Monday, September 29, 2008


This is the quintessential French village. We visited it once in early September, and we enjoyed it (and their delicious wines) so much that we went back yesterday.

As you drive into Roquebrun, the view is magnificent. There is a tapestry of vineyards with L’orb river flowing through the landscape and Roquebrun climbing the hill beyond the river. As you can see from the pictures, Roquebrun is situated on a hill with ruins atop the village. There are other ruins (they look like watch towers) overlooking the river as well.

We spent a leisurely afternoon on the beach of L’orb, eating our brie, bread, and left-over BBQ chicken. Then Mike and the kids climbed into the chilly water to shoot the rapids. Well, Josey shot the rapids while Mike stood guard to rescue Max. I watched from the beach where I knitted peacefully in the sun, stopping frequently to take pictures.

When Max started shivering (it didn’t take long), he lounged on the beach with me. We were having fun watching Josey and Mike play in the water until we noticed Max and Josey’s thongs floating downstream!! Some small French children had thrown them in the water. Sheesh! Luckily, we got help saving the shoes and no one went barefoot.

After the water sports, we ventured across the bridge and into town. We kept walking up and up and up the beautifully maintained cobblestone paths until we reached the Jardin Mediteraneen. A walk through le jardin leads you to the base of the ruins. However, you cannot enter the ruins – unfortunately! The views from the top of the hill were absolutely breathtaking.

Roquebrun is the most well cared-for village we have visited so far. It is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, I can imagine living there

We ended our Roquebrun adventure at la cave cooperative. This is where all the local vineyards bring the grapes of the area to be made into wine. The region is known as St. Chinian, and it is famous for its delicious wines. Mike, ever the wine connoisseur, bought a lot of wine!

On the drive home, we were enjoying the amazingly beautiful architecture of France. Simply look out your window and you see either a vineyard in beautiful colors or a chapelle (small chapel) or an abandoned building of some sort or a castle. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what you can see . . .

Visit our Flickr site for the complete photo extravaganza!

My dad will be here to visit next weekend, and we can’t wait to bring him to Roquebrun!

Love to all!

Mon Quarantieme Anniversaire

It’s true . . . I am officially 40 years old. Mike and I had a debate about when I actually turned forty, considering the time difference between France and the US. However, I can no longer deny it.

We started the day with a trip to the Pezenas farmer’s market where the kids each bought themselves a treat. Max finally found himself a beret, and Josey splurged on some hair clips.

I must digress to tell you about Max and his search for a beret!

He has been looking for the perfect beret since he arrived in France – seriously. Most of you know how fashionable that boy is!

Our search for a beret has been disappointing because the only ones we could find were 28 euros, which is well out of Max’s price range. Aha! Now that cold weather is creeping in, there are suddenly warmer hats at the market. So, much to our delight, Max found a black beret on my birthday.

He received compliments the moment he put it on: “Tres beau!” Several elderly women even patted his little head. (Sidebar: The French people often touch children – complete strangers! That is taking some getting used to, I’ll tell you.) When we stopped at the mushroom vendor about 2 minutes after buying the beret, the vendor was wearing the exact same beret! I said in my broken French, “Mon fils aime beaucoup votre chapeau.” (Translation: My son really likes your hat.) The friendly man responded in rapid-fire French something that I barely understood . . . I only got that this beret is the traditional beret of the Languedocian region of France, which is where we live. Max was thrilled! The whole morning, he kept asking me, “Mommy, do you like my beret? Does it look good?”

He lost another baby tooth last week. He actually swallowed it while eating a nectarine. He asked Mike to pull it out, and when Mike looked in his mouth, he said, “But Max, where is your tooth? It’s gone!” The 5 euros provided by the toothfairy paid for that new beret.

Dinner & The Bruns

We goofed around the rest of the afternoon, preparing for our first French guests. Our new friends, the Brun Family, joined us for my birthday dinner. Sandra, Jean-Louis, Victoria, and Noah were very welcomed guests. They kept the evening fun-filled and thrill-packed (just imagine trying to speak in a foreign language for 4 hours straight while making dinner, playing with the kids, etc.). Dado made his famous Fred Chicken (delicious!!), and Sandra made the delicious cake you see in the pictures.

