“Parlez-vous français?” – “Oui, un petit peu” – was my response when I arrived in Uzès in January. By the time I left at the end of May I was able to truthfully answer the same question a little differently: “Oui, je parle français, si vous parlez lentement” – ‘Yes, if you speak slowly!!’
The improvement, (although there is still much work required!) is in large part due to my delightful and endlessly patient French teacher, Maryse, who more than anything gave me the confidence to speak, however incorrectly and however terrible my pronunciation! Twice weekly, 3 of us struggling students gathered in her petit salon where we were gently encouraged to listen, repeat and often just share whatever came to mind. Maybe that was the key to our progress, no worrying about conjugating verbs or whether the noun required a ‘le’ or a ‘la’, we just chatted, searching our limited vocabulary for a word that would fit, stumbling often but conversing none the less and laughing as we did so. My fellow classmates, as anxious as I to improve their skills, became my new friends. Interesting people with different life journeys, from California, Sweden, Australia and Britain, bound together by our shared love of France and our joy at being able to live there, even if just for a moment.
It was with great sadness I bade then ‘au revoir’, yet I knew it was just that, an ‘au revoir’ for I would certainly be returning to this beautiful region and to Uzès. Uzès, the “Premier Duchy of France,” in the Gard region of Languedoc Rousillon, southern France, just 45 km west of the magnificent and now much beloved medieval papal city of Avignon and 25 km north of the Roman stronghold of Nimes. Uzès, this enchanting bastide rooted in history had seduced me with its charm and authenticity. Its ancient, winding cobbled streets, its elegant squares, shaded by gently worn, golden, stone, shuttered buildings.
The glorious Ducal Castle, cathedral, and renaissance mansions. At its heart, Place-aux-Herbes, dominated and sheltered by the broad leaves of long ago established sycamore trees. Place-aux-Herbes fringed with its splendid arches, offering an array of enticing restaurants, many now old favorites, ‘Pizza du duche’, ‘A Cote’, ‘Le Terroir’ and ‘Zanelli’, where one could sit and enjoy the chatter and bustle and gentle sound of the Places’ glorious fountain. Place-aux-Herbes, host to carnival, the annual truffle fare, art fares, pottery exhibitions, brocants and renowned twice-weekly regional markets. Marchés, which had become such a part of my routine; smiling locals with linens, ribbons, baskets, and flowers, cheese makers, olive growers, and an abundance of fresh produce.