Sunday, July 31, 2011

Keeping a Head


This really creeped me out. Sorry that it's not really that great a shot, but since it's the head of a large plastic doll stuck on there, I took my photos quickly, so as not to encounter "Sid." Toy Story (titled the same here, in English) has been a big in France here as well, and I didn't want to know if the movie offered any inspiration...

It's pretty rare to see things attached to cars here... no plastic hands or legs hanging out of trunks, few things attached to antennas, etc. Not so many bumper stickers by comparison either, except to tout that someone comes from Britanny... We see lots of those... Or the stickers that the ferries put on, saying that you've been to Corsica...

Yes, I blanked out the license plate... ;-)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Un trèfle à quatre feuilles


I'm not much of a believer in four-leaf clovers, or les trèfles à quatre feuilles, as they're called here. I believe you make your own luck or that God has a plan for what "luck" you will have. But it hasn't stopped me from looking for these clovers all my life. And I find that French people are just as intrigued by them as Americans. 

When we moved to France in 2004, I always arrived early at the bus stop for Alex. While we'd wait, we often hunted four-leaf clovers. At first, I think the kids and adults there found it odd to see us staring into the grass, chatting away in a language they didn't understand. But once we started showing them the results of our research, they started to join us. More and more and more. It became a bit of a fad. And oh, the excitement when they found one!

Where you do find one, you'll often find others. So if you do get lucky, don't quit looking. I once found 17 in the same spot as a child on Martha's Vineyard. I've found many in my own backyard here in La Ferté and just outside our yard along the public walkways. I've lost track of my exact count to date, but it's more than 300. The two here and one other came from a spot near the Cosson River earlier this month.


Naturally, if I really need to find one under pressure, I can't. When I recently told a guest that we had some in our yard, he spent awhile out there looking, to no avail. After he left, I found four out there...

So, J., watch your mail! I'm shipping you a bit o' luck o' the Irish..... from France!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Short Straw


Courtepaille translates to the Short Straw, and at first, I found this to be an odd name for a restaurant. I mean, if you got sick after eating there, you know someone would just have to say, "Well you chose The Short Straw, didn't you?"

Actually, it was named as such because it's a chain, and many have thatched roofs...

I haven't been too impressed with the chain since the day I was turned away from an absolutely empty dining room.  I had admitted (shame!) to the host that I was just bringing the kids for dessert at 5 p.m. We weren't there to eat dinner. He said, "Sorry, we can't serve just dessert."

But I went to another near Paris recently and it was a great experience. Not only did they serve us well (except for the waitress' end-of-dinner plate crash into a glass that sent us all scrambling.) But they also welcomed about 25 dogs that night, as it was close to hotels housing canines and their humans who were all in the city for the 2011 World Dog Show...

This guy, Aka, an Akita dog, sat behind us... He didn't get any treats that seemed to interest him. Not those that were given nor those that were accidently dropped.

 

He definitely got the short straw that night....


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jon, Is That You?


Does anyone else think this guy looks a bit like Jon Lovitz of Saturday Night Live fame?

"Yeah! That's the ticket!"

This portrait of Louis the 18th hangs in Chambord Castle...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Like We Need a Sign?


Yes, this was actually a sign that says you are not allowed to pee here... Posted at the Orléans tram station under a shopping center... Unfortunately, there are some people out there who really do need to know it's agains the law...


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chambord -- Visit #20


I am convinced you can't take a bad shot at Chambord (pronounced shahm'-bore). The "d" is silent. This photo is from the highest level we're allowed to visit, and represents the top of the spiral staircase.

If you go, be sure to catch the video right as you enter the castle in the first room to the right. It's a straight shot in from where they take your tickets across the courtyard. It's about a 20-minute movie, but worth it for all the background about the castle's construction. It's subtitled in English and a few other languages.

As we are in the process of moving to Thomery, near Fontainebleau, this was likely my last visit for awhile... I am beginning to see that I will be making frequent trips to Disney instead... I'm on visit number 4.

Too bad they never sold season passes to Chambord. I'd have bought one!


Monday, July 25, 2011

The Sales (Soldes) Continue


...but only through tomorrow... on everything form clothes to furniture to vacations...