You will all just love this: the sprinkles on the cake came from Walmart! When Sandra was last in the US, she bought them on one of her shopping trips. She absolutely adores Walmart, Target, Gap, and Old Navy.

They also brought me the gorgeous flowers. And Noah made me several adorable pictures of trains and Monterey. We haven’t known the Brun family for long, but I already feel very close to them. I thank them very much for making me feel loved on my birthday.

More About Sandra

I must digress again to tell you more about Sandra. I’ve mentioned her in several of my posts – she’s the one who really, really, really wants to speak “American” English. We have daily French/English speaking sessions with her at school, and we have the 3-hour marathon on Thursday afternoons while the kids are in school.

Sandra is a wonderful, kind, down-to-earth person. Mike and I are so grateful that she introduced herself the first week of school. She has done so much to make us feel welcome in Bouzigues: She has invited us to her house several times, she has introduced us to many people at school and in town, she has shown us the local swim center, she has taught us so much French, she has helped us understand what the teachers communicate with us (that is such a huge help!) . . .

She even included us in her friend’s surprise birthday party last Sunday. That was amazing! It was a Sunday “lunch” party that lasted 6 hours! There was a different course and alcohol involved with each of those 6 hours, too. It started with appetizers and Pastisse (the local liquere) and Muscat, progressed to lunch with wine, moved on to cheese with bread and more wine, and ended with fabulous desserts with champagne. There were about 12 adults and 8 children there, and they were very welcoming and friendly. Unfortunately, my camera was out of batteries, so I don’t have any pictures.

Merci beaucoup, Stephanie and Stephan, pour la invitation a la fete!

It was a fascinating afternoon. When we left (very full), Mike and I both commented on how exhausted we were mentally. It is very challenging to focus on French for 6 hours straight. It takes complete concentration to listen while the locals speak, and even with complete concentration I only catch a small portion of what they are saying. Luckily, I can often get the “gist” of things. Then, responding is even more challenging! Piecing together the few words I know into a comprehensible sentence . . . LOL!

Much to Mike’s delight, Sandra is also teaching him all the French swear words (gros mots), so he can eventually translate the soliloquy by the Merovingian.

It was a fabulous birthday! And you know what? I really don’t feel 40 at all! More like a mature 21.

Love to all!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Nitty Gritty Part 4 - The Bouzigues Gym

Here is another nitty gritty post, but this one will be a quickie. Much like a visit to the Bouzigues gym!

The gym is upstairs from the post office, which is about 3 doors down from the school. (BTW: Our post office is only open from 8:30am to 11:30 am, M-F.) So, Mike and I visit the gym right after we drop off the kids.

The gym is about as big as the women’s locker room at Toadal Fitness, and most of the equipment looks like it’s from the 70s. Just check out the leg curl/extension machine (that's an actual chain!) and the free weights (yep, that's all of 'em).

And look at the "cardio area"!

Is the gym better than my rock workout? Peut etre.

Love to all!

Please Leave Us Comments!

Hi Everyone!

I often wonder if anyone reads my blog posts. I consider the blog posts to be an opportunity to share our adventures, but they are also my own journal of our time in France.

Thus, I tell myself that if no one else reads the posts, it’s okay. However, the truth is that I would be thrilled to know that someone, anyone, is really reading them!

So, please leave us comments.

To leave a comment:
  1. Scroll to the bottom of a post.
  2. Look for something like this:
  3. Click on the word “COMMENTS”.
  4. Type a message in the window.
  5. Click .
Voila! When I check our blog, I will see that someone left a comment.

Now here’s a secret: I am thrilled when I receive a comment on the blog! This is true for any emails I receive, too (hint, hint).

Thank you so much Melissa, for all your comments.

Love to all!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Look Who's in High School!

I’ve been waiting to get pictures of Alex’s first day of high school, but I may never get them! She is now a freshman at Lewis & Clark High School.

Wow! And look at those beautiful teeth – no more braces.

The Nitty Gritty 3: Why Bouzigues?

This is a question Mike and I hear almost daily. The only question we hear more often is: Why did you move to France?

Let me start with Why did we move to France?

When Alex moved to Spokane, I was ready for a serious change. I did not want to stay in our Placer Street house in Santa Cruz if she wasn’t there, too. So, when Mike said one night in late April of 2006 (completely out of the blue): “Let’s move to some other country.” I thought about it for a few minutes, then I said, “Okay. Where?” Boy, was that easy or what?

