30 September 2007

A Sunday In

FOR THE FIRST time since we have arrived in France, we spent a Sunday at home. No festivals, no exploring, no beach, no trip to the supermarket. Although we kind of wanted to check out the bread festival (fete du pain) in the next town over, we didn't make it. The kids slept in (at least Julia did), Kerri made crepes (yum), then it was homwork time -- for nearly two hours!! After a quick dip in the very cold pool, we lounged around for a while, watched some of the Rugby World Cup (France v. Georgia), and finally decided to let the kids run around a bit at a local soccer field. Picked up a few pizzas on the way home, ate our dinner and called it a day. Not very exciting, but sometimes just what you need.

29 September 2007

Taking to the Air

WE DIDN'T GET the chance to see this up close last weekend, but the video clip below shows one of the very popular weekend activites in Gourdon and Bar-sur-Loup -- two towns just a few minutes from our house. If you saw our video from a few days ago, you will recognize the area. Patrick and Julia are convinced they want to try this (with mommy or daddy of course) because we read that kids may do it with the help of an adult. After seeing this video on You Tube Kerri doesn't think it's a good idea. What do you think?
CJS

27 September 2007

Phrase of the day: Attention! Le crotte de chien!

So, here I am again with my favorite phrase yet! It is best when heard by Louis, our 6 year old friend shouting out in an attempt to keep us all from making the frightful yet inevitable mistake of stepping in a pile of dog poop!!! Actually, we have yet to step in a pile or even skid past a dingleberry! I have no clue how we have managed this feat thus far but somehow we have. I think we must truly be transitioning into the French way of life already since even Henner is not mentioning the abundance of dog doo that we evade each trek to and from school each day. How is this for a stat: on our walk to Julia's piano lesson--a mere 100 meters (give or take a couple hundred or so as my metric system is not up to par) from her school we managed to evade 63 pieces/clumps/particles/and/or piles of dog poop dispersed somewhat systematically on the sidewalks/flower beds/street or wherever the powers may be have decided to let the dog's drop a deuce (that was for Jeremy)!!!!! We are feeling pretty cool at this point as we are now sidesteppin, jumpin and dodgin each terd we encounter without hesitation or without notice. We are sooooooo becoming French!

So, there you have it: ATTENTION, LE CROTTE DE CHIEN! Learn this phrase and practice it over and over for you are sure to need it when you come to visit!!!!

Hugs to all!
Krs

P.S. do you think I should learn English grammar before trying to learn another language?!!!

***I failed to mention......prolific as it is......even the dog crotte in France smells like lavendar!!!!

SNOW!!

IT'S SEPTEMBER 27 and there was snow on the mountains high above Nice. I had a great view this morning from a window at work! Amazing.
CJS

26 September 2007

A Bad Mail Day

WE ARE STARTING to get mail and that's a good thing. It makes us feel like we are finally getting settled-in after a hectic few weeks. But now we have a more permanent address and information (from France and abroad) is reaching us on a fairly regular basis. In fact, it's kind of exciting to walk out to the mail box to see what has arrived.

But today's trip to the post box did not yield good results. Inside was a letter addressed to me from some entity within the French government. I opened the letter and read the heading at the top: Avis de Contravention au Code de la Route. A closer look at the return address showed the letter was from the Centre Automatise de Constation des Infractions Routieres. Yes, I got a speeding ticket! Can you believe it. Apparently I was clocked on camera heading home from Antibes going 76 kmh in a 70 kmh zone. For those of you who love math conversions, that means I was going about 4 miles per hour over the speed limit -- and for that the French government is charging me 45 Euros.

This speeding ticket is now sitting on the fireplace mantle next to the parking ticket I got last week! while visiting the Prefecture in Nice. If my cars fails inspection next week I'll hit the voiture trifecta! Do I win anything for that?
CJS

New Video: Fete Paysanne

LAST SUNDAY WE went up mountains to attend the Fete Paysanne des Georges du Loup, a well known artisan festival in Gourdon (I recommend visiting the website). Gourdon is a beautiful 9th century mountain village that sits high on a cliff overlooking the coast. This video will not do it justice. In fact, this clip is from the hiking expedition we took after the festival -- a short clip from our experience in the village is coming soon.

This video is worth watching if only to see our new car -- the ever-popular Renault Scenic! As always, you can see all our video by clicking the video link at the top of the page.