Irony: on these signs down below, it says, "Plan au dos," which means map on back. That's the back of the sign, not his back.

PS. I'm not a tattoo person, so this was a totally unappealing ad to me...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Au Revoir


This is/was our street in La Ferté Saint Aubin. It is named for the Véron family. About 30 years ago they sold the property that our house (and our whole neighborhood) sits on. It had been an orchard. The family cultivated an apple variety which they named....

La Belle Véronaise...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Eiffel Tower Treats


In case you're planning a trip to Eiffel's Tower... Here is an idea of what it costs for a meal at a restaurant several hundred meters away from the La Dame en Fer (The Iron Lady)... That's $8.55 for the fresh fruit salad... For other conversions, check www.oanda.com...

But it is cheaper than eating right there at the tower... Check out the Jules Verne restaurant's menu here... I am sure it's good, but a bit beyond my budget! And here is a snack bar nearby the line where we waited. And waited. And waited.


Not sure how well you can make this out without enlarging, but it was 4€ for a lollipop here! (Or lolipop, as they wrote it.) We decided against the 5€ hotdogs and the 3.50€ French fries and opted to go to another restaurant far down the street... I had a salmon dish for 13.50€, which I think is a fair price considering how close we were to the Tower...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tackling the Tower...


Know before you go... you can buy your tickets online and avoid the lines... When I tried it was already too late... I only found tickets at the end of July when I was searching at the beginning... We had a two-hour wait, but luckily the scenery and company was good. Somehow, we kept four kids ages 6 to 11 entertained.


"Look kids! One access route to the tower is closed! A longer wait for us! Who wants to do 'Miss Mary Mack' for the 50,000th time?"


We were baffled to see one of the three lines closed when we got close... Until we realized... 


It was probably because someone had gone to lunch. Here, they swapped stations when someone got back. Seven million visitors a year and they can't afford to keep all the lines open? Surely, there's a better explanation, but I am not privy to the info...

At times, the access to the top level was listed as being closed due to congestion, but when it came time for us to get our tickets, eureka!


Since foiling a pickpocketer in Barcelona outside the Picasso museum two years ago I am really on the lookout for them... But after waiting in line for that mini eternity it was good to have this reminder in three languages as we were stuffed like sardines into the elevator to the top...


And finally, the views!!!!






Tomorrow, I'll share a little restaurant info...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Paris-Orléans


We can get from Orléans to Paris in about an hour... When we move to the Fontainebleau area, we'll be about 35-40 minutes to Paris from the Fontainebleau/Avon station, so a bit closer...

In each case the small towns (La Ferté and Thomery) are about 20 minutes from Orléans and Fontainebleau, respectively...

I love taking the train. It's so convenient...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Closed Again!


Living with closures is a big part of French life. I can't count the times I've come upon a place I had hoped to visit, only to find that it closed ten minutes before.

This reads, "The toilets of Place d'Arc welcome you from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from Monday through Saturday."

But not on Wednesdays at 7:45 p.m...


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eggstra Details


Not sure how long those eggs have been in the back of the fridge? No need to fret in France... They are stamped with the date they were collected and their expiration date...

Sometimes they also come with a bit of bonus materials like feathers or well, other chicken matter...

We have to wash eggs well here...

Monday, July 18, 2011

On the Move... Again


My move from La Ferté Saint Aubin to Thomery doesn't feel much like hers so far...


I picked up the packing goods last week and they filled the whole car. Boxes and bubble wrap, here we go again. It's been six years since our last move, so I really can't complain, but I feel like I just did this yesterday... I hope this is our last move for a long, long time...

A long, long time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

McDognald's


McDonald's (Mick-Doh' as it's called here) doesn't usually allow dogs, but somehow, this guy slipped in with his master... And no, he was not a service dog...

"Je voudrais two of those new chicken wraps, and add extra bacon. Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!"

Perhaps you've heard... many restaurants here allow dogs... It's common practice to bring Fido out for a meal with you...


Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Next Car


Yeah, right.

I find it funny that this was passing by the "Frégate" restaurant. Frégate means warship...

This was cruising by us as we were cruising along by foot on a stretch Musée d'Orsay next to the Seine River. We were there to get cheap souvenirs near the museum at a shop around the corner... I will be forever budget-minded...

