June 17, 2007

6/17/07 St Lys France

Well, it's been a fun filled week here visiting my cousin Cynthia and her husband Jean-Yves.

It took me a few days for my body to realize that it didn't have to walk any more lugging around a backpack. One thing that helped was I was sleeping alone instead of in a crowded dorm room with twenty other people, some snoring. Every morning Cynthia asked how I slept and I could only answer "Great!"

All this acclimatization was helped in that I was kept pretty busy helping them get ready for their wedding. Yes, wedding. It was actually interesting to see how it's all done in another culture with different laws. So, let's see if I can explain the French view of a legal marriage.

As with a lot of Europian countries, the Catholic Church in France was aligned with the monarchy, so when the people revolted, they wanted nothing to do with the church. But you couldn't cut things like marriage and baptism out of the culture, so the government took it over. Yes, there is even a 'civil' baptism. So, if France, you must first be married by the mayor of the town in which you live. If you want a church wedding, that usually comes after.

In Cynthia and Jean-Yves case, they actually had a wedding ceremony in the USA last summer with all the family from both sides in attendance but waited till now to have the 'official' French wedding. And right now, they live in the small town of St Lys outside of Toulouse. So, when it was time to go to the mayor's office, it was only their closest friends who live and work here in Toulouse bearing witness. The only family there was Jean-Yves mother and me.

Cynthia waiting for the big moment

It was kind of church wedding with all the religion crossed out. Instead of vows read, the mayor read the laws regarding marriage. But there was music playing as we entered the office. Cynthia was a bit disappointed that at the point where you exchange rings, it was just an 'oh you can put on the rings' kind of a statement. It was a light, happy affair which some of the French folks in attendance said wasn't exactly usual. The mayor even gave the happy a couple a book on St Lys as a wedding present.

They sure look like they're having fun

You may now kiss the bride

Now the mayor signs the papers

This is not traditional in France [smile]

It didn't last long, maybe twenty minutes, then we all loaded up the cars to take the hour long drive out to Jose and Catherine's farmhouse in the shadow the Pyrenees. Jose is a professor and they were sort of Cynthia's parents-family when she first came to France so many years ago to finish the work on her Phd research in Medieval History. The house was beautifully restored and the grounds were filled with lots of different trees from all over the world. So we had a sort of garden party with lots of good food. I mean we are in France, right!

It was a very eclectic group, with almost equal numbers speaking French, English and Spanish. Jose is actually Spanish, so I was still able to use my Spanish to communicate. A lot of Cynthia's friends are coworkers at the school where she teaches English, so there were a lot of folks I could talk to in English too. But there were a few people there that I couldn't speak with because I don't speak French, including Jean-Yve's mother. She is an artist and did a wonderful pastel portrait of Cynthia for a wedding present.

All afternoon there was a steady stream of folks arriving and leaving, with new things added to the table. And when you needed to burn off a little of those calories (in order to squeeze in a few more), a bunch of us ended up in the pool.

I don't remember when we left but it was pretty late. A great success if I do say so myself.