Ah oui, I’m definitely back in France . . .

…actually I’ve been back for almost a month, but, as usual, time escaped me.  I started to write this post a week or so after I moved into the new apartment, then other things battled for my attention– unpacking, an article to write and the vendange–more about that in future posts.  Now, although it seems almost as though I never left, there are still almost daily reminders of how much I have yet to learn about living in France.

So, picking up on the subject of this post– I knew I was back when the automatic teller machine at the Credite Agricole in Pezenas ate my debit card.  I went inside the bank and in French, rusty from four months of disuse, tried to explain to the teller.  Come back tomorrow she told me (at least I think that’s what she told me, my comprehension had also suffered) and bring your passport.  Since I already had identification, I wanted to ask why I couldn’t just have the card back maintenant, but I was already exhausted from the exchange plus I know a little more now about how French bureaucracy works.

So that was a Thursday.  Friday, I thought about driving back to Pezenas, about 25 minutes away, but spent the day unpacking  and shopping for groceries at my old friend the Super U.  Love the wine and cheese, hate the financial transaction–I gave the clerk my American credit card which is supposed to work in France but doesn’t always–if it’s raining in Belgium, for example, a black cat crossed my path the night before, or Hollande wears a blue tie. I think it was Holland’e fault this time, it usually is. The clerk shrugged, shook her head and handed back the card.  I gave her cash, the last euros I had in my billfold. Saturday, I thought again about going into Pezenas but it was market day and the place would be a zoo–also I wasn’t sure whether Credite Agricole would be open.

Monday, as I drove to Pezenas I rehearsed what I would say to the teller–I had it all written down in my notebook which I carry everywhere.  But Monday, et voila, the bank is closed.  As I walked back to my car, I met up with someone I know–French.  He shrugged when I told him the bank was closed.  Perhaps because it was open Saturday, was his best explanation. I think it might have been Hollande’s tie.  Tuesday, the bank was open and I got my card back.

Lessons about living in France that I’ve learned the hard way and should actually write up and post on the fridge:

•DO NOT drive long distances on Sunday or at night when low on gas:  24 hour stations only take French credit cards and since there is no cashier on duty money won’t work.  I discovered this ages ago, but apparently it hasn’t quite sunk in. Running on fumes, I found an Intermarché but, while everyone else was pumping away, I was stuck until the woman at the next pump took pity on me, accepted my 20 euros and paid for my fuel on her credit card.

•DO NOT run low on food or wine, especially wine, on Saturday then wait until Sunday afternoon to buy more. Nothing is open after noon on Sundays . . . well except for Jardinland, a chain of nursery supply stores because of course you never know when you absolutely have to have a geranium or a bag of potting soil. Just don’t try making a meal out of it.

•DO have cash on hand when shopping, just in case it’s one of those days — black cats, rain in Belgium, etc.

•DO NOT spend too much time wondering why things work the way they do in France.  Just shrug. C’est la vie.

MY NEW DIGS

After four months of a semi vagabond existence, it felt very good to gather my belonging from the various places they’d been stored and to unpack my suitcases. The apartment is still a work in progress, but feels enough like home that I’ve been able to do some work.  Quite a luxury to have a separate study–it’s been so long since I’ve worked from anything larger than the corner of the bedroom or living room that I hardly know what to do with all the space.
I’m also enjoying the new village.  Like Montpeyroux, Laurens is wine making  village–one of seven, including the actual village of Faugeres, that constitute the Faugeres apellation.  There’s an interesting web site — http://www.e-britain.co.uk/laurens/pictures.htm–which has a lot of old pictures of the village including one of my street, rue de la Tuillerie.  Also a link to some more recent views: http://www.mairie-laurens.fr/index.php?page=photos.
 And, ta da, some pictures of my dwelling–I’m up with the pigeons on the third floor.

CATCHING UP ON THE PAST MONTH–

 

A barbecue in the grounds of a beautiful old building where art and music classes are offered. The sky looked a bit threatening even before dinner was served, but midway through the second course, it started to rain. Unperturbed the diners, lots of Brits among them, just opened umbrellas and went on with the meal. Stay dry and carry on!
  IMG_1800 IMG_1801
IMG_1780-small-16
A FEW DAYS IN SPAIN
Flew into Barcelona in late August and spent a few days in the Spanish countryside, about an hour from the city.Blackberries ripening,lavender and thyme in the hillsides. A month earlier, I’d been in Minnesota– black cows and fields and fields of corn. In Spain, smaller fields of corn and caramel coloured cows with bells around their necks. Very cute, but a little camera shy.  The bells sounded nice though.
 AND, FROM JFK, AN ODE TO LEAVING THE STATES:
All my bags are packed, I’m going away
Waiting here at JFK
Oh man, I hate to fly.
So many brats, obnoxious and loud
A wailing, screaming fighting crowd
Please god they don’t sit next to me.
But security will open in an hour or two,
Cross my fingers they’ll let me through,
Then I’ll be on my way.
I’m leaving on a jet plane
Tomorrow morning I’ll be in Spain,
Oh man I need a drink….

