Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloweenie

{last year}

Let's talk Halloween.

(It's called Veille de la Toussaint here, doesn't that sound incredibly romantic?)

Halloween is another one of those holidays that leaves expat me feeling blah.

France hasn't fully jumped on the Halloween bandwagon yet. There are dashes of it here and there, but The Spirit of the Great Pumpkin definitely hasn't swept anyone away yet. For example, trick-or-treating; they haven't figured this one out at all and I don't know why because it's not like it's difficult... on October 31st you let your little gremlins dress up as little goblins and you send them outside to go door to door begging for candy. C'est tout! It's that simple.

But here, they have it all wrong. Like two years ago, when they knocked on my door on the 28th, scaring the bejeezus out of Fifty (he wasn't prepared, if it had been the 31st, he would have been prepared). And then this year, Papa's Wife told us that the trick-or-treaters would be popping around last Friday... last Friday... the 26th! What in the name of Sabrina the Teenage Witch is that all about?!

Anyway, it doesn't matter, because nobody came a calling last Friday. Not one little pirate, princess or zombie. It's all very sad. And it's all so crazy because France is the absolute perfect country for Halloween since November 1st is a holiday here (La Toussaint or All Saints Day).  Can you imagine what kind of trouble we'd get into in the States on Halloween if we didn't have school or work the next day?! Holy Moly it'd get quite messy I'm sure. So yeah, the French need to find their Hocus Pocus and jump on board.

As for me... today I'll dress Fifty in his Halloween t-shirt, we'll watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and I'll tell him all about Ichabod Crane and the legend of Sleep Hollow. And maybe, just maybe, some little French gremlins dressed as goblins might come a knocking.

Joyeuses fêtes d'Halloween!

bisou

Monday, October 29, 2012

it's all happening

{My Knight in Scuffed Nikes}
++ The Husband traveled 62 miles each way to get me a Starbucks. OK, kind of. He was at Marseille Airport with Brother-in-Law picking up a friend when he saw that the new Starbucks had finally opened up. (Remember when I spotted the sign during the summer and had a happy little freak out?)  He called and asked if I wanted him to pick me up something. My response was basically along the lines of, "Um, yeah, don't bother coming home unless you have a vanilla latte, and you must do everything in your power to keep it warm, and spill free." About an hour and a half later, my Knight in Scuffed Nikes arrived home with a lukewarm Starbucks cup and I couldn't have been happier.

++ I got a phone call from someone letting me know a 'gold expert' was in the area and if we have any gold or jewellery in the house, this 'gold expert' would be more than happy to come by and appraise it for us. Oh, sure, come on over. Does anyone actually fall for this? I certainly hope not.

++ Dr. Seuss isn't that big in France, which I think is more than a little sad, so when I came across The Cat in the Hat on Amazon written in both English and French, I just knew I had to buy it for La Petite. And I went ahead and threw 'Poisson Un, Poisson Deux, Poisson Rouge, Poisson Bleu', 'Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon', and 'Horton Entend Un Zou' in my basket for good measure. La Petite is going to be fully Seussed by the time I'm finished with her.

++ My GFC hovered at 666 for a bit, totally freaking me out. Not that I'm super superstitious or anything, but it's still felt spooky and I didn't like it one bit. So a big thank you to number 667. (And of course a big thank you to all of you. All of you make me very, very happy.)

++ I already have The Husband's Christmas present bought and shipped to my mother's house in Texas. I'm feeling quite chuffed with myself for being ahead of the Reindeer Games this year.

++ The Husband's Xmas pressies were sent to my mother's house because she is returning to The LPV for Christmas! (Fifty is beside himself with excitement). And not only is she bringing herself (the best Christmas gift ever), but she's bringing Christmas jammies for the whole LPV Crew... even Gatz! We're going to be quite the festive bunch this holiday season. And I'm sure I sound like a loon, talking about Christmas and festivities when it's not even Halloween yet, but it is only 56 days people, and that's not much time at all.

Giddy-up let's go

bisou

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn Redux

Since Autumn is in full swing here in Le Petit Village, I'd thought I'd share with you my classic tale of one of The LPV's favorite Autumn activities; mushroom foraging. Except in this tale, I didn't do the foraging, Papa did. I simply dealt with the aftermath (the grizzly, horrible, aftermath).
Originally posted: 22 October 2009 

...............................................................................................................................................................

{evil}

Let me start by saying that this should have been a much happier post. A post about delectable wild mushrooms and the beautiful gourmet meal I would cook using them. But I'm just not that girl and that's just not me.

And I will also say that this incident, that will henceforth be known as 'The Mushroom Incident' occurred over a week ago but I have had to let a little time pass before being able to write about it. Oh, and one last thing, please forgive me for any rambling that may follow, I'm still a little bit traumatized...

