Tuesday, November 25, 2008

La Couvertoirade

What a fascinating adventure this was! Jean-Christopher suggested La Couvertoirade as a great day adventure. Jean-Christopher is our Bouziguade friend who provides us with all sorts of great information. For example, he looked at a map of the Herault region with us (this is the region in which we live), and he circled all the great places we should see.

La Couvertoirade is a magical, medieval little village surrounded by fortified walls, battlements, and a castle! It was especially magical for us because the village was almost deserted during our visit. This was probably due to the fact that it was 1 degree Celsius – complete with a biting wind! Brrrrr. The upside of the cold is that the puddles were iced over, and Max got to see his first-ever icicles.

The castle was built by the Templar Knights in the 1200s!


The cobblestone streets are perfect for imagining what life must have been like thousands of years ago here!

The petite graveyard is fascinating, with strangely “Templar” headstones.

The church is the amazing cathedral type . . . so amazingly old.

The Cardabelle flowers hung on doors are said to open in the sun and begin closing up when rain is on the way.

The visit to La Courvertoirade was followed by a random stop in another amazing village – complete with ruins from 350 BC!! See my next post.

Love to all!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


One thing we have discovered about France, something that the whole family enjoys, are the brocantes. These are similar to the Flea Market in Santa Cruz, although the vendors are mainly selling antiques.

There is a huge brocante in Pezenas every other month, and we like that one! That is definitely mostly antiques. The first time we went, Debb and Reed went with us. That was super cool because they educated us about many things while we browsed.

Josey’s big bargain that day was a set of 4 glass jars to hold her shell collection. She was thrilled because she was going to buy one of the jars for 1 euro, then the woman offered the whole set for 2 euros. Josey loves those jars!

I found this gorgeous light, which will some day grace the walls in our next Santa Cruz home!

There is a weekly brocante in Marsellian-en-Plage, which is about 20 minutes away. We went to this brocante for the first time last weekend, and it was a hit! This was much more like the Santa Cruz Flea Market, so there was a lot more to interest the kids.

Their amazing “finds” were small Buddha statues. They were remembering Dado’s cool Buddha back in the US – the one whose belly they used to rub for luck – as soon as they saw them. Then, the goal for the morning was to find the best Buddha for the best price.

This is a great reflection of the kids’ personalities! Max decided to buy a single Buddha from one vendor because he thought it was the coolest one that he saw.

Josey decided to buy a set of 6 Buddhas from a different vendor because she could get 6 for 4 euros, and that was a great deal. Josey is planning to use most of her Buddhas for gifts.

Both kids were so thrilled with their purchases that they brought them to school the next day for show-and-tell. Yep, they are fitting in well enough that they can manage show-and-tell now!!

Dado and I made our own amazing finds! Mine is this antique glass jar that was used to dispense bubbly water and lemonade (d’eaux et limonade gazeuses). I’ve seen many of these at different brocantes, and I love them. The color is a beautiful blue that will look perfect in Santa Cruz some day. It will live in a window somewhere, and every time I look at it, I will think of France!

Dado’s amazing find requires some back story. While we were in Paris with my Dad, we noticed some signs for Absinthe. We thought it was illegal! When we got back to Bouzigues, we asked Sandra. She said it’s illegal in France, but they sell it in Spain. Quick trips to Spain are common for Bouziguades because the “Frontier” (border) is only 90 minutes away, and you can buy many things there for 50% less than the French price. For example, cigarettes are more than 7 euros a pack here!! That is about $9-10 US – per pack! In Spain, they are a little over 3 euros a pack. Alcohol is the same.

An adventure was born!! Dado and Sandra just had to try Absinthe. They weren’t worried about the potential side effects of blindness or the hacking off of an ear (remember, Van Gogh was drinking Absinthe when he cut off his ear!). They talked about it for weeks before we made our trip to Spain. Dado bought two bottles of Absinthe – one for France and one for the US.

At the brocante, I noticed an actual Absinthe glass! Apparently, the correct way to drink Absinthe is to place a cube of sugar on the metal “spoon”, pour the Absinthe over the sugar, and add water to your own taste. Now Dado has his own cool set.

As for the Absinthe tasting . . . Degoutant! That is “disgusting”! Sandra and I really didn’t like it (I had to taste it!). The smell is much like Nyquill – complete with the black licorice scent. Dado kept trying to make it better by adding water and sugar, but he preferred it straight. Jean-Louis is the only one who seemed to enjoy it. He drank his whole glass.

Love to all!!

Self-Administered Flu Shots!

In France, they call the flu “la grippe”! Fitting name, isn’t it?

Mike and I started asking about flu shots back in September, when we first heard people saying things like: “J’ai attrape une rhume!” I caught a cold.

Just like in the US, the start of school brought with it the start of cold season. Where there are colds, the flu can’t be far behind!

Sandra told us that in France, the nurse comes to your house and injects the whole family for you. How cool is that?! She invited us to her house for a Flu Shot Party.

Then I happened to need a doctor’s appointment this week. I asked the doctor about flu shots, and he prescribed them for me on the spot. However, in France, you bring your flu shot prescription to the pharmacy to be filled. Naturally, I was expecting the pharmacist to inject me.

Ha! France is different from the US in so many ways, but this one truly shocked me. At the pharmacy, they handed me 4 cardboard boxes of flu vaccine – already in a sealed syringe. Wow! You do it yourself!

When we got home, we read the notice in the box – luckily it was in English on one side. And Mike did some research online about how to perform an injection. Whew . . . this was a little hairy, but it makes a great story!