24 September 2007

Cravings

OUR DEAR FRIENDS at the CUC blog have a new post up showing how many Chipotle restaurants there are within 10 miles of their campus (near Washington, DC). Can you believe the answer is 22! Oh how that would taste good right now. Really, really, good.

By the way, I did a quick search and do you know how many Chiptole restaurants are within 2,000 miles of Nice, France? Zero!!
CJS

23 September 2007

A First Tonight

ON MY WAY out the door to Nice to watch a Washington Redskins game at Ma Nolans near the old village. Apparently it is possible to see two NFL games per weeks on satellite and the two games happen to be the national games on Fox and CBS in the US. Today's Fox game of the week is Washington vs. New York Giants. Just for fun, I'm going to watch -- even though the game starts at 10:00pm local time.
CJS

22 September 2007

Parent/Teacher Conference...French Style

SO YESTERDAY WAS the day when we got to sit down and talk with Patrick and Julia's teacher. I was quite concerned going in -- not because I was worried about what she would say about the kids, but because I don't speak French and she doesn't speak English. How was this going to work?

So it's Friday afternoon (by the way, who schedules a parent-teacher conference for 4:30 on a Friday afternoon?) and I make my way into the class. The teacher is incredibly nice and offers me a chair at a table in the back of the room. So far so good, thanks in large part to some obvious hand gestures and few elementary French words like bonjour, cava? and merci. As she begins to talk there are several things that are running through my head: 1) this is going better than I thought -- I think I actually understand some of the things she is saying, 2) it is clear that my ego is flaring up a bit because I am giving this teacher the impression that I understand far more than I actually do, 3) why was this meeting scheduled for 4:30 on a Friday afternoon?, 4) I am nodding my head and saying d'accord and oui a lot, even when I'm not sure what the teacher has just said -- this could be a problem, 5) why did I just say j'ai compris when, in truth, I didn't 'compris' at all?

After nearly 40 minutes, the meeting was over and it was actually kind of fun. The teacher could not have been nicer. She even answered a couple of questions that I asked in broken French and English. Things are going quite well for the kids -- thanks in large part to their French immersion school in the States -- and they are understanding everything the teacher is saying during the day and they are progressing well in this very new setting.

And now Kerri and I have a new goal: to be able to actually converse with the teacher in French at the next meeting in February. Wish us luck!
CJS

20 September 2007

Le Plat du Jour

IT SEEMS ODD that we have been here for a month and haven't yet talked about food. After dinner tonight the kids said 'you have GOT to write about this on the blog.' Not because dinner was anything spectacular -- in fact it was quite the opposite: two salads, soup, fresh bread and cheese.

But it's the fresh ingredients that make a meal great. On my way home this evening I stopped off for a few items and decided to buy some fresh tomatoes. I don't know why, but I had a desperate craving for a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad even though we had the same salad two nights ago. [Note: I think my craving stems from the fact that I can by gorgeous tomatoes for about $1.25 per pound, a far cry from the $4.00+ I often paid in Maryland. It also helps that I can get a very large chunk of fresh mozzarella for just under 1 Euro.]

So our simple plat du jour this evening included the following:

  • tomato and mozzeralla salad (with fresh olive oil made from the trees on the property where we are living -- a gift from the owner of the house)
  • a tomato soup (from a box, no less...but we don't need to mention any more about that)
  • a wonderful salad that Kerri made - with greens, apples, strawberries, chick peas, shredded carrots, and a sweet-tangy vinagrette
  • two warm baguettes that the kids picked up after school
  • a bit of cheese (comtè)

But the reason Patrick and Julia wanted us to mention the meal on this blog was because of the dessert: two crisp, fresh, succulent...Twix bars! Ah, now that's good eats.

CJS

Confessions of a Political Junkie

WHEN YOU ARE addicted to politics that way I am you'll even watch French President Nikolas Zarkozy when he makes a nationally televised speech -- even you can't understand a word he is saying. I knew the speech was coming thanks to some English papers and radio stations. The issue: the French public servant pension program. The way it stands right now, workers in France's public section (including rail workers and state workers) can often retire at age 50 (yes, I said 50) and draw full benefits from the government. Sarkozy is calling for a 'new social contract' (great Rousseauian reference) and wants a new revolution to take place in France.

