It has happened again. Yesterday, visitors were are driving down from Paris to spend the afternoon. At about 9:00 in the morning, after Callie's walk, it started raining. Then it started thundering. There were sharp bolts of lightning right overhead, and deafening claps of thunder shook the house.
The bottom fell out at that point. It was a real frog-strangler of a rain. In the middle of it, of course, I needed to go out to buy bread for our afternoon meal. Yesterday was a holiday, so we had no bread delivery. It's always a treat to go up to the bakery in the vineyard, the one with the wood-fired ovens, to get some special breads — even in the middle of a storm.
It was literally as dark as dusk at 10:30 in the morning. A gloom settled over the hamlet, and we needed to turn on the lights in the house to keep from stumbling over the furniture. I drove to the bakery through a deluge of rain. Big drops slapped the windshield. Miraculously, when I arrived at the boulangerie, the rain slacked off. I was able to run from the car into the shop without getting drenched.
All our plans for a sunny afternoon outside, and chicken barbecued on the grill, were dashed. This is the third time we've had this experience. Two years ago, our friend Claude drove down from Paris to Saint-Aignan in very early June. She was delayed by heavy rainstorms along the autoroute, especially south of Orléans, that day. Meanwhile, here at La Renaudière, the rain was so heavy that the gutters backed up, causing a leak over the kitchen. Water streamed in, opening a crack in the ceiling. We thought the whole ceiling might cave in.
Last year in late May BettyAnn from N.C. and her French friend Danielle drove down to Saint-Aignan from the Paris area. They arrived at the Grand Hôtel in town, and I went down to meet them and let them follow me back to the house. The rain was blinding, and the thunder and lightning were downright scary. All hell had broken loose.
When we got to the house, Walt had been up in the attic to see if the roof was going to leak again. He was trying to push the folding stairway back up into the attic when we walked into the house. Suddenly, a wire or spring snapped and the whole thing came crashing down on him. It's lucky he wasn't seriously injured. Between his curses and the raging storm, BettyAnn and Danielle had quite a greeting at Les Bouleaux.
Well, yesterday it wasn't quite that bad but for a couple of hours late in the morning we wondered whether history might repeat itself. Our new friends Leesa and Alexandre said they were startled by one bolt of sharp lightning near Montrichard as they drove in. They had the impression that it struck the ground very near their car.
In Saint-Aignan, as I drove back home from the bakery, I followed the paved road down through the rue des Bas-Bonneaux, past Jean-Noël and Chantal Guerrier's house and wine cellar. I didn't want to use the rutted gravel road through the vineyard because I was afraid it would be flooded.
Jean-Noël and Chantal were standing outside the door to their cellar, watching the sky. I stopped to say hello. « Beau temps, n'est-ce pas ? », I said in greeting — nice weather, no? They said they had been trying to work in the vineyard earlier in the morning, but the hard rain and especially the lightning had convinced them to return home.
They asked if I was out for a promenade en voiture, a joy ride. I pointed at my bread and told them I had been up to the bakery in the vineyard because we had people coming from the Paris region to spend the afternoon. Ah, Jean-Noël said, stay right there for just a minute. I hadn't gotten out of the car.
I talked to Chantal through the car window and then J-N came back with two bottles of wine. "You and your guests can enjoy these this afternoon, indoors or outdoors," he said. One bottle was a blanc moelleux, a sweet white wine that's good either as a before-dinner drink or with dessert. We had tasted it a few weeks ago, before he bottled it, and thought it was extra, a we say. The other bottle was a dry rosé wine made with the local Pineau d'Aunis grape. It gives a peppery rosé that is crisp and refreshing.
"What do I owe you?" I asked Jean-Noël. "Oh, we'll talk about that later," he said. I'll have to go buy some wine from him soon. The two bottles he gave us went a long way to relax us all as we watched the thunderstorms wind down. The sun never did come out, but we were able to take a long walk in the vineyard in the afternoon. Callie enjoyed that, splashing around in the puddles, and we took a lot of pictures of butterflies, orchids, and roses.
Lisa posted a lot of photos from yesterday's dinner and walk in the vineyard on her blog, 1, 2, and 3.