Kudos to the first person who can ID what make/model of car this is. I haven't a clue.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Checkout Stand


This says, Thank you for giving priority to pregnant women, young mothers and handicapped people. I guess old mothers and dads toting their small kids are out of luck.... I let them pass when I see 'em. Hours spent shopping with small children should be accumulated for rewards somewhere...

I took this shot in a grocery store one town away from where we watched the Tour de France last Friday. Note the total absence of any souvenirs, promotional items, etc. No tissues or combs with Tour de France, candy with the logo, nothing...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Highway Robbery


I took this on Sunday, July 10, 2011 along route A77 towards Orléans. Luckily, I had filled up at just 1.42€/liter ($7.64/gallon) back near Fontainebleau. Otherwise, I'd have paid the 1.63€ figure, which comes out to $8.78/gallon.

We were approaching today's holiday... Happy Bastille Day, everyone!

The real "high season" here is the first two weeks of August, so I will offer another update around then...


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Dead End...


Not sure I'd want this for my street name unless I were no longer among the living... This was near Herbault, France...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Loot!


These are the goodies we caught that were tossed from the caravan at Friday's Tour de France... Magnets, key rings, hats, and we had a few more of the big green hands in the middle, but since we had toddlers around us who got far less than we did, we "handed' them off. <Okay, bad jokes are done for the day.>


Don't think there was a kid in the crowd who didn't get some candy from German maker Haribo, above... And don't ask me about the legs on this Vittel water bottle. The floats often are on either one side of the road or the other, and usually there were no two alike...


Below is a French drink, sort of a cross between lemonade and beer, with low alcohol content. Never tried it since I don't like beer... 


These guys didn't hand out any goodies, or I might have dived for them! Visit Luxembourg, follow me, it says...


 

And, since this was the Tour de FRANCE.... This guy below was dancing for a laundry detergent to Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On." I asked a Frenchman nearby if he understood the lyrics. Non. So I explained that it was like, leave the hat on but nothing else and he was like, And? No shocker for him. I guess, this is a country where I've heard "Sexual Healing" played for at least two children's functions...

 

The Tour was great fun.... Hoping it will pass somewhere closeby where we will live next year...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Waiting for the Tour


On Friday, the Tour passed about an hour and a quarter from my house, so the kids and I went with friends visiting from the states. Halfway through the route was Herbault, a quaint little town of coffee shops and other small businesses. It was right off a highway and parking was a breeze, but we got there a good three hours early to stake a spot.


This was the crowd about an hour before... We chose to be on the "wrong" side of the street for more elbow room. We didn't have the better view of them coming in, but I think the kids cleaned up on getting goodies tossed from floats. More on that tomorrow...
 
The racers were coming through around 2 p.m., so we got there at 11. The caravan was coming through an hour before. But before the real caravan, you've got two or three stops from trucks like this:


They were hawking stuff like teeshirts, umbrellas, hats, etc. Amazingly, I saw no souvenirs in the shops! Nor in the large grocery store outside town! Unless you read the headlines in the local paper, you might not know the Tour was passing through...


And as you would expect, security was everywhere.

 
As I said there isn't a total saturation of marketing here, no Super Bowl commercials, etc... But when it comes to the caravan that passes by before the Tour, the big hitters are on board. A little after one p.m., the parade began rolling through, beginning with LCL, a French bank.


And of course, everyone's favorite mouse made an appearance early on, 

 

and later in the parade to tout a kids' magazine...


Many companies throw goodies to the crowds. Alex got a nightcap (not the alcoholic kind) from this company below. It came with a ten percent off coupon which I tried to use, but there was no place to enter the discount code in! <grumble> I called the hotel and made a reservation directly, which also cost a few cents a minute. <grumble again>

Another newspaper...

 

I think he's reading another newspaper, but we were so close! I gave the kids a big speech beforehand about staying back, even when goodies are at stake...

 

Blurry bread...


Carrefour is a big supermarket... Read here to see what else it means...



I never knew until just now what this company did....they offer loans...  I guess their advertising worked somewhat!


And who else but, Nestle...


 More on the caravan tomorrow, and I'll show you the loot we won!