My grandmother and grandfather were both born and raised in different regions of France. As young adults they each voyaged to America, where they met. After beginning a life together here, they knew they had to find a way to stay connected to their roots overseas. So, 25 years ago my grandparents bought a house in France.
Picture a scene from a European postcard, and that’s what this property looks like. Literally—it is popularly featured on actual postcards all throughout Brittany, a region in northern France. Located right off the coast in a small village named Kerlouan, this house is picture perfect. It’s a small stone cottage situated directly on the lush, rolling dunes and overlooking the crashing sea. Take ten steps out the back gate and your feet hit sand. To the right is a private cove, naturally formed by the positioning of the huge boulders that litter the shore. Dead ahead is a vast expanse of flawless beach. There’s not a single home for miles that can boast this same scenery, because it has since become illegal to build on the dunes.
I took my first journey to Kerlouan when I was two-years-old. After that initial trip, it became customary for my brother and I to fly out there with my grandparents each June, as my mom and dad both worked. To my parents, I’m sure it was a simple babysitting solution—to me, it was the experience of a lifetime.
My subsequent summers in Kerlouan have melded together into a sea of cherished memories as I established a routine there over the years. Sundays began with mass at the tiny chapel down the road, filled with residents who all knew each other by first name. If we were lucky, Nanny always let my brother and I finish off the morning with “un pain au chocolat”—a chocolate croissant, freshly baked at the boulangerie across the street from the church.
Mondays brought the promise of a shopping trip in a neighboring town called Lesneven at “le marché”. At this popular outdoor market, vendors crowded the streets selling everything you could imagine.
Tuesday and Thursday nights were always my favorite. All the townspeople would gather in the village for the Breton dance, a traditional custom of the region. Everyone gathered in a large circle and joined together by linking pinkies. There was always very festive music playing, sometimes from a CD or sometimes live on “le binioù”—a type of French bagpipe. We would dance in a circle for hours, laughing and getting carried along with the crowd.
The rest of my days in France were spent without a care in the world. Long walks down the dunes with my grandmother, scaling the gigantic rocks with my brother, and playing in the ocean for hours are some of my fondest memories. I am proudly an American, but while I lived in Kerlouan I seamlessly adopted the French culture, the language, and the lifestyle. I’ve learned that a baguette with cheese is a perfectly acceptable meal, I should never expect any stores to be open at two p.m., and that vegetables taste infinitely better when they’re from the farm down the road. Most recently, I’ve learned that my grandparents’ house is priceless. Since it is the only house with such an unbelievable location, a price literally cannot be put on it. This is something a realtor recently told our family—but I have known that house was priceless for years.
Kelly O. – Communications Specialist