Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We Made It... Finally

Seven hours after landing in Boston, and 28 hours after leaving Le Petit Village, we arrived at my Dad's house.

That's nuts isn't it? Dad's not a Kiwi, we weren't traveling to New Zealand. It should only have been a two hour car ride, but we hit a few detours on the way.

The flight landed a few minutes early. Carry on bags were pulled from the overhead, jackets on and cell phones out. The whole plane was ready to get off of that tin can, when the pilot announced that we would have to wait on board for a few minutes because there was some delay in immigration. Thus negating the whole early landing thing.

The doors finally opened and we headed into the terminal. Whenever I land back in the US I get a warm, happy, glowy feeling inside, even if I'm still in an airport, it's an American airport!

I waited at baggage claim for The Boyfriend to clear immigration. And then he met me and we waited. And waited. And waited. Our bags took 55 minutes to come out. I timed it. 55 minutes. They were literally the last bags out.

I spent the last few minutes before they came praying to see them. The Boyfriend spent that time going red as Gallic huffing and puffing teetered on the verge of hyperventilation (we're really quite a pair). And then the huge sighs of relief to see the two bags fall off the little baggage slide and onto the carousel.

Seeing your bags come has to be one of the best human emotions going. Deep down, you're always worried that they didn't make it, that they were lost because some idiot didn't tag them correctly, or that somehow the zipper busted and your bag will be lying open with your panties and Hello Kitty jammies hanging out for everyone to see. That moment of relief, watching your bags hit the carousel in one piece is so euphoric. If I could bottle that emotion and sell it, I'd be rich. Maybe not Oprah rich, but Gayle rich, and that's rich enough for me.

My Big Sis was waiting for us at arrivals (after circling Logan five times she finally gave up, parked and came in. Bless her) and we headed out into the rainy parking lot towards the little Honda Civic that could.

A few minutes later and we were bombing along the Mass Pike, with heavy rain drops pelting the car. I called Dad, letting him know we made it but were going to stop for some dinner half way. He told us to drive carefully because the roads were icy. Icy? Huh? Nothing but rain outside of Boston.

Using the incredible Yelp application on the iPhone, we saw that we would pass (with a minor detour) an Outback Steakhouse on the way. To me, Outback Steakhouse means one thing... Bloomin' Onion. What a perfect way to begin my culinary tour of American cuisine, with an over sized, battered, deep fried onion. It's a vegetable, sort of. The Boyfriend was very intrigued by this Bloomin' Onion. I told him he would just have to wait and see...

He never got to see the Bloomin' Onion. But, he did get a Bunyon Onion at Bugaboo Creek. You know when you're headed somewhere to eat, you have a specific destination in mind, but then your hunger takes over and you stop at the first place you see? That's how we ended up at Bugaboo. Never been to a Bugaboo before (can you tell I like typing the word, Bugaboo?) It's like some strange, Canadian, Twilight Zone version of Outback.

Bunyon Onion, appetizer sampler platter (buffalo wings I've missed you so) and two bottles of Sam Adams later, I had officially been de-Frenched. And The Boyfriends alter ego, Food Whore, met his nemesis in American portion sizes. Truthfully, I don't think he'll ever recover.

There was just one last stop to make before seeing Dad. After that journey, all I wanted was to take a shower, put my Hello Kitty jammies on, and sit on the couch chatting with a big ol' glass of one of my favorite American wines, Firesteed. We stopped at a liquor store, grabbed the wine and some Heineken and checked out. Well, tried to check out. I got carded! Welcome back to America! This had The Boyfriend in total shock. I whipped out my Texas drivers license...

"Sorry, we don't take out of state licenses."

"How about a passport?"

"Sorry, we can't accept those either."

"But I'm thirty-three."

"Sorry."

I guess in Massachusetts foreigners won't be drinking.

Luckily, he did let Big Sis come in and save the day.