That’s it for now, much more to write about, but I’ll save it for future posts. à la prochaine fois.

Advertisements
By La vie en France

If it’s Tuesday, it must be South Dakota

Madison, Connecticut, the last stop before I fly to Barcelona on 21 August. Days dwindling down fast now, it’s been a good few months but I’m looking forward to being in France again and to returning to some sort of a routine, at least as far as work is concerned.
The road trip is already receding into the distance, half a dozen or more (more I’m sure) states in half a dozen or more (more, I’m sure about that too) days. We left Marilla still asleep in Park City, Utah and made an early morning getaway. Wyoming was all vast stretches of grasslands punctuated by rock formations in silhouette against the sky. Trails of dust on the horizon, endless lines of boxcars. Billboards offered entertainment. Little America had ice cream for 79-cents. Joe couldn’t resist.

IMG_1347

Before turning in for the night in Hot Springs, South Dakota–gateway to the Black Hills,home to more than 37 sandstone buildings, and, due to it’s therapeutic waters, a once thriving spa town– we saw Mount Rushmore and got very lost in Custer National Forest…or park, without consulting the map, I can’t remember. Lots of notices warning that buffalo are dangerous animals and in Rock Springs a neon sign above the Blue Bison restaurant but no actual buffalo until the next day when we spotted them roaming (that’s what buffalo do, right?) across a field. I don’t think they were the wild kind though.

IMG_1368

According to their website, Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota has been luring travellers off the highway since 1931. The billboard signs (Western clothes, frosty mug beer, free coffee for vets) started showing up around Rapid City but apparently have been spotted as far away as a London tube station. We were lured: a buffalo burger (as close as I ever got to one) and fries for around ten bucks. Joe bought a shot glass for a friend who is collecting them from every state she’s never visited. Spent the night in the Cloud 9 Motel, $95 plus tax which seemed a lot for a place with nothing around but corn fields but someone said that South Dakota is a booming.

IMG_1397

More corn as we crossed  from South Dakokta into Minnesota. Fields and fields and fields of corn. And then more corn, None as high as an elephants eye though and still very green. Other highlights included black cows and a visit to the Spam Museum–aka the Guggenham. We passed on the Corn Palace.  Next stop Wisconsin. Some places I want to visit mostly because I like the name. Sheboygan on Lake Michigan is one of them.  The lake looked like an ocean and it was cool and breezy on the beach, pretty though. Sheboygan also claims to be the bratwurst capital of the world, I took them at their word. Drove through Green Bay, Joe sampled cheese somewhere, then we crossed into Michigan.
photo
IMG_1417

I’d seen Lake Michigan once before in Chicago, but hadn’t seen any of the other Great Lakes. As a school girl in England, I’d learned an mnemonic to remember the names: On Her Majesty’s Service, Elizabeth. I told Joe about it, but he wasn’t impressed mostly because he’s not a fan of royalty. I’m not either but it’s the only way I can remember Ontario, Huron, Michigan Superior and Eerie. My goal on this trip was to see them all.  I take pictures through the car window as we cross over the Mackinac Bridge into  St. Ingac, Michigan.  The bridge connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.  The Mackinac Straits over which the bridge crosses link lakes Michigan and Huron so I was able to   check one more off my list. A ferry over to Mackinac Island looked like fun, but we didn’t have time. Someone told me it was mostly fudge shops over there, so probably just as well that we didn’t go.

Heading north, along the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The map indicated that Lake Superior was close by but couldn’t see it for trees.  Cross over the International Bridge into  Saulte Ste Marie, Canada–another place we visited mostly because I liked the name.  Actually there’s a city with the same name on the American side and we’d intended to stay there the night, but I mistakenly booked a motel on the Canadian side so, ever the intrepid international travellers, we crossed the border.