Why did Mike have this bizarre idea?

First, it is simply too easy to spend your entire life doing the same thing every day: live in the same house, go to the same job, see the same people, eat the same foods, etc. He did not want to wake up in 10 years with all things being the same expect for one – the children would be off to college by then!

Second, we were very disenchanted with many of the residents of our neighborhood. Crappy neighbors are the worst!

So decided to experience life – to live a little! What better way to do that than to move to a foreign country with a different language, different customs, etc. It would challenge us in so many ways and teach us and the kids so many valuable things at the same time! We would all learn French and become world-travelers.

Thus, the idea of moving abroad was born. Our next steps were to:

  • Get another job, so I could make enough money to support this strange idea.
  • Decide where to live.

The Job & Santa Clara

I ended up with a fantastic contracting job at Cisco. Since I would be working in San Jose, we decided to move to Santa Clara for a year. All the better for me to be closer to work, right? We were moved into Machado Ave. in Santa Clara by July 23, 2006. (Yep, only 3 months after Mike’s original idea!)

Ugh. We should have stayed in Santa Cruz. Living in Santa Clara really didn’t teach us anything useful, and it’s not a pleasant place to live. I missed my friends & family terribly, and I also missed all things Santa Cruz (the views, the vibe, the stores, the gym!!). C’est la vie!

Two good things came from Santa Clara:

It put Mike closer to French classes. During our year in Santa Clara, he took 1 class during the Fall semester (Mission Valley College) and two classes during the Spring semester (Mission Valley and San Jose City College). He learned a ton, and he made two valuable friends in his professors. His Mission Valley prof was in Montpellier in August (her teenage son was taking French classes here), and we spent a great evening touring Montpellier with them. His profs have also provided invaluable help for us with translations, questions about France, etc. We thank them both!

We met the Woo family! Minji was in Max’s kindergarten class, and her parents, Sumi and Sung, are wonderful! We had so much fun spending time with their family. We hope they come to visit us in France. I miss them all a lot!

Deciding Where to Live

Here we are – job hunting, packing all of our possessions, renting our house, and turning our lives topsy turvy, and we have to make a decision on where to live. I honestly think the decision was based on The Merovingian. He is a character in one of the Matrix movies. Why The Merovingian? Well, we knew we wanted to live somewhere in Europe, but we weren’t sure which country. We didn’t know any of the languages (besides my 4 years of high school Spanish), so we were going to have to learn something. The Merovingian has an amazing soliloquy in French, and Mike has always wanted to know what he was saying. Voila! Let’s learn French! Thus, let’s move to France.

As I mentioned, I was just ready for a major change. I didn’t have any specific country in mind, so France sounded good to me. Am I easy or what?

Having decided on France, we now needed to decide where.

Mike would have decided based purely on where he could surf. However, there isn’t much surfing in France.

We aren’t city people (hmm . . . maybe that’s one of the reasons that Santa Clara was such a bummer!), so we definitely did not want to live in Paris, Lyon, Nice, or any of the other big cities.

D, Debb & Reed

Lucky for us, I decided to send an email to my friend Deanna (aka D). D used to work for us when we owned 3 Dog. I haven’t seen D in many, many years, but when I think of my friends, she’s always high on the list!

When D heard that we wanted to France, she said, “You have to talk to my sister!” And that’s how we met Debb.

Debb is D’s older sister, and Debb has lived in Bouzigues for 12 summers in a row. Debb and Reed also have an apartment in Paris, where they live the rest of the year.

When Debb heard that we wanted to move to France – but not to a big city like Paris – she instantly said, “You have to move to Bouzigues! It is the Santa Cruz of France!”

Debb has been wonderful since that first Skype call. She scouted rentals with the local immoblier to find us a place to live (you have to have a residence address to obtain a French visa, so this was a crucial task!), she communicated with us as often as our worries required (email and Skype), and she answered all the questions we had as well as all the questions we should have asked but didn’t know enough to ask!

Since our arrival in Bouzigues, Debb and Reed have been our saviors. They have fed us, entertained us and our children, taught us where to shop, toured us around Bouzigues and neighboring villages, provided invaluable advice on all things French, introduced us to many wonderful people – heck, they even let me work at their house for hours on end before we had our own Internet connection.