We got back on the Mass Pike heading westbound in the rain, and the farther we got, the more that rain started to look like sleet, and the road seemed to be covered in thicker and thicker layers of it, followed by the icy sheets. Not good. Big Sis informed us that she had new tires on the little Honda Civic that could. Just not snow tires. No problem, a plow was bound to come along any moment and clear the road. And yep, sure enough, a snow plow! On the other side of the road, followed by another, and another. No snow plows on our westbound portion of the Mass Pike that evening. Maybe they figure if you aren't heading east towards Boston, it's really not worth getting to your destination. New Massachusetts slogan... Boston or Death!

Big Sis drove about 30mph for three hours navigating through freakish March weather. The Boyfriend had slipped into a baby backed rib coma in the back seat, and I did my best to stay awake for her, but failed a bit. Mostly, she just talked to herself.

At 10:50pm est, (I checked my watch, I'm very time oriented) 04:50am, Le Petit Village time, we arrived at Dad's house.

Do you want to know how tired I was?

So tired that I couldn't even manage a glass of wine.

Moi, turning down a glass of wine, now that's tired.

bisou



P.S. The night we arrived at Dad's was the night the clocks went forward in the US. Last weekend, my first weekend back in Le Petit Village, the clocks went forward in Europe. Which means I lost two hours instead of one. There is something wrong with that. I intend on writing a strongly worded letter. Not sure to whom, probably to whomever I end up sending that 'Hill at Nice Airport' letter to. But I'm writing it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are We There Yet?

me and my new Amsterdam airport friend


"I feel normal here."

This was the first thing The Boyfriend said upon arriving in Amsterdam and looking around at all the tall, blonde Dutch people.

The first thing I said was, "I know there's a Starbucks here somewhere..."

sidebar - The Boyfriend is actually only half French, Papa is half Swedish and half Italian. The Boyfriend looks 100% Swedish. This makes him the biggest boy in Le Petit Village, unless a rugby team is about, and one isn't. The Boyfriend is Le Petit Village's resident lifter of heavy things, and mover of furniture. He's handy like that.

I found the Starbucks, there was a long line but I didn't care. With my grande vanilla latte in hand (yummy, tastes like America), my vacation had officially begun. We took a walk around, looking in all the shops and comparing the restaurants, deciding where we'd go for brunch. Our flight wasn't leaving until 2pm so we wanted to eat somewhere we could kick back and kill some time.

A little after 10 and The Boyfriend's hunger took control, kicked us out of the shop, and moved us to a bistro with a bar in it. Not too shabby for an airport...


Sure it was still morning, but we had been awake for over ten hours, nothing wrong with a little of this...


Did you know that in Amsterdam Airport everyone speaks English? It was great, I kept saying s'il vous plaît and merci and they kept saying please and thank you. I was truly on my way home and it felt great. The Boyfriend was confused as to why they couldn't speak French instead. My tired brain made up a response that I'm pretty sure ended with, "so there, nanapoopoo!"

We relaxed for a bit basking in that happy warm glow you always have at the beginning of a vacation, that wonderful feeling of anticipation that ends far too quickly. I was enjoying our just the two of us time and kept waiting for The Boyfriend's lo-jack to activate and Honey Jr or The Spaniard to show up. I guess the lo-jack doesn't work outside of France. Fantastic.

A few hours later with full bellies and new magazines and candy for the flight, we headed towards the gate. It was early but we were tired of milling around. Good thing because two hours before take off and there was a crowd waiting.

Remember the Christmas Day terrorist incident on board that plane headed to the US from Amsterdam? Well Amsterdam certainly does and they are not messing about with security. Keeping in mind that anyone there has already passed through security at Amsterdam or their originating airport, Amsterdam had decided that on flights to the US, you're going to do it again.

First, every one's passports are examined and questioned as to why they are going to the US. I have an American passport and that didn't make them any less curious about me.

