Travel trip France: Hours-long dinner gathering provides authentic experience | VailDaily.com

Travel trip France: Hours-long dinner gathering provides authentic experience

Editor's note: This is the first part of a series about vacationing in southern France.

Imagine sitting down for a five-hour meal with multiple courses, lots of wine — as well as spirits — and great company, but no one's on their phones the entire night. That's dinner in France.

Apparently, it's a big deal to be invited to someone's home, and I understand why.

The house is surrounded by the family's vineyard and has sweeping views of the countryside. I never set foot inside the house, but I felt very appreciative of this experience.

After a day of rafting with my parents and their French friends, we arrived at their friends' home that has artifacts in the yard older than America itself. Greetings consist of kisses on both cheeks, for both the men and the women, something most Americans would be reluctant to do.

But these are family friends, and even if I don't speak their language, I rely on the vibes I get from everyone, with my parents there to translate anything important.

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Sipping on fine Scotch aged 12 years and gathered around the patio table, I eat, drink and then eat some more. Olives, bread, meats and cheeses are just the beginning.

We exchange details of our adventures that day and talk about life, not about politics or anything else troublesome.

My French friends love "South Park," so I share my stories about the actual town in Colorado. We look at pictures and videos of my Colorado adventures, as well. Photos are a universal language.

Three Scotches deep and I don't feel the least bit drunk, more relaxed than anything. The food keeps balance, and people aren't there to get cockeyed drunk; rather, they are enjoying their drinks and time with friends and family.

After a few hours at the appetizers area, we move to the dinner table, set up in the pool house with another round of the meal. I'm asked to cut the baguette, which entails using the knife to perform a cross motion on the bread, showing thankfulness for the meal.

Grilled meats, more cheese, deviled eggs filled with tuna fish and rose wine fill the table. I cringe, with excitement, as more food continues to come from all over the place, wondering how I'm still able to eat.

And then dessert comes. Three giant cakes and pies are placed on the table, and I'm mentally preparing myself for a few more bites. After all, the presentation is beautiful. Two pieces and I tap out, pleasantly plump with the evening's meal.

The highlight for me was when my parents' friend pulled me aside and in French told me something along the lines of: "I don't understand you. You don't understand me, but I enjoy your company."

The feeling's mutual, as I tell them I'll see them next year, for another proper French dinner.

Hugs and kisses on both cheeks follow, and I feel like part of the French family, even though I don't understand what they're saying.

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.