It all started on a Sunday evening. We went to Papa's house for a chat and drink (Provencal Rosé for me, Pastis for The Boyfriend). Papa had been very busy that day and he was quite chuffed with himself. Not only had he gone hunting and killed a wild boar (not with his bare hands - he's not Super Papa) he had also done some mushroom foraging and had a large bucket of the biggest mushrooms I had ever seen. These things were like Alice In Wonderland mushrooms, you could picture little frogs relaxing underneath with a good book and a little martini.

Seeing my excitement, Papa grabbed a bag and started stuffing mushrooms into it, all the while speaking rapidly in French giving me instructions for proper preparation and cooking with the Boyfriend translating over him. I nodded that I understood, smiled and said, "merci".
We headed home with the plan of having them for dinner the next night. The Boyfriend told me to leave them out, so I found a large bowl and left them on the counter. (Now this is my mistake, I should have covered them, they're mushrooms not fruit.)

The next day I was getting excited, I was trolling the internet and reading my cookbooks looking for the perfect accompaniments for Papa's wild mushrooms. Then the Boyfriend called. He said that he was still thinking about the merguez sausage and couscous I had cooked the night before and if there was any leftover, that's what he would like for dinner. He assured me that the mushrooms would be fine to cook the next night, Tuesday.

Now if you have read my older post entitled, 'Pizza Night', then you will know that Tuesday nights are Pizza Night in Le Petit Village and that very next Tuesday, my mushroom Tuesday turned out to be the night I learned about Pizza Tuesdays, so without expanding anymore, you know that I did not cook the mushrooms for dinner. However, a phone call to The Boyfriend's Grandmere did take place where she advised The Boyfriend to partially cook the mushrooms that evening, refrigerate them, and then finish cooking them on the Wednesday.

Fine, I'll enjoy my pizza and partially cook the mushrooms.

Then my Boyfriend's kindness intervened. "You're tired, don't cook them. Just put them in the refrigerator and cook them early tomorrow, they'll be ok." (not a direct quote but you get the gist).
Happily and tiredly I agreed. The bowl of mushrooms went into the fridge and up the spiral stairs to bed we went. (I should have listened to Grandmere.)

The next day after my coffee it was time to do some mushroom cooking. And then it happened...
Opening the fridge I was greeted by the most disgusting sight someone could see. Not just any someone, but someone who had spent the last two weeks cleaning cleaning cleaning her (previous Boyfriend bachelor pad) home to make it feel comfortable enough for a girl to live in. That comfort that I had only just begun to feel was now stripped off me like a warm duvet on a cold, rainy Monday morning...

Little maggots! Yes. Little recently hatched maggots were slithering up the back of my refrigerator. Freaking out, I slammed the door and phoned The Boyfriend at work. "Maggots!" I screamed. "What?" he asked. Terrible time for language difficulties. I grabbed my translation dictionary, trying again, "asticot!" The response I got was typical of a man who is not really paying attention and also not there to have to deal with it. "Oh".

Oh, ok, my problem I guess then.

I hung up the phone took some deep breaths and went to work. Grabbing black plastic sacks I emptied every bit of the fridge; two dozen eggs, sandwich meats, fruit, vegetables, chorizo, my cheese box, butter... everything! And of course the mushrooms. The mushrooms that I had once loved but had now turned against me. Damn Judas mushrooms. The black sacs went out to the bins. It was now extermination time. I got a spray bottle of disinfectant and let my inner Terminator possess me. I sprayed until the inside of the fridge was coated with pink chemicals but there was no way I was cleaning up their little carcasses. The Boyfriend could do that when he got home.

Payback for the unsympathetic, "oh".

I closed the door, washed my hands, took a shower, and went to bed with a book until The Boyfriend got home. Oh, and I also did what every other 'woman' my age does. I called my mother and cried.

To finish up my re-telling of 'The Mushroom Incident' this is what occurred when the Boyfriend got home; 1) Upon opening the fridge he asked, "where is all the food?". Seriously??!! 2) He then put a glass of wine in my hand and ordered me to the couch (smart boy). 3) He disposed of the little carcasses and washed the fridge with bleach and boiling water (as instructed by the internet). 4) We went to Papa's and ate some of that wild boar. It was delicious.

So that's it. It's been eight days since and honestly, every time I open my fridge I squint at the back wall. All ok so far. And on the bright side, now I have a super duper clean fridge.
...................................................................................................................................................................

I can't believe this was three years ago this week. 
How time flies.
But I still don't bring wild mushrooms home. 

bisou

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

travel list challenge

{source}
I'm failing at being an expat. My fellow expat bloggers are constantly on the move, exploring as many of the different corners of their continents as they can. Not me. But I think I may know why; you see, even though I'm an American expat, I'm an EU citizen, plus I'm married to a Frenchman in France, so my time here in France and in Europe doesn't have an expiration date. There's nothing pushing me to explore and apathy has set in. I'm determined to change that.

There's been a travel list floating around for awhile now, I've seen it on Jenna's and Betsy's blogs so I thought I'd take a look in hopes of spurring my apathetic butt on.

