“It feels like years since it’s been here”

SUNSHINE!!!!!  We have been living in a world of foggy mornings and gray afternoons recently.  As someone who is strongly affected emotionally by weather, it has been hard to keep a happy face. But today, the sun shined bright. Bright enough to drive with the sunroof open, to not wear a coat and of course to take a walk!

So while waiting for Célénie to finish music class this afternoon I took a nice stroll around Nuits St George.  I tried to go down each and every windy road that I hadn’t been down before, taking pictures as I went.  Unfortunately I didn’t plan this adventure so I only had my camera phone, but I worked with what I had.

I have definitely gotten comfortable here in France and although that’s nice to feel “at home” it’s also nice to act like a tourist now and then–considering I am, sort of, a long-term tourist in this town/country.  In Nuits St George I discovered that almost every house is a wine Domaine! Its incredible the amount of wine makers in one small town.

During my journey I had a nice chat with an old lady who was also on a walk (a lot slower pace than me but still proud of her for getting out there).  I tried to understand her strong Bourgogne accent (every letter seemed to have a rolled “r” at the end) but it was very difficult.  From what I did understand, she definitely felt as happy as I did about the beautiful weather.  She said these wise words (I think): When the sun comes out we are instantly all so much better and happier!

Preach it sister!!!

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La Toussaint

My apologise: it is Wednesday and I have not posted pictures of Halloween. I have a good excuse, don’t worry…we didn’t celebrate! I know, I know after all the work making the dress and ordering of costume parts from internet vendors and the kids didn’t even dress-up!  The deterrent: rain. Can you imagine kids in the States not going out for Halloween because it was raining? Yeah, me neither ; )

So there is a chance I can get them to pose for a pic in their costumes, but no more promises in that department.

So after the Halloween let down we decided to watch a movie and chow down on popcorn. Louis-Auguste makes the best sugary popcorn. He pops it right on the stove with fresh kernels.  Reminds me of my Poppop and Mommom who used to have a bowl of fresh popped popcorn every afternoon. Of course theirs was covered in butter and salt whereas Louis-Auguste’s specialty is sugar. Delish!!

Speaking of food (I am truly taking hold of this Bourgogne culture) I spent the day Monday sitting at a table; eating, drinking–being merry.  Everyone had the day off because it was All Saints Day (La Toussaint).  Juliette’s boss and his family came over to the apartment along with David and the kids.  We began with L’apéritif and champagne, then L’entrée and Le plat (Baeckeoffe).   

We literally were eating from 1pm-4pm.  Took a short break to watch the boys have some bike races, tandem-style (photos at the end)! But after we returned to the table for fromage, dessert et un café.

I was ready for a nap (and to never eat again) but that is not what happened.  Instead more friends arrived–everyone is ready to eat and drink with friends when there is no work–and I even ate “dinner.”  In my defense I ate because the jambon (ham) was on the list of things to try.  It’s called pata negra and these pigs strictly eat acorns which produces the smokey, nutty, awesome flavor.  So even though I was in a food coma, I had to indulge.

The rest of the week I am in charge of making dinner and lunch so maybe I’ll be checking out Cooking Light for my recipes…or maybe I’ll take the bike for a spin around the village?

Pump it, Pump it up

Woke up this morning, got in the car and VOILA–no gas!  Normally this is not an issue Chez Duband because there is literally a gas pump on their property. Actually, it’s right next to the car…convenience at it’s finest. But I had to get going this morning; Louis-Auguste and I were running late so I began the 40 minute drive into Dijon with the gas light already lit.  Sweet!

Dropped Louis-Auguste at school–sans accident (I should mention that no accident is an accomplishment from yesterday when I found it hard to drive properly during our commute. I literally ran into a curb and shortly after almost went into the wrong lane while turning. I really didn’t think Louis-Auguste’s friend who we carpool with would ever get into the car with me again! But I redeemed myself today…I hope).  I wished the boys a “bonne jounrnée” and I continued on to my school  (Friday I have classes 8-12 and 2-4).  Of course the road I usually park on had no open spots.  This particular road is free to park on, and being the penny pincher I am…

OK, OK maybe not “penny pincher” per say.  I am known to spend a fortune for nice bags and high heels but for things like parking, gas, toilet paper, etc etc, I refuse to pay more than necessary.  And in my mind the 3 euros on the next road was not worth it when I could pay nothing. So there!