The head of super-union CTG called the speech a 'declaration of war' and the nation's largest rail union called for a national strike to begin in mid-October. The last time the government attempted this kind of reform, the national rail union crippled the country with a three-week strike and the reform measures were called off. Boring for many of you, I suspect, so I won't go on. But full details will certainly appear even in the US and British press.


And I'll follow the story closely because if I stay in France long enough there's a chance I can retire in about 15 years.

18 September 2007

Finally, Cell Phones!

IT ONLY TOOK four weeks, but we finally have cell phones -- or I should say, mobile phones. You wouldn't think it would be hard to sign up with a mobile phone company, but it was quite an undertaking. First, we had to have an established bank account here in France (don't get me started on how complicated that is!). Then you have to produce a check from your bank -- yes, a check -- so that the monthly fee can be automatically deducted from your account (you would think that a debit card would do). Then you have to submit some sort of proof that you actually live in France -- a lease agreement, a utility bill, an official copy of a work contract, whatever. After all this they want you to prove you are who you say you are, and of course the check with my name on it, the lease agreement with my name on it, and the work contract with...you guessed it...my name on isn't proof enough. No, I had to have a government issued form of identification. No problem, I thought, I'll use my US driver's license. Oh no, that's not good enough, it has to be an official US Passport.

But after 4 or 5 trips to the local Carrefour (think Wal Mart) I finally walked out with two cell phones, two brand new numbers, and a whopping 2 hours per month of free calls. Two hours! On the bright side, Kerri and I now each have a really nice new slide-up, super slim Samsung phone. Call us sometime, we'll email you the numbers if you want.
CJS


16 September 2007

Still No Camera...

...WHAT A SHAME, because today we attended a Fete du Vintage in Biot, France and it was so much fun. The fete du vintage is something that is held all over France each year to celebrate the grape harvest season. Today's festival included a special church service, music, dancing, a procession of grapes (raisins) in a large wagon pulled by a horse, a large meal in the town square (lamb ravioli we were told), and -- of course -- free food and drink.

And we have no photos because our camera battery is lost!
CJS

15 September 2007

Moving Day

FINALLY. WE GET to move into our permanent home today and get out of the very, very small (but perfectly adequate) apartment that we have been living in for a month. All we have to do now is repack all of our things, clean up a bit, and make the 1km trek to our new house. Shouldn't be too hard.
CJS

13 September 2007

New Video

HERE IS THE latest video that we've posted over at YouTube. It's a short look at two very different beaches we have been to -- one in Italy and one here in France. If it seems like all we do is go to the beach on weekends, it's because that's about all we've been doing while the weather is so nice (and that's what you do when you have three kids at two full days to fill). You'll notice the difference in the two beaches right away...one is sandy (like we're used to) and one is all rocks (look at the still photo below). You have a choice over here, and let me tell you, the rock beaches are great because you all the benefits of a great beach but without the sand! It hurts your feet for a bit, but you get used to it. Note: if you want to see the video in a larger format, just click on the video link at the top of the page.
CJS




Phrase of the day

SO VOILA! HERE I am! I know you have all been waiting to hear from me so here I am, exclamation points and all!!! My husband created this blog so that his housewife would have something to do while in France and so far, as you have seen, he has totally taken over the site -- which is probably for the best because if I were to run it you may tire of all the point des exclamations and I would chat and chat and chat incessantly. So I will continue to let my husband be the main point of information and I, when taking a break from all my coffee/croissants/cheese and chocolate, may find time to give you all a little somethin somethin from Kerri, if I can figure out how this blog stuff works!!! Okay, so, I thought to begin with, I would share with you on a regular basis some of the key phrases we have been using since our arrival so you too can practice your French at the same speed we seem to be.

So far, in 3 weeks time the phrase that has become second nature to my mouth, day after day is: "Je suis desole (there is supposed to be a little thingamajig on top of the e but I have no clue how to insert it!), mais, je ne parle pas Francais. Parlez-vous Anglais? You do? Okay, phew.....blah blah blah blah in English!!!"

