Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our French Adventures – Week 1

Here are some scintillating details about the adventures we had in our first week in France!


“How can driving be an adventure?” you might ask. Ha! As you may remember, we spent most of our first day in France driving around in circles before Mike bought the GPS. Even with the GPS, we’ve driven in lots and lots of circles. Of course, Europe is filled with roundabouts instead of U.S.-style intersections, so we also drive around in those kinds of circles. Some circles have been more exciting than we wanted them to be, too!

Sometimes, Haughty Travel Boy (that’s our nickname for the GPS, thanks to the voice) tells you to turn the wrong way down a one-way street. Other times, he may tell you to “turn left in 100 meters” while the red line on the screen clearly shows a right! Picture this:

Haughty Travel Boy: Take next left.

Gayle: No! Don’t turn left! Turn right!

Mike: What the *#&$ am I supposed to do?

Haughty Travel Boy: Route recalculation.

"Route recalculation" is what you hear when you don’t follow his directions and he is redirecting you. Not good words to hear. For us, during that first week or so, the words “route recalculation” were usually accompanied by great stress and colorful vocabulary.

Another funny driving story with Haughty Travel Boy: Sometimes he says, “You are over the speed limit.” This is usually answered with Mike’s middle finger. However, we’ve learned that speed limits are enforced via camera here, and they find you anywhere in the world with the ticket! Debbie & Reed received a speeding ticket via mail in San Francisco! Haughty Travel Boy may save us about $150 US someday.


Definitely an adventure in France! The Farmer’s Markets are wonderful – filled with fresh produce, meats of all varieties, fish and shellfish of all varieties, cheeses, breads, clothes, olives, soaps, etc. Different markets are different sizes, thus offer more variety.

The markets give Mike a great opportunity to practice his amazingly good French, and I try to use my limited supply of French as much as I can.

Here is a very funny story . . .

Mike and I went out for dinner our first week (thanks, Debbie & Reed for taking the kids for ice cream!). I ordered salade au miel et almandes (salad with honey and almonds), which was served with toasted baguette slices topped with a cheese I had never tasted. I asked the waiter, in French, for the name of the cheese, so I could buy it at the market. He said, “Chevre.” I practiced saying it with him, and I thought I had it. LOL

At the next market, I walked up to le fromager with a big smile and said, “Bonjour. Je voudrais un fromage de cheval.” Translation = Hello. I would like a cheese . . . Wait to hear the rest.

Le fromager: “Cheval?!” she said, with an incredulous look on her face.

I thought, Oh great. She can’t understand me, even though I practiced this. Shoot!

Me: “Oui. Si’vous plait.” Still with a big smile on my face.

Le fromager: “Cheval?!” At this point, she was almost laughing.

Me: “Uh. Peut etre?” Translation – Uh. Maybe? Smile now faltering!

Le fromager: “Horse?”

Me: “Non! Non!” Now I’m laughing with her, and I’m very grateful she speaks at least a little English!

She pointed to the small, plastic goat in her display case, and said, “Chevre?”

Me: “Oui. Chevre! Merci beaucoup!”

I’ve practiced that word a lot since then!! Many of you are probably amazed that I like goat cheese. So am I!

Daily, we visit la boulangerie in Bouzigues. Our favorite items are:

  • Pain tradition (a rustic baguette that is very pointy on both ends – yeah for me since I like the crunchy part)
  • Pain complete (like whole wheat only much smaller pieces)
  • Pain au chocolat (of course). I am usually in charge of ordering at la boulangerie, which is always interesting.

Our favorite market so far is the Pezenas market, which is Saturday mornings. It’s about a 30 minute drive through French vineyards, and we walk away with several bags laden with delicious food.

We have learned some words the hard way via shopping. For example, the word for goose is la oie. Mike was intending to buy a chicken (le poulet), but he pointed and said, “Ce la.” instead (translation = that one there). The man picked up a goose! I told Mike, “That wasn’t a chicken!” Mike’s response? “Sure it was. It was just a chicken with more meat on its bones.” Ha! After roasting it for dinner, we now know that neither Mike nor I like goose. Ick.

Other Stuff

Our first week may seem a bit boring. I mean, where are all the cool sites, right?! Believe me, the driving and shopping took up most of our first week. The other stuff that took time includes:

Our French Bank Account: We had to get open our French bank account on day 2 to get that iPhone I’ve mentioned. Turns out that “le ribe” (the French equivalent of a bank routing number) is critical for subscribing to any type of service – cell phone, land line, electricity, etc. Mike spent many hours that first week getting money from our US bank to the French bank, etc.

Orange: Yes, that’s the cell phone store again. We visited the Orange store a total of 5 times (all the way in Montpellier, complete with Haughty Travel Boy giving us somewhat reliable directions) before Mike finally walked away with his French iPhone.

You’ll love this . . . When he got it home and turned it on, it was locked!! The clerk forgot the critical step of unlocking the new phone. Ohmigosh. Here we finally thought we had succeeded in one of our major tasks, but the phone was a brick. Of course, we couldn’t call Orange direct, and even if we could, we couldn’t get an English speaker on the phone. So, after many fruitless phone calls and much distress, Mike guessed the unlock code. Can you guess? He only had 3 chances to guess before the phone locked permanently! He got it on the first try: 0000. It works now. Whew!

Internet Service: I’m not even going to tell you about this!! Thank goodness, once again, for Reed! Thank goodness, also, for Agnes (our realtor)! They have both made many calls to Alice (the ISP) for us. Now, we have somewhat reliable DSL. Woohoo! However, this also represents many, many hours of time during our first 2.5 weeks.

Okay – I’ll tell you about our other, cooler adventures in my next post. The next set of adventures are more fun! Things like an amazing cave, France’s Grand Canyon, beach stories, and . . . wind surfing!! Mike and I both have fallen in love with a new, wonderful sport. Thank you, Taco! Or, should I say, Thank you, JC!



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