{I'm here too, I'm behind the camera}
1. Alamo - San Antonio, Texas, USA
2. Alhambra - Granada, Spain
3. Andros Island - Bahamas
4. Angel Falls - Venezuela
5. Angkor Wat - Angkor, Cambodia
6. Atlantic City Boardwalk - Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
7. Ayers Rock - Australia
8. Big Ben - London, England
9. Bora Bora - Polynesia
10. British Museum - London, England
11. Canals of Amsterdam - Amsterdam, Netherlands 
12. Cathedral of Seville - Seville, Spain
13. Cave of Crystals - Mexico
14. Christ the Redeemer - Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
15. Cinque Terre National Park - Italy

{The Colosseum & St. Peter's}
16. Colosseum - Rome, Italy
17. Crater Lake National Park - Oregon, USA
18. Dead Sea - Israel/Jordan
19. Death Valley National Park - California, USA
20. Devil’s Tower - Wyoming, USA
21. Dome of the Rock - Jerusalem, Israel
22. Easter Island Statues - Polynesia
23. Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh, Scotland
24. Eiffel Tower - Paris, France
25. Empire State Building - New York City, New York, USA
26. Forbidden City - Beijing, China
27. French Quarter - New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
28. Galapagos Islands - Ecuador
29. Gateway Arch - St. Louis, Missouri, USA
30. Gettysburg Battlefield - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA
31. Glacier Bay Basin - Alaska, USA
32. Glacier National Park - Montana, USA
33. Glowworm Cave - New Zealand
34. Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California, USA
35. Grand Canal - Venice, Italy
36. Grand Canyon - Arizona, USA
37. Grand Mosque in Mecca - Saudi Arabia
38. Great Barrier Reef - Queensland, Australia
39. Great Mosque of Córdoba - Córdoba, Spain
40. Great Wall of China - China
41. Hagia Sophia - Istanbul, Turkey
42. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - Hawaii, USA
43. Hollywood Boulevard - Hollywood, California, USA
44. Iguazu Falls - Argentina and Brazil
45. Kiyomizu-dera - Kyoto, Japan
46. Kremlin - Moscow, Russia
47. Lake Titicaca - Peru
48. Las Ramblas - Barcelona, Spain
49. Las Vegas Strip - Las Vegas, Nevada
50. Leaning Tower of Pisa - Pisa, Italy

{I can't find any of my Eiffel, or Louvre photos, so this one of me in front of a carousel in Paris will just have to do}
51. Louvre Museum - Paris, France
52. Macchu Picchu - Peru
53. Matterhorn - Switzerland
54. Mayan Pyramids of Chichen Itza - Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
55. Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York City, New York, USA
56. Mount Everest - Nepal
57. Mount Fuji - Japan
58. Mount Kilimanjaro - Tanzania
59. Mount Rushmore - Keystone, South Dakota, USA
60. Napa Valley - California, USA
61. Ngorongoro Crater - Tanzania
62. Niagara Falls - New York, USA
63. Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris, France
64. Pacific Rim National Park - British Columbia, Canada
65. Pebble Beaches of Nice - Nice, France
66. Petra - Jordan
67. Petronas Twin Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
68. Portland Head Lighthouse - Cape Elizabeth, Maine, USA
69. Puerta Del Sol - Madrid, Spain
70. Pyramids of Giza - Egypt
71. Redwood National Park - California, USA
72. Rock of Gibraltar - Gibraltar
73. Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado, USA 
74. Ruins of Athens - Athens, Greece
75. Ruins of Pompeii - Pompei, Italy
76. Sagrada Famila - Barcelona, Spain
77. Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) - Chicago, Illinois, USA
78. Sedlec Ossuary - Czech Republic
79. Sistine Chapel - Vatican City, Italy
80. Smithsonian Institution - Washington, D.C., USA
81. Space Needle - Seattle, Washington, USA
82. St. Peter’s Basilica - Vatican City, Italy
83. Statue of Liberty - New York City, New York, USA
84. Stonehenge - Wiltshire County, England
85. Sydney Opera House - Sydney, Australia
86. Taj Mahal - Agra, India
87. Temple of the Golden Pavilion - Kyoto, Japan
88. Teotihuacan - Mexico
89. Tian Tan Buddha - Hong Kong, China
90. Times Square - New York City, New York, USA
91. Varanasi - Uttar Pradesh, India
92. Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe
93. Wailing Wall - Jerusalem, Israel
94. Walt Disney World Resort - Orlando, Florida Um, how come Disney World is here but not Disney Land? That's a conspiracy if I ever saw one. 
95. Washington Monument - Washington, D.C., USA
96. White Cliffs of Dover - Dover, England
97. White House - Washington, D.C., USA
98. Winchester Cathedral - Hampshire, England
99. Yosemite National Park - California, USA
100. Zion National Park - Utah, USA

So according to Saint Augustine, I've read 21 pages which is rather poor. I mean, you don't even really get into a book until at least page forty or something. I barely have grasped the plot at this point. (oh, and in case you're confused by the Saint Augustine reference, he's the one who said that thing about the world is a book...)