Okay, so now you have the phrase of the day for our 1st 3 week period. Hopefully, I will be able to update you on a daily basis but I think that may be a tad optimistic! Oh wait, I just remembered, I do have a new phrase of the day but ONLY because P and J are starting to help me out more now---not for my sake but for theirs because they don't want to be embarrassed by their mom's poor speaking habits anymore! Just today on our walk home for lunch we approached a work crew making new pavement to cover the many bumps on the tiny country roads we frequent on a daily basis (do you see what I mean about my chattiness? By chattiness I also imply my lengthy run-on sentences minus appropriate punctuation---please forgive me---I am only human!!!). Now, these tiny chemins (small roads) leave no room for a stroller to pass by when a car is approaching so as you can imagine, with a big tar truck working in the middle of this chemin there was no place to go. So, as we approached the French workmen, they all stopped, stared, I panicked, looked at P and J and said, how do I say, "may we pass by" and without hesitation and mostly out of fear of being embarrased beyond all belief Patrick whispered quickly to me, "Pouvons nous passer, s'il vous plait?" Oh my goodness, Phew!! They understood me thanks to Patrick! Although, Patrick tells me my accent needs help but, hey I don't give a rats terd! As long as I am understood, I'm good, as Uncle Jeremy would say!!!!

So, there you have it! You got 2 for the price of 1 today. Practice those phrases! You will be sure to need them upon your visit. We are having to pass by many people throughout our days and we are having to rely on the Europeans excellent command of a second language to help us out so our 2 phrases above have been most helpful!!!

A tout a l'heure (oh, look I know another phrase!)

KRS

Almost Ate Dinner in Mougins

LAST WEEKEND WE decided to check out Mougins, a beautiful medieval village in the mountains a few minutes from where we live (and the final home of Picasso). Our goal was to eat dinner there since Mougins is well know for it's top-rated chefs and great restaurants, including Chef Alain Llorca's Le Moulin de Mougins -- one of the most famous restaurants in all of France. After walking around for about an 1/2 hour, looking at art galleries and menus posted in front of all the bistros, it became clear that dinner in Mougin was not going to happen -- mainly because most of the restaurants didn't exactly have a kids menus and we were towing three around with us. But we sure loved Mougins (video coming soon) and we might go back this weekend for the annual Les étoiles de Mougins, a large festival celebrating France's top chefs -- including lots of demonstrations and food sampling. Over 100 top-ranked French chefs will be there --Alain Llorca included, of course.

Oh, and by the way, instead of eating in Mougin last weekend we stopped off at a pizza stand in Roquefort-les-Pin -- it was delicious. I'm not sure Alain Llorca could have done much better!
CJS

11 September 2007

Beating Sarkozy Over the Head with a Baguette

IN FRANCE, FEW things are as sacred as a fresh baguette. Just ask President Sarkozy. Some in France are asking the president why baguette prices are rising so fast (a whopping 70 cents is what I paid on my way home tonight). But bread prices are a real indicator of the in standard of living in France. The local news reported last night that the national average price for a baguette is 75 - 85 cents but is forcasted to rise by about 5-7% in the next year -- and people are angry. Remember, this is a country where 85% of the people buy their bread daily. I guess when you're buying bread every day, you notice when the price go up.
CJS

Some Things Will Take Some Getting Used To

SUCH AS:


  • buying milk (lait) by the six-pack
  • paying $5+ for a gallon of gas
  • not ever getting coffee to go (closest Starbucks is about 5 hours away)
  • remember that eating out for dinner will take at least 1 1/2 hours -- minimum
  • eating chevre
  • understanding that motor scooters pay no attention to the rules of the road
  • remembering to bring our own bags to the supermarket
  • everything is closed on Sunday afternoon
  • peanut butter is difficult to find
  • Dr. Pepper is impossible to find
  • trying to learn the passé composé form of verbs

Some getting used to, yes. But these are minor things that will so be second nature -- with the possible exception of that damn passé composé.

Dream Theater = Favorite Teacher

TODAY ONE OF my new history classes met for the first time and less than 30 minutes in one of the students declared that I was now his 'favorite teacher of all time.'

Was it my passion for the topic? No. My charm and wit? No. My ability to convey inportant historical concepts in a captivating and innovative way? Not even close. The reason: I like Dream Theater. Since it was the first day of class students were asking me lots of questions, and one was what kind of music I liked. I told them I like all kinds, from Bach to Grieg, to The Police, to Dream Theater -- adding that Scenes From A Memory was currently in my car CD player. An Italian kid in the back (who lives in Beruit of all places) immediately expressed his love for Dream Theater and made the 'favorite teacher' declaration

See. There are lots of ways to connect with students.
CJS

10 September 2007

Moving Soon

THIS EVENING WE visited with the owner of the house where we will be staying for the next year. He and his family live in Paris and have a house in the South that was build by his parents. Each September the family spends 2 weeks at the house and they savor every moment. The house is beautiful with an amazing view and we are very excited to finally get into it after a month in a small apartment. The kids will really enjoy being able to play in the yard and swim in the pool. One week until we move in.

