Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Comment Rude!

   We popped into Cotignac this rainy morning to see if we could find a pumpkin- no such luck, but we sat and enjoyed a cafe creme and des chocolats choids at a cafe.
   There is dog owned by a merchant who is always wandering the cours, seeing what he can find under the tables and receiving plenty of attention from canine lovers around town. I am not sure all the village merchants feel the same way as we watched the pooch stop and deposit a large pile on the doorstep of a neighboring store. Comment Rude!!!
Do you think he has some sort of grudge against this retailer?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Family Soidarity

  We made it home from Scotland without getting lost the other night. I was quite proud of myself and my kids were most appreciative. After a train ride, bus ride, 2 airplanes, another bus, then a 1.5 hours drive back to our house, Youngest Child did ask about every 5 minutes if we were lost yet, and I got to respond honestly-"No Honey, we are right on track."
  I keep thinking of how happy I am to be able to say we are happy to be home.  I am relieved that all of us are feeling good enough about this adventure, that we are content to return to French life, French culture, French language. A week of English language was very relieving, but Scotland was just as foreign as France is, to us. While all of us struggle with feelings of loneliness frequently, maybe we still appreciate what we are learning from this year abroad and are settling into our home(for a year).
   Our stay in Scotland was a great pleasure. Oldest Child had a good dose of early teen camaraderie. They shopped, spent alot of time surfing Instagram and girl talking. My other two kids were thrilled to play with Oldest Child's friend's old toys- boxes of Legos and Playmobil. That gave me hours to chat with my friends, swapping stories about our European moves. We walked on the beach-no it wasn't a swimming beach-but the beaches were covered with round rocks and mellow, rolling surf. It was certainly inviting, but none of us dared to put a toe in. Well, except for our host who swims regularly in the North Sea.
   My week away gave me time to reflect upon how to make the most of our remaining months in Europe. The struggles are language barrier (a major pain in the neck) and loneliness. So, perhaps family solidarity will help relief some of these struggles that we will continue to deal with for another 7 months. Yes, we desperately need more French lessons which, in retrospect, should have been much more of a priority before leaving the states and if we can obtain more communication skills, life will be easier for all of us.
   Don't worry, we are doing well, we are happy and healthy and look forward to each day we spend here. We are living a great adventure.
Oldest Child is working on a scrapbook of our travels
THe flock at Brodie Castle
Entrance to a lovely garden
Watching the seals play
Welcome home lunch-back at our table

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Sun DOES Shine in Scotland

    My hosts tell me their town in situated in some sort of micro climate offering them weather that I was not expecting from Scotland. I packed for daily moisture, our suitcases stuffed with rain gear, wool socks, hats, the works...In reality, we have had very little rain since arriving here. I hear some pitter pattering on the roof at night, but the days have been mostly nice. The creeping in of a bank of dark clouds has been rather welcome. A dramatic sky that lures you inside for a warm pot of tea!
   All this said, I have not been tempted to take a cold plunge into the North Sea. I am told it holds steady at about 15 degrees Celsius-too cold for my blood, I have to go with the Mediterranean on this one. We have a couple more days to explore this lovely countryside and enjoy its friendly people...as well as all if the English they speak.
Gorgeous Day for a swim 
Scottish Highland cattle
Lovely homes in small, fishing village

Crazy man swimming in the North Sea-you know who you are...

It is not only for telephoning anymore

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Off to Aberdeen We Go

   Our first voyage requiring a plane ride since we have been in Europe-we are in Scotland visiting some friends from Durango who moved here a few months prior to our trip to France. An early start rewarded us with a gorgeous sunrise even though it was on the autoroute. Actually, I kinda like cruising along the autoroute at 130 km an hour. I suppose large interstates in America have similar speed limits, but it is more fun in France. I don't know why. I guess because 130 km. sounds alot faster than 80 mph.
   We thought we had hours to waste, but after parking in the cheap lot, getting to the airport from the cheap lot, figuring out the kiosks for boarding passes in French, checking bags, getting through security-the usual busy airport mayhem, it was time for takeoff. Here is what I liked about Lufthansa in France- free snack sandwiches which were actually kinda edible, and free wine.
   We had a long layover in Frankfort and I promised lunch, knowing we could get a good sausage! Sure enough, airport food in Frankfort was perfectly acceptable, too. Up into the clouds we went again,  more free food and wine then we arrived in grey, cold, windy Aberdeen, Scotland on the North Sea-way up there. I am sure this is the furthest north I have ever been. After getting a grilling from the immigration guy, it was wonderful to see familiar faces and hear nothing but English. Oh, how easy the next week will be!
The A8 sunrise

DOn't really know what it is - a ham-like meat, hard cooked egg, relish sammy

The Alps from 30,000 feet-looks pretty good for mid-October.