Their generosity continues to amaze us! Their latest act of largess: They have offered to let us use their apartment in Paris for my 40th birthday celebration. Woohoo!

Merci mille fois, Debb and Reed!

So that’s how we decided to move out of Santa Cruz and how we decided on Bouzigues, France. Someday soon I will post another blog entry on the French visa process. That’s a doozy!

Love to all!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cathie Galas & Dan Ingalls!

Last week we had visitors from Santa Cruz, and it was wonderful!

Cathie Galas has been a friend of mine since she joined Toadal Fitness several years ago. She started out as a Spin regular in my classes (right in the front row, where I always appreciated her smiling face), and she was also one of my personal training clients.

When we moved from Santa Cruz, Cathie and Dan (her husband) hosted my going away party in their gorgeous Rio Del Mar home. That’s how sweet they are!

Dan has a series of talks he is doing in Europe for business this month. They started in Porto, Portugal, and they had some time to sight-see before his next talk in Paris. Fortunately for us, they decided to use some of that free time in Bouzigues!

Originally, they only planned to stay overnight in Bouzigues. However, they had so much fun their first afternoon that they stayed through Wednesday. That says a lot for:

  • The charm of Bouzigues and the South of France
  • The charm of the Billats
  • Both!

On Saturday, we filled the entire afternoon and evening with fun. We started at St. Guilhem le Desert, which is an amazing village 45 minutes away. The church there was built in the 900s, and it has one of the most beautiful pipe organs I have ever seen. The village itself is also breath-taking. Check out the URL, too.

Next we took the tour through La Grotte de Clamouse. That is an amazing cave about 45 minutes away. I wrote about it in a blog post last month, if you want more details. It turns out that Dan has explored many caves in Virginia, so he really enjoyed La Grotte.

We ended our outing with a short sightseeing adventure around La Pont du Diable, which is a bridge near La Grotte de Clamouse. We climbed up the side of the mountain like billy goats to get the best pictures. It was completely spontaneous and really, really fun!

That night, we had dinner at La Cote Bleue. La Cote Bleue is the only hotel in Bouzigues, and they also have a restaurant that the locals rave about. Poor Mike decided to be daring, and he ordered the Bouzigues equivalent of a Fisherman’s Platter. Picture this: a huge, beautifully arranged platter full of oysters, mussles, clams, escargot, whelks (another type of snail), shrimp, and crayfish. Sounds good, right? Hah! It was all raw. He choked it down, but he wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t smiling the next day, either.

Over the next few days, we brought them to a Farmer’s market, had them over for dinner twice, visited Pezenas, and introduced them to Reed (Debb was out of town on business). They also did some sight-seeing trips of their own around the area.

I know this sounds truly corny, but I will cherish the memories of their visit. It was so magical just to spend time with them. Having friends here in Bouzigues, seeing what our new life is like, is truly special.

Thank you Cathie and Dan for being here!

Love to all!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

La Vendange – The Grape Harvest

Right now, trillions of grapes are being harvested throughout France to make the famous French wines. The grape harvest is called la vendange.

Today, we got to participate in la vendange!

Reed and Debb’s friends – George and Marika – own a mas in La Pons du Mauchien (The Place of the Bad Dogs). A mas is a farm house on a vineyard. George & Marika’s mas is over 300 years old, and it is breath-taking (see below). George and Marika live in San Diego most of the year, but they arrive here in July for the annual wine bottling, and they stay through early October, when the harvest is fermented and ready for the next step in the wine making process.

Le Pons du Mauchien is about 15 minutes from Bouzigues. The name has a great historical legend: Apparently, the ruler of this area was so cruel that he abused his peasants and even his dogs! After years of abuse, the dogs decided to defend themselves. They ate the ruler!

There are three small vineyards at the mas where they grow Grenache and Syrah grapes. They also have a small olive tree orchard from which they make olive oil.

Today, we helped harvest grapes from 4 rows of grape vines. Four rows may not sound like many, but it took over an hour with 11 people! The four of us were there, along with Reed, George, Marika, Jack, Sue Thompson (here visiting from England), and Gert & Karen (Marika’s brother and his wife – both sweet people from Idaho).

