Friday, August 8, 2008

Live from Bouzigues - Finally!

Today is Friday, August 8, 2008, and we finally have our home DSL working!! Woohoo!! I’ve been camping out for hours on end at Debbie & Reed’s, mooching their Internet connection to work & communicate with folks at home. Now I can communicate at will, anytime, and I can keep our blog updated.

That is Bouzigues in the background - notice the cool church steeple. This picture is taken at sunset (9:30pm) from "our" beach, which is a 30-second walk from our house!

Let me start from the beginning . . .

Now that we have been here a full 2 weeks, I can look back on our first few days and crack a bit of a smile. At the time, there wasn’t much smiling going on.

Here’s a peak at our first 2 days . . . (Who remembers the story of Mike’s first full day in Santa Clara – with spilled blueberries, wasps, etc?)

Monday, July 21, 2008

After a lovely day in Paris, where we walked through the Eiffel Tower park and surrounding neighborhoods, we had an interesting ride to the airport for our 6:00pm flight. Why was it interesting? Well, we arrived at the airport around 5:30pm, and I had to get my boarding pass and check 2 bags. Luck was with us, and we made it onboard!

When we landed in Montpellier around 8:00pm, we were pleased to still have sunlight – so we would have a hope of finding our hotel! By the way, it stays light until around 10:00pm here in the summer, and the sun rises by 6:00am – it’s crazy! All was well for the rest of that evening - following a 10:00pm dinner. The kids would have been starving, if not for the 9 hour jet lag they were experiencing. (As a typical aside – Josey got sick on the airplane, poor thing. She made it until they were landing in Paris. That’s when she got some first-hand use of the airsick bag.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The next morning, Mike decided that we needed to get our French iPhone before leaving Montpellier for the 25-minute drive to Bouzigues (that is the name of our new village). He asked the hotel clerk for directions, and since the clerk spoke English, we though we had it covered. Oh my. We left the hotel around 9:30am. After driving in circles through Montpellier for 90 minutes (and coming close to an unpleasant brawl!), Mike spotted an Office Depot – of all places! He said, “We’re buying a GPS right now.” He’s a genius!

Thanks to the GPS, we’re still happily married. And, we made it to Orange, which is the French cell phone service provider and the only place in France to buy the new iPhone. Why do we need a French iPhone? Good question! I still don’t know the whole answer. But, when we made it to Orange (tired, cranky, hungry, still wanting to get to Bouzigues), Mike left us in the car for 35 minutes just to learn that he couldn’t get his phone until he had a French bank account. Sigh.

We finally made it to Bouzigues by 4:00pm (after some additional panic because I didn’t have directions to the realtor’s office). We were stuck in the realtor’s office for almost an hour (lots of forms and things to deal with in French rentals!), but we made it to our lovely new town home around 5:00pm. Poor Debbie and Reed (our saviors!) had expected us by noon or so. They were planning to take us out to lunch, take us shopping to fill up our kitchen, then feed us dinner. Alas, we made it to their house around 6:00pm or so – exhausted, but happy to be there.

Our first 3 days were much like what I’ve described above, but we are adapting!

Now for all of the great things . . .

First: All of our new friends!

Debbie, Reed, Isabel & Sophia Eller! Debbie helped us find our house, and she and her husband, Reed, have been our saviors. In addition to letting us use their Internet connection daily, they have fed us, taken us shopping in amazing neighboring villages, taken us to spectacular places (the beach in Sete and the Grotte de Clamouse for starters – more on those later), helped us with everything from obtaining a French bank account to obtaining our DSL connection (of course Mike and I don’t speak enough French to communicate with customer service reps here, so Reed has been invaluable with that), and so much more! Without them, we would be lost. Literally.

Isabel and Sophia are their granddaughters, who are here visiting from Atlanta, GA. The four kids have been almost inseparable for weeks! There have been lots of sleepovers, eat overs, beach trips, etc. That has helped Max and Josey acclimate slowly since everyone is speaking English.

Taco & Anne-Marie: This is a Dutch couple we met on our first night in town. Taco is a lawyer in the Netherlands (late 40s) who has been coming to Bouzigues every summer for 30 years! His wife, Anne-Marie, is a legal translator in the Netherlands (mid to late 30s). They have 2 wonderful children, Frances is 13, and Bruno is 9. In addition to having the coolest house in Bouzigues, they are also a great source of information about local activities & wineries – and Taco is a fabulous windsurfing instructor! He has been teaching Mike, and Mike is hooked (of course). They leave August 16, and we’re already sad.

Jack & Jill Wilson: This is an English couple who moved here 3 years ago. They live here year-round, which is unusual for foreigners. Bouzigues is more a summer locale for tourists! Jack used to race cars and motor boats professionally (78 years old), and Jill is an artist (61 years old). They are very sweet, and we look forward to getting to know them more.

John-Cristopher & Fennie: This is a true Bouzigues couple! Mike met John-Cristopher on the beach. He was listening in on their French conversation wherein John-Cristopher was talking about his broken computer. Dado introduced himself & volunteered to fix the computer. Turns out, John-Cristopher is the local high-school PE teacher! He is another great source of info, and he even speaks a bit of English. He also “dumbs down” his French to communicate with us. It’s great! He took us out on his motorboat one afternoon, and it was a lovely tour of L’Etang du Thau, which is the lagoon on which we now live (fed by the Mediterranean). - You can experiment and click on the links in French - then you'll know how I feel. LOL

Second: Our new home

We now live in a townhouse, on the bottom of 2 floors. It’s great! We have a view of L’Etang from our kitchen & patio (see picture below), and we have a yard! Get this – we also have a clothesline. Luckily, we have a washing machine, but almost no one in France uses a dryer! It’s all line drying. Great for the environment, but the whites & cottons turn into an exfoliater’s dream in the sun. Poor Max & Mike are having a “rough” time with their underwear!

When we first arrived, our little area was almost empty of other humans, which was great for getting started here. However, almost all of Europe goes on vacation for the entire month of August. I am not exaggerating! Almost overnight, all of the townhouses in our little area filled up, and now there are dozens of people around us. It’s exciting!

The village of Bouzigues is very traditional . . . narrow cobblestone streets circle through the village, all leading to the church. Also in the heart of the village is a boulangerie with delicious baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolat. There is a tiny store (with a not-so-friendly proprietor), a tiny post office (only open mornings), the school, and about 20 restaurants! Nearby are other villages that host farmer’s markets on different days of the week. More about those in another post.

Lining the narrow streets are 2- to 3-story buildings that are connected homes. Life is very, very close in the village! We are on the outskirts, which is about a 5 minute walk away, so our area is more open.

Here is a view of Sete (the closest "city") from "our" beach.

Third: Some adventures

I will save this for my next post. If you’ve stuck with me this far, and actually read to this point, you deserve a break. I also have to download some more pictures, so you can see some of the beautiful sights we’ve seen.

Love to everyone “back home”!


The Alper Family said...

Hi Gayle & Familia,
Thank you for the update. I love reading about your adventures. You've done so much already, in such little time. You guys are SO brave, and I admire you for doing what you're doing. What a great experience. I can't wait for the next update. Cheers! Elaine

JB said...

good to hear from you guys, and great to hear details about your adventure! We love the blog! JB, Amy and Grace