Morning walk along the North Sea

The sun came out at Loch Ness-we did not spot Nessy, but saw quite alot of unexplainable wake.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Truffle Dog

The other day at the Cotignac market, there was a dog manning the truffle booth. He was quietly and calmly watching over his display, guarding the goods while his owner was away from the table. Obviously, he takes his job very seriously. I hope he gets extra rewards for both protecting the harvest as well as finding it.
In case one can't afford truffles, the dog also sells honey.

Notice the poster in the back-maybe he is a famous truffle dog...

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Wood Shed is Full

Cool, damp time in the south of France
   Internet access has been limited lately. It has been off and on (mostly off) for several days which frustrates us way more than it should. I am disappointed by my dependence on being wirelessly connected and when that wire is cut, I am not quite sure what to do with myself. I honestly worried that Oldest Child was going to pull her hair out.
   The weather took a turn last week, giving us cold days and even colder nights. I was forced to make my first fire. Have I told you about my fireplace? The main source of winter heat for my house? It is an open fireplace with no screen, there are no fire alarms, no fire extinguisher. I have heard stories of chimney fires here, yes, in my chimney and inquired what I was supposed to do if that happened. Point being, I have been putting off building a fire for as long as I could.
   A huge pile of wood was purchased for me and it has been delivered up the hill. From there, we carry it to our house in wheelbarrows. Good exercise- Unfortunately, the wood is as green as if it were cut last week. Maybe it was. I am no fire expert, but this doesn't make for an easy starting fire.
Safety supplies to come soon
   One of my friends has offered to lend me a wood stove for the winter and as I am trying not to get too excited about it as it may not fit, I would be thrilled to have it for safety sake as well as practicality. We will see what happens. Oh, and they are Belgian- you know how I love those Belgians.
   Off we went last weekend for an outing and arrived in Aups, a fabulous village we have been to a few times. Their Saturday market is great. Our tutor and friend met u there to show us around the market as a mini French lesson. She used to live there and knew everyone. The purpose of the market visit was to stock up on spices and Tutor has a friend with the most gorgeous table of herbs and spices. I posted a picture of their stand a month ago. Youngest Child found his first Man Bag, something he has been begging for and I knew we would find one at the market. They have everything...
   After bidding Tutor a bientot, we continued up the road to Quinson to a Prehistoric History Museum. Hunger needed to be satiated and we finally stumbled upon a good meal! Ahhhh, the Provincial food Gods were looking down on us last Saturday. We sat perched above a lake under a tree of turning colors. As I have mentioned, Saturday lunches are leisurely and tend to last a couple of hours. A glass of rose is practically obligatory and the kids know it is time to just hunker down. They do so happily and eagerly, yet patiently, await the food that tasted so good.
   The Prehistoric Museum was wonderful, full of rich local history dating back thousands and thousands of years. It was a very pleasant day and I did not get lost, not even once.

Great park with exercise equipment-important before strolling the market

Working the muscles

Fruit infused liquors and vinegars

You round a bend in the road and are faced with yet another hilltop village

Lovely lunch in Quinson- c'etait tres bon.

The end of a successful day


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lost in Provence..Again

  Last weekend we went off for another adventure. I am amazing at how much there is to do within a hour or so of our house. We were advised to check out a contemporary art museum in St. Paul de Vence, another beautiful, hilltop village walled in since medieval times. It is a very cosmopolitan town. There was more English spoken than we have heard since leaving the States. The museum was full of well known works by famous artists which always helps keep the interest flowing with my younger kids. Next, we headed to a French mall, in search of an Apple Store for a power cord, but when we arrived, we realized that everyone else in Provence was shopping at the mall, too. There must have been 1,000,000 people there, driving around in long queues, waiting for a car to leave in order to zoom into their space. I was searching for an escape route, but was trapped in this horrible cluster of people when alas, I got to a place that I could flee the madness of the mall. Thank God!
   We kept going up the highway to Nice, since we were so close. Another difficult thing about getting around in France is the auto routes. Yes, they get you where you want to go fast. But, you can't make a mistake-like I do...continuously...because you can't get off. 30 kilometers will pass before you get to an exit to turn around. So, we were headed toward the Alps instead of the coast. Oh well, we made it finally and had a pleasant wander around the old part of Nice where there is an all day market of flowers and things. We followed our noses to the sea for a walk on the Promenade des Anglais which is a wide "boardwalk" along the coast that goes for miles. The beach is not sandy, but has large, smooth rocks, perfect for chucking into the water.  We backtracked to a nice cafe for a drink before our trek home. After getting lost on these auto routes again on our return, going almost to Toulon, we arrived home late , tired and hungry, but satisfied with our day of yet another adventure. Getting lost is a drag, but also adds to the silly memories that we will reflect upon for years to come.
If only road signs were this easy to read.
Candied Fruit in Syrup
Funny Fountain with horses on his head