Not much in Sault St. Marie despite the name. We talk about possibility of heading east to Toronto before crossing back into the States, I want to do this, but Joe decides it will be easier to take the southern route. Disappointed, I console myself with a caloric splurge at Tim Horton’s, a sausage biscuit and a doughnut.  More calories than I’ve eaten on the whole trip.  Joe declines a bite–he watches me eat, smirks and, self-righteously, I thought, says something snide about dieting. We cross back into the  States. The guy at the border asks why the car has WA plates, why Joe has a CA license, why I have a WA license, where I actually live, whether we’re actually married, how I got into the United States in the first place.  Cars line up behind us as the interrogation continues. Joe tries to explain. I try to explain. “Holy Moly,” the guy finally says. “You guys have a story.” And we didn’t even mentioned France. .

We drive through Detroit, ooh and ah at the mansions, including the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House Grosse Pointe, etc. then quickly find ourselves in considerably less desirable areas, return to the freeway and spend the night in an anonymous place just before Toledo, Ohio. 

In Toledo, we manage to miss the Victorians we’d read about on the west side of town, cross a bridge over the   Maumee River. drive some more then have lunch at an Irish pub Sandusky, Ohio. There are fried bologna sandwiches on the menu, we share a cheeseburger. Back on the road, we skirt Cleveland, cross into Pennsylvania, then New York State. Glimpses of Lake Erie on the left look like an ocean. A huge storm, as we drive into Buffalo.  The plan had been to see Niagara Falls, but a torrential downpour along with flashes of lightning proved a deterrent .

The following morning, the sun was shining and we drove to the falls.  Seems impossible, but we actually managed to get lost trying to find them.  We prevailed.  They were magnificent.  Joe said they were better from the Canadian side, but we didn’t have time for that.  
IMG_1482Back on the road and a beeline down to Cape Cod, MA where we spent several great days before leaving for CT where the road trip wrapped up.  Joe is now headed back to CA, I’ll soon headed to JFK en route to Barcelona, then France.  Here are a few pictures from the past few weeks

IMG_1571Joe takes a canoe ride, disappears on the horizon, I alert the lifeguard, Joe reappears.  There’s a much longer version of this story, but I won’t go into it here.

IMG_1509At Woods Hole on Cape Cod, Beautiful place, I could live there.  Ate a lobster roll, I’d been craving one since we arrived on the Cape.  Definitely beat Tim Horton’s.IMG_1578More lobster at Vince and Deanna’s.  It’s a tradition.IMG_1601 IMG_1602 IMG_1603 IMG_1605Stormy weather at Hammonasset Beach.

OK, that’s it for now.  Sorry for  typos, inaccuracies, omissions, but if I don’t put this out now, I never will.  Next stop Barcelona!

By La vie en France

Ten days in Utah then back on the road . . .

Park City, Utah where I’ve been staying with my friend Marilla for the past ten days was a silver mining town back in the 1800’s before it became a ski haven and the site of the Sun Dance Film Festival. Main Street still retains some of the old west feel despite the trendy restaurants and renovated homes that once accommodated miners and today sell for stratospherically high prices. Saturday, we took a guided walking tour, learned a bit of the town’s history and stopped for a beer at the No Name Saloon. It was once known as the Alamo, but when it changed hands the old owner wanted a steep price for the use of the name. Unwilling to fork up, the new owner had a clever idea. The sign hanging outside reads: America’s Last Authentic Miners Organization of Debauchery. The first letter of the first five words spell. . . you guessed it.

Utah is a beautiful state in all seasons. It’s been a bit hot during my visit–I wilt at 90 degrees–but we’ve hiked almost every day in the Uintas and Wasaatch mountains. I’ve seen mountain meadows with carpets of wildflowers, streams and waterfalls, iridescent blue fireflies, scampering wildlife. So much beauty, it was a hard choice between trying to capture it all and just taking it in. I tried to do a bit of both. Yesterday we drove out to Sundance, took the chair lift up and hiked down, a bit warm and dusty and more than ready for a fabulous lunch on an outdoor terrace.

Half an hour down the mountain in Salt Lake City, the two Red Iguana restaurants have long queues outside both places, funky decor and appetising selections of moles. The margaritas aren’t bad either.

I was going to write that I’d purchased the car on the patio of the Red Iguana (a Caddy?) with the handsome advance from the sale of my book, but after the Lamborghini joke, I decided against it. Haven’t sold the book, didn’t buy the car.