Next, your boarding cards are scanned. Because ours were printed at Nice, that flagged us and we were asked to step aside and were interviewed again. This time, they wanted the address of where we were staying in the US and The Boyfriend's ESTA (visa waiver authorization) number. Once again, my American nationality didn't seem to matter at all. Not that I'm complaining, I prefer the thoroughness as opposed to being a name in a five minute tragic news segment and Fifty becoming an orphan.

After our second interview, we had to do the whole security checkpoint stuff again, shoes off the whole kit and kaboodle, but this time, we got to go through that new full body x-ray machine, where they can see you naked. They should really hang a sign on it that says,'Security, brought to you by Osama Bin Laden'. Thanks Osama, you little rascal. Travelling has never been so much fun.

Finally through the security screening (I'm deliberately leaving out the part where they took the two bottles of wine bought from Duty Free in Nice that were in a sealed bag, that's right sealed, off of The Boyfriend and his monster huffing and puffing session after) and we found a spot on the floor to sit on. I'm not usually a fan of sitting on dirty airport floors but it was crowded, and I was tired. Plus I'm sure the airplane seat itself isn't all that hygienic anyway. Never an industrial sized container of Purell when you need one.

There we were, sitting on the dirty floor, fatigued, robbed of our wine, and violated by the full body x-ray, henceforth known as Osama (Osama should at least by you dinner first) when a loud (I really cannot emphasize the loudness here) piercing noise started screaming from an alarm somewhere. I thought blood was going to start seeping out of my eyeballs. Check this out... people watching as I was, there was a boy, probably about eighteen, and looking rather bored, pacing about. You know those emergency doors that say in red writing, 'do not enter', 'emergency only', 'not an exit' all over them? Well boy genius inspired by boredom or the devil, gave the bar that runs across it a little push.

Pandemonium ensued. The shrieking alarm continued for about five funtastic minutes. The boy, looking exactly like Fifty does when he knows he's in trouble, was pulled aside by two security officers and questioned for twenty minutes. I know it was about twenty minutes because we all watched. I made a mental note to never touch one of those doors no matter how curious, bored, or devil possessed I'm feeling. And The Boyfriend and I crossed our fingers that the boy would end up sitting next to us on the flight. Someone to heckle for eight hours would help pass the time. Unfortunately, we weren't that lucky.

However, we were lucky enough to be sitting in the middle two seats of the row of four seats in the middle of the plane. Best seats on the plane if you ask me. Really gives you time to get to know your neighbors and test the resiliency of your deodorant. But at least we have those little individual televisions to watch. Except they were broken. For the entire eight hours.

Can you hear the Gallic huffing and puffing?

Can you?

"Yes, I would like wine with my peanuts please.

No no, not a glass, the whole bottle is fine."

bisou



Thursday, March 25, 2010

Midnight, Time To Wake Up

It started at 12am. Actually, 11:59pm. Don't ask me why, but setting the alarm for 00:00 freaked me out, so 23:59 it was.

The Boyfriend was nervous about the drive to Nice Airport. Marseille Airport is much closer to us, but our flight was out of Nice, two and a half hours away. Normally, not a problem, but I'm guessing he was a little worried about his first big trip. Since we needed to be at the airport at 3:45 (three hours ahead of flight time, playing by the bajiggty rules of international travel) and had to stop to get petrol first, The Boyfriend wanted to make sure we were on the road by 12:45.

Fun.

We pulled into the long term car park a little after 3am. Everything was quiet and empty. It felt like we were miles away from the terminals and since shuttle buses don't run at 3am, we set off for a long walk dragging our 30kg of luggage. Don't you just love the sound of luggage wheels rolling on asphalt cutting threw the night air? It's very soothing.

This is when The Boyfriend asked which terminal. Huh, don't know. I checked the itinerary print out and it said nothing about the terminal. Since it was in French I decided to have The Boyfriend double check. Nope, nothing about the terminal. Guess time. Let's see, Air France, it's the main airline here, so it must be Terminal 1. Yes, yes, Terminal 1. Logical right?

