One of the things that I found very strange on my initial visit to Fountainebleau is the way that houses are separated from each other with very big, very high walls. Walls that completely surround each and every house – all the way around and most times, even in the front. Since there are walls, that means that there are also gates (with doorbells) to enter every house. In France NOBODY knocks on your door. They wouldn’t dream of entering the gate without permission. Everyone is very civilized. Friendly, but civilized.
While I am fine with this cultural difference, it did pose some initial concern for me when we moved in to our neighborhood. My first thought was, “How am I going to meet my neighbors with all these walls around?” If you knew my neighbors in VT (go Junction!), you would know that living in a social neighborhood setting is of utmost importance to me. How else can we have fun if not with chairs in the yard, beers in hand and a gang of kids swirling around us like an impending tornado?
We had made some small social progress in our neighborhood, since we moved in, namely:
- we received a nice note from our neighbor across the street welcoming us to the neighborhood
- we recently met the family a few doors down from us, who finally realized that the only way Owen & Eamon would stop hanging out in front of their house was to just come out and meet them (O&E knew there were 2 little boys living there, so they went to extreme lengths to be noticed, but not by ringing the doorbell)
But this was it so far, until…………………………………………we received a note in our mailbox notifying us of a neighborhood BLOCK PARTY! Yes! People do hang out in the streets of France drinking! This was the opportunity I had been waiting for.
To get ready for the party, I made my best batch of triple chocolate cookies and we headed over to the party on Friday night. The street was blocked off (as expected) and although there was plenty of wine, there were no chairs in sight. This wasn’t your average hanging out type of party, it was more like a formal cocktail party where people were passing hors d’oeuvres and mingling.
Even with my rubbish French, I was able to have some very interesting conversations and I found out that the block party in France is a national/annual event. That’s right – national and annual. That means that across France there are block parties held in any neighborhood that has a person willing to be the coordinator and they are only held once a year on the same night. The very nice people we met, were happy to talk to us and surprised that they had Americans living in their ‘hood. When they asked us if we ever had a party with people drinking in the street like this in the US, we said, “Bien sûr!” When they asked if it as also annual event, I said, “Mais, no! Chaque week-end!”