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Friday, April 8, 2011

Tour de France - Part XIV

(A continuation of my long-neglected series of posts)

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Suji was quite thrilled. She hadn't expected it in the least, that Amma would allow her to finally go on a whole 2-day tour with her class. She had never been away from her family before. But now the big adventure loomed ahead, a trip to a farmhouse a few hours away from Paris, in distant Normandy, near a village whose name she did not yet know.
The tour bus ride started late in the afternoon. Suji lugged her little bag with clothes and toiletries for a one-night stay, and a brand-new dark blue sleeping bag to the bus, which engulfed those in its cavernous luggage bay. She hopped up the steps and nodded off to sleep as she watched the countryside fly by, woken up a little later by the teacher announcing. "We've arrived."
The building was not as ancient as she had pictured in her imagination, but it did have a high roof and attics to match. The interior was well lit, with a large comfortable living room,roomy kitchen and multiple stuffed chairs and sofas.The kids were all to sleep in the attic, using their sleeping bags to good purpose. Suji found a comfortable spot for hers and unrolled it in anticipation of a good night's sleep after dinner.
The evening started with all the kids being enlisted to help make apple pie and chocolat mousse. Suji was thrilled to help out with peeling apples for the pie, jostling at the kitchen table for space with some of her older and more experienced companions. It wasn't often that she got a chance to help out with kitchen chores. She watched in fascination as one of the 'cooks' carefully whipped up a light and frothy mix of cocoa, egg whites and sugar into a perfect peak that held its shape, and tasted delicious when done.
After a simple yet scrumptious dinner, she curled upstairs into her sleeping bag, which still smelled faintly of new polyester fill. The air was colder than she had anticipated, and it took more than a few minutes for the sleeping bag to warm up. She watched the rafters above her in the dark, her eyes soon accustomed to the minimal light that permeated the room. She could make out the shapes of her classmates, all slumbering without a movement, while she tried to think what the next day might be like. Sometime between watching the rafters and nearby mounds, she fell asleep, awakened only by the faint crowing of a rooster, somewhere in the distance.
She crept out of the bag and stood up, moving towards the window. The sky was still an inky blue, but the east had lightened considerably. She went back to her bag, fished out her toothbrush and headed to the bathroom- best to get the morning ablutions over with before most of the others woke.
Breakfast was a cacophony of children trying to talk as they munched on their croissants and drank large glasses of milk or juice. Suji didn't speak much, as she quickly gobbled hers. They were all to go on an expedition to the nearby village of la Ferrière sur Risle. They formed amorphous groups as they trotted off behind the teachers, chattering away in the bright sun.
The village was a tiny place, with a main street and a covered marketplace.  There was little to do, other than look at the quaint buildings and a little window-shopping, for Suji had not brought much cash with her to buy any souvenirs. The day passed all too quickly, as the morning gave way to a brighter afternoon.  They were to leave after lunch, retracing the route back to Paris, where Appa would be waiting to pick her up from the tour bus.
"Did you have a good trip?",  he asked anxiously, as Suji brought her little bag to the car.
"I had a wonderful time," she gushed, "I wish I could do it all over again."
And so she did, in her memories, time and again.
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