Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So Much To Do....

There are sooooo many things going on in Europe, let alone around the world, that I can't keep up.  It seems I find a notice about some great festival, concert, or sporting event, on the Internet just when it's ending and wind up missing it.  

Sooooo, I have decided that during this first year here in France I will make sure to compile a notebook of all the things I want to try and see next year.  Number one is the tomato fight, La Tomatina, in Spain!!

Boy doesn't that look like fun!!

I've found a few websites to help out..... 
(You can go to a specific country with this site.  Possibly not as comprehensive, but pretty cool for a car rental company! This is the Italy page.  From the Home page go down the Right side to "Travel & Driving Information" to get to the various Country Guides )

I'd better get scheduling!  SO much to do SO little time......

The food and wine festival, Festival Delle Sagre, in Asti Italy now booked for the weekend of Sept 9th!  Can't wait!  Pics to come.....

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cadam Part 3...

This time thank goodness it wasn't me who had to brave the workers at Cadam, the main Prefecture.

James got a speeding ticket.  Crazy thing is we didn't know it until it came in the mail.  Just a bit over, but speeding none-the-less.  Soooooo, it seems that you have a time limit to pay the fine and you also get a point off your license.  But, the difficult part here, he doesn't have a French drivers license yet but the car is registered in France.  So, off to the main Prefecture he had to go.  

He had two things to do, change the address of the car's registration and change his license to a French one.  They're open til 2:30, he left at 11, so you'd think no problem in getting both done at the same visit.  Well, we forget sometimes that we live in France and everything takes 10x longer because everyone must have a job which means that each and every step is with a different person which also means another line.  Whew.  Example to follow.....

So first, J gets to the Prefecture and waits in Line #1 to lay out his reason for being there and for the Employee #1 to see if he has all the appropriate paperwork, ID, etc.  Employee #1 types madly into the computer, hands him some papers and sends him to Line #2.  Seems the change of address is free, but he still has to wait in Line #2 to "pay" and get a stamp that he's done so.  30 min later he is with Employee #2 who takes his paperwork, types some things into the computer, stamps his paper and sends him on.  Now, sitting in Line #3 he and the 42 people ahead of him hear a loud eerie sound and find that the entrance to the Prefecture is being closed by big black metal doors.  

A slight bit of panic is felt as everyone looks around at each other, unsure of what will happen next.  Nothing, except Employee #1 now closes the screen to her cubicle.  It's 1pm.  Wasn't this place open til 2:30??  Everyone sits quietly and patiently.  Suddenly loud banging is heard from the other side of the metal doors.  Ends up a guy went out to use his cell phone just before and is now locked out.  Sorry, too bad, you have to come back tomorrow.

Now, a woman is with Employee #3 and is getting into an argument because she's needing to change some paperwork for her husband but her husband isn't there in person; and on top of it the paper isn't signed by him.  So, the woman signs it for him.  Employee #3 tells her she can't do that, it's fraud.  The woman says, "Fine, take me to jail."  Much bantering goes back and forth, the crowd is on the woman's side.  The woman says..."but my husband works."  And the teller answers..."Madam, everyone works."  More bantering, and eventually she is asked to leave.  A few minutes later the police arrive and ask each teller if they called them.  Each say no.  Hmmmm.  

Then it's finally J's turn, he's the last person.  Address changed.  But, of course, he needs to come back to do the license part on another day.  Coz that's in another area with another group of Employees.  Tales to come, I'm sure!

Friday, August 26, 2011


Sorry I've been missing in action, but I've been enjoying the summer and our perfect location......

On both sides of our building, that whitish rounded one on the edge of the water, there are beaches.  The front is just an easy rocky beach as you can see with the kids.  The other side has the big rock walls and little rocky entrances into the water.  We love it!  We go to the water just about everyday, even if just for a quick jump in to cool off and float for a half hour.

So, if  you're wondering where to find us........

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Granny on The Road....

Today I bit the bullet and drove for the first time here in France.  I can't speak the language but I'm allowed to drive here.  Hmmmmm.  Thankfully it's at least the same side of the street as home!  

We had a play date with friends in Antibes and a casting for the kids, so I decided to tackle driving rather than the train.....well, it took me over an hour to get there, but only 30 minutes to get back.  Okaaaaaay, improvement noted.  And my fingernails survived the journey only because they were gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

So, to top the day off we had to make it to a model casting for the kids back in Nice.  It was the usual, hundreds of kids and parents, 110 degrees, waiting for an hour or two, then two minutes in the room hoping the waiting time didn't make the kids grumpy so it would all be worth it in the end.  

Well, Taylor did great.  Emm, not so much.  Oh well, just not her thing.  She's gonna keep all that cuteness to herself.  :)  As J says, she'll choose to be the one behind the camera.  Smart girl!

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Escape to Aix...

Well, we finally took a few days off to go see the world and spent the weekend in Aix en Provence.  Such a pretty drive (even taking the A8 highway), and a lovely little town.  


As you can see by the map, it's city center is inside this main road that circles it.  There's still housing and life outside the "barrier", especially some REALLY elegant old homes, but most of Aix is what you see from this map.  And you could walk it all.  (Looking at the above map)...The bottom left corner is where you enter from the direction of Nice, the green is the Old Town, the bottom center is the big Rotunda drive with the huge fountain (pic below) dating back to 1860, and off of it going to the right is the main street Le Cours Mirabeau (also below) with it's fountains, old mansions and cafe society. Cours Mirabeau was created in 1649 and was a street for horse drawn carriages. There is so much history here to see both in Art and Architecture.  

