriately paraded it around the house.
  6. I met Fifty (the dog-child) -- he loved me, he was terrified of the tall Canadian. Fifty is awesome.
  7. The Canadian did really well with his French...mine was sort of broken.  And some things don't translate...
  8. The Canadian and I were supposed to go to La Petite's christening on Sunday morning....except I was hung over and dizzy from the night before -- so I missed the christening (the Canadian holds his booze better than I do) but I made the after-party.
  9. At La Petite's party, I met the entire cast of character's from LPV.  Honey Jr. (um, I might have snuck him into my baggage...), Honey's Honey, Papa (SO CUTE!), the Brother-in-Law, all of Child Bride's family and more. So much more.
  10. The Canadian learned how to play Pétanque which, when he says it with his Qubecois accent, it sounds like putain...(that is not a nice word). The game is kind of like curling but with balls and the Canadian and Gregory played on a team together in a tournament...they lost.
  11. The Canadian and Gregory formed a cute little bromance -- which is hard to translate into French. The Canadian was missing his little buddy when we got home.  Things the Canadian and Gregory have in common: Married to Texans, they love whiskey, they adore raw meat. That is enough for a life-long love affair.
  12. And then we all gathered at Le Petit Bar after the tournament...and this happened:
Last 4th of July I had only been in London about 3 weeks.  I was still shell-shocked and adjusting to my new life.  My furniture hadn't even arrived yet.  The Canadian and I spent the day at a fellow expat bloggers house having a grand time - in spite of the crappy weather (the sun did come out briefly but it was still pretty chilly) and eating fabulous food.

This year we decided to have a belated 4th of July party at our place on Saturday (the 7th), since, obviously, we didn't have the day off.  The weather was crappy again, but it was fun to be surrounded by amazing people and laughing a lot (a nice change from the norm.)

I must say, though, it was a bit strange to be celebrating our independence from England, while living in England. Especially as someone who, on both sides of my family, has numerous ancestors who were signers of the Declaration of Independence.  It felt a bit like it was a betrayal.  Fortunately, these days, the wars between America and England are long over and a bunch of good-humored expats from all over the world indulged a few Americans in celebrating the 4th.  As it happens, the party wound up being a bit of the United Nations as well, which was really quite fun.

The guest nationalities were as follows:
6 Americans
1 dual Canadian/American
1 Scot
4 Canadians
1 dual English/Australian
1 Maltese
1 dual Swedish/Portuguese (Madeiran Portuguese that is...)
2 South Africans

I had this vision when I moved here that I would acquire all of these English friends and I would meld seamlessly into the culture...but, that is not the case.  I used to feel frustrated that I couldn't find English friends (I have two -- both of whom were introduced to me by other people -- i.e. friends of friends) but I've learned to just find my friends where I can. 

It was funny too, because I wound up having a conversation with a Londoner (a friend of my sister's...she was in town) about my struggle.  He couldn't seem to process what I was saying, when I explained my struggle to find English friends.  He kept trying to tell me what I was doing wrong...the conversation went something like this:

T: How long have you lived here?
Me: Right at a year.
T: How are you liking it
Me: Well, like any expat experience there's good and bad...the city and the culture are amazing. I love the UK and the scenery and the small towns.  I love being so close to Europe. But, I struggle with finding friendships with the locals and I'd love to do more of that.
T: Well, do you have hobbies?  Maybe you can find people in your hobbies?
Me: Yes, well, my hobbies are reading, swimming and yoga...and travel.  So, somewhat solitary, which is certainly part of the problem, but I do try and get to groups to meet other people.
T: Well, have you tried x, y, z etc. etc.? 

Note: at this point in the conversation I was thinking...here I am, explaining to a good friend of my sister's (this guy stayed with my sister and brother-in-law for 3 weeks, is a published author, wrote a book about his experience in the U.S. -- AND his wife is American!!) and I'm sitting here telling him with all sorts of vulnerability that I'm struggling to find English friends, and he's pointing out what I'm doing wrong....instead of saying "My God, I am so sorry.  If I had known you were here, I would have taken you around to meet some of my friends.  In fact!! I'm having a party on Friday -- why don't you and your husband come?  Here, here's my number, let's have coffee", which is what I would have done -- and almost any reasonable American I know (crazies excluded).

And that, my friends, is the difference.  And it's not just America -- my Canadian friends are exactly the same way.  The moment I met them they immediately included me in every gathering.  And the South African ones.  And the Swedish/Portuguese.  Pretty much all of them.  And that's why my party was so international instead of local.  I would LOVE to have more English friends.  But when I meet them and talk to them, it appears to be a single instance -- and there are no "let's get together next week for coffee" or "you guys should totally go to this art opening with me and my wife"...except for my two friends whom I met through my good friends.  And I feel like maybe it's only because I was vetted first? 

Nonetheless, in spite of this horribly cold and wet summer, a large group of expats ate a lot of Tex-Mex and BBQ, and Peach Cobbler and Apple Pie.  And it felt a little bit like home.


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