January 6, 2015


Les Aldudes

It's hard not to romanticize this place that has been a distant part of my family for a hundred years. There is so much myth and mystery mixed with real life--that I hardly know where the legend leaves off and the real stuff begins. In a nutshell. My great, great grandfather left Les Aldudes, a valley in the Pyrenees mountains on the border of France and Spain, back in the late 1890's. So many young people left at that time--and he came to California and eventually made a life for himself there as a baker. 

By 2005 my French Basque cousins had almost all moved away from the valley, seeking work in busier parts of France, and the house (for Basques identify deeply with their homes) went on the market. The nostalgic Californians (my brother, dad, and uncle), 100-years-removed, bought it.

Basques being an extremely loyal group, treat us like family when we return. I am the only one who speaks French, and few in the community speak English, which makes me the Official Translator when we visit. My dad's an extrovert; we often joke that my college education, which had a lot to do with France and French and chaussons aux pommes, keeps paying off in terms of real words. So Many Words! 

One of my favorite memories of this home was when I was eighteen and studying French in Angers. I traveled there for Christmas to stay with my cousins and was stunned when I realized that presents had nothing to do with the holiday--just church, just family, food, and reflection. That has always stayed with me, and I had a small hope that my family and I could walk into that space once again, leaving behind the city's bustle and focus on stuff, and just come here and be...

Our time in Les Aldudes is always a reminder of life lived a different way--so close to nature. This trip we were able to pray a bit more deeply, to rest and laugh, and spend time each day in the hills.

Romantic as the house may seem, and it does have awesome bones, truthfully it's a bit like camping indoors--what with the wallpaper literally dropping off the walls in chunks, the carpet so thin we're always tempted to just peel it up, and a heater/hot water system that requires manual administration... Plus there's the one bathroom that has an awful brown/pink color combo going on, and the other with carpet actually on the ceiling... :)

But who cares about the carpet and the wallpaper? I don't. I just hope it doesn't take us another nine years to save our money to travel there again...

On second thought, even if it does, I'm glad that such a place exists, even if I can't often be there. I believe that prayers make this world a better place, and that beauty combats evil by the moment. Just the fact that Les Aldudes, wrapped this moment in frost and ferns, exists adds goodness to you and to me. 



Published: January 6, 2015 | Filed under: Far

Comments (12)
Michael Wilds said:
January 6, 2015 @ 11:57 AM

Truly lovely. What a gift to leave your children and theirs. Mona and I have looked into a small home in her family village of Coli in Italy to retire to, and to leave for the kids. You are an inspiration. :-)

jane g meyer replied:
January 6, 2015 @ 2:57 PM

Michael, I want you to retire in Coli so we can come visit and make pasta together :)

James Anthony said:
January 6, 2015 @ 12:00 PM

Thanks to the military, I've always loved small towns and villages in Europe. Picturesque scenery is off the charts!

jane g meyer replied:
January 6, 2015 @ 2:59 PM

Thanks for serving, James Anthony! How fortunate that you've been able to see some lovely places over time. I think traveling is such a gift... One learns so much through the adventure of being away from the comforts and habits of home...

GretchenJoanna said:
January 6, 2015 @ 12:18 PM

This is the meaning of special! That the far-away family came forward and bought the house is a very wonderful part of the story, and makes it even more of a treasure.

jane g meyer replied:
January 6, 2015 @ 3:01 PM

GretchenJoanna. The Basques were very happy that someone in the family came forward instead of having a "parisian" swoop in and make it their vacation place. :) We are so fortunate that at that time my family was able to find the resources to purchase it...

Carol said:
January 6, 2015 @ 1:09 PM

It's so beautiful. It sounds wonderful to not have that focus on presents. I often debate that part of the holidays - but I have such fond memories of the family gatherings and the faces lighting up with the sweet delight as suprises are found within pretty packaging. While the presents are not the focus- certainly not the reason- I do like having that special time added into the gatherings. So I've not given it up- but we do find it important to make sure our children (and our own minds) remember that it's NOT the biggest reason for the season so to speak. Worship does come first. Perhaps one day I'll figure out how to separate the two and make it work! :) I'm so glad you had such a wonderful experience. What an amazing adventure!

jane g meyer replied:
January 6, 2015 @ 3:04 PM

Carol, you can be sure that my kids were a bit bewildered by the lack of presents! They decided they didn't appreciate that all that much--and hope we'll move back to the old ways next year. :) Even so, they didn't complain, and I'm grateful for that!!!

Christina Gessler said:
January 6, 2015 @ 4:46 PM

So lovely! Thank you for sharing so much of your trip with us!

Kh. Tammy said:
January 6, 2015 @ 4:49 PM

Thank you for taking us on your trip with you. Those pics are priceless.....it's just beautiful and I'm so happy you're with your family on this memorable trip. Please hug John Ronan for me! Keep the posts coming. Love ya, Kh. T

Elizabeth said:
January 7, 2015 @ 11:19 PM

That's so lovely Jane, so very glad for you. Beautiful pictures and what a treasure; God has given your family a great gift in this! ~ Elizabeth, http://eroosje.blogspot.com/

Heather said:
March 25, 2015 @ 10:23 AM

Wow....how absolutely amazing that your family was able to go back and purchase this house! That connection to your roots, to be able to not only walk in the landscape your ancestors walked but to stay in their very house--- that is priceless! These are amazing photographs too. What a beautiful landscape!

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