Here is the process from our awesome experience:

We all picked grapes. You walk along the row, clipping clumps of grapes and letting them fall into your bucket. Well, I decided that it was far more fun and sensual to catch the grapes in my hand and drop them into the bucket. The clumps of grapes are picture perfect, and the grapes are yummy!

When your bucket is full, you carry it to the front of the vine and dump it into the larger container.

When we picked the vines clean, we hauled the grapes to the mas. There is a special wheelbarrow that lifts the large white container to move it to the mas. There, we sorted the grapes. That means we pulled out any grapes that were mildewed and we pulled out any leaves.

Next, Jack put the grapes through the hopper. The hopper separates the grapes from the stem and leaves. The grapes are collected under the hopper in a large bucket, and the stems are carried by a small conveyer belt into a basket. We used buckets and our hands to scoop the separated grapes out from under the hopper. At this point, the grapes are really juicy but still whole. There are a few pieces of stem, but mostly it is round grapes. It is pretty cool to dip your hands into the grape soup! We carried the buckets full of grape soup into the barn and poured them right into the fermenting vats.

Mike got to stir the grapes, which were already fermenting!

For red wine, the grapes stay in the fermenting vats for 2 weeks. During this time, the color from the grape skins turns the wine red. The bubbles from the fermenting float the skins to the top of the vat. When this stage of the fermenting is over, the skins sink back to the bottom. Then, it’s time to press the wine. We hope to get invited back to help with the pressing.

After the grapes are pressed, the juice is put into large glass bottles to continue the next phase of fermentation.

Here you can see glass bottles full of George’s white wine harvest this year. White wine is different because the grapes are pressed the same day they are harvested. They don’t sit in the large vat for 2 weeks where the red color is imparted from the skins. When you put your ear to the opening, you can hear the pinging of the fermentation bubbles. It’s cool!

When la vendange was over, we celebrated with a feast! I haven’t eaten so much in one sitting in years! Try not to drool too much throughout this description:

The first course was (of course) oysters and the local onion, anchovy, and olive pizza. Okay, so I didn’t eat much during the first course. I admit it.

The next course was Marika’s homemade chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, pasta salad, and green bean salad. Considering the absolute lack of Mexican food here, the taste of homemade chicken enchiladas was out-of-this-world! I ate one and split a second with Mike. I would have gone back for more, too, if I hadn’t been embarrassed!

The next course was the bread and cheese course. If I haven’t yet mentioned how delicious the cheese is here – it is mouth-watering. Today we had brie, chevre, a mild blue cheese, and a gouda – all with bread fresh from the boulangerie. I discovered that cheese is even more delicious with a little bit of fresh fig! That was another major highlight today: the gi-normous fig tree! The figs from this tree are the best fruit I have ever had in my life. Absolutely delicious! We got to bring some home.

Dessert was brownies (a chez Billat) and homemade lemon curd/meringue/cheesecake pie. I cannot describe this pie with words other than to say – it was so delicious that I ate 2 pieces. That was about 4 hours ago, and I’m still full.

It was the kind of meal I will remember forever: delicious food, amazing setting, wonderful people . . . it was absolutely idyllic.

After the feast, the kids swam in the pool while the adults visited some more. We also got a tour of the mas.

We arrived at the mas around 10:30, and we left a bit before 4:00. All in all – one of our best days in France so far! This is exactly the type of experience I was hoping for in France. It was amazing – something you can only do here – something straight out of a movie. We are truly fortunate to have been so warmly included in la vendange. We hope to be here in July when George and Marika return for the bottling!

Love to all!

Monday, September 15, 2008

School Update: 2 Weeks into the Year

This is a long post about the first 2 weeks of school!


We are still adjusting to the unique French school schedule. The kids' schedule is:

M, T, Th, F - 8:30 to 11:30 AM AND 1:30 to 4:30 PM

We pick them up for lunch, and there is enough time to eat a hot, healthy lunch and still play! Wednesdays are completely off school, so those are exploration days.


Max’s class is CP (cours preparatoire), which is similar to Kindergarten in the US. This is the 6-year old class.

