Teaching, learning in a French village

A Memorable Place

October 30, 2005|By LINDA TRAPP | LINDA TRAPP,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Two years ago, I participated in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program and had the opportunity to teach English in a French high school. I lived near Nay, a charming village in southwest France. Nay is in a region called Bearn, which is nestled in the Pyrenees not far from the Spanish border.

The village comprises elegant stone houses and historic architecture dating from the 13th century. The landscape surrounding Nay is breathtaking. Nearby are many ski resorts and trails for hiking and biking. For those who love water, there are hundreds of mountain lakes, streams and a river that cuts through Nay. For those who love the beach, the Atlantic Ocean is a little over an hour away. Nay's proximity to mountains and to the coast makes it possible in winter to ski all day and then drive to one of the beautiful beach resorts, like Biarritz, to enjoy a milder climate and dinner by the ocean.

During my year in Nay, I fell in love with it.

Every meal was memorable. This is the land of duck, foie gras and lamb. I had my first taste of Pur Brebis, a divine cheese made from sheep's milk, and Jurancon, a wonderful golden wine; both are produced locally.

On market day, farmers and merchants come together twice a week in the 13th-century town hall. The sights, smells and sounds are a sensual pleasure. Apart from the wonderfully fresh and delicious food, the most memorable aspect of the market is the people.

Saturday market is a social gathering. People greet each other and enjoy samples of cheese and wine while hobnobbing. I was the only American in town, and people were interested in meeting me, learning about life in America and listening to my opinions on everything from education to politics.

I went back to Nay last summer with my sister, Jan Trapp Marble, who was recovering from a serious illness. My French friends and merchants in the market welcomed me warmly and embraced my sister. The good food, clean air, charming people and tranquil setting made Nay the perfect place for my sister to recover and for me to get refreshed.

Linda Trapp lives in Baltimore.

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