Friday, July 13, 2018

An Avalanche of Socializing

My author friend Suzie Tullett recently shared a meme on Facebook:
And I commented that I had felt the same when I lived in the States, but since arriving in Quillan, my social life has exploded. We were out until 3:30 a.m. at a friend's going away party, and a few other nights found ourselves wandering home after midnight, spending our evenings dancing or listening to music.
Dancing the night away at Delana's Bon Voyage party.
What has happened to us?
At home, we would crawl under the covers around 10 and I'd be up at 5:30 to go for a run before getting ready for work.
So, work is one of those things that has changed. Earl has retired. I'm working online, so our hours are more ours. We were more tired when we had to be at work for a certain number of hours per day and our friends were the same. Who had the energy to go out to listen to music or dance?
With Jack and Jules at one of the local celebrations
Friends are another issue. We luckily met friends here in France who enjoy our company and we get together frequently, playing cards, going to markets, exploring new cities.
During our early months in France, as we wandered from housesit to housesit, we didn't go out frequently, huddled in the cold dark evenