Nerding Out with Time Travel


 “Um…dude, this is awesome.  That is a wolf over there!  All of these buildings are so old

A typical campsite at the festival...

A typical campsite at the festival…

and I love all the campsites – is that chick making lace?!  Someone over there is spinning wool?!  WHAAAA?!!  Man, people are super into it.  I’m so glad, I didn’t want to feel like a geek in my outfit.  HA – like that is possible!  This outfit is so fly – yeah, that’s right, I used the word “fly.”  I feel very secure in all these layers and the whole lacing situation sort of makes me feel seat-belted in, you know?  Why don’t we dress like this now?  Whose bright idea was it to lose layers of skirts and lace up bodices in favor of skinny jeans and crop tops?  I mean, who can pull that off?  Other than creepy-thin people who make me want to force feed them, I’m looking at you Keira Knightly.  Ridiculous…but I digress.  Ooooh, there is a musical performance over there and some hypocras to drink.  I think I will just swish my skirts on over in that direction…tee hee…swish my skirts.  I’ll just reach into my 16th century fanny pack here to find the money for my medieval drink…rad.”

“Hey, where are you going?”

I am pulled out of my internal dialogue by MB.

“I was going to go and get some hypocras and watch the performance.”

“Okay,” he says, “but maybe we go home after, yes?  Aren’t you tired?”  We had been walking around for hours at this point and, if I am going to be honest, my bodice was starting to dig into my hips a bit…maybe I do get why clothing changed.  Instead of admitting this, I give him a look like he is nuts.

I was not lying...really, a sword.

I was not lying…really, a sword.

“Babe,” I say seriously.  “There is a sword on her head…A SWORD.”

He looks over at the group that is performing and the belly dancer who is dancing with a sword on her head and laughs.  “Okay, okay, we will stay for one more.”

“Heck yeah,” I say, skipping off merrily to fetch our drinks.  We stayed out for another two hours.


So…a couple of things.

1)      I am not cool which I’m sure comes as a huge surprise to you all, gentle readers, but there it is – I’m actually a huge nerd (“well duh, like we didn’t know that already, I mean, didn’t she just make a Miss Manners reference?”). 

2)      We don’t get to do stuff like this in the United States.

For MB, going to the Medieval Festival (actually it is really Renaissance time period…see?  nerd) in Le Puy en Velay is normal.  He has done it many times with his family and beyond that has spent his entire life surrounded with opportunities to go to various historical festivals in historical villages (ahem…Carcassonne).  For me, on the other hand, this was a totally wacky and new experience.  I’ve lived in the United States, New Zealand, and Australia; in all of these countries people get excited if something is 150 years old – Europe is on an entirely different historical plane.  Wandering around in an historical costume from 500 years ago has a different feel when you are in a town that was already well established at the time.

“There is the chapel of Saint Michel D Aiguilhe,” MB points up to one of the volcanic chimneys in the distance.

“Oh yeah,” I say, looking towards it.  I’ve been to Le Puy before but for some reason I feel like I am seeing it all through new eyes…clearly something to do with the bodice and blood flow to the brain.

“It was built in the 960’s,” he continues.

I stare, dumbfounded, as a thought occurs to me.

“So, we are impersonating people from the 16th century, right?”

“Ouais…” MB responds.

“So when they were alive, that chapel was already 600 years old!  Just think of that.”

He takes a beat before responding.  “Pfff…yeah,” and there is a touch of wonder in his voice, too.  “It’s crazy.”

There is something magical about taking a moment and realizing all the people and time and events that came before you, to really stop and think about it.  That those who seem so far removed from us had a history that we can barely even touch upon – and yet, we share with them blood, DNA, genetic code.  Maybe it is because of this that we have the desire, to reach out and touch them, to connect with them…to remember some old part of ourselves, long forgotten.

As a child I would imagine myself into the past often, I would head west as a pioneer (we’ll blame Oregon Trail game** for this) or run through the Tennessee hills as a young Cherokee girl, knowing ancient and powerful secrets. I was constantly thinking myself into history, so curious with wonder about those lives that preceded me, so fervent with the desire to fill the questioning void inside me.

These days I am less prone to frolicking around in my made-up lands, there are too many other things to worry about and, usually, I see the world just as it actually is, hushing the questions away.  Most of us don’t have time to stop and imagine for long stretches, to think about all that came before…but sometimes, sometimes, we get to stand on an 11th century bridge in France, wearing 16th century dress, and stare up at a chapel built in the 900’s…hypocras on our breath and medieval drums in the distance…and perhaps, in those moments, we are more truly whole than ever.

Lisa's pic


* In case you are unfamiliar with Oregon Trail – the best game of all time:

** Here is a video of the inside of the Chapel in the photo 

  (p.s. please note the woman at 2:28 with the bottle of wine…nice, France, nice.)


The Roast Beef Betrayal

After a weekend trip to London, I open my door to find France standing there.

ME:  Why bonjour, France!  I didn’t expect you to be dropping by today.

France shrugs and leans in to kiss me on both cheeks.

FRANCE:  I am out of butter.

ME:  Um…okay, so you came all the way over here for some butter?  It’s not like you live in the building.

FRANCE:  I am France, huh?  I am everywhere.  Mon dieu…toujours le meme.

ME:  Sorry, sorry, come on in.

France marches into my apartment and starts scanning the room.

FRANCE:  It looks like you have been on a trip, non?

ME: Quoi?!

I begin to feel a little uneasy.

