Friday, September 30, 2011

'Tis the Season...

...for the annual "Foires Aux Vins," a.k.a. Wine Fairs.

This is the scene at one of our closest grocery stores. Not bad: 4,30€ for a bottle of Bordeaux, and 2009 is considered to be an exceptional year for Bordeaux...

Too bad I was there shopping for stuff to make hamburgers....

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Le Smile

Franglais is alive and well on a main stretch of Avon, France. 

I haven't made a stop here yet, but when I see the name it makes me want to sourire...  ;-)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Un Coing

It's known as a "quince" in English. Still not familiar? says:

1. either of two small trees, Cydonia oblonga  or C. sinensis, of the rose family, bearing hard, fragrant, yellowish fruit used chiefly for making jelly or preserves.
2. the fruit of such a tree.

These are growing in my backyard, so I guess it's time I learned more about them. 

Like how to make preserves....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monnaie du Pape

Currency of the Pope...

We find these all over our yard. A friend who's a gardening expert kindly visited this weekend and showed me how to (messily) remove the seeds from the flat discs and scatter them all over the yard...

So in the spring, we'll have even more money from the Pope, apparently....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Livin' on Cheesy Street

Okay, so it's actually Street of the Cheese Shop or Street of the Cheese Counter...

From a small village outside Fontainebleau...

tags: rue de la Fromagerie

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How many similar streets?

I'd be curious to know the stats on how many French towns have both a Rue Pasteur (as in Louis) and a de Gaulle (as in Charles)?

My guess is the tally would be quite high.

From a small village outside Fontainebleau...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Visions of Beauty and the Beast

I --legged-- it to a book store in Fontainebleau the other day, and was amused by these (literal) table legs. Fancy-schmancy.

So, when Beauty kisses the Beast, will this table turn into a lovely young girl (or two) and do a runner out the door? ♫♪♫♫ Tale as old as time...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pause Café


Also known as a "coffee break" here...

These are coffee meringues. I don't drink coffee, but love the smell and taste of coffee-flavored foods. Honestly, I didn't care for these, but I think that's because I am not usually a fan of meringues. If you haven't tasted meringues, imagine a super-light cookie; now pump it full of air. Then pump in some more air. I like something I can really sink my teeth into.

These were from a cute little bakery in downtown Bourron-Marlotte near Fontainebleau. I consider it my civic duty to test out new bakeries whenever the opportunity arises. So I can report that the pain au chocolat I had from my earlier stop the same morning was awesome. Unless you're a meringue fan, go for the pain au chocolat break...

There are just three ingredients here: egg whites, sugar and, as the woman behind the counter explained, coffee that's added at the last moment when the meringue gets to a nice, thick consistency.

BTW, I love how this photo turned out. With the late-morning lighting in my car, the blue background was the result of setting these on a plain white wrapper that my pain au chocolat had been served up in.... Serendipity!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Le Bidet

Here's something we didn't have in our house in New York... This bidet is in our downstairs bathroom, and the toilet is in a separate room around the corner by itself.

Bidet is a French word for pony, and in Old French, this word meant to trot. Bidets are quite common here, and though French furniture makers are credited with their invention, the actual inventor is disputed. They don't serve as a toilet, but rather a separate place for washing <ahem> underparts, though other parts could benefit from a bidet as well. Wikipedia cites bald heads, but I like them for washing my feet before bed in the summer when I've gone barefoot.

Unfortunately, our bidet sits next to our new dirty clothes bin, which has a lid. Lids have to be removed, which takes e-f-f-o-r-t. Therefore, so far, our bidet is most often used for.... 



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Hear Ya!


This bar just spoke to me on so many levels. It was as if some ingenious marketing person knew all the key words that would grab me hook, line and sinker.

  • I adore coconut -- it makes me dream of visiting Hawaii. Someday. It's a tad far from here.
  • It's (ahem, was) 200 grams. Enough to last for more than one day. In theory.
  • Cornflakes! The texture was like a Nestle Crunch bar. Yum¹ºººº
  • Love to spend the day visiting a château...
  • And finally, I could inhale white chocolate.