But I do know what I'd like my next five pages to be;

Canals of Amsterdam - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cathedral of Seville - Seville, Spain
Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh, Scotland
Leaning Tower of Pisa - Pisa, Italy
Stonehenge - Wiltshire County, England

And what about you? 
What page are you on... 
and where do you want your next page to take you?

bisou
 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

staycation {part.8}

{Me + Aix sitting in a tree}
When we weren't touring the South of France in a minivan, this stuff happened:

++ Fifty got himself stuck out on out on the ledge. I came home from the market, and was surprised that Fifty wasn't at the door waiting for me as he usually is. I peaked under the stairs and he wasn't there either. Panic ripped through me as I ran up the stairs calling for him with Miss Vicki and JoDelle right behind me. The bedroom windows were opened and I prayed that when I looked out of them, I wouldn't see a crippled Fifty, crumbled in a heap on the ancient stones below. I didn't, but what I did see when I looked over to my right was Fifty, hanging out the bathroom window. I ran into the bathroom, and there he was, stuck. Half his body was on the outside of the small window ledge, and the other half on the inside. He was stuck. I grabbed him from the ledge and gave him cuddles, and then a spanking for scaring Mommy.

++ I'm not sure whose idea it was, (Miss Vicki, I might be looking at you) but somehow we convinced The Husband to read parts of Fifty Shades of Grey to us, out loud. Now I'm sure you're thinking, "ooh, Christian Grey being read in a French accent, oh la la." But I can assure you, it was far more funny than sexy (far, far more; like snort your Montrachet up your nose, funny). And yes, we made him start on page 115. I'm thinking I should make The Husband read snippets of the naughty tome for a vlog series.

++ Now about that Montrachet I snorted up my nose... it was heaven in a bottle. If you've never had the pleasure of enjoying Montrachet, I urge you to try it as soon as possible. As Alexander Dumas said, “It should be drunk, on one’s knees with hat in hand.” Yep, that's about right.

++ And back to that vlog series... so what do you think, should we make The Husband recite Christian Grey?
bisou

Thursday, October 18, 2012

staycation {part.7}

"Did you know Aix-en-Provence is known as the city of a thousand fountains?"

This was me getting my tour guide on as we drove into Aix.

"A thousand fountains, really?"

This was The Husband doubting my superior tour guide knowledge. Now normally that would have bugged the bejeezus out of me, but due to The Husband's accent, this is what he actually said;

"A thousand fountains, weally?"

Sometimes it's weally hard not to laugh.

And for the record, Aix is indeed known as the City of Fountains. I'm not sure if there are actually a thousand fountains there, but there are loads and loads of them. Every time you turn around, there's another fountain.

{it's me - only younger and skinnier}
My favorite fountain is Fontaine de la Rotonde, it's the biggest and it's the closest to Zara. (That's me standing in front of it the first time I saw it three years ago... please ignore my hair, Le Mistral was styling it.)  

We were on our way to Aix-en-Provence to check into our hotel before scooting down to Marseille for a quick tour of Notre Dame de la Garde.




The Basilica, Notre Dame de la Garde, was consecrated in 1864 and is topped by a 27 foot copper and gold leaf statue of Madonna and child. Perched on the highest spot in Marseille, both the Neo-Byzantine architecture and the views from it are absolutely breathtaking and a must see if you are in the Marseille area. 

Our Marseille mission accomplished, we drove back to Aix to spend Miss Vicki and JoDelle's last twenty-four hours in Provence (they were headed up to Paris for a week, while my mother and Godmother would stay on for a bit in The LPV). And wanting to make it as memorable as possible, The Husband did everything he could to impress (personally I think he was angling to be adopted and shipped off to Texas along with all of that pottery they bought).

First he mastered the most difficult parking job of all time in the world's tiniest underground parking lot. (Seriously, if I had known the hotel's parking garage was that tiny, I wouldn't have reserved a spot there.) I wish I had taken a photo, but you have to trust me on this one... it was so small, that at one point, there was only about four inches space on each side of the minivan as he drove through. The actual parking job took more reversing and pulling forward to count and a plethora of patience. It was most impressive. 

Conquering the world's tiniest underground car park deserved a reward, and what better reward for The Husband than plate after plate of beef carpaccio at the French Olive Garden. Miss Vicki and JoDelle were certainly impressed by his eating skills. 

And finally, the pièce de résistance, the most impressive, the highlight of any stay in The LPV... The Husband reenacts The Ramone show. 


Well not entirely. He tells you he's going to do it but then all he does is take off his shoe and wiggle his socked foot around while singing, Relax. But of course when The Husband sings it, he sings, 'Welax', which is much cuter anyway. 

bisou

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

staycation {part.6}


Some people think the name, Les-Baux-de-Provence, means the beautiful of Provence, and it's very easy to understand why they would think that, Les Baux is indeed beautiful (FYI: Baux means rocky spur in the old Provençal dialect). Set atop the Alpille mountains, medieval Les-Baux-de-Provence is beautifully nestled deep into the hills.





