Chapter 9

My life in France

When Jacques was back from the war, my only thought was to enjoy having him at home.

When you experience hard times and moments of despair, it is totally natural and human to concentrate on our personal happiness and well-being.

If you add, on top of that, that we were separated for more than 6 months right after our wedding, I suppose it is natural to feel like I did in those days.

My life was Jacques and the time spent with him.

He came home and went to work but we used to spend it all to enjoy the little things we used to have only in weekends.

Anytime I am back in France, I think of our silly happiness of doing silly things like going to Leclerc, the supermarket, and buy some food so we could prepare our meals together.

It must be very clear that Jacques did marry me for I don’t know which reason, but certainly not because of my culinary abilities.

I married him and I knew nothing, I could not cook nor do any household work.

I did not know how to cook whatsoever and when I say that we prepared our meals together, be aware they were very primitive: chicken in a saucepan straight into the oven. I remember I even learned to do the whole chicken in the microwave. I tried to learn a few quick recipes but my ability and creativity were equal to zero.

Often I think poor Jacques must have loved me really very much because I did not know to do almost anything.

I spent my life studying and really was not good at anything, apart studying and working in my own field.

Nevertheless, we spent the first months enjoying Valence, the surrounding area, some of his friends and colleagues and spending time one with the other.

This is something which has never changed between us, we enjoy our company and love being together.

This is why we, later on in life, decided to work together.

It is not something easy and that everyone could do, it needs lots of empathy, compassion and the desire to work and look towards the same direction.

Once back, we both decided, when it would have been possible, to do our honeymoon.

Were we lucky, weren’t we?

We had three honeymoons that year, each one absolutely romantic and meaningful.

The first one was a week in Positano because I wanted Jacques to see the most romantic place in my Country. I adore the Amalfi coast and I must say that it was absolutely stunning.

Still remember the name of the Hotel “ La conca d’oro. We had a beautiful room overlooking the sea and every day we visited some special place such as Amalfi, Ravello – my favourite-, Pompei, Capri island, Paestum and Sorrento.

Everything was exactly what I expected: warm, cozy, friendly and really Italian.

A month later – because Jacques obviously had lots of days of holidays to take – we went for a week to the Chateux de la Loire, we visited most of the enchanting castles along the Loire river.

I remember my favourite ones: Azay les Rideau, Chambord, Cheverny, those were really what I expected from France: the glory and the legendary sumptuousness of the Kings of France. I adored Tour where we were staying and learnt to love more French specialties I was not familiar with.

In the summer, we took our summer holidays and spent three unforgettable weeks with my friends in Phoenix, in California and at the Grand Canyon on our own.

It was an unforgettable holiday because I could show Jacques the places I used to visit when I lived with Elaine and Michael as well as do things on our own like the few days in Sedona at the Auberge.

If you remember, I already mentioned this.

If I had ever found the love of my life, I would have taken him to this stunning place over the creek.

Our neighbour in Valence had a son who was the chef at the Auberge so through him, we managed to have a deal for a very posh stay in a lodge with gourmet breakfast and dinner.

Wow! That was amazing, our lodge had a four poster bed with a fireplace and a sofa area. The bathroom was in marble, huge, magnificent, I could have got lost there.

These honeymoons made up for the lack of the first one! By far…

When we got back to Valence, I basically started my life in France.

I liked it.

It was not too different from being here. We are very similar.

The only thing I missed was our easiness in inviting each other at home, sharing dinners and the joy of being always together with friends.

Apart this, I loved the town, my new home, we had also a huge garden and everything was beautiful.

I love new things. I adapt myself very much.

The only difficulty was being adapted to the rigid scheme of the Officer wife circle.

Most of them did not work and I have always loved working and being independent so it was a little hard for me to get adapted to that circle, a close circle of officers’ wives.

Plus, I think I am very independent and don’t like to be the wife of someone nor I enjoyed the fact I had to belong to a circle of officers’ wives.

What I liked the most, of course, were the parties on Saturday, sometimes in stunning chateaux.

I am and will always be a party girl. I love going out. I love meeting new people. I love, as I said, any novelty.

My work was going very well.

I kept all of my clients and for the client who was working for the pet food manufacturers in the UK ( Spillers Foods) and in the US ( Mars international) it was much easier to have me in France rather than in Italy.

I would go to Paris by TGV and in three hours I would be at the Gare de Lyon .

Once a month I would attend meetings for my clients and deal with the top managers from whom I learned so much.

I think, in those years, I learned everything I know, especially how to deal with people, how to be very diplomatic, yet achieving the results I wanted to achieve.

All in all, we lived in France for three years, in which he was also in South America, in French Guyana for 6 months.

That was his life, his career.

Slowly, we both realized we would have loved another type of life where we could have spent more time together.

I was very afraid to ask him to come and live in Italy but one Sunday, we were somewhere in the Ardeche region, I remember, I took the courage to ask him if he had ever thought of another type of life.

Mostly of another life style.

I was very nervous when I asked him this question; I did not want to appear like someone who wanted something or forced him to do something.

Rule n° 1 in our marriage has always been to be ourselves, to develop our own personality and forge our character without imposing anything to the other.

We are and always have been united but each one in our own space.

We are and always have been very respectful of the other privacy and to be honest, I would never ever check on him .

Our phone are open and if we wanted, each one of us can read anything of the other.

But I would never dare to do that, and he is the same.

Our relationship is based on trust and confidence.

I wanted him to think carefully and see if there could have been another possibility of life.

I had a big property in Italy and I was honest enough to explain the truth.

Of course, he did not have to agree with me only because I was an only child and grandchild but it was a fact that this big property would have been lost or wasted unattended at some point.

He totally agreed with me but obviously was concerned about which type of job he would have taken.

His Italian was still at the level of “yes” and “ancora” referred to the food and you can’t change from the French Army into the Italian one.

I had suddenly an idea and asked him what he would have thought about working for my big client and take care of the French market for him.

I still had to ask my client but if Jacques loved the idea, it would have been not hard.

We knew the Army would pay for 6 months to allow Jacques to learn a new job.

Anyone was thrilled, my client too so that is what happened.

We took this huge decision to leave France and come to live here.

My parents converted my grandparents’ house and my grandmother who was still alive had a ground floor apartment renovated especially for her.

It was the perfect deal and my dream of having a family could become true.

I did not want to have children in these first years because I have always thought that a child needs both parents around and he was always somewhere else.

It took a few months to convert our present home, I will be eternally grateful to my parents who allowed us to come here and helped us with the expenses.

It is a huge home and the conversion expenses were very important for us, we managed to be able to pay everything thanks to my parents’ help.

Jacques had to start learning Italian very quickly because beginning of 1993, he started working for my client.

I think I can say it was not easy for him.

Everything was new and so different.

But slowly but steadily, he learned and managed to have his own friends he would go out on the bike during the weekend and , I suppose I can say it, he was happy here.

The job was not what he wanted or liked for himself.

He was used to work giving orders to his platoon, I don’t think he enjoyed my client manners. He was rather rude but I was used to him and his manners. I learned the art of not paying attention to “bad” details.

After the 6 months, Jacques decided he did not want to continue working for my client so my dad asked him whether he would be willing to work with him in a small factory where they produced household detergents and skincare.

Jacques, of course, was happy and started working there and stayed there until my dad passed away in 2004. That year we sold the company and, since then, Jacques has been working only in the B&B with me.

Another chapter of our life ended.

We had left France and a new life in Italy started in 1993…