January 18, 2018 By Fred Montonye

Off to Europe

In 1971–72, Joan had a sabbatical from her community college teaching position so we planned to visit about twenty countries in Europe. I arranged for my business partner to run our business while we were away.

One of my clients, Robert, was a general contractor in California and a French citizen. He and his family always spent a good part of August with their family in France. When Robert heard about our going to Europe he said, “You are going to France aren’t you?” “Yes, of course.” Then you must come and spend a couple of weeks with us in the Hautes-Alpes area near Gap and I will teach you how to survive in France.” What a fabulous invitation!

Our visit with Robert and Muriel was great. We rented a hotel room in their small village, which had a magnificent view of the Alps from our window. We went down to the bar for our breakfast. The proprietor and his wife were not used to this, as breakfast was usually served in the guest’s room, so they reluctantly served us on the patio.

Robert taught us how to find a restaurant in an unfamiliar village, and to look at the menus of at least three restaurants before making our choice. He taught us about farmers markets.

Robert, Muriel and her brother Jeneaux took us to the Riviera. It was August and we found out that’s when the French go on vacation and usually head to the seashore, either the Atlantic or the Mediterranean. We went to Nice and, despite the crowds, found a room in a simple but adequate hotel. Jeneaux came along because he had sold his apple crop to a broker but had not received his money and was looking for the broker. He found him the next day and everything turned out well.

The broker took us all to a wonderful seafood lunch by the harbor. Upon learning that Joan was studying foods of the areas we were going to visit, he got passes to the Produce Market, second in size only to the one in Paris. It was gorgeous. The fruit and vegetable displays were so beautiful I took at least four rolls of slides just of the market.

Those two weeks with Robert and Muriel were such a great adventure that it definitely had a very strong influence in our moving to France thirteen years later to operate our cooking school.


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