Max’s teacher, Mme. Seguy, had her “Back to School Night” this week. Wow. That’s all I could say: Wow! This event lasted 45 minutes, and Mike and I were 100% focused. That was HARD. I would pick up a word every now and then and think, "Okay - I've got the gist of this!" I'd be so happy that I figured something out that I would loose the rest of the sentence - then I'd be completely lost again.

When we got home, I told the kids that I was incredibly proud of them for the hard work they do in school listening to their teachers and friends speak French for 3 hours straight. They got a cookie, too.

Max’s day is much like a Kindergarten day in the US; however, he is already learning cursive here! His “Reading with Dagobert” book, which is how they learn to read here, has printing and cursive for all the text. The first page is:

La Rentree (The Return)

Je vais a l’ecole. (I go to school.)

His math book is far below his skill level, so we know he will excel in math here. He could complete the entire CP math book in a matter of days. We’re glad that there is a scholastic subject that he can ace – so he can focus on French.

Max’s nickname at school: American Boy. If you haven’t heard the song, please check it out!


Josey’s class is CM1. This is the 9-year old class.

Josey’s teacher, Mme. Evelyne Denaes, caught us after school on Thursday. She was concerned about Josey. To paraphrase: They had a math lesson Thursday morning, and Josey wasn’t able to follow along due to the language barrier. Apparently, they were talking through number places (thousands, millions, trillions, etc.). Josey does not know those words in French yet, so she couldn’t follow along. (And, by the way, it is very difficult to hear and understand numbers in French! There is no 70, 80, or 90. To translate, 70 = 60, 10 (soixante dix); 80 = 4 20s (quatre- vingts); and 90 = 4 20s, 10 (quatre-vingts dix). Completely non-trivial to learn!). So, Josey spent 20 minutes looking bored.

The teacher explained that she translates as much as she can, but she doesn’t always have time. We assured her that we appreciate any translation she can do, and we are working on all the homework diligently. Then Mme. Denaes said that she wanted to make sure that Josey wasn’t discouraged or unhappy. Quite the opposite! Although she can’t follow along yet, Josey is loving school.

This week, we worked together to conjugate the 2 most common French verbs: etre (to be) and avoir (to have). Of course conjugation is done naturally when you learn a language, so it was difficult to explain the concept to Josey & Max. They got it! However, the memorization of the words is proving to be a challenge for Josey, as we expected.

If you’ve never learned a foreign language, let me give you a brief glimpse of conjugating the verb etre – and this is only in the present tense (there are about a million tenses in French!):

I am = je suis

You are (informal) = tu es

He/She is = il/elle est

You are (formal) = vous etes

We are = nous sommes

They are = ils/elles sont

You have to know the pronoun, the conjugated verb, and whether you are speaking informally (to a friend or child, for example) or formally (to an elder or someone you don’t know well). It also changes depending on whether “they” is a group of males or mixed gender (ils) or all females (elles). Whew. It’s tough!

Friends (Des Amis)

Of course, at this age, friends have a lot to do with the kids’ happiness level in regards to school. Josey has had friends since the very first morning, and they all play together at every recess. That makes Josey very, very happy!

On the way to school last week, one girl, Emma, waited to walk in with Josey – holding her hand! How cute is that?

Max was not so happy the first few days, although he wouldn’t admit it. His sadness was due to the fact that he didn’t have any friends yet. However, Josey made it her mission to include him at recess time. She’s so awesome!

Max was included in the games, and he has a new friend, too – Noah. Apparently, Max and Noah sit next to each other in class, and Noah talks to Max all the time! Max, on the other hand, is still mute in class. He’s beginning to understand some of what is said, but he’s not interested in trying to speak yet. Soon, we hope.

As soon as Max and Noah paired up, Max was significantly happier!

Dado and I made a new friend, too. Her name is Sandra. She (conveniently) is Noah’s mom! Her daughter, Victoria, is in Josey’s class, and Josey & Victoria play together every recess. As it turns out, Sandra loves, loves, loves America, and she wants to learn “American” English.

We have started family play dates. The kids play while the grown ups trade language lessons: we speak in French, and Sandra speaks in English. We correct each other, so everyone learns! It is wonderful!!

Yesterday, they hosted the first play date. She made a pizza, and she had "French products" for snacks: fois gras, cheeses, wines, baguettes (bien sur), and special cookies for the kids. We were there about 2.5 hours, and it was great. I have to admit, we were exhausted by the time we left. It's difficult to speak and listen in French for that long - but very rewarding, too. And . . . I like fois gras!