Tomorrow, we hit the road early, tomorrow night, Hot Springs, South Dakota. Whooopeee.

By La vie en France

California days. . . daze

The heading for this post was going to be July 4–hence the picture of me about to attack the elaborate buffet table at Michael’s party. The days got away though, as they’ve been doing ever since I’ve been in California. It was probably a good idea to start my US visit in Port Angeles where the pace is a bit slower–picking nettles and walking the goats with Chris and Suzanne, for instance–before gradually heading south. Even though I’ve driven in California for years, the need to take three or more separate multi-lane freeways to reach a destination 30 minutes away took a bit of getting used to. Actually, it didn’t take too long; now I’m zooming along at 80 mph again, burning my $4.15 a gallon fuel (cheap compared to France though) listening to traffic alerts on KNX interspersed with ads for SitnSleep. Last night, I fell asleep with Larry’s voice in my ear, ‘. . .or your mattress is freeeeeee.’ If you don’t live in Southern CA and have no idea what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky.

July 4 in France is, not surprisingly, no big deal even though a French dentist made George Washington’s teeth and the French helped defeat the British so that America could win its independence (I learned that on KNX between a news flash about this year’s hot-dog eating champion (60 I think, then he proposed to his girl-friend. Amazingly, she accepted) a car chase in the San Fernando Valley and Larry’s mattress pitch. But, back to France where last year on July 4 Julie, one of two Americans in the village, and I decided we would celebrate. I made potato salad, she cooked sausages and we drove to the beach where we consumed our food, drank some wine and she flicked her Bic cigarette lighter, our version of fireworks.

This year, while on the freeway (six lanes, two connections) going to the party in Belmont Shore, I decided that I really, really needed a pair of sandals. Still wearing my French hat, so to speak, I assumed that nothing would be open. . . but wait, on KNX, an ad for a Fouth of July sale. (In France everything is an occasion for a community repas or fete, in the States what’s a celebration without a once in a lifetime blowout, everything in the store 95% off special clearance, buy one get more than you’ll ever use in a lifetime sale?) The shopping center parking lot was full. I got my sandals–40% off.

So, a good July 4–Michael pulled out all the stops, including a cotton candy (or as the Brits, I’m still one of them, kind of) say, candy-floss, machine. Michael couldn’t resist instructing Justin on the exact way to create the perfect cone of spun sugar. Afterwards, a block party in Orange–kids riding bikes, flags fluttering from the handlebars, hamburgers on the grill, music playing. Later, fireworks bursting over the Queen Mary. Perhaps a little ironic?


California retrospective . . .
I’ve been in California for about a month and it’s been a whirlwind of activity. From Casa Fishermeyer in Walnut Creek, see picture below of the newest household resident employed to keep birds from plundering Kit’s fruit trees. . . . .IMG_1069
. . . to San Jose where I found the way to Patty and Paddy’s residence and Paddy whipped up a plate of appetisers which we washed down with champagne and reminisced about Spain where we all first met– a wedding in Valencia to which we’d all been invited. Both P&P were along for the ride while I drove Joe crazy in my search for authentic paella. We finally found it in a workman’s cafe next to a rice field. P&P are on my list of visitors to France next year, as are the Fishermeyers. (Book soon, it’s filling up.)

My attempt at humour backfired a bit when, after posing for a picture in Patty’s friend Emilio’s Lamborghini, I posted on Facebook that I’d finally sold my book and with the huge advance bought a new car. Received so many congratulatory notes that I finally had to explain that it was a joke. Nice car, not mine though, still haven’t sold the book . . .
IMG_1091
Still in the San Jose area, but felt as though I was back in France when I visited another friend in her hillside home near Palo Alto. Jan rides horses. It looks like an enjoyable thing to do and her horses are impressive. But I’m so allergic that I couldn’t even get close enough to photograph them . . . and they also scare me a bit.
IMG_1112
Heading on south to Long Beach, I spent a great couple nights on the peninsula (thanks for the use of your apartment, Kellie) and Michael gave me a tour of his kitchen cabinets which include every appliance known to man including an icecream maker that plays a selection of tunes. Michael also has dishes for every holiday on the calendar. He probably acquired some at a 90% off, opportunity of a lifetime, everything in the store must go sale. I’ll have to ask whether he got his mattress from Larry.

