The Fleas

I consider myself to be a fairly neat and tidy individual.

Some people might say that I’m obsessively neat and tidy, and they would be wrong.

(They might be trying to compensate for their own home being dirty and disorganized. Because if someone prefers a dirty, disorganized home – or: are too lazy and apathetic to do anything about their dirty, disorganized home – it’s really just a preference isn’t it? I prefer to have my home neat and tidy. They prefer to have their home dirty and disorganized. Neither is right, neither is wrong. It’s just two ways of doing things.)

However, saying that… If it is wrong to be neat and tidy, I don’t want to be right.

There are many reasons to keep your home neat and tidy: the ability to find keys and phone, disease prevention, unannounced visitors, etc.

And, of course when I say, “unannounced visitors”, I don’t just mean your next-door neighbor who wants to share his smoked sausage with you. I mean: pests, bugs, insects, and fleas.

When I even think of the word, I start scratching.

And when I think of a particular French château in the Parisian countryside, I also start scratching.

Let me set the scene for you…

A French château in the Parisian countryside (yes, the same one)…

A friend of a friend of a friend had a massive four-story château that was going to sit empty all summer, and they offered us a week’s stay. The husband and I were living in London at the time, and the Parisian countryside was really just a hop, skip and jump away (more like: a 2-hour flight, a 1-hour subway journey, a 45-minutes bus ride, a 1-hour train trip, and then a lengthy walk, uphill), so we said, “oui”!

As we arrived to the estate, our jaws dropped. The property was gargantuan, with it’s own lake and it’s own forest of trees, and the entire perimeter surrounded by a two-story brick wall.

The château itself was: fabuleusement énorme avec une grande façade et pittoresques petits volets . Ce est exactement la façon dont vous vous imaginez un véritable château.

We opened the door, already in awe. The interior was traditionally decorated with grand, high ceilings, marble floors, and classical furnishings. It had ten bedrooms, seven bathrooms, four sitting rooms, two elegant dining rooms, and a library. It was, in a word: magnifique!

We felt so lucky to be there… That is, until we stopped feeling so lucky to be there… Until we began scratching our legs until they bled.

The husband and I lasted three sleepless, flea-infested nights at the château before we packed it in.

You see, the French are… (how can I say this delicately?)… Pas pris la peine de la propreté (not bothered with cleanliness). They have other things on their mind, like: croissants, berets, bureaucracy, and being arrogant.

The French have a preference, and their preference is being dirty and disorganized. So they shouldn’t be surprised when unannounced visitors arrive.

+++

We left the château, depressed and defeated. Lucky for us, our wonderful friends were in Normandy and invited us to come stay. We visited the Mont Saint-Michel, we ate cheese with mites in the rind (mimolette), we went to a weird folk festival, we ate a croissant-baguette, we played German board games, and we shot-gunned probiotic drinks. The trip was saved, and we left France older, wiser, and sans fleas.


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