Oh, and one other thing, but it's not noted on the package. I found it at Aldi, so it was cheap. Frugality always speaks to me too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The (Un)Happiest Place on Earth

We planned a great surprise for the kids on Sunday. Some good friends had some Disney passes that were expiring at the end of the month, so we were going to meet their family for a day of fun. I woke the kids and told them that as soon as they were dressed and rooms cleaned, I'd tell them about what we'd set up for them. And that as soon as dad finished with some elecrical wiring, we'd be off. Surely, we'd be there by lunch.

Well the electrical work took much longer than the room cleaning and clothes hunting. We added the carseats back to Bernard's car (a major pain to haul them down our driveway) since they'd been removed for weeks for him to haul DIY stuff.

Shopping was done, sandwiches were made. Finally dad was done. But it was late. The friends' kids were getting hungry. Ok, so we won't eat together but we'll eat our sandwiches as our lunch and be inside the park with you ASAP. We updated them several times as we got close, and planned to meet them when they exited the Pirates of the Caribbean.

That is, until we got to the gate and the woman scanned Ellie's pass. "Please wait," the machine read. Then the lady spoke words that just killed our day. "Didn't you look to see the days of restriction?" It was one of the 65 days of the year that our passes weren't valid. Grrr! No, I hadn't looked. They had removed the dates at the end of the summer as a bonus, but the restricted days had gone back into effect two weeks ago. And as is typical in French customer service situations here, she expressed no sorrow for us, only stepped away and avoided eye contact with us, not to deal with any of our deep, deep disappointment.

So, the kids, who had earned money working on mom's other web site in the morning, decided we should shop. This was among the things we saw while they chose keychains to buy with their savings.

Then Alex quickly reminded Bernard that our passes got us 30 percent off movie tickets in the Disney Village. We could maybe see something in IMAX version? So when we got there and learned that the movie was starting in ten minutes, we thought our luck had turned. Then the clerk tells us that our passes don't work until after 6 p.m. Ugh again. So we paid 33 euros 40 cents (our company discount cards were at home, but they did accept vacation checks) for the four tickets, and proceeded to the snack counter where we plunked down another 13 euros, only to discover that the back of one of the tickets had a coupon for popcorn for 1€ when we'd paid 3€. Nope, too late, it's rung up (not paid for yet) the cashier tells us.

So we go see the Smurfs, a.k.a. Les Schtroumpfs, and I dozed in and out (which irked Bernard, who remarked that at 8€ I could have slept cheaper elsewhere.)

As we were leaving, the kids remarked one last time that they were disappointed not to have gone on ANY rides...  Then I reminded them:

They did get to go on the People Mover. Each way. And for a long, long way, since we were late in arriving and had to park way out in the boondocks...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Right Stuff, Wrong Days

I was elated to find this place just down the street from where Alex will be taking his theater class every Monday. And then we look on their door. Guess what day of the week they're closed? I'll give you a hint: fermé equals closed and lundi equals Monday.

I just might have to find somebody an activity some other day of the week in downtown Fontainebleau.

More on being somewhere on the wrong day tomorrow. Our Sunday experience was far worse...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Boxed French Broonie

Okay, so they write it brownie, like we do, but they say broonie...

I am so missing brownies... I used to make them all the time, but we haven't got our oven set up, so I'm still "camping" with one of those two burner plates... (And can't blame anyone around here since he's already renovated four rooms in the two months since we moved in!)

Meanwhile, it's Picard To The Rescue.

I like that this product looks exactly like what you see on the box. I don't make mine with nuts, but I just might after sampling this...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'd Be Willing to Bet...

...that their trash bin smells a heck of a lot better than mine.

BTW, that's Charlize Theron. We see her everywhere here on commercials for Dior...

tags: perfume, Marionnaud, parfumeries

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just What You'd Expect... find on a street called Route Paris, in a town called Chailly en Bière... (Bière is beer...)