FRANCE:  I see your baggage is out.  So you have been on a voyage, I believe.

France pulls a cigarette out and starts to light it.

FRANCE:  I can smoke in here, oui?

ME:  Actually-

France lights the cigarette and walks further into the kitchen.

FRANCE:  I think oui.  So, where is it that you visit on this voyage?

I walk over to the fridge as a trickle of sweat begins to roll down the center of my back.

ME:  Let’s get you that butter.

I curse myself for my shaking voice.

ME:  Nothing but good Breton butter in here…

France stares me down and takes a drag off the cigarette, blowing the smoke back in my face.

FRANCE:  Is that so?  Well, then I must see for myself.

ME:  No, I can get it, don’t bother, it’s nothing-

I’m too late, France is already standing at the door of the open refrigerator, staring in open hostility at one of the shelves.  The cigarette drops to the floor and I hurry to pick it up…France does not seem to even notice.


ME:  France, just calm down a minute, I can explain.

FRANCE:  I welcome you to my country and this is the thanks I get?!

ME:  Well…I think “welcome” is a strong word-


France leans into the refrigerator, pulling out a bottle of ketchup.

FRANCE:  As if theez were not bad enough, theez monstrosity-

ME:  Oh come on, let’s pump the brakes here for a minute.  Americans use ketchup on burgers and fries, but I’ve watched you pour in onto a plate of spaghetti, I mean, you want to talk about gross.

France turns slightly red before getting angry again.

FRANCE:  It is not zee point and you know it!  Always, you are changing subjects.  Let’s talk about the “hippopa-tame-moose” in zee room!

ME:  elephant.

France glares at me and lights another cigarette.

FRANCE:  What do you have to say for yourself?

ME:  It was just a weekend.

FRANCE:  Pffff…I have heard this before.  You think I was born yesterday?  UH?!  For centuries, it is like a “rabb-eet” on my back.

ME:  monkey.

France gives me an irritated look before continuing.

FRANCE:  Once, it was even 100 years straight, do you even know what that is like?  Pfff…of course not, you Americaine.  You have a problem with another country and then you become best friends the next year.  So fickle…perhaps I should not be surprised.

ME:  Aren’t y’all like BFF’s with Germany right now?

FRANCE:  Arret!  You can never just listen, maybe it is true and you do all have this deficit of attention disorder.  We are discussing your betrayal, uh?

ME:  France, come on, I just wanted to check it out.  See what all the fuss was about.

FRANCE:  Just “check it out?”  Well, then what is theez?!

France reaches back into the fridge and throws a wax paper package of cheese at me.  I stammer in response, holding the guilt-ridden cheese.

FRANCE:  FROMAGE!  BRITISH FROMAGE!  You can explain that?!  I cannot explain it, it shouldn’t even exist!  I am so upset, look, you have made me raise my voice…disgusting.  I need a pastis.

France raps on the counter as if ordering a servant.

FRANCE:  Something French, toute suite!  That is, if you still keep French things in your house, TRAITRESSE!

I try to stop myself from rolling my eyes as I reach for the pastis. 

ME:  Don’t you think you are being a little bit dramatic?

FRANCE:  MOI?!  Dramatique?  Pfff…I am France, not LES ROSBIFS!

I can’t help but start laughing at the name the French use for the English.

FRANCE:  I see nothing amusing.

ME:  Roast-beefs?  It’s so funny, come on…you know it is.

France shrugs and takes a sip of pastis.

FRANCE:  Maybe you would like to be a rosbif, huh, yankee?  You two, with your “special” relationship.

ME:  It’s not like that, France.  You know how I feel about you, you read my blog.

France almost spits up a sip of pastis.

FRANCE:  I do not read your blog, you think I have time to read some little blog.  Pfff…

ME:  Then who keeps commenting as “FRANCE #1 4 EVA?”

France looks away and takes a drag off the cigarette.

FRANCE:  How I would know, huh?  Sounds like a name that many people would want to use.

France takes a sip of pastis.

FRANCE: So, what did you do in that horrible, rainy place…Londres?

France says the name with disdain and I bite my tongue as I consider the weather patterns of Paris.

ME:  A lot of touring about, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, The Tower-

FRANCE:  Ah, ze Tower…now this is something that is okay.  You know who built it, oui?  Guillaume the Conqueror – a French man.  Very important, perhaps the most important King in English history, you know?  Really, he practically started the whole country.

ME:  Uh…yeah, sure.  But really it was quite impressive.

FRANCE:  Oui, mais bien sur!

I smile to myself, sensing that France has been mollified.

FRANCE:  Alors, theez cheese…what it is like?  Disgusting, non?

I look at the super delicious Welsh cheese that my husband and I bought in London and know that I can’t tell France that we loved it.

ME:  Nothing compared to French cheese.

FRANCE:  Hmph.

France picks it up and smells it, then opens the package and takes a look.

FRANCE:  Ouais.

France sounds nonplussed but I notice a slight uptick of one eyebrow.

FRANCE: Then, you won’t mind if I just take it.

ME:  What?  Why?

FRANCE:  I thought you didn’t like it, you are now attached to it?

ME:  No, it’s just that-

FRANCE:  I will take it to throw it away, of course.  Pfff…what else would I do with it?

France grabs the cheese and walks back towards the door.

FRANCE:  A bientot, Americaine.

I watch from our front window as France exits the apartment and places the cheese into a jacket pocket while walking past a trash can…and I smile.