Like Gordes, Les Baux has also been named one of the plus beaux villages de Franceand deservedly so. Les Baux has been perfectly preserved, and walking around there, one would think they had stepped back in time, if not for the numerous brightly colored tourist shops selling t-shirts and wooden swords for your inner Knight, which kind of makes you feel like you're in a staged village like it's, Provence; brought to you by The Walt Disney Company. But, it's a real village with real people living there (aye yai yai... and I thought we had it bad during tourist season in The LPV).


Interesting fact about Les Baux... in the 17th century, it was given to the Grimaldis of Monaco, and even though it is very much part of France, Prince Albert carries the title, Marquis des Baux. How very special for you Prince.
And I'm just going to throw this out there, from now onI may start referring to myself as Marquise de Le Petit Village, because, why not.

Les Baux was the next stop on the Staycation 2012 tour after a quick stop in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where I ate the most delicious meal of Taureau with chorizo mashed potatoes as part of the nationwide event,  Tous au Restaurant, toured the ancient city of Glanum...



And then we popped into the Saint-Paul de Mausolée Asylum to visit some crazy guy named Vincent.


And by Vincent, I mean Van Gogh.

bisou

Friday, October 12, 2012

guestpost: Jackie Travels

Je te présente, Jackie from Jackie Travels.

Jackie likes to travel. A lot. And she loves France, which is where I happen to live.

In summary, I like Jackie, and I think you will too...
================================================================================
{source}
So, I'm obsessed with France. Straight up obsessed. I am therefore obsessed with how France-tastic Sara's blog and life are, and I'm sure you're all obsessed too. France was the first stamp on my passport, meaning it was the first place I ever saw that wasn't home. I think that the first foreign place any of us visits is magical just for that reason, no matter where in the world it is. It's the first time we get to see a place where the street signs are different and we can't understand the accent of the person talking behind us on the bus. It's the first contrast we have to home.

But the fact that my first new place was France -- and not just France, but Paris, of all places -- gave my seventeen year old self the idea that the world outside my house was entirely glamorous, beautiful, and mysterious. Everything was exactly as I'd seen it in the movies and I was shocked that these famous places I'd only ever read about -- the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees -- I was shocked that these places actually existed in real life. As if, you know, someone had only invented them for the sake of making a movie set look good. Logical!

Now that I am older and have traveled a bit more, I obviously know better. I know that the entire world outside of home isn't like Paris. I've been to several places I love almost as much, a few places I really hate, many that I've found to be ridiculously beautiful and only one or two that I thought were pretty ugly, and I've also been back to France three times. These travels have convinced me that you won't always get that magical feeling, and not every country will make you feel like the world is awesome and more glamorous than things should be in real life.But they have also reinforced my belief that France will do that. So far, France has kicked the ass of every other country I've been to.

I studied in the French Riviera for a summer, and right before leaving for that trip my boyfriend dumped me. I was so sad. Embarrassingly sad. And then I went to France and frolicked around the beach and hopped from one art museum to the next and I felt wonderful -- and that was right when Eat, Pray, Love came out and everyone was on a yay-for-traveling-as-a-way-to-cure-a-broken-heart-and-encourage-female-empowerment kick, before everyone randomly turned against Elizabeth Gilbert. For me, that's what this trip to France was -- something worthy of a book, not real life.

My next trip to France was after the worst three days that anyone has ever spent in Vienna. Vienna kicked my ass. I literally stepped off the plane in Paris and started crying because I was so happy to get out of Austria, and I knew that no matter what happened in Paris, it would make me feel better. It felt like I was coming home, even though I'd only been to Paris once before. Since France was the first place I'd ever been, it still had that innocent, magical aura surrounding it -- it was the place that had made me fall in love with traveling, and so naturally it was the place that could restore my faith in traveling whenever I began to doubt it.

My next and most recent stop in France was in the Normandy region, where I stayed in a Pride and Prejudice-esque manor in the middle of nowhere. Well, actually, this would have been the middle of nowhere had it been anywhere else, but since it was in France, it was in the middle of a gorgeous, majestic countryside. I was staying with my boyfriend and his family, and they'd swapped houses with a French family like in that movie The Holiday. This French house was not only massive and beautiful, but it also came complete with a private apple orchard and silo (this family brewed their own cider), an ATV, horses (and their own private field), and a pond area. Oh, and the husband collected dinosaur bones and ancient Chinese funerary sculptures that he kept on a shelf in the living room. Of course. I was reminded of my summer spent recovering from a broken heart on the beaches of the French Riviera -- how was it possible that any of this had actually taken place in real life?

I've decided that these kinds of things only happen in the movies and in France, and this is why I'm obsessed with this country. France is as close to magic and as close to living in a movie as we're going to get, guys. Currently I'm living and working in Chicago in the US, but I know that at some point down the line, I'm probably going to end up living in France. I think I almost required to do so if I'm this obsessed with it.And writing this post has unexpectedly inspired such France-withdrawal that I actually have a plane ticket search opened up in a different tab right now. Maybe I'll end up there sooner than I thought?