It seems like the town centers around a very elegant Old Town, which is a mecha for good shopping.  (I must come again one weekend by myself just to do a shopping frenzy!)  Unlike the Old Towns of other places I've visited, Antibes, Nice, Menton, this one is totally lacking in the tchotchkes shops.  Thankfully.  There are the usual soap shops, specialty food shops, and candy shops, but all quite nicely done and without the hoopla hanging outside their door.  Which can be fun, but the lack of it here really suits this town.  And not to be forgotten...the open food market!

Tomatoes the size of her head!

And of course lots of cafes and restaurants, a real cafe society.  Both James and I felt like we could live there happily.  One cool thing, besides the rich history of Cezanne and Zoya, are all the wonderful little fountains.  Well, and the one BIG fountain (pic above) right in the heart of it all.  

In addition to seeing the town we took a drive to the nearby Chateau le Barben that's over 1000 years old with medieval underparts still open to see.  Then we played at a fun park with animated puppets called Le Village des Automates.  There are these little themed houses and inside there are robotic creatures telling a story or singing, and here and there through the park are things to climb and swing on as well as a water sprinkler area.  One for the parents, one for the kids. :)

Entry to the gardens outside the Chateau

Careful...the toys in France are vicious!
The destination was only 2 hours away.  Yes, only 2 HOURS!  You can go so far in such a short time frame here.  Well, this was so easy to get to, I need to go plan more outings.  Now I'm on a roll......Italy?  Spain?  Germany?  Corsica?

Thanks for coming along!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kiss, Kiss, Kiss...

The art of the "French Kiss"....

Ok, I'm not talking about the one we try in grade school with a neighborhood boy behind the bus stop, but the one performed in France as standard a greeting as our American handshake.

I'm typically a floater between the handshake and a hug, depending on who the person is and how I'm feeling about my personal space at the moment, rather than a kisser.  Funny though, coz a hug can feel a bit more invasive than a quick peck on each cheek. 

But here in France, when you say hello to someone, even for the very first time, you kiss-kiss the cheeks.  Same with saying your goodbye to people.  I've seen a hello or goodbye session take hours to finish when it's a good sized group of people.  And when I still feel just a wee bit uncomfortable with being quite so friendly to people I've just met, I try to get away with the usual wave to the group.  But of course then I think they must feel I'm cold or don't like them.

When I did my print shoot in May I really took note of this custom, especially when the little boy who came one day (and who had never met anyone before) went around and did his hello kisses and then when leaving, his goodbye kisses.  I have to say it was really sweet and it started to bring me around to this lovely custom.  Since I pretty much missed the hello kissing session, giving my hand for a shake or a little wave, I made it a point to be open to the goodbye kisses if someone started to lean in.

Anyway, there is a visual of this greeting being done that I find quite amusing.  The two greeters both stick their bums out nice and far (I'm guessing to be polite and not rub chests), lean in to each other, maybe bracing their lean with a hand on the other's shoulder, then give a quick kiss on each cheek.  All very well choreographed and executed.  The trouble happens when someone throws you a curve ball third kiss and you get all off balance, coz you're now on the lean back and have to get back in there quickly.  Inevitably, I then land one on their nose or ear or something and have to sort of laugh it off as "Sorry, I'm new to this."

Funny enough, I've found a FaceBook page dedicated to the "French" Kiss...

And this is a great blog post about the do's and don'ts I literally just found while (after) writing this post.  I actually just learned a few things, like you don't actually put your lips on anyone's cheek.  Hmmm, wish I'd known that one earlier!  There are possibly a few people wondering why I was being so "fresh."

But, at any rate, you gotta love a country where kisses are passed around like handshakes.  I just have to get with the love....kiss kiss and kiss to you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Candy Factory...

So J has been super busy with work and all of a sudden there was a break in activity, so we jumped into the car armed with Rick Steve's "Provence and the French Riviera 2010" book and picked a spot to drive to that wasn't too far away.  Well, given my family's sweet tooth, of course we drove straight to the Confiseries Florian candy factory in George du Loup.  

It ended up being quite a drive since you meander around the mountainous hills on two lane roads.  There are some absolutely beautiful views that I unfortunately couldn't catch with my camera as we speed along, no spots to stop and take pics. Along with being SUPER high up, some of the twists and turns don't have any barriers to keep you from taking the quick and very undesirable route to the bottom of the canyon.  I don't think I have any nails left!

I did catch these two cool sites, one... a house built literally into the rock wall, and two... how they cut into the rock wall to make the road.

It does show you how short the barrier to falling off the side is...

We finally got there and were eventually rewarded for our perseverance by sweets.

The candied-fruit factory also makes candies using flower petals like violets, jasmine and rose.  Everything they make is fruit or flower filled-even their chocolates and caramels.  I'm not a huge fan of the rose flavored things, but I do agree it's all quite exceptional otherwise.  

They have hard candies, jelly candies, chocolates, caramels, it just keeps going, even jams.  We took full advantage of the tastings in the store afterwards and filled a basket with goodies to take  home.  Not that much lasted all the way home!

A surprising thing about our trip...we took Charlie along.  I was sure he wouldn't be allowed in the factory and was prepared to hang outside with him.  But, think again.... So, if you have a candy from Florian and find a short little blond hair in it, Charlie sends his apologies.

The views are wonderful and there are lots of little towns along the way that we will visit at a later date.  There is also a waterfall, that supposedly makes you feel like you stopped off in Hawaii, somewhere farther up that we will venture to when we plan our outing for a little earlier in the day.  

Until then......
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