On my second lap around the one-way street (I hate all the one-way roads and circular intersections in this city) I found a spot that I wiggled the MM (mom Mercedes) into.  Although the parking job was absolutely absurd, I think it was the first time I really looked like a French person–meaning my car was tilted with two tires on the curb and the front-end protruded quite a bit more than the back (“when in France…..”)

Oh, did you forget I have NO gas at all by this point?  That was a great surprise after my 8 hour day! But, I decided to take my chances yet again and I went to pick up Louis-Auguste before finding a gas station. To be honest, I was nervous to pump gas in France for the first time. I don’t know why–it’s all the same, but I still opted to have the 13-year-old with me…just in case.

Just my luck, the manifestations associated with the grève led to complete grid lock all around Dijon!  I did NOT want to break down in the middle of this mess. It was as if I was back at JMU last spring with the police in SWAT outfits trying to calm the crowds (of course the reasoning for the police was a bit more legit compared to that spring…).

But all in all we made it out of le centre ville and into a gas station where I pumped my very own gas in France–add it to the list people 🙂 Success!

adventure number one

So today I went to the grocery store. Might seem like a normal activity but not when you have no directions and are still learning the language of a new place.  So I got the list of things and headed in the direction of town.  Létizia told me it was in the same place as the doctor’s office where I went the other day.  Problem is I was with the kids then and relied on them for the directions.  The biggest problem I wanted to avoid was going too far and entering the A-10 (the highway where you must pay a toll).  As I listened to Lady Gaga (a great discovery of the day: There is a Lady Gaga CD in the car! niiiice) I entered the first round about of three.  So far so good. Then the second and as I approached the third I had no idea where to go! First try: warehouse that led to the Gâre.  Good to know where that is I guess, but a train wouldn’t help my present desires of reaching the grocery store.  Turn around. Re-enter the circle and take the next exit out.  Looks promising, but I see ahead the toll booth, damn, hope this building to the right is where I am supposed to be…..SUCCESS! I recognize the doctor and the pet store (Célénie had to get une bouteille for the bunny after our doctor visit this weekend).

I was happy to have made it without a HUGE catastrophe.  I grab a basket, whip out the list and–what is that number? Next to the listed “Jus d’orange” was a number that could have been a 6 or a 4.  What you all should know is that the French don’t write their numbers like we do.  There are more curly-q’s, and other random lines connecting things.  For example with the 1, they extend the line on the left all the way down to the bottom, like a caret symbol.  Anyways, for the sake of my arm not  falling off I only grabbed 4 (I can always return for more later).

After asking for help with the fruit stamp thingy and making my way to the counter I encountered the next road block: they don’t exactly give you a bag for your things.  With my poor French I couldn’t understand if I could take my basket and put the things inside or if I was going to have to carry the things (impossible) to my car.  Finally it was confirmed that I would pay 3cents for a bag.  Sweet. I smush my things into the weak plastic and seeing my bag about to rip in half the nice lady behind me told the cashier to double bag the thing! Merci BEAUCOUP 🙂

I left that store with a bursting bag, two Cokes pressed against my chest and two bread bags dangling from my hand.  It’s a miracle I even made it to the car without everything falling.  But I did and I returned home–this trip was less of an adventure although I did take one wrong exit on a circle/roundabout which was quickly reprised.

And just when I thought I was home free, I opened the trunk.  Down came rolling the Coke.  Already shaken up from the twisty roads I traveled on, it hit the rocky ground and exploded all over me! Merde!

Next time I am paying a whole Euro for multiple bags that the cashier can double/triple bag!

True Life: I tried to make friends with 80 year old women!

Recently I have been feeling a little anxious to make friends.  I am totally that way though, a bit impatient and like when everything is in order–which is not the case when you have just moved to a new foreign country! Things take time, and I am the first to admit I am bad at waiting.