================================================================================

Well Jackie, if you do end up back in France sooner than you thought, make sure it includes a visit to Le Petit Village. And all of you guys make sure to pop on over to Jackie Travels and visit her too.

bisou

Thursday, October 11, 2012

staycation {part.5}

{saucisson sec}
If there was a rule book for visiting Provence, I'm pretty sure that rule number one would be... get thee to a market (but in french like). And if you don't believe me, ask Fodor's. See, markets are a must-do. 

So on the Monday that Mom & Co were here, that's just what we did. 

Monday is market day in Forcalquier (I happen to prefer the Apt market but Apt market day is Saturday and on Saturday we were busy in Avignon and Gordes. But Forcalquier is the first market I visited and where I bought my very first basket which made me feel like a proper French lady, that is until Fifty ate it). Because markets in Provence start early and end early, I got the ladies in the car by 8:00, and off we went.

{fromage}
On the way to Forcalquier something extraordinary happened, Mom & Co said that they preferred my driving to Gregory's, it was sooooo much smoother. Well I wasn't surprised what with his constant gear shifting all of the time as he's careening around corners. It's like... hello speedracer... you're driving a VW minivan with the Golden Girls in the back. Stop with all of the shifting, ease off the clutch and take it down a notch. Feeling completely validated, I parked the minivan and off we went to explore all of the Provençal wares.

{poisson}
They oohed and aahed and shopped. I oohed and aahed at all of the American voices I was hearing. Let it be known that Summer 2012 was the summer of the American tourist in Provence. I've never heard so many accents that made me homesick before. Sure in Aix-en-Provence and the Côte d'Azur you'll hear some, but not usually in Provence, Provence (that's what I like to call my area... Provence, Provence), normally the only English I hear is English, English. But for whatever the reason the Americans are finally here... bienvenue and please come again (and give me a shout before you come next time so I can give you my American goody list).

{more saucisson}
Who says there is no customer service in France?

Usually me, I know, but on this Monday in Provence,  one lone Frenchman dared to defy the stereotype going above and beyond in the customer service arena and coloring me shocked.

Miss Vicki and JoDelle had discovered some Provençal pottery that they just had to have. While they were buying up the shop, I bid adieu and went on my way exploring all of the pretty soaps, fragrant spices, olives and tampenades. And I bought some saucisson sec to treat Gregory; one olive, an herb, and a bleu d'Auvergne. (Just so you know, the bleu d'Auvergne saucisson with a glass of red wine is practically a revelation, it's that good.)

A few minutes later, I heard someone shouting, "Madame! Madame!" I ignored it because whoever was shouting definitely couldn't mean me because then I'm sure they would have been shouting, "Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!" (Right?!) But when I felt a tug on my arm, I turned around to see the Frenchman from the pottery shop standing there. He was red in the face and huffing and puffing something fierce. He quickly explained that the two American women I had been with earlier were missing some of their pottery. When he had been wrapping up their packages, he had accidentally left out a couple of pieces and as soon as he realized, he ran out into the market to find them.

Let me tell you something about Forcalquier Market, it is not small. It is the largest in the Alpes de Haute-Provence department and covers a large area in the center of town, weaving up and down different paths. This little Frenchman, taking off into the crowd, searching for Miss Vicki and JoDelle to return their missing pottery is astonishing, especially in France (no offence Frenchies but you know it's true). Gold star for him.

Want to know what else is astonishing? Me actually understanding every bit of his rapid fire French as he tried to catch his breath while frantically explaining what had happened. Now that's astonishing.

Gold star for me too.

bisou
 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

staycation {part.4}


Oh Cassis, I love you so. 

You're quaint, charming, and just the right size. Plus you don't attract all of that St.Tropez riff raff. 

The next stop on Staycation 2012 was Cassis. It was possibly also everyone's next stop because boy oh boy was it crowded, but that's OK, Cassis is worth the hassle. 

We were meeting Mr. & Mrs. London for lunch but had some time before we met them. The ladies wandered off to visit the port side shops while The Husband and I grabbed a table in the sun for an apéro. I called Mrs. London to see if they had arrived. She had and she was with my mother. Huh?

My mother had been standing on the port having a look around when she spotted these wedges tottering about...

{miss selfridge}


That's how one spots Mrs. London... by her footwear. 

Reunited with Mr. & Mrs. London and the Golden Girls (as christened by Mr. London), we set off for lunch at my favorite spot in Cassis, Restaurant Le Bonaparte. Only, we got lost on the way. And I even had directions written down. Do you think The Husband cares about directions? Of course he doesn't. But we followed him anyway as he weaved us deeper and deeper into the maze of the little streets behind the port, assuring us that he knew where he was going. He didn't. 

Eventually we made it, and taking up a large table outside, set about to do what we went there to do, eat seafood and drink the local crisp white wine. 