The last time my friend Carol and I were on the waters of Alamitos Bay together we were in our 20’s and 30’s. She did useful things like raise sails and whatever else people do on sailboats. I mostly went along for the ride. History repeated itself when I went along for the ride as Carol and members of the Los Angeles Pink Dragons–all breast cancer survivors–did a very strenuous practice session around the bay. They’re training, twice a week, for the Long Beach Dragon Boat Festival in July and the October International Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota, Florida. Apart from the workout and obvious camaraderie, dragon boat racing has been clinically proven to be of benefit to breast cancer survivors because of the strenuous upper body and cardiac activity. From where I sat at the back of the boat, trailing my fingers in the water while the team members dipped their paddles, it also looked like a lot of fun.

Now Carol has a daughter, Christy, somewhere around the age we were then, who is a big cheese (pun intended) at Whole Foods–she recently was received accreditation as a fromagiere, I don’t think that’s really the right word, but she knows a lot about all different kinds of cheeses and I enjoyed talking to her and sampling the merchandise.

On the subject of food, Mexican specifically, the thing I missed most in France but have made up for since I’ve been back. Ate something fabulous at Taco Bell–a soft tortilla wrapped around a crispy tortilla, filled with all sorts of deliciousness; my friends Colleen and Rick treated me to green corn tamales at El Cholo–the original in downtown Los Angeles dates back to the 1920’s and green corn tamales have been on the menus since then–and carnitas tacos at Super Mex in Long Beach, probably my favorite Mexican restaurant of all.

Much more to say, but I need to walk off my last meal before I hit the freeways.

By La vie en France

Hey Booboo . . .

I really love dogs. I’d love to have a dog of my own. I imagine him or her–I have no preference for gender or breed– lying by my feet as I write, gazing lovingly at me, hanging on to my every word. Maybe I’d call it Booboo. Booboo is a name I give other people’s dogs, usually because I can’t remember their real names and also because I just like calling dogs Booboo. What I can’t imagine is how I’d incorporate a Booboo of my own into my nomadic lifestyle.
Instead, I tend to fall in love with other people’s dogs, the dogs I meet on my travels. When I first arrived in France, I was quite taken with a black Lab called Fenzi. For a while, I had a picture of us both on my Facebook page. He could be a bit aloof, I put it down to him being French. Ari, my friend Melissa’s dog has a sweet little face that always reminded me of a teddy bear. I think he liked me at one time, but then I moved to a distant village and he probably forgot about me. Some dogs are just bounders. Pepo of Montpeyroux for instance. One day as I returned from the boulangerie, he came running down the road to meet me. I thought he liked me, but found out he was only after my baguette. He’d eaten half of it before I realised.


Last week, I left Port Angeles and bid adieu to Lucy, the sweetest and hairiest dog in the world, and Baby with her elegantly folded front paws. Lucy once had two sisters, Kenna –definitely a Booboo, and Ally who was less so.
IMG_0071

At the moment, I’m in Walnut Creek, CA –Casa Fishermeyer, aka my friends Kit and Jerry’s place. When I used to live in Port Angeles, they were always my half way stop on twice a year visits down to Southern California. I have fond memories of Henry, their aristocratic looking Standard Poodle who seemed too dignified to be called Booboo. I loved him, especially as he grew older and more sedate. As a youngster, he was quite rambunctious, jumping on sofas and coffee tables. His predecessor is Rory, an energetic bundle of fluff who prances around with a mauve washcloth in his jaws. Rory also jumps on sofas and coffee tables but since Rory is roughly the size of a cat and Henry was the size of a small pony, Rory’s furniture jumping is less disconcerting.
IMG_1062
After Henry departed, it took me a while to warm up to his successor, but Rory has his wiley ways. Mornings, I creep downstairs. Jerry is in his office,
Kit still asleep. I pad, soundlessly it seems, over to the couch to read the news on my iPad and Rory, just as silently, appears at my feet. He looks up at me, I look down at him. It’s intense. Who will break eye contact first? The slightest change in my facial expression will prompt him to jump up on my lap– or go off in search of affection elsewhere. Usually it’s the former, he’s quite hard to resist. Rory is definitely a Booboo.

IMG_4286But our time together is coming to an end, I must move on. Down to Long Beach and Winston and another little fluffy charmer, Ciccio, who I can only think of as Booboo. And in August, I’ll be back in France in my new village where I’ve already met Fred, the brown and white spaniel who lives downstairs. I hope he won’t mind if I call him . . .

By La vie en France

Last night in Port Angeles . . .