So on account of having met no friends in the 4 days I have been there (see the impatience yet?) I ventured down to the winery to chat with some people I have met: Nicole and Marie are sisters and I am pretty sure they are just about 80 years old.  They are so sweet and cook great food for us during The Harvest, but not really the people who are going to show me around town and party with me if you know what I mean. On top of that, they speak absolutely NO english.

So I said Bonjour, returned some baskets, and then awkwardly stood  before them.  I think my vision was to say something charming in French and for them to ask to show me how to make some amazing French meal…je rêve!

After a few minutes of broken sentences and laughter (due to the incomprehensible things we said to one another), I said “à toute à l’heure” and was back up to the house to hang out with the 10 and 13-year-old who I know will be my friends for a long time after this journey.

The Country where I live

Chevannes

As you can tell, Chevannes is in the middle of nowhere.  I enjoy the countryside and all it has to offer, but I dont think I could live in it forever!  Ironically I have found that listening to country music has been the most comforting thing for me.  It’s a little bit of America and it fills that void for now.  I guess Taylor Swift and her friends do the trick because the American songs that are on the radio here are all pop or oldies.  Oh and for anyone who told me the French would be listening to our songs months after they came out in the States, YOU ARE WRONG. The other day on my almost 50 minute drive to school (blah) I listened to Rihanna’s new hit 3 times! I think it’s safe to say that they are “in the know” people!

“mac-doughnald”

Many things in France replicate that of America.  Brother/sister arguments, over committing to children’s activities, making wrong turns, cursing, being sarcastic…..I am not saying I didn’t expect this, just some things I have noticed as I get to know my new family.

But tonight in the car home from Louis-Auguste’s fencing class (not so American) I was asked if I knew “mac-doughnald.”  My mind was thinking too hard and I couldn’t quite put together what was said or why I would know this French person/place/thing?  Then like a brick it hit me…”OH, McDonald’s?” Idiot, I thought to myself.  I have to stop thinking they are so different from us that a stop at a fast food restaurant wouldn’t be normal.  And although fast food is not my favorite, I felt much better eating it in this country! The pronunciation, which I couldn’t decifer at first, is not harsh and, well, American.   I taught them how to pronounce it like Americans, and cringed at the difference.  Believe me, next time you have to go stop at McDonald’s, say it with a French accent and you will almost taste the elegance of the sound in the Big Mac…..almost.

is this day 1 or 100?

What a busy first day in France!

I left Les Etats-Unis at 6pm CST (after traveling all afternoon from Philly to Chi-Town) and didn’t get much sleep on the close to 8 hour flight.  I was so emotionally numb on the ride; not all the way sad, or nervous, or happy.  I guess I was feeling apprehensive while also knowing that I wanted to be there (conflicting feelings creating unidentified emotions? Sounds like an answer to me).

But I arrived safely and after a little wait was on my way to Chevannes (a town I found out has 100 inhabitants) with David (dad) and his friend Roman (roll that “R”).  As I knew would happen, it was not easy for me to speak French.  I would sit there in the back seat and create sentences in my head but would get too nervous to utter them.  This used to be an issue in French class I think.  But don’t fret, tonight at dinner I buckled down and used some broken French.  I can assure you that this made the children more comfortable. I am learning French while they are learning English…we’re on an even level.

On a side note for those a little lost, I am Au Pair for Célénie, 10, and Louis Auguste, 13.  Their mom is pregnant with twins and therefore my job is to take the kids to and from school and various activities.  I also will attend French class myself (which I am now so happy about because I hate not understanding dinner table talk).

So back to the day…

They didn’t waste time with anything because believe it or not I already have been taught the ins and outs (or enough to get me from A to B) of driving in France. I got behind the Mercedes hatchback and David spoke to me in broken French as I clutched the wheel at 10&2!  I am alive, but nervous to take myself on all these twisted roads of the country and through the city of Dijon to my school and the kids’ school.  Thank God for navigation system in the car 🙂

Well enough for today. Need to get some sleep to be ready for another action packed day of errands in my new home, FRANCE!!

Au Revoir et Bonne Nuit.