Promenade des Anglais

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Proud Holder of a French Visa

   Toulon gets a bad wrap for being rather industrial, not having much to offer the tourist and being, well, a bit grungy. Going with this in mind, I was weary of even stepping foot out of the car, but instead, we found a vibrant, clean, cultured city that I am eager to return to with my whole gang.
   It was the last of my meetings to finalize our visas. After all the work involved in the first process, I was skeptical of a full completion. We had time to grab a quick bite before my first obligation, and much to our surprise, a "take-out" sushi place was right in front of us.  It was inexpensive, as far as sushi goes, and a welcome taste while sitting on the huge Place de la Liberte. The sushi place had tables set up outside where you take your "take-out". The area was buzzing with others having lunch at the various cafes,  kids playing, couples strolling all around an enormous fountain in front of the Grand Hotel, which is now a theater.
    We felt the need to not be late for my meeting so off we went to find the rather obscure address. I found people incredibly friendly, offering us directions when we could not find the office. Here, I had a  physical exam and chest x-ray to ensure that I am not spreading Tuberculosis. I proved myself healthy and free of infectious disease, then we were sent several blocks further for the visa. Among the others waiting in line, was a fun guy from New York, looking to get a visa to allow him to travel back and forth from the States as he had purchased a fixer upper near the coast. He left the office in the clear- we were next. Are you on the edge of your seat?      I have nothing exciting to report, the meeting was without incident and we are now legal to be in Europe for the year. "Let's celebrate!", Oldest Child cheered. (She accompanied me, as she is homeschooling and I had no choice but to drag her along.) I was glad to have her company, though, as we had a really good day exploring.
   We wandered rather aimlessly off of the main boulevard, down lovely, narrow streets lined on both sides with enormous, flowering, hanging baskets. Stores were full of charm. Then, we would be funneled into a courtyard with cafes, chess games, accordion players and large shade trees. Continuing down another street with more charm, we were emptied on the port. There we found an old bookstore with a small English section, plenty of ticky-tacky shops and average looking restaurants, but the port was pretty with boats of all sizes and shapes. We were feeling like time was working against us so we backtracked, stopping to indulge in some wonderful chocolates at one of the boutiques.
   Oldest Child and I talked about what a pleasant day and nice city we had found in Toulon. We vowed to return before long.
A welcome flavor change
Place de la Liberte 
gorgeous hanging baskets lined these old streets
The Port- Tradition in the foreground, massive Cruise ship in the distance...
I am legal

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


   After all of the rose that I have consumed thus far, I am very curious about the process of making the wine. Did you know that we are living in the heart of French rose country? Vines are everywhere. It seems that many of the grapes go to the village cooperative. I suppose if a winery has its own label, they must have all of their own equipment to wash, crush, ferment, age and bottle all of their own wine. This would also seem to be a massive investment monetarily as well as with space.
  After dropping the kids off at school the other day, I decided to swing by the cooperative to have a look around. It was impeccable timing as farmers were coming in with wagons full of grapes and we watched as they were dumped into this big bin and  rolled into some sort of weighing vessel behind the scene. The farmer watched the scale like it was a roulette wheel, hoping for the highest number possible. Hopefully, it is a profitable harvest- it sure looks good to me.
   I am determined to learn more about the wine making process since I have enjoyed so much of it and well, here we are, what better place to learn! Sante!
Wonderful, Colorado friend who passed through, subsequently inundated with kid time.
Watching the scales
Here come the grapes
Gorgeous, Gobs of Grapes
Entrecasteaux Cooperative