Since it’s been quite a while since my last post, I wanted to make this one a compilation of highlights — a lovely Mother’s Day, the first since I can remember that everyone has been together– visits with friends, good conversations, numerous meals out–but suddenly the time got away from me. If I don’t post this now, another couple of weeks will slip by.
So. My last day in Washington and I’m scurrying around picking up bits and pieces from the various places I’ve stayed over the last six weeks or so.  I leave early tomorrow, Monday, morning–assuming all goes according to plan– stop en route for a brief visit with friends in Poulsbo, then drive on south.  I’ve done this drive so many times, I know exactly the point at which I’ll be ready to call it a day–about two and a half hours south of Portland, Oregon.  I have the motel reservation made, my travel kit ready –bubble bath, candle, matches, wine, a potato to microwave, fruit, cheese.  A hot soak, a good night’s sleep and I’ll be ready to continue driving south the following day.  Next stop, Casa Fishermeyer in Walnut Creek. Jerry will be ready with wine and political commentary, Kit with the scoop on places to shop. I’m ready.

In addition to scurrying around, I’ve been Baby sitting.  Chris and Suzanne’s dog, Baby, is asleep at my feet as I write this.  We both enjoyed a quiet weekend while C&S visited the Mother Earth fair in Puyallup.  Sad to note that Suzanne’s bees which had been buzzing quite vigorously were all dead when she checked them Friday morning.  She was hoping to find some answers at the fair.  No shortage of bumble bees in the lilac and in the fields of buttercups and daisies all around the property though, it’s all quite idyllic–blue skies and sunshine, the scent of clover in the air.  It’s wonderful spending time out here, very peaceful and relaxing–Maxwell the goat’s fearsome horn dance notwithstanding.

Friday night, Flora and Barbara brought sleeping bags and we had a sort of geriatric pajama party–I cooked, we all drank wine and laughed a lot. Sunday morning, we donned gardening gloves and trooped out to the nettle patch. I’m feeling quite evangelical about the culinary merits of nettles. We shared a cheese and saueteed nettle omelette. Not a scrap left.

By La vie en France

Living from a suitcase. . .

Hard to believe that I’ve been doing it for three weeks now. Really not just a suitcase, I seem to have bits of my life scattered everywhere. There is a storage unit here in Port Angeles which contains the contents of the cabin I used to live in; Joe just drove my car up from California full of books and various household things from the apartment I had in Long Beach. Some of those are now at my son’s, others I hope to take back to France–where the accumulation of my year in Montpeyroux is stored in a friend’s garage, along with my car. I intend to consolidate, sort, discard. Perhaps not surprisingly though, I’m feeling ever so slightly fragmented.

I’m also coming to realise that while I enjoy the variety of moving from place to place, it can come to feel a bit unsettling. There’s a comfort to making food in your own kitchen, sleeping in your own bed. Living your own life rather than sort of existing on the periphery of other lives which as a guest, however welcome, seems inevitable.

That said, I’m enjoying the experience of dropping in on other lives. A recent evening at my friend Susan’s newly remodeled exotic digs–all textures, colours and interesting objects. Fun to spot the funky little Xmas tree from my cabin, lights twinkling, in it’s new home atop a dresser. Who cares if it’s May? We drank wine (of course) ate teryaki shrimp, then chocolate and ultimately decided that we didn’t really want to go to the art walk after all.

During a visit to Nourish, the restaurant in Sequim where my granddaughter Emily works, it occurred to me that at eighteen her life is much more in order than mine was at that age. She works two jobs, goes to school and shares a sweet little cottage with her boyfriend, Tyler. She’s also a much better waitress than I was during my brief (ok, one day) stint when I dropped a plate of tomato soup into a diner’s lap. I’d actually forgotten all about the soup and didn’t arrive with it until after the first course.
IMG_0920

I’ve been enjoying the rural life with Chris and Suzanne. This past weekend, we had beers and chili-cheese fries and listened for a while to a band, the Joy of Mudville, I think, at the newly re-opened Saltcreek Salon. Very much a northwest scene, lots of long grey hair, facial hair and flannel shirts. Chainsaw woodcarvings aplenty. The next day Chris decided that the goats needed a pedicure which we accomplished by taking them on a long walk along the road–the asphalt wears down the nails. En route, I competed with them for the fiddle ferns that grew along the side of the road. I collected a handful which I later sauteed with garlic and sprinkled with feta cheese. Also tasted nettles for the first time. Chris wore gloves to pick them, we then plunged them into boiling water, drained and chopped them and used them in stuffed mushrooms. Really quite delicious, better than spinach and the price is hard to beat–the fields are full of them.

