Fall Out

On Tuesday we took Cheryl to the airport in Toulouse. It was almost as if the weather had decided to not let her feel too bad about leaving, because it was cold and rainy. In fact, later that same day, there were massive hail storms all across the region (although we in the Possum Kingdom were spared).

Traffic once we were on the ring road around Toulouse was awful. It surprised us, because the previous week when we went to Lourdes it hadn’t been that bad. We later discovered that there were demonstrations all over the place, but I must admit that I don’t really know what they were protesting. It’s always something in the month of May though.

I guess we had to pay for having had all that fun while Cheryl was here though. Our last visit on Monday was to Carcassonne, where the winds were insane! We had all dressed for warmth and sun and were pretty cold. You would think we would no better than to go out without taking a sweater along, but I guess some things we never learn.

At any rate, all the changes from hot to cold to hot again, along with the rain and more contact with large groups of people has taken a toll and JM picked up some kind of bug. No, it is NOT swine flu, but he’s coughing and sniffling. I have a bit of a sore throat myself and don’t know if I’ll be able to fight it off or not, although I hope so.

The most unusual bit of health weirdness came out yesterday. One day last week I got a terrible pain in my foot while out walking. It didn’t improve, so yesterday I went to the podiatrist. It turns out I had a piece of DOG HAIR embedded in my foot! A little present from Shmoo Alexander. Apparently this happens to hairdressers all the time with people hair. You learn something new everyday.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Weird Sightseeing Experience

We took Cheryl to the coast today (not great weather, but at least it wasn’t raining) so that she could actually see the Med.

We had to drive through Perpignan, reminding me why I truly hate cities, but we finally made it through the traffic and got to Collioure, only to find that we had massive holiday traffic there! I don’t believe that there was one available parking space in the entire village. That makes three trips JM and I have done to the coast and we STILL haven’t been able to visit Collioure!

At any rate, we went on to Port Vendre, literally 3 minutes away. And, to our surprise there was hardly any traffic, plenty of parking and the restaurants all had tables available.

With that uncanny supersense that he seems to have, JM picked one of the restaurants along the port and we wound up having a really delightful lunch. The first thing they did was to bring Shmoo a big dish of water!

Our boy was actually quite a hit, with everyone on the terrace looking at him and, because he insisted on lying under THEIR table, we wound up having a lovely conversation with the people next to us who were from Castres. We only had one moment where Shmoo, who had been sleeping, was startled by another dog going by and started to bark. I think it was because he had a bit of ground steak that he hadn’t eaten and suddenly realized that a possible food thief was in the vicinity. Luckily, he calmed down immediately, ate his steak and was fine thereafter.

Now for the weird bit. On the way home we had to drive back to Perpignan, only this time we were taking the autoroute, so we could skirt downtown. As we made our way around the edge of the city we passed several shopping centers and I had an immediate flashback to life in Southern California. The architecture, the vegetation, the houses nearby ALL looked exactly like what you would find in Woodland Hills or Calabasas, except that the signs were in French. Although there were chains like McDonalds, so it wasn’t at all hard to think we’d suddenly been transported 6000 miles away! I was very happy to get on the highway and head for our wonderful Possum Kingdom.

Ciao for now.
Randy

Vacationing Close To Home

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Lac Montbel

Our friend Cheryl arrived from Oklahoma on Sunday and we’ve had a busy time of it since she’s gotten here. JM and I have decided to look at her visit as if it is a vacation for us as well, and are enjoying going out and doing stuff that we would not normally do when we’re on our own.

On Monday we went to the Mirepoix market, something I only do maybe once a year. I don’t know why, except that somehow I never really THINK about it. It’s completely ridiculous, because it’s a great market. Although maybe that is a reason NOT to do it, because it is also a huge temptation to spend money.

I bought some fruit and veggies, but although they were good, I actually think that what I get here in the village from either Jean-Paul or the Vival are generally superior in both flavor and freshness. However, we did get some artisinal cheese that was divine. I bought both a fresh chevre and an excellent cow milk tome-style, both of which are amongst some of the best that I’ve had.

Tuesday we went to Lourdes. JM and I had visited it exactly 10 years ago and were thrilled to get the chance to go back. It’s not that bad of a drive; only about 3 hours and I was astonished by how uncrowded it was. I really did think that this being May and a holiday week to boot that it would be packed, but it wasn’t. We were able to park easily and when JM took Cheryl into the Sanctuary, he said there was hardly anyone waiting in line at the grotto, which wasn’t the case last time we were there.

