Gifts From France and Picking Up First Harvest

A few days ago, we received a parcel from France from our dear friend Manon. Inside, we found a beautiful handmade bath towel for baby Sofia, a card and a fancy tea for me – Manon knows me too well: I love great tea and handmade things so this has been a perfect match.

Gifts from Manon

We met Manon on 2014 in Germany when both Nicolas and me were Erasmus students. A few weeks after our semester started, we wanted to go on a trip to Switzerland but it was too expensive with public transport so we wanted to rent a car – to share the costs, we posted in our Erasmus group on Facebook that we are looking for three more folks to join. Manon was the first person to respond to our post. We thought she either really loves traveling or she is a crazy weirdo to take our deal. I am glad she turned out to be the sweetest, most curious and thoughtful person. We eventually also got two Finish girls to join us – Katri and Aiju – and after the Swiss trip, we travel to many places together through the summer of 2014 – yes, best summer of my life – but somehow it is with Manon that our friendship persisted through years.

Our travel dream team

At the end of summer 2014, Nicolas, Aiju and me travelled to France and stayed for the night at the house of Manon parents. It was lovely – we toured around her small town, shared dinner with her parents and petted her alpacas. Throughout years, we sent each other parcels and letters but in 2018, we met again – when we travelled to France for the wedding of Nicolas’ friend Marie, we met Manon in Paris for lovely lunch and a few days later, we drove to Ange where she works with handicapped people for another lovely afternoon together. These meetings for short but absolutely lovely.

Paris 2018

At the end of 2018, in the autumn, we received an unexpectedly message from Manon that her brother Nathan was doing exchange year in the United States and was visiting Quebec city for a few days asking if he could stay with us. Although our apartment was tiny, we had fun – we hiked in Jacques Cartier National park, went to play badminton together (we used to play with Nicolas every week), took Nathan to our favourite restaurant in Quebec and farmer’s market and played lots of monopoly. Nathan always won 😂

In winter 2020, for the New Year and before the pandemic hit, Manon finally caved in to our invitation to visit us in Canada. We went together to the North of Canada, cross country skied, visited the Nordic spa, sampled beers at the local breweries, hiked in the winter forests and played lots of board games. We also took Manon to Camelia Sinesis which is my favourite tea place in Canada for a small tea sampling. These moments together are rare but I am so glad to have them – every time we spend time together, I feel like I am reliving the vibes of the summer 2014.

On another note, I finally harvested our first radish of the season. I planted them at the beginning of April after learning that radishes are going to survive frost well if it hits Montreal area during that month (which it totally did) and in the mid May, the first batch was ready.

Last year, I really enjoyed vegetable gardening and this year we are going for it again with a few improvements. We also got a few bushes planted such as blackcurrant and camerises. Blackcurrant is something that my grandparents grow any every summer they make tons of blackcurrant jam which we then used to eat during the winter. When I saw the bushes for sale in the local plant nursery, I knew it was meant to be – despite our tiny backyard space, we managed to find a place for them.

I was always wondering why blackcurrant is never sold anywhere in Canada. Interestingly, it was banned in the United States in 1900s for commercial growing because blackcurrants were spreading fungus that was destroying the timber industry. I am not sure whether the policy was the same in Canada but this would explain why the plants are not the mainstream ones. Well, in any case, I have some in my backyard now!

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