30 June 2010

I Owe France an Apology

AT LEAST I think I do.

Last summer I received two speeding tickets in Strasburg while we were living there for the summer. Because the notices were sent to our permanent address in the South of France, we didn't get the notices until we returned to our home in mid-September -- when they were already way overdue. Without going into the details, we went back and forth with this -- trying to explain the situation in writing -- until I finally paid two 320 Euro tickets. Yes, TWO!

The response we kept getting was that we had to pay the tickets before our case would be heard. Yeah right, we thought. We'll pay the 600+ Euro fine and then the wonderful French government will choose to decline our appeal. We were not confident that we would ever see any of that money again. Our argument was this: we didn't get the tickets until they were already overdue because of our current living situation, blah blah blah.

Well, this morning I was looking at our bank statements online when I noticed an odd deposit for 475 Euros. A few quick questions to some friends about the 'tagline' on the deposits led to the one conclusion I wasn't expecting: our appeal has been approved and we have received a refund.

I certainly didn't expect that -- which means I owe France an apology. I'm sorry!

29 June 2010

Summer is Coming

IN FRANCE SUMMER doesn't begin until July. School finally finishes around the 2nd or 3rd of the month, and then the vacations begin. As we have done for the past three summers, we are leaving the Cote d'Azur. Because we have a unique rental agreement which requires us to be out of our house each summer, and because I am a teacher and therefore don't work in July and August, we spend the summer months elsewhere.

Last summer we were in Strasbourg and the summer before that we rented a house near the Pyrenées in a village called Puivert. This summer we are taking a slightly different route and spending two months in the central part of Italy. Each year we go through the same routine: getting out of our house, renting a small apartment for a couple weeks, gathering our things, loading the car, and heading to our new 'home.' The task of preparing for our move gets old quickly -- be we always know that a nice summer is in store. We are certainly hoping for the same this year. We sure are looking forward to getting there -- hopefully by the end of next week.

Kerri and I joke that we'll probably pick up Italian in 3 or 4 weeks -- as compared to the 3-4 years it seems to be taking for French. With no pressure and no friends who speak English, we'll probably soak it all up. Actually, as long as we get to go to some great summer markets and cook some spectacular means, we'll be happy.

28 June 2010

Some Good Food

THE BAD THING about going to Paris to do the Bac exams is that it's exhausting. Hours and hours of marking the same two or three questions followed by three full days of giving oral exams in which you hear the same thing over and over -- but with varying degrees of competence. It's a fun experience in many ways, but the repetition can get to you.

But the good thing...food. Our team was taken out a couple of times and a few of us hit some nice places the other nights. As I have said before: I like Paris on per diem...

I already put up this photo at Le Polidor...great!!

I thought about trying to get in here...but it became clear that wasn't going to happen.
A very nice background in St. Germain-en-Laye. One of the many homes of the Capet's

A very nice dessert tray at Zagato in St. Germain

24 June 2010

Where Were You?

WHERE WERE YOU when Landon Donovan scored the oh-so-late goal against Algeria yesterday. I was alone in a hotel room in St. Germain-en-Laye silently screaming and jumping up and down so as not to disturb others in the hotel. But here are some other great, great reactions. I just watched these and at the moment the crowd goes crazy, I put my hands in the air and pumped my arms (I'm still alone in a hotel room in St. Germain-en-Laye). I could watch these kinds of reactions for hours.

As I have written before, American's don't get many chances to fully support a national team on the world stage because our sports don't have the global reach that soccer does. So this has been fun so far. Here's my favorite -- watch how the guy in the lower right seems to understand a goal was scored about 1 second before everyone else:

21 June 2010

Polidor and Lots of Music

ABOUT 18 OF us who examine the national OIB had a wonderful dinner this evening at Restaurant Polidor, a very well known restaurant in the Latin Quarter that has been running since 1845. Without going into detail, there were several menu options and I went with salade d'épinards chèvre, Boeuf Bourgogne, tarte tatin, The group of 18 ordered about 10 bottles of 2003 Bourgueil. The restaurant is famous for two things -- other than their food and wine list: their rude waiters, and the fact that they don't take credit cards. The sign posted outside the windows makes it very clear: Depuis 1845, nous n'acceptons pas les cartes de crédit
I didn't try les escargots because I'm still a bit too American to order snails in their shells. But for fun I took a photo of the platter that the person across the table from me ordered. And to be fair, it smelled terrific.

We had a wonderful time catching up and eating great food with each other. Most of us only see one another once or twice per years since we all teach at lycées all over France. You can see Rob and Barbara talking in this photo -- two of my colleagues from Valbonne.

Normally, I'd be going to bed right now. But we got back quite late (3 1/2 hour dinner) and tonight is the Fête de la Musique a street music festival held all across France on the 21st of June, the longest night of the year. Right now, outside my window, music is blaring and people are singing and dancing along. It's 12:15.

20 June 2010

Me No Write Long Time

THE BLOG IS BACK! Well, it will be shortly. It has been sparse couple of months but I have a good excuse. Really.

First, let me say that I am sitting at the Hotel du Cynge in Paris on Father's Day. I'm here, as I usually am this time of year, grading the Baccalaureate Exam and getting prepared for 3 full days of oral exams at the Lycée International in St. Germain-en-Laye. After a full day of marking exams today I stopped by the FIFA Fan Fest to watch the first half of the Italy-New Zealand match. Here's the view from my seat:
Now for the excuses. I'll just number them to make it easy (in no particular order).

1. As many of you know, I started a doctorate program last December which requires me to travel to Geneva every week. While the courses have been terrific (!!!), the travel and the amount of work has been, well, heavy. Lots of research papers and even a few exams just for fun. But I'm not done with the travel part of the program after 25 trips to Geneva since December 5. As you can imagine, I'm very happy to have this part of the program finished -- as much as I love Geneva!
2. As many of you also know, we have to be out of our house each summer because the owner uses it/rents it during mid-June through early September. That means we have to clean up and pack up the house each summer (and by 'we' I mean 5% me and 95% Kerri). The good news is that we have a place for this summer and it is in central Italy! We're looking forward to it.
3. Our car completely died about 6 weeks ago (you can read about that if you scroll down). That has meant hours and hours of searching for a new one (again, 5% me and 95% Kerri). But we have both wasted numerous hours traveling around the region looking at cars in various conditions. We finally settled on one -- partly by luck -- and are excited to get it in a few days.
4. It's the busy season at my school: preparing students for exams; giving bac blanc orals, grading the real bac, preparing for Paris, etc.

There are other things I could use as an excuse, but I'll leave it there. It's mostly the school and travel.

But once the summer arrives (remember, school doesn't end until July in these parts) I hope to be a little more regular -- not just because I enjoy sharing our experience with friends and family, but because this blog is a way to document this European Experiment that our family is in the midst of.

And yes, I just ended that sentence with an awkward preposition, but I'm in a rush...a colleague and I are headed out for dinner at Bistro Romain here in Paris.

Au revoir for now.