To Kiss or Not to Kiss

THAT REALLY IS the question in France. Of course, it's not an issue if you're actually French because you know what to do. But what if you're American? It's a bit of a dilemma really, because on the one hand you want to assimilate into the culture and partake of this traditional French greeting, but on the other hand you have to remember that you're American and this doesn't come naturally.

Take this afternoon, for example. I was waiting to pick up the kids after school when another mother came walking up to say hello. I had briefly met her once and we had chatted a bit. As she walked up my mind began to race: should I initiate the two cheek kiss? If so, which side should I go for first, the left or the right? Do I even know her well enough yet (the kiss greeting only takes place among those who know each other)? In a brief instant I made the decision to go for it. As she neared, I began to examine the angle of her face so as to know which side to attack first. Because she was coming from my left I decided her left cheek would be the best place to start. We made eye contact and greeting each other with a warm 'Bonjour'! Then, just as I began my lean toward her head, she stuck out her arm to offer me a handshake.

Oh no! I hadn't planned for this. Besides, it was too late, my upper body was already at a severe angle toward hers. To abort the kiss know would be a disaster, full of awkward torso twists to the left and to the right. But her arm was extended toward my body and I couldn't just let it hover there in mid air. So I did the only thing that came naturally at that instant: I extended my right arm and we shook hands AND kissed...sort of a Franco-American greeting. I'm sure it was not a pretty site to see, but when you're new to a foreign country, you can't be afraid to look like a complete idiot sometimes. It's the only way you'll eventually figure things out.
CJS

09 September 2007

NFL Sunday...Not the Same in France

ORDINARILY, THE FIRST Sunday of the NFL season is a great day! But today the only sports I'll have access to on my television are the Rugby World Cup and the Italian Grand Prix. Should be a great Sunday afternoon.

CJS

07 September 2007

A Perfect Morning

IF YOU ASK me, this photo sums up a perfect morning. Since I can't get my beloved
Washington Post (except on the internet), the International Herald Tribune has to stand in as a close second.

CJS

Towns & Villages we have Visited

THERE IS A new feature on the right side of this page that shows that towns and villages we have visited during our stay here in France. We've created this section mainly to help us remember where we have been and what places we liked. In order for a city to make the list we must have done one of the following things: 1) eaten a meal there 2) had coffee in a cafe 3) spent recreational time there (beach, parks, hiking, biking, etc.). You can explore this list as well since each town is a link to a website that describes the city in much more detail.

CJS
Photo Right: Menton, France

Photos Still Coming

AS OF RIGHT now we can't seem to find the charger for our digital camera. It's either buried deep within our luggage, somewhere back in Maryland, or completely lost. In any case, we haven't been downloading photos much since we have been here because we don't want to waste the battery. We do have some, though. The photos here were taken at the main harbor in Cannes during our first visit there about two weeks ago.

Le Rouret

WE ARE LIVING in a mountain village called Le Rouret. The town is located in the mountains above Antibes and about 20 km west of Nice and 20 km north of Cannes. You can read more about Le Rouret at abm-cote d'azure. Since we are still in temporary housing, we don't have any photos to share of our house. Those will come. The photo at the left is of the Eglise Le Rouret -- the local church.

First Few Weeks

ANY TIME YOU move the first couple of weeks are the most difficult, mainly because there are 50 million things that need to be accomplished. In our case, those 50 million things had to be accomplished in a country where we don't speak the language.

So we've been busy: opening bank accounts (what a nightmare in France!), looking for a car to buy (we have finally found one -- a Renault Senic 2.0), enrolling the kids in the local village school, settling the visa issues with the local Prefecteur in Nice (still working on that one), learning our way around, finding the best supermarkets, figuring out how to by regular milk (I think we were buying half-and-half for the first week -- no wonder the kids loved it), and a host of other things.

But we've managed. In fact, we've even been able to visit with friends and spend some time at the beach. You can see a video of our first week in France by clicking the videos button at the top of the page.