Heaping plates of shrimp, mussels and scallops were placed in front of us to start followed by loup-de-mer (sea bass) and dourado. Oh so scrumptious. 

The Husband and Mr. London were happy to be together again. At one point they even tried to separate their table from the group so they could have some alone time. Ridiculous. And there were underpants comparisons... whose pants were shinier? Well according to The Husband, Mr. London's pants are sparkly, his are shiny. So glad we got that cleared up. 

After lunch, a relaxing boat tour of the Calanques was in order. 



For the record, bumping along the Mediterranean breathing in the gasoline fumes that are pouring out of the boat may not be the best way to digest your weight in seafood, but that didn't stop Mrs. London from enjoying herself...

{I think TopShop is that way}


bisou

Saturday, October 6, 2012

un petit pause

Today I'm taking a break from tales of my staycation to regale you with tidbits of recent life here in The LPV. Enjoy. 

{CSI: Barbie}
++ Do you have any idea how creepy it is to find a Barbie that looks like it barely survived a zombie apocalypse right outside your front door? It's effing creepy. Naturally, I had to photograph it and share it with all of you. 

++ Wednesday the 26th of September was my third anniversary of living in France. THREE YEARS. It totally snuck up on me and I didn't even remember until the following Saturday but I didn't think I could let it go unnoticed so voila... happy third franciversary to me (and if you happen to be interested, you can click here to read about my very first franciversary).

++ Then, a week after I had forgotten about my third franciversary, I forgot about my three year blogiversary. For the record, I don't have a clue what has happened to my memory lately, but while I have a think, feel free to read my first blog post by clicking here

++ Gatz finally got his own place. That's right. My husband's thirty year old hetero life partner is moving out of his grandparent's house and it his very own apartment. Awww... they grow up so fast. 

++ The weekend before my mother arrived for Staycation 2012, I was in Banon visiting the large bookstore, Le Bleuet. As I walked up to the entrance, I noticed a man sitting on the step outside with a beautiful golden retriever and I thought to myself, "hey, that dog looks awfully familiar". I quickly scooted inside and began searching the faces in the crowded store when I spotted a curly red ponytail. That's when I put two and two together... cute golden retriever + curly red hair = Lost in Arles. That's right, I bumped into fellow expat Heather in Banon. It was rather surreal. 

++ During last week's Clermont match against Stade Français (we're talking rugby kids), Clermont's Brock James made a drop goal with less than a minute left in the match to cinch the win and make it the 47th consecutive home win for Clermont. It was so glorious that I was barely phased last night when Clermont lost against Castres.

++ I'm still recovering from the horrific death of Opie on Sons of Anarchy. Oh my goodness it was brutal. When the scene was playing, I was curled up in a ball rocking back and forth, my heart beating out of my chest, whispering, "no, no, no" over and over again. Clearly I have become a tad too attached to a fictional outlaw biker gang.  

++ Here's something you probably didn't know about The Husband; he is a huge gossip, HUGE. It's the main reason why he likes to play cards with the senior ladies at the local community center (besides the free cookies), he loves the gossip. And when he and Gatz get together, oh my heavens, forget about it! They practically turn into Miss. Clairee and Weezer, they gossip so. So last night, I decided to sit The Husband down in front of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, because even though he makes fun of me watching it, I knew that he would love it, because it's basically just one big gossip fest. After we finished watching the third episode in a row, he turned to me with a big ol' smile on his face and exclaimed, "Ooh I LOVE it!"

Of course you do Miss Clairee, of course you do.

bisou

Thursday, October 4, 2012

staycation {part.3}

{Cobblestones strewn with rose petals in Gordes}

We awoke in Avignon to a perfect bright blue and sunny sky. But in the south of France, that beautiful, blue sky usually comes with a price, and that price is, the mistral.

Ever heard of it?

Dictionary.com defines it as; a strong, cold northwesterly wind that blows through the Rhône valley and southern France into the Mediterranean.For something more descriptive, there's this post I wrote about it after being blown over by it for the first time.

Personally, I think Le Mistral wanted to show off for the tourists that weekend (I don't know what was happening the weekend of the 14th of September, but Avignon was hopping) and show off it did.

The wind was whipped into a frenzy as we walked bent over, bodies slanted forward to try and keep balance. A tour of Le Palais des Papes was the perfect place to take shelter.

After touring the palace (two hours!), Eilo, Godmother, Miss Vicki and JoDelle were due to take the petit train tour of the city. It was noon and there was a train all set to go so they bought their tickets, took their seats and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The petit train finally left one hour later. I'm pretty sure the driver wanted to eat his lunch first. Lunch is very important in France. But it would have been nice if someone had said that to the large group of people waiting on the train. Customer service... Qu'est-ce que c'est?

So that was Avignon... a feisty mistral, Le Palais des Papes, and a petit train tour. (Having been there done that, The Husband and I spent the time visiting Baby Cousin's shop, window shopping, people watching and eating a kebab on a park bench. It was a good day.)

{Mean Girl Gordes}
Leaving Avignon, we headed east to Gordes.