Off we went, walking F-O-R-E-V-E-R. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it was a little over a mile to get to Terminal 1. At least all that fresh night air and the grating sound of the luggage wheels had us feeling much more lively.

When we got to the terminal, the doors were locked. What?

"It's normal", according to The Boyfriend.

Hmmm, interesting. Never come across that before.

By the time we walked around to the other set of doors they were being unlocked. I guess 3:20am is opening hour at Nice Airport.

Took a quick look at the departure board. Why isn't our flight here? Why aren't any Air France flights here? Because you guessed the wrong terminal you idiot. Cue Gallic huffing and puffing from you know who.

Back into the night air, dragging that damn luggage, up that freaking hill again (oh, did I not mention there is some strange hill at Nice airport. Why is there a big hill at an airport? I don't know but I'm thinking about writing a letter. Not sure to who but I'm writing one).

But check this out, after close to a two mile, 30kg dragging, 3am walk, we arrived at Terminal 2 at 3:45am, right on time. Am I good or what? You know who's not good? The ticket agents who don't think they need to start work at 3:45am even though the passenger's itinerary clearly states to be at the airport for check in three hours ahead of schedule for their 6:45am flight.


I guess I could have set my alarm for 1am instead. Thanks Air France.

After sitting around for an hour, and listening to lots of huffing and puffing, we finally got checked in and headed to security. We were the first ones there. And the doors were locked. The security checkpoint was being setup for the day. Isn't that weird? At least I got to dazzle them with my security checkpoint skills. It seemed like such a waste. There isn't much motivation to hurry when you're the only people there. But I'm sure I set the gold standard for the day.

Such a tough act to follow.

bisou


P.S. Next up... Amsterdam and beyond...


Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Petit Distraction

I'm back!

Miss me?

I missed you! Really, it's true, I did. You're my peeps.

There are suitcases full of dirty laundry and shopping sitting in the corner of my bedroom, wall-eyeing me. Before I can update you, my loyal Le Petit Village Posse, with all the happenings of our great week in the States, I've got to tackle it, and spend some quality time with Fifty.

So in the meantime, while I'm unpacking new clothes, smelly clothes, and boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (reminds me of my childhood, and it is the cheesiest), I will leave you with this picture of Fifty and his girlfriend, Vicky.

KA RAZY

They are clearly crazed.

As am I.

À bientôt

bisou


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Back in the U.S.A.

The Boyfriend and I are venturing out of Le Petit Village and headed stateside to visit my father in the Berkshires and some friends in New York.

This is The Boyfriend's first trip to the States and I'm so excited to show him around, catch up with friends and family and spend a week surrounded by American accented English that I'm dangerously close to piddling.

Some other reasons I'm so happy I'm doing the bunny hop...

Shopping... Barnes & Nobles, Target, J Crew, Old Navy... here I come! I'm a product of American consumerism and I'm planning on dumping a bunch of euros into the American economy. Your welcome Barack.

Eating... deli sandwiches for both breakfast; fried egg, ham and cheese on a hard roll, and for lunch; pastrami on rye, Italian sub, and meatball heros. Excuse me while I have my Homer Simpson moment... so delicious... And Dunkin Donuts (mmm... donuts) for munchkins and coffee, and of course Starbucks, Starbucks, and more Starbucks.

But unfortunately, every ying has it's yang, and I'm a little sad too...

I'll miss Fifty. He's spending the week with Boyfriend's Brother and his puppy cousins; Python, Karma, Leah, Mika, and the other new puppy (can't remember her name yet) and I'm sure he'll be happy but I'm worried he's not going to get the cuddles he's used too (Boyfriend's Brother is not a cuddler).

We're missing the last two weekends of Six Nations rugby. When I realized this, I thought about cancelling the trip. Seriously. France is going to win the Grand Slam and I want to see it.