We decided that we wanted Sandra’s mom, Michelle, to demonstrate for us. I volunteered to be the guinea pig.

The same day, when we got home, I shot Mike up! Josey was our photographer.

You know the best part – the shot was completely painless . . . Mike and I both did not even feel the needle! I felt the injection a bit while Michelle pressed the plunger, but that was it. Mike said he didn’t feel anything the whole time. And I didn’t break the needle off in his arm! That was his only fear . . . that I would flinch and break the needle during the injection.

The kids wanted Michelle as their “pique” provider, but we didn’t want to wait. Max had to go first, and he was so panicked. It was awful! He screamed, “Ow! That hurts!” when I injected him. Poor Josey started crying then! She had been so brave until Max screamed. However, 90 seconds after I finished Max, he started laughing. Within 3 minutes, he was confessing to Josey that it really didn’t hurt very much at all.

Josey was struggling to be brave, but she kept saying, “Max freaked me out when he screamed! Now I’m scared.” Dado told her to look at him while I got things ready. Well, guess what?! I did her complete injection, and she though she was still waiting for me to start! How cool is that! I told her, “I’m all done, Josey!” She had no idea that I had even started.


Cost? 6 euros/person, which is currently a bit over $8 US. Cool!

Love to all!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Being in France for the 2008 Election has been fascinating.

My parents sent us Obama t-shirts, which we wore the Monday before the election and on election day. Actually, Mike has been wearing his as often as laundry production allows! These pictures were taken while we were on a hike, so excuse our grungy appearance.

The last statistic I heard reported that 85% of the French people wanted Obama to be elected President. So, as you might guess, our t-shirts were a hit.

In fact, we have been stopped in the street by people yelling “Obama!” from their cars. People at the school in Bouzigues who have never talked to us before stopped to comment the day after the election, too.

It has been true of 80% of places we visit that the subject of George Bush and/or Obama comes up in conversation. Whether it’s a winery, the mairie (city hall) or prefecture, a casual lunch or dinner – the conversation inevitably turns to US politics and whether we are for Bush/McCain (it’s all the same to the French) or Obama. We haven’t met a single person who was gunning for McCain.

Our friend Sandra even tried to donate money to the Obama campaign! She received a call from someone on his campaign explaining that they had to return the check. Apparently they cannot accept euros.

We may be far from home, but we felt a lot of the Obama Love here in France!

Love to all!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

School Update - End of October

I have updates on three family members and their “school” experiences: Josey, Max, and Dado!


Josey’s teacher, Madame Denaes, is spectacular! She has gone out of her way to help Josey adapt to French school. Her first idea was to have Josey attend the “grammar” part of the day in Max’s class. The reasoning was, Josey has no French grammar knowledge, so she could understand the basics in “kindergarten” better than at the 3rd grade-level. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out. Josey’s class does math when Max’s class does grammar, and no one wanted Josey to miss out on math.

Madame Danaes’ second idea was to have Josey work individually with a tutor. Awesome! Now, every Thursday afternoon, Josey works with a tutor to learn French. Josey is also assigned different homework than the rest of the class. So, Josey is learning to conjugate the basic verbs, and she is learning basic vocabulary. She is keeping up with math, thanks to Dado School at home. We see what she is doing in class from her math notebook. Since all the class work is in French (although Madame Danaes does translate some for Josey during school), Dado goes over everything with her in English at home.

Josey is also a teacher’s aide for the English class! She does all the pronunciation. For Halloween, we printed 1 song and 1 poem in English for the class. Josey sang the song for them until they all knew it. Then, her class went to each of the other 3 classes and performed. Cool!

The song was 1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Witches, and the poem was 5 Little Pumpkins.

Right now, Josey is supposed to know her times tables by heart up to the 7s, and she is learning fractions and basic geometry. Dado was quizzing her on denominator, numerator, diameter, and radius on our fossil hunting trip. He also found a great math game on the iPhone. It’s multiplication for Josey and addition/subtraction for Max!


Max seems to be doing really, really well! There is little new to report for him. He’s still kickin’ butt in math, he’s learning French, and he’s learning cursive. Yep, they start cursive in “kindergarten” here. Max’s cursive is now better than his printing. When we were doing his homework yesterday, he told me that he didn’t remember how to print some letters. That was after he told me that printing is what you do with the computer and it has nothing to do with writing. Sheesh!

I think Max represents 6-year olds worldwide. I just asked him what his favorite part of school is. Guess what his answer was: “When it’s time to play!”


Dado is now certified to teach English in French schools. How cool is that? That dreaded “class” in Montpellier turned out to be a simple 30-minute interview/test where the three French people spoke English. Dado passed quite easily. When vacation is over, he will arrange his “teaching” schedule at the kids’ school. I’m still hoping that they will let me attend, too.

Love to all!

Boo! Halloween in Bouzigues

Check out the ghouls!

The kids had a fabulous time at Sandra's Halloween party. Unfortunately, Mike and I couldn't attend. We had an obligatory medical appointment in Montpellier to finalize our carte sejour (immigration) process. More on that later this week.

There were arts and crafts, goodies, and lots of fun. Then, we all played with Halloween makeup. Check out the witch!

Trick-or-treating happened in the village. All the homes in the village are tall and skinny, usually 3 stories tall. It was great . . . some people tossed candy down from their 2nd story terraces. It rains candy in Bouzigues on Halloween.

As they say in Bouzigues: Un bon bon, ou je te jette un sourd. Translation - give me a candy or I'll cast a spell on you.

Love to all!