by Bill Magargal
We arrived at our Servas host's’ home mid-afternoon on a warm sunny day. We weren’t sure which house belonged to our hosts because there were no house numbers, and there were several farm-type buildings clustered together. Eventually, Agnes came out and showed us where to park, as their actual land area was fairly small. She seemed a bit reserved, perhaps just quiet by nature, but she helped us into the house.
Soon, Yves arrived. He was a very pleasant and enthusiastic guy. He took charge showing us around the house and where we would sleep. Yves is a regional coordinator for Servas Brittany, a warm and great guy. After we settled in, he suggested we go on a walk. He showed us several farms in the area and pointed out buildings that were particularly old and/or in the Bretagne style of that area. All the fields we passed had deep ditches around them. They were in the midst of an extended dry spell; normally the land is very wet.
When we returned to the house, Yves began preparing “aperitifs”, a board of cheeses, ham, and salamis. We enjoyed this with some good wine which we’d brought with us. Yum! After a bit their daughter, Sophy, arrived and we had supper.The next morning Yves drove us around the area, stopping in Talensac, then ending up in Montfort-sur-Mei, the largest village in the area.
That evening Bill made eggplant parmesan to accompany dinner. He commented to Yves, “I guess it is a bit presumptuous for an American to cook for a Frenchman.” He laughed and replied, “Yes!", he said,"and to make an Italian dish, even more so.” We both roared.
On Sunday, Yves suggested that we drive to a special cafe near Rennes where Agnes, who plays the soprano sax, had a gig with her eight-piece band. A soprano sax looks like a metal clarinet. We drove for quite a while, wending our way around the countryside. Eventually we came to a long driveway that disappeared back into the woods. We drove down the drive and soon came to a small clearing with a sweet stucco building with a sizable patio-like area adjacent to the door.
There weren’t many people there yet, but the musicians were busy setting up and doing sound checks, so we ordered glasses of wine and just sat at a table to watch the activity. Yves explained that the owner of the cafe was a musician himself. He thus knew numerous decent groups in the area and invited them to play at his cafe. Apparently, the group Agnes played with was one of the “decent” groups.
The weather was perfect, sunny, low humidity and temperatures in the mid-seventies. We sipped our wine, chatted, and watched people arrive. The band did a warm-up number to tune up and check the sound system. Soon there was a fair-sized crowd, perhaps twenty-five to thirty people. It was a nice mix of young and old, families and singles. At a table next to us, a small boy about four or five got intrigued with drinking straws on their table. He moved them from glass to glass, swaying in tempo to the music. It was truly a “Hallmark” moments.
The band was excellent. They sang a lot of songs in English and in French. When they played “Dock of The Bay” I sang with them. What fun! They had a tip jar in front of them and people were dropping bills into it as they got ready to leave. I really wanted to do so, but only had a fifty Euro note.
Eventually I needed to use the toilet, so he went inside, used the toilet, and got change. Yves had said he would cover the drinks, but since I was at the register, I decided to pay. I walked back to the table and on the way dropped some bills into the tip jar. A bit later, as we were ready to leave. Yves said, “I see you paid.” I could tell he was miffed. I apologized, realizing that he was just being the “typical” American. Still, I felt bad. Eventually we both got over it.
That evening Yves prepared another charcuterie of cheeses, fruit, and cured meats, accompanied by more fine French wine, followed by another great meal and good conversation. We discussed the possibility of his daughter working next Summer at Frost Valley YMCA camp near us, but COVID put a halt to that. Yves also showed us the new (at the time) Servas International website. We were envious, as we could easily look up hosts online by various regions, etc. "No more paper host lists. Yay!" Now we have another Servas friend that we stay in touch with.
Marie with our hosts Yves, Agnes, and Sophy