The French Experience – Part 2

Soon after the Mass at Notre Dame de Fourviere, we were taken to St. Etienne where families were supposed to welcome us into their homes for our three day stay in France.

Naturally, I was quite anxious. After all, we, Lebanese, don´t exactly hear the fanciest of things about the French. Also, when the only thing you want to do is take a warm shower and sleep, it´s hard not to worry if those things would be available or not.

The family that welcomed me, with two other guys, was the Arnaud family that lived in St. Genest-Malifaux, a small picturesque town, 15 minutes away from St. Etienne.

Let me tell you this… the scene I used to wake up to every morning was so breath-taking, I used to simply stare for a few minutes at the forests mixed with green fields that extended beyond the horizon.

The Arnaud family ran a farm that extended over 40 hectares, which is a lot of land to manage. But the parents do a good job at it. Their oldest children are either working in Paris or married. Their daughter, one of the main coordinators between the Lebanese and French groups and one of the best people I met in France, lives a few minutes away and their youngest son still lives with them.

Their house was a typical French house in villages: bricks, walls made of stone, etc… They even had some sort of chimney, which, you guessed it, was turned on in August. After all, at 1300 meter of altitude and eight degrees almost all day, it sure is a necessity.

Remember my worries about being able to take a shower and sleep well? It turns out they were unfounded. Not only was the Arnaud family exemplary in their welcoming of us, but they were exactly what we – three Lebanese strangers – needed in a foreign country of which we only knew the language.

There were so welcoming in fact that they asked their son to drive us the following day to St. Etienne in order to get my French line fixed and then they took us to a museum where they refused to let us pay. There goes a stereotype about French people not being generous enough.

Also, since they run a farm, the food they make is organic and so healthy that you feel you´re eating – well, corny as it may be – health. Homemade butter, jam and bread for breakfast. Pepsi is something that is unheard of in their home. When I asked about it, the mother replied: “Why would someone want to get that in their system?”

No, dear readers who know me too well, I have not stopped drinking pepsi. Consider it one of my many flaws…

But our stay at the Arnaud household was quite awesome. They took us sightseeing whenever we had the time, and with the sun setting at 10:30 pm in France gives you lots of time. Their son also drove us to every single event the French group had set up for us.

I will never forget how the father took my suitcase, which had its zipper break down, and started sewing the part that wasn´t working anymore…

So if somehow the Arnaud family reads this (I´m not too sure since French aren´t really fond of English – yes, this stereotype is true), I just want to send them a cyber hug with a big THANK YOU 😀