Guess what? Mike and I may teach the English lessons in Max’s class. His teacher speaks French and Spanish – no English. So, we volunteered for the task. We’re awaiting a call from the District Supervisor (well, the French equivalent thereof) for details. However, Max’s teacher announced during Back To School Night that we are teaching that content! We understood that. We’re excited!

We wanted to volunteer to work in the classroom, much like in the US. However, in France, you have to have formal permission from the District Supervisor. When we speak to him about English, we hope to get permission. It would be great to learn some French with the kids at school.

Another tidbit: They lock the doors at school 5 minutes after the bell rings. If you are tardy – you miss school!

Love to all!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Bit of Home in Bouzigues

This week, we've indulged in a bit of "home" while in Bouzigues! We had Debb and Reed over for dinner, and Dado made delicious spagetti. The kids set up a "Little Gamers" room, complete with Casino, for entertainment.

This morning, we had pancakes for breakfast! The kids said that they weren't quite as good as Grandma's back in the US, but they were still good. Of course, this is the Carrefour recipe, so it can't be as good as Grandma's! Grandma's are made with that special ingredient known as "Grandma Love."

Kisses from Bouzigues!

The Nitty Gritty Part 2: Shopping

Where do we shop in France? There are two answers: the famer’s markets and the Carrefour.

Farmer's Markets

I’ve told you about a bit about the farmer’s markets. There is a different farmer’s market in a different village every day of the week except Monday. Monday seems to be the day of rest for farmer’s market vendors.

We like the Pezenas market the best, which is on Saturdays. Unfortunately, it is at least a 2.5-hour event due to the 30-minute-each-way drive, so we only go every few weeks. But they have the best herb sausage, dehydrated strawberries, goutalis (like falafel, only much better), and frommage – especially the frommage de cheval (goat cheese). It is also a larger market than the others, so there is more to see there – including clothes, bags, knick knacks, etc. It’s similar to the Flea Market in Santa Cruz, only everything is new.

Every Thursday, we go to the market in Meze, which is the largest village nearby (5 minute drive). All the market pictures in this post are from Meze. Meze has the best paella and grapes (sold by a sweet, little old man!).

Most of the markets are completely outdoors, but Meze also has a building that houses regular vendors. In the outdoors section, the meat is sold from trucks. Picture this: goat brains (I’m serious!) beside rabbits with their entrails hanging out (still serious) beside pork chops beside chickens with their feet still on beside sausages beside mystery meat – all open to the flies. And, the butcher will serve one person goat brains with his bare hands, then serve up your order with the same hands! No gloves, no soap and water, no signs of refrigeration! Debb says that you can taste the difference between the butcher’s meat and the Carrefour (see below) . . . but I’m afraid to try that particular experiment!

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is an idea of what our shopping excursions look like.

The Carrefour

At least once a week (usually twice), Dado goes to the Cultural Center. That is the locals’ nickname for the Carrefour. The Carrefour is a grocery store – and so much more. You all know how I feel about our weekly trips to Costco back in the US, right? Well, the Carrefour is much like that: huge, crowded, time consuming, but absolutely necessary. The Carrefour defies description. I’ve never seen anything like it in the US. It sells everything you can think of besides live animals. Computers, school supplies, art & craft stuff, clothes, every type of food available in the area, meat, cheese, produce, linens, bikes . . . It’s like a Walmart, grocery store, strip mall combination. And, did I mention that it’s huge? And crowded?

To fully understand the size of the Carrefour: The gophers actually wear roller skates to get around the store!

The Carrefour is where we buy our meat and staples: kid food, canned stuff, etc. Well, we certainly don’t buy this kind of meat at the Carrefour! If the picute isn't clear enough - that is viande de cheval = horse meat!

All of our bread comes from the local boulangeries. Our Bouzigues boulangerie has the best tradicione (similar to a baguette, but more rustic) and sliced Moison (think whole grain). There is a boulangerie in Meze that has the best croissants and another in Meze with the best pain au chocolate.

For the truly curious, there are more pictures of the market on our Flickr site:

The pictures on the Flickr site are always better than what you see here, too.

Love to all!