Deep Country

The other day Eric and I set off to see the doctor for our medical exams for the mariage. Even though we’ve been in France over a year, we have yet to choose a doctor which is what those websites about moving to France tell you to do immediately, but they’re obviously intended for people who are organized. Which we’re not. But thankfully we’re healthy so it hasn’t been an issue until now.

Though from what we saw at the doctor’s offices we tried, it would be awful to be sick around here and searching for a doctor. We’ve all heard about the wonders of the French healthcare system and I’m sure it’s true but out in the countryside things can still be a bit...country?

We spoke to one doctor in the next village over and she said to come by on Friday morning. We found the building, and when we walked in there were just three unmarked white doors. That’s it - no signs on any of them. Well, one had a photograph of children lined up at a urinal, so that turned out to be a toilet. Okay, that’s one down, we thought. One of these other doors has to be a waiting room, right? So we took a chance and opened another door and there was a patient and doctor having an examination.

The doctor admonished us to go to the other unmarked room which turned out to be a closet-sized waiting room, unventilated, full of eight or so people sitting uncomplaining and staring at us through the foul, fetid air.

I’ve been in some pretty low-class clinics in the Lower East Side of Manhattan back before it was all boutiques and cute coffee bars but this was really bad. I had to get out of there immediately. We tried another doctor in our village, thinking we could at least try to book an appointment and it wasn’t much better. Airless, with magazines several years old. And a harried-looking doctor sticking his head out to survey the victims, I mean patients.

We left and set off in search of lunch, realizing we’ll have to get some doctor recommendations from friends, and fast. A veterinarian might be better.

To shake off this defeated feeling we thought we’d try a nearby restaurant that we’d heard was good. They have concerts every Saturday night and we’d been thinking it might be a good place to play. But when we pulled up the parking lot was empty, and there was a sign on the door about a death in the family.

At this point I was getting really hungry and cranky. I wanted to complain about the emptiness of the countryside, how it was impossible to get something to eat, or be spontaneous, and how going to the doctor could make you sick. Not to mention the continuously lousy weather. And then I felt guilty for being so selfish, when here this family were off at a loved one’s funeral, and all I could think about was how it inconvenienced me.

We crossed the river into a village we’d never seen before and miraculously, there was a café open. We ordered steak frites. Rather, that’s what the proprietress told us we could have.

Sometimes I find myself holding on so tightly to expectations and ideas of what things should be like, I can almost forget to enjoy the real experiences that are going on. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies but I have these images in my mind of lovers on a ride through the French countryside stumbling upon a charming restaurant. This place wasn’t exactly charming. They were playing Alan Jackson. There were a lot of bad paintings hanging on the walls and the bathroom had an enormous poster of a chimp with a laptop sitting on a toilet.

But there was a drum kit and keyboard set up. We talked to the owner’s husband and it turns out they have live music, and chances are we’ll play there soon. The food was good.

And then we saw this rainbow...