Travelling with The Boyfriend. I'm trying to be positive but I can't see this going well. Patience is not one of his virtues and the longest flight he ever took before was three hours to Turkey. This is a two hour flight from Nice to Amsterdam, a five hour layover, and an eight hour flight to Boston, followed by a two hour car ride to my Dad's. And I can just hear all his Gallic huffing and puffing now. Travelling doesn't bother me (except on Ryan Air), airports are my playground. I'm the person you want to be in line behind at security checkpoint (true story: a security guard once pointed at me and shouted to everyone, 'now this is how it's done'. I've got mad security checkpoint skills).

And of course, I'll miss you, my loyal Le Petit Village posse. But it's just for a week, and then I'll be back fatter and over caffeineted with plenty of stories to share.

Betcha can't wait to here how The Boyfriend meeting my father goes.

Neither can I.

bisou

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

So Close, Yet So Far...

Last week, as March began, Le Petit Village seemed to be rolling nicely into spring.
All the traces of snow were finally gone. The sun was shining in a baby blue sky and I could feel my love for Provence returning.

Fifty and I took longer walks, and for the first time in months my fingers didn't freeze because I forgot my gloves. I moved quickly in my spring jacket bopping along to my French lesson on my Ipod.

All seemed right with the world again.The noises of
spring had returned. Birds chirping early in the morning (you know the birds, I'm not a bird person so I don't know their name. But they make that 'woo-woo..woo-woo' sound. I'll call them disco birds). The disco birds did their disco call along with the noises of house renovations, probably in preparation for the spring arrival of it's Belgian or Parisian owners.

Le Petit Village was beginning to see the trickle of tourists again, cameras at the ready (perhaps my own personal papparazzi, might just start to act like that for fun).

I'd take deep satisfying breaths and smile as the sun warmed my face, sure that
spring was finally here and the return of my beloved warm weather clothes with it.

And then on Sunday, it freaking snowed again!


How do you like them apples?

Happy camper I am not.

bisou


Sunday, March 7, 2010

They Make Curtains

As much as I love my cozy little abode with it's large spiral staircase smack dab in the middle of the living room, I covet the house next door.

It's old, but not too old, probably about one hundred years. So not old enough to give me the heebie jeebies if I was lucky enough to live there. It's big with lots of windows and white shutters instead of the usual Provencal mint green or pale purple. And according to The Boyfriend (Boyfriend's Brother rented it a couple of years ago) it has an atrium and a cave. I'm guessing by cave he actually means basement (unless it does have some sort of bat cave with a butler named Alfred living in it. Now that would be dope).

A young family lives there with an adorable little boy, who I think is about three. He's the cutest little blonde thing but Fifty barks at him whenever he is outside on his tricycle which makes me feel bad. But I know it's the trike, not the little boy that Fifty is barking at (Fifty loves children, bikes, like vacuums, freak him out) and I try to tell him that it's the trike and not him, but he just cocks his head and looks at me funny (much like Fifty does) and I'm sure he's not understanding my strange accent.

Sidebar - this adorable little boy looks exactly like pictures of The Boyfriend when he was little. And I mean exactly. So much so that I've started looking at the mother a little funny at times. Hmmm...

The one odd thing about the house; it has no curtains, not a one. And the shutters are only closed if they are out of town, so usually, they're wide open. No curtains. Needless to say, anyone on the street can see inside their house. And see the super high ceilings and how great it is, and how much I want to live there. If only I could get them to move (can you sense me hatching a diabolical plan...).

I've been wondering what the man that lived there did. He's home most days and gets a lot of large packages delivered (yes, I've turned into that nosey neighbor from Bewitched). But when he's gone, it's very early in the morning. So I asked The Boyfriend.

"Oh, he has a stall at the markets."

"Cool, what does he sell?"

"Curtains."

Um, OK.

bisou


P.S.
I swear I was only joking about looking at the little boy's mother funny.

P.S.S.
But not about that diabolical plan part....

P.S.S.S.
Joking!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Nothing At All To Do With France

... WARNING... WARNING... WARNING...

Today's post has absolutely nothing to do with my life in Le Petit Village at all.