Ironically, I passed by this place on the same day I snapped the shot of the Aussie Bar in Fontainebleau earlier this week...

tags: Paddy O'Neills Irish Pub

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Breakfast of Non-French Champions

This looked waaaay too good this morning at a bakery I'd been longing to check out in Fontainebleau. I'd missed breakfast and Ijusthadtohaveit. But as I was standing in line at the next store I visited, a guilty thought hit me, "Was this supposed to be for breakfast here?" Breakfast quiche, right? And with salmon and mixed vegetables?

So I asked the cashier about quiche in general for breakfast in France and she gave me a big smile. (My accent always gives away my non-Frenchiness.) Then she explained that non, eggs are really more for English people in the morning (I'm always taken for English here, but hey, England is much closer than the US) and that French people stick to their croissants and pain au chocolat. Then to be sure I got the point she kindly added several times, "Franchement, non." This can be translated as "firmly" or "without a doubt, no"...

Well, I ate it for petit déjeuner, anyway, without an ounce of guilt. Okay, maybe guilt for the calories, but not for my latest faux pas...

Tomorrow, I'll be sure to have a pain au chocolat...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bonjour, Mates!

I was amused by the signs on the left of this Fontainebleau establishment... And by the fact that it sits on Rue de France...

tags: Aussie Bar

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wish I Were Out Walkin'

This patient guy maintained his sad stare as I took multiple photos of him. He sooooo looked like he wanted out of this prison...

In France, the houses and apartments often sit right on the sidewalk, and the yards are only in the back. So I think this ole pup probably spends his time watching passersby like me, hoping for a bit of attention...

Sidenote: We are in the clear allergy-wise, so the doc says we can get our own chien now... I'll have more news on that as we decide what kind of dog, etc. within the next few months!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Prefecture

There is no better way to start off a cloudy Monday morning than waiting in line at La Préfecture...

Actually, I began by hunting in earnest for something more than the 20 centimes I had in change for parking. But at least that bought me about 15 minutes of time to get down the street to a Tabac (coffee, drinks, cigarettes and lottery tickets) where I was able to get a variety of coins. And to learn that <dang> parking was free on Mondays. The machine had happily accepted my 20 cents anyway.

There was a handful of people cueing when I arrived at 8:30 for the 9 a.m. start, and the atmosphere was like a funeral. Dead silence. I imagined everyone was rehearsing their lines (or at least the foreigners like me) so I broke the ice by asking directions for my next stop. Then I found them to be quite alive, so I asked the next question too, "Are they going to open on time?" Well, that started a firestorm of conversation. The first woman (of foreign descent like me, so I learned later) said, "Yes, right on the dot," which brought comments of "at least five minutes late" to "Once they opened at 20 minutes after when I was here... It's still their weekend, you know!"

Then a few of them launched into what clerk to avoid if you could. "The blond lady with the hair cut like this..." <The girl motions to her shoulders.> The guy next to her then pipes in, "Yeah they want to ???? you right away." I didn't understand the word, but it was something like déguster, but since that means to savor or enjoy, I knew I was off, and asked him...

"No, not déguster but dégouter," he explained, which means more like to put off or make you outraged in one sense of the word. Then they all agreed that démoraliser was the right word for it all. To discourage you, make you lose your morale. French administration does not have the best reputation, even among the French.

Now I know after all these years that I should just always expect to go at least twice for whatever administrative hoop I'm trying to jump through (change of address, new health card, yadayadayada). This time my need was the former, but in fact I have to do the health card first. And no, I didn't need my Livret de Famille (family record book), but rather my passport again and a bunch of other papers to prove my very existence.

So tomorrow, I get to do this all over again. But at least now I know where the office is, to avoid that blond lady if I can, and I can at least hope I've got the right papers because I've got a paper to show them, "But this is what the person yesterday told me to bring."

And I'll have change for the parking. Because tomorrow, it's not free.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ne Jamais Oublier

Never forget.

I made a reference to a Frenchman here earlier this week to "the fires" in the U.S. He responded with, "What fires?"

I was dumbfounded. This is a person who listens to the news all the time on his 45-minute commute. But then he explained that news from the U.S. this week has been focused on the tenth anniversary of l'onze septembre... My neighbor had the same blank look last night when I mentioned the fires.