How do I even begin to explain Gordes...

Gordes is flawless.

Gordes is one of le plus beaux villages de France (the most beautiful villages in France). It's simply stunning. Perched perfectly atop the Plateau de Vaucluse, it shines golden and lovely, and makes The LPV feel bad about itself. If Gordes was a girl, Gordes would be Regina George.

And just like Regina George, Gordes might be beautiful on the outside, but it's a capital B, little i t c h on the inside. To really explore Gordes you have to walk on ancient (re: unsafe) cobblestones at precarious angles. Up and down you go, praying that your ankle doesn't snap, (for the record, I don't think anyone ever snapped an ankle in The LPV), hoping that you don't slip on a rose petal (they don't roll out the red carpet in Gordes... they throw rose petals... whatever), grasping onto rock walls turned bannister for dear life and dodging tourists.

But Gordes is beautiful, blah blah blah.  

And I'm sure it has two Fendi purses, a silver Lexus, 
and John Stamos probably said it was pretty.

bisou


P.S. The LPV is not obsessed with Gordes.
P.P.S. Yesterday was Mean Girls Appreciation Day (get in loser, we're going shopping)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

staycation {part. 2}

{Le Palais des Papes}

It happened on Rue de la République. There I was, innocently standing at the back of the rented Volkswagen Touran, when I opened the door and was assaulted by a suitcase. The minivan was so overstuffed that as soon as the door opened, a twenty pound carry-on hurled itself at me, hitting me on the shin before bouncing off down onto my foot. 

There is only word to yell when being assaulted by a twenty pound carry-on and that word is; 
aye a fuckenmuckennucken, and undoubtedly, you will get some odd stares if you yell aye a fuckenmuckennucken while standing on Rue de la République, but you won't care, not one iota, because being assaulted by a twenty pound carry-on freaking hurts.  

We had just collected Miss Vicki and JoDelle (and their impressive luggage) at the Avignon TGV station and headed into the walls of the city to check into our hotel and begin our twenty-four hours in one of my favorite places. After getting our visitors settled in for a rest, I decided a glass of Rosé was in order to help me nurse my injuries (I could have used a bucket of Rosé but that wouldn't have been very becoming), so The Husband and me headed out à deux to Avitus, my go-to wine stop in the city.  

Feeling refreshed by my glass of pain go bye bye juice, it was back to the hotel to get dressed for dinner. (Going out to dinner in the big city is always such a treat for me. My 'going out clothes' tend to scare Les Villagers, but when I'm in the city, I can let myself shine and that night in Avignon called for sparkly gold shoes on my tootsies). 

Finding a restaurant for dinner had posed a bit of a challenge (I like planning these things waaaaay in advance... no doing things on the whim for Sara Louise, no no no, whims simply won't do). I had planned on eating at Fou de Fafa (the restaurant where we had bid adieu to Bec), but when I called to book, they said that they would only have half of their kitchen staff in September and couldn't handle a party of six (I was tempted to book two tables of three but decided not to because well, that would have been weird). So then I thought of La Cour d'Honneur, where we celebrated Aidan's birthday, but since I prefer dining in their pretty fairylight lit courtyard and September evenings can be unpredictable, nixed that idea. 

And then I had a stroke of genius... I would go back to the beginning, to the first place I dined in Avignon, the place where I met Honey Bee and Mrs. Cousin for the first time, the place where I began to fall in love with the city, the gorgeous Le Bain Marie. Yes, Le Bain Marie was the answer. 

I love it when a plan comes together. 

Only it didn't .

Le Bain Marie is charming and elegant, and a wee bit quiet in that candlelit hush hush conversation kind of way. 

Would two Texans, my Irish mother, and Godmother from New Jersey be candlelit quiet on their first night of vacation together? I doubt it. (Can you just imagine the accents battling it out?!
The charming and elegant Le Bain Marie had to be scratched but I vowed that I would return for one of those hush hush candlelit conversation kind of evenings soon. Two days before dinner, the reservation was cancelled and I was on the hunt again. 

Then I found it; Restaurant Newground. It was perfect. The food was delicious (croustillant de fois gras poêle aux cheveux d'anges followed by médaillons de filet de lotte en nage d'érevisses), we were one of only three tables there (perfect for battling accents) and bonus, we were right around the corner from our hotel. This last bit was very important and I'll tell you why...

The Husband and I had a date. 

London dwelling Sarah and her husband happened to be in Avignon for the night. Total coincidence, I know! So after we deposited our guests back safely to their beds, we skipped off to the Irish pub. 

All settled in with our nightcaps, I asked Sarah how their night was, and did they go anyplace nice for dinner. 

And do you know what she said? She looked at me, told me all about this amazing restaurant that she stumbled upon, that she just knew I would absolutely love.... oh, what was it called... Le Bain Marie! 

Over two hundred restaurants in Avignon, 
and she had to stumble into mine.
  
bisou
P.S. Up next: more Avignon, a howling mistral, and Gordes. 

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