I didn’t go into the sanctuary this time because we had brought Shmoo with us. I had mixed feelings, because I wasn’t sure how he would behave in a place that was relatively crowded and where there would be lots of other dogs wandering around. I have to say my fears were totally unfounded! I guess my boy has grown up, because he behaved like a true gentleman. He did not react overly to the other dogs, he lay quietly beneath the table while we ate lunch and then later was just as quiet at the café where we waited for JM and Cheryl. I think he has now earned far more going out privileges because of it.

But, after a 7 hour drive (both ways) and 3 1/2 hours wandering the streets of Lourdes, he was one tired pup! Two days later and he has barely recovered.

Yesterday was a quiet day. I did not feel like getting back behind the wheel of a car after Tuesday. We all caught up on email, then I introduced Cheryl to the Gamm Vert, our agricultural co-op local products store. It’s really like a treasure cave in there and you can find all kinds of cool stuff from clothes to locally produced preserves, patés and wine.

I think that Cheryl has been surprised by how hard it is to walk around our village without running into half-a-dozen people that I know and having conversations with all of them.

This was brought home more today when we went out to get some more cheese, fruit and veggies. It took us an hour, just because there were so many conversations to be had.

Then we decided to take a little trip to Lac Montbel and Montsegur, where we sat and had a picnic lunch from the goodies I’d bought at the bakery this morning. Yesterday was very hot and sunny, but today was much cooler and overcast, so it was probably a better day for something like that.

The annual Ascension village fair starts today, so later on we’ll head over to that (luckily it’s on the other side of the village this year) and tonight will be a “fair food” night! Nothing beats fair fries; for some reason they always taste better than any other fries!

Tomorrow I think we’ll head out to Colliure and the Emerald Coast. I do hope that we have good weather for that.

Ciao for now.

Randy

Close Call

In France, you need to get your car inspected every two years. We had to do this in Pennsylvania several hundred years ago when I lived there, while in California it was just a pollution check every couple of years.

I have to admit that I haven’t really gotten into the swing of this yet, as the 2 previous times I had it done while Beanie was in for her regular maintenance and didn’t really have to think about it. I knew that this year it was due in June, and I had assumed that it was the end of June.

I discovered today that I was wrong and it was due by June 1st! That put me in a bit of a bind, because with Cheryl coming next week and leaving on the 26th, that was cutting things a little close. I didn’t think it was fair to waste part of her visit while we sat in a waiting room as mysterious things were happening to the poor Beanie-mobile.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I decided to call the nearest Controle Technique station and see if they could do this today. They COULD! I was quite thrilled, because it gave me an excuse not to clean the house for a little while.

Luckily, Beanie passed with flying colors (well, she IS a Toyota, so it’s not a surprise). However, I learned a couple of things. First, you should never watch while they do a controle technique on your car. It is scary as hell, because they actually “drive” it while it remains motionless. The speed clearly gets up pretty high, then they slam on the breaks. They do this several times and it makes horrible noises and you can actually see your car kind of bounces up and down. I know they’re used to doing this, but I was really worried about it for a few minutes.

Second, Toyotas really ARE great little cars. The mechanic told me that a lot of times when they get cars from the States, that they come with whole lists of things that don’t conform to French regulations but that the Drire (the body that approves cars for registration in France) gives the owners a paper that says it’s okay and they should pass the controle anyway. Interestingly enough, this is NOT the case with Toyotas, which always pass with everything being acceptable.

So, Beanie is cool for another 2 years and I know that we will be safe as we drive Cheryl around doing touristy things.

Something strange when I came back, and I don’t have the answer yet. On the sign that says “CHALABRE” as you enter town, there was a poster saying ÄBYSS with the picture of something exploding. I do not know if this is a commentary by someone in town, or if there is a badly named rock band that is going to perform! If I find out, I’ll post about it.

Ciao for now
Randy

Up for air

Carcassonne May 2009

Carcassonne May 2009

I have finally finished my cookbook and am just waiting for my friend Hélène to give it an overall read to make sure I haven’t left any huge mistakes in it.

This was my first attempt at both writing ANYTHING major directly in French and also writing a cookbook, so I’m pleased with how it turned out. Now, hopefully I’ll sell a few copies so it won’t all be for nothing.

With that done, I can get back to more normal existence (less cooking!!) although my friend Cheryl from Oklahoma is coming to stay with us next weekend, so we’ll be busy while she is here. I’m really looking forward to that, because I’ve known Cheryl online for close to 10 years and this is the first time we’ll ever meet! Boy, I hope we like each other!!!

JM and I have planned lots of fun sightseeing stuff to do and I’m hoping that we have weather as gorgeous as what we’ve been having for the last few days. It has been pretty close to perfect, and colors are exploding everywhere. I managed to get this picture of Carcassonne last week when we drove to Gruissan and you can see how lovely the weather was.

Here’s hoping things are as beautiful where you are.

Ciao for now.
Randy