And this morning, as I write at 8:45 a.m. Paris time, both leading newspapers here -- Le Figaro and Le Monde are headlining stories about September 11th.

France has not forgotten, either.

*Translation of the headline above: "Why the Twin Towers Collapsed" ... from a monthly magazine we get called Sciences et Avenir (Science and Future)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Confessions, Confessions...

In Picard (the all-frozen chain store here), they sell individual Snickers ice cream bars. This product just jumped out at me once recently in another Picard, and yesterday, I succumbed to the pressure again. After all, this bar was even speaking my language...

I got in the car, unwrapped it, and began to devour it along my drive. Then suddenly, perhaps because there was a police car in front of me, I remembered: in France, you are not allowed to eat and drive (nor smoke, apply makeup nor read books, etc...) I put the half eaten bar back in the wrapper and placed it on the seat, where it began to melt rapidly next to my leg...

I must confess that at the next light when the police municipale car had turned, I finished off that bugger in a snap. Danger, Will Robinson, this new Picard is on my daily path...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Le Troisième Age

At first I found this rather intriguing...the aging population, how we are adapting to it, even at the local banque. Then, I realized that lately, I've had to hold things near and far and really work at getting a clear focus.

Eek. This handy gadget will very soon be pour moi.

In France, they call it "The Third Age," your later years of life. There is also an abstract quatrième âge... Perhaps, with the way we are living longer and longer, by the time I am there, there will be a cinquiéme âge?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Spider at Night...

I found this guy hanging out on my ceiling last night. In France, a spider is not always ominous. There's a saying here:

Araignée du soir, l’espoir
Araignée du matin, chagrin
Araignée du midi, nouvelle de mon chéri...

This is a little French poem that means:

A spider at night, hope.
A spider in the morning, bad luck.
A spider in the afternoon, news from my lover.

My hope is that he's not a she who's got plans for using my house as a maternity ward....

In French, a daddy long legs is called a cousin. Since the house we've bought here was empty for six months, let's just say our friend here has/had lots more cousins. The vacuum cleaner and I are still making regular evictions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering...

This is a Turkish toilet...

I was horrified the first time I was directed to one, and expected to take care of business in this manner. Call me a wimp but I still am horrified...

Someday, I jussssst might get desperate enough for the stand and squat. But chances are slim. If even at six months pregnant back in 2000, during a snowstorm along a crowded highway outside Paris, I still found that I wasn't at the point to surrender when shown one of these at a rest stop, I doubt I will ever use one...

I always wait for the roadside signs for a gas station, regional products for sale, etc... There may not be a seat on the toilet, but it won't be on the floor.

PS... I once joked that I was going to make a coffee table book called, "Toilets of the World." Someone has beaten me to a paperback and a calendar...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

La Rentrée!


In France "La Rentrée" is the expression for back-to-school, and has kind of spilled over into back-to-work, back-to-gym-class, etc too, because everything starts over in September. And here, officially, the rentrée was yesterday all over France.

It was a long-awaited day for my kids, because they'd known for a few years that we'd be moving "someday" and someday finally arrived... This is their new school in Fontainebleau, and I am glad that we waited to find just the right école for them.

Across the country the school structure is nationalized, so everyone has the same grade levels in each of their schools. Elementary school is called primaire, and it's first through fifth grade, middle school or junior high is called collège and it's sixth through ninth grade, and high school is called lycée and it's tenth through twelfth grade. So Ellie is in Léonard De Vinci Primaire and Alex is in the Collège Internationale; they're in fourth and sixth grade, respectively.

The key bonus about the new school is that there's a private section for English speakers (and one for German speakers). Children must be native or near native speakers to enter the section and are tested (normally both written and oral) for admission. They'll have English lessons here at their normal level with other English speakers who are either also bilingual or who have just arrived and will learn French in special classes. Both of my kids will have English, literature and geography/history classes in English, and the rest in French.

Ellie's class has 26 children and 14 are in the Anglophone section. There are also about seven who are French speakers and five children who speak German. She was pleased that she moves classes "like in collége" and has a variety of teachers. They split off for their language classes, so she will meet even more English speakers in those classes.

Alex's class has 30 students and is pretty much your standard fare French middle school or junior high; he switches classes and teachers throughout the day. One exception is that he will also be able to take German this year. (Russian or Portuguese were choices too.) I've already cracked open his Buch so I can start relearning along with him... Hilfe! Hilfe!

The only bad part about the new school is that it's not free. The Anglophone Section is a private section within the public school and there is an association that pays the salaries of the English teachers. There was a similar school in downtown Orléans for English speakers, tuition-free... Alas, that's not where my husband's job is anymore, but now he has a shorter commute, so he can be home to help with that French (and German) homework. ;-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Arc en Ciel Incroyable!

I know I posted a shot of our balcony view just two days ago, but what an incredible rainbow we had last night! I was in such awe. I took a ton of shots...

And then from the other side... 

If you look closely, we started to see TWO!

So I took more shots of that...

The one to the right was especially vibrant. I'd never seen anything like this. Initially, I was snapping photos right and left (literally).

And then finally, I put the camera down, and simply enjoyed the view.

The kids will surely be talking about this tomorrow at the first day of school. It surely helped set a better mood around here, as we'd been hurrying and scurrying getting things organized. This was something we'll never forget.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Our New Ville

This is what's growing on a fence across the street from our house... 

Our new town, Thomery (pop. 3,300) has had a history in making a very specific grape, but not by using fences... Viticulturists here have produced "Chasselas of Thomery" table grapes by using an age-old technique: growing them on high walls. After harvesting, the grapes are placed in water with a piece of charcoal inside specially designed bottles. The bottles are stored for several months in wine cellars or caves that have been built inside Thomery houses. (We've got a wine cellar in our new house, but it's doubtful ours was ever used for this because the house dates to 1971.)

Using this technique, viticulturists could sell grapes after the Christmas season even through Easter. This method was extremely popular from the 19th century to World War II, and found success among wealthy Parisians and even the Russian Csar court. Production peaked in the 1920s when more than 800 tons of grapes a year were cultured using 220 miles of walls. These walls are still in existence today in Thomery and were classified in 1993 as historical monuments.

Only a few Thomery residents are still producing such grapes for local consumption. I'll let you know if and when we get to try some!

Chocolate x Three

The only thing better than a chocolate cake is one that has three different kinds... And crunchy bits on top...

This is from Bouillot, which has moved across the street from the château in La Ferté Saint Aubin, so you can't miss it just as you enter town!

Le Trois Chocolat is highly recommended...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Bientôt

"See you soon."

We went again last Monday with friends who came to visit. Visit #5. Still not sick of it, but maybe give me time?

We've been saying "a bientôt" a lot lately, and will do more so today. We are going back to La Ferté to sign away our old house to a new family. Sniff. And say another goodbye to some friends. But we'll visit again soon... And hopefully, more visitors will come to us soon...

A bientôt.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Recent Views

The word of the day for drivers around here today will be brouillard, fog. (Pronounce it broo'-yahr.) This was the view from my balcony this morning. That's supposed to be the Seine River to the left of the tall tree in the middle... Here's a shot from a much better day, in May... The yellow plant is colza, rapeseed...

Here's another morning shot... but please don't ask me what this is that's growing in my front yard... Call me Gardening Dunce... In France, it's not typical to have a "walkthrough" when you buy a house. Our house was unoccupied for six months, thus the yard had free reign...

This is one of the few parts I've cleared out (below), mainly so we could walk from the front to the back yards without the song, "In the jungle, the mighty jungle ♪♫♪" creeping through my head. 

The neighbor says there are plenty of snakes in this area, so the jungle may have to go wild a little longer until I gain some courage... 

Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh ♪♫♫

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Man Who's Worth Three Billion

Further proof that everything is more expensive in Europe...

Thankfully, my husband's taste for all these 70's series is shared by a good friend, so this one is not part of our permanent collection, rather, just on loan.

I'll have to ask our friend if he's got The Bionic Woman, instead. I loved that show!

Tags: Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man, Jaime Sommers, Lindsay Wagner, Lee Majors