It's about me and my inability to go a day without injuring myself in some way. And this is not a new thing, it's not like I was always suave and then moved to France and became Jerry Lewis awkward. I've always been an accident prone klutz. I once sprained my thumb while playing badminton, and not athletic badminton, this was Texas sun shine beer badminton (oh, wait, light bulb moment).

It seems I am completely unaware of the dimensions of my own body. While driving, I'm aware of the size of the vehicle and it's relation to other cars on the road or in the parking lot, but despite having occupied my body for 30+ years, I cannot navigate around furniture without stubbing a toe, banging a knee, or jamming my hip into the corner of something.

My body is constantly covered in bruises and looks like The Boyfriend and I had an argument and I 'fell down'. But nope, just me. Just me and my genetically acquired awkwardness.

Sidebar - One time, my mother fractured her foot while vacuuming. That is no easy feat let me tell you. That's a special type of awkwardness. An awkwardness that I have clearly inherited. Thanks Mom.

That's all I have to say today.

I'm sitting in my kitchen, having a cup of tea.

I missed the chair completely on my first attempt.

Who needs more than one attempt sitting in chair?

I do, that's who.

And maybe my Mother.

bisou

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday Lunch


Traditionally in Provence, lunch, is the main meal of the day. Monday through Saturday, this doesn't bother me, because during the work week, I can send The Boyfriend off to work with his little packed lunch (lately more pastas and salads because he's been complaining about all the sandwiches, too American apparently. It's not like I'm sending him off with PB & J with the crusts cut off or anything, and beggars shouldn't be choosers).

And Saturdays are not a problem because we are usually running around and end up at Quick. I love Quick, don't ask me how, but it somehow seems a little healthier than McDonald's, even though I usually get a Giant burger and a hot dog. (Oh my, I think my butt got bigger just thinking about it).

But on Sundays, the day of rest, Provencal tradition requires that I cook a large meal to be on the table at 12:30. And I know what you may be thinking. Why doesn't The Boyfriend take turns cooking his share of Sunday lunches? Trust me, nobody wants that to happen. I'd end up eating partially cooked potatoes and a can of cold ravioli.

On Sundays the question is inevitable, "what do you cook for midday?" (excuse the strange structure of the sentence, but it's an exact quote of The Boyfriend's wobbly English).

Now this gets on my wick and is usually met with a loud sigh and eye roll.

Sundays for me were always my relaxing day, which is no little feat, relaxation is not a natural state for me. But on a Sunday, it's all about the newspaper, TV, and my feet up (when I lived stateside it meant a Lifetime movie marathon too, oh how I miss those. Meredith Baxter Bernie, Morgan Fairchild, Lindsay Wagner, always in distress before finding their inner female warrior, Oscar calibre stuff).

I have absolutely no problem cooking a large meal for Sunday evening, I love doing that, slowly cooking around 6pm with a glass of wine in my hand, moving at a nice pace, setting the table. After a lovely long day of Sunday relaxation of course.

But midday lunch? That breaks up the whole day, no relaxation at all.

It's like wake up, have a little coffee, and then BAM, it's cooking time. Where's the relaxation in that? Especially when it's inevitable that Honey Jr shows up to play chess with The Boyfriend around noon which means he ends up needing to be fed too. And then The Boyfriend can't help with the dishes if he's still on his little play date with Honey Jr.

Sunday lunch in Provence isn't a fast affair. It's a set table, an aperitif, a first course, a main course, dessert if you've got it, a cheese plate, lots of wine, and a digestif. And nobody even dreams of leaving the table for at least two hours.

Does this sound relaxing?

Yes, if we're at Papa's house and Papa's Wife is cooking. But when it's my turn, no no no.

I'm thinking of going on strike.

Now that would be very French of me.

bisou



P.S. Dreamfarm Girl sent a message asking if Le Petit Village was OK after the horrible storms battered France. Fortunately Le Petit Village was not effected at all. Thanks for thinking of us Dreamfarm Girl =)


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