More dropping in, from Facebook
Lovely weekend which deserves a blog all to itself, but time seems to be galloping too fast for me to sit down and write at length. Fun on the farm with Chris and Suzanne– she relocated the hive of some free thinking bees who apparently wanted to do their own thing; Chris and I stood in the rain and watched cows eat grass, I drove the Green Machine (formerly my 71 VW) and we had a BBQ at Emily and Tyler’s new house which, if I weren’t returning to France, I would seriously envy.


IMG_0875
IMG_0887
IMG_0891

By La vie en France

Back in the States . . .

Arrived in Seattle about ten days ago. France hasn’t quite faded into a dream, but there is something about distance and time differences that can make life elsewhere seem unreal. A whirlwind trip before I left; took the train from Montpellier to Paris.  Quite a few years since I was last there, never, I think, in April.  The city looked beautiful, chestnuts in blossom, all that.  Walked a lot, ate a lot, felt a measure of fear at crossing the busy streets–does it only seem that motorists are deliberately trying to mow you down?  Already, Montpeyroux and life in the village seemed a long way away.


IMG_0743

And then the flight from De Gaulle, via Reykjavik, Iceland, to SEATAC, a little hiccup with immigration who wanted to know what had kept me away from the States for more than a year, a two hour plus shuttle ride to Port Angeles and, voila, I’m home. Or back. I’m not quite sure what constitutes home anymore. Carolyn and Bill’s front garden, looked lovely, bright with tulips. It was good to see them, good to be in Port Angeles again.
IMG_0745

Spring is a beautiful time on the Peninsula– the Olympics still snow covered, brilliant against the blue skies, flowers everywhere. One evening we had a BBQ on Ediz Hook, a magical setting that made me remember why I stayed in Port Angeles for six years or so.

<a Easter Sunday, a bit chilly, but bright and sunny. Good to meet up with old friends. Last night, more catching up, this time over Mexican food I've definitely missed those flavours.

In France, sitting in cafés, or riding the tram into Montpellier, I used to listen to the conversation going on all around me and try to pick out enough words to understand what was being said. I’d always imagine that somehow the topics must be very interesting. Yesterday, drinking coffee at bagle place, I found myself eavesdropping on the chatter, none of it particularly engaging, and it occurred to me that the French conversations probably hadn’t been all that interesting either. As I write this, I have a French language station playing; I am anxious not to lose whatever progress I made. Although life is definitely easier when you speak the language–a conversation with my insurance company last week, for example, would have been almost impossible in anything but English–I miss hearing French spoken, miss the daily challenges and the small triumphs when I’m able to make myself understood. I had wondered, if once I was back in the States, I might find that I would be be ready to bid adieu to my French adventure. I didn’t really think that would be the case, but I’m happy that the thought of returning to France and to a new chapter in Laurens still fills me with joy.

Meanwhile, it is really lovely to be back.

IMG_0792

From Facebook
12 April

Photo: The world’s smallest elevator . . . my hotel in Paris. Just barely big enough for me and a suitcase. Another reason why it’s good to pack light.
IMG_0696

By La vie en France

Feeling nostalgic

The apartment is packed up, my worldly goods, such as they are, stored with various people.  Just took my house plants, half a dozen or so, down to Rebecca’s.  I told  her not to worry too much about them, that they’d be alright with a bit of watering–but a couple of them had just developed new shoots and as I found a shady spot on her terrace for them, I felt like an anxious mother on the first day of kindegarten.  Sitting in her kitchen as she bustled around cooking lunch for the family I remind myself that I’m only  leaving France for a few months, that Montpeyroux isn’t far from my new village, so I’m not really saying goodbye.  Still, this is the end of my first year in France– actually that ended a few weeks ago.  So do I change the name of my blog, A Year in France?  And, if so, to what?  Suggestions welcome.
At the moment, with suitcases and clothes on the bed, my mind on things like my passport, American money, phone service once I get back to the States, I feel almost as though I’ve left already.  I wonder how it will feel to be back in the States after a year away?  To not struggle with the language.  At the moment, as wonderful as it will be to see everyone again, I have no doubt in my mind that I want to continue my adventure in France.   Perhaps that’s the new name for the blog, Adventures In France . . . one year on and counting. I’ll give it some thought.

By La vie en France

Leaving Montpeyroux . . .

In  two weeks   I’ll be on a flight heading for Seattle.  I’m actually leaving Montpeyroux a few days earlier in order to spend some time in Paris.  This morning, was my last French lesson for a while, this afternoon I started packing up the apartment.  I’m very excited at the thought of seeing family and friends in the States again and also looking forward to September when I move into my new place in Laurens.  Life feels very good, full of interesting experiences.  Last Friday, I had a little get together for Montpeyroux friends and neighbours. Seems so much longer than ten months since I arrived in the village not knowing anyone. Fortunately, Laurens is close enough that I can still stay in touch with everyone.


I’ve written about a new project I’ll be starting in September with Brigitte Chevalier of Domaine de Cebenne. As part of that project, I’m writing an article for a local English language publication on an adopt-a-vine progam Brigitte has started. If you’re looking for an unusual gift–a grape vine in the south of France?–you might consider adopting one yourself! The blurb below is part of a longer piece I’ll be writing for the next issue.

SAVING ANCIENT VINES WITH A STORY TO TELL

They’re dark and gnarled with age, but the Carignan vines in the Domaine De Cébene vineyards, some of them planted around the time of the first World War have a story to tell.  When Brigitte Chevalier bought the vineyard, many of the ancient vines had already been uprooted,  Brigitte begged the seller to spare the rest.  “These old ladies have so much to give,” she said.  “They’re part of Languedoc’s viticultural history.” But, as  befitting their age, the Carignans, planted before machines became commonplace in the vineyard,  require a lot of tender loving care.  The special tools involved and the long hours of labour are both time consuming and expensive.   
Would you like to feel part of Languedoc’s wine history?

What better gift, to yourself or to someone else, than to ensure that these old ladies continue to tell their story through the wine they produce?  By becoming a godparent and sponsoring a Carignan vine, you will receive the Domaine De Cébene newsletter, Les Feiuillerts De Cebenne, invitations to wine tastings and special events and, of course, Belle Lurette, the prize winning wine made from these grapes.  More importantly, you will be playing an active role in helping to conserve Languedoc history.
####

Lot’s more to write, but feeling in a bit of a rush. Some recent posts from Facebook:
March 31
IMG_0617
My neighbour, Jeanine, who is in her late 80’s and speaks not a word of English. On the day of my party, I went over to make sure she had received my invitation. She grabbed my arm, led me into her kitchen and showed me a bag of mussels she’d just bought. She was going to prepare her specialty, moules farcie. She asked me if I’d like an apertif, looked disappointed when I declined–it was only noon and I still had a lot to do–so I thought to hell with what I still had to do and accepted her offer. We sat in the kitchen drinking something that tasted like planter’s punch and eating bread spread with tapenade and she told me all about the love of her life who was a famous French singer. Later, she came over with a cast iron pot of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. She suggested that instead of serving it at the party, I keep it for myself. I followed her advice, sort of. Saturday, I shared it with a friend, we were both happy. Returned the cast iron pot just now, and asked for the recipe. She declined. People are always asking her, she says, but she never gives it out. When you visit me next time, she said, I will make if for you again. We had another chat, this time over coffee and gateaux, about men and she talked again about the love of her life who died many years ago. I told her that talking to her was helping my French, the whole experience also made me very happy.

March 27
Norbert, a friend in the next village, runs an antique shop with all sorts of interesting odds and ends and very irregular hours. A few weeks ago, I’d seen a rustic wooden table and chairs which I thought would be perfect for the new apartment. They were chestnut, he thought, from the mountains. Today, I drove over to pick them up. Although I parked as close to the shop as I could, the street is very narrow and as Norbert was trying to cram the table into my car, an enormous truck pulled up. The driver wasn’t smiling and I was ready to drive around the block so that he could get by. I should have brought out my camera at that point as Norbert, all nonchalance, glanced up, then strolled over and removed a couple of the metal guards (you can see one at the edge of the first picture) that line most of the village streets, Montpeyroux included. This allowed the truck the few inches of extra space needed to get through. The truck driver gave a thumbs up, Norbert grinned and finished loading the chairs. I’d always wondered what those guards were for, now I know.

March 16
Why wallflowers are so named, never thought much about it before, but they spring exuberantly from the village walls. Good, albeit windy, Sunday walk to work off last night’s overindulgences. Wind whipped the olives tree branches, showing off the silvery undersides and sending my allergies into overdrive. Mimosa growing on the hillsides. Beautiful time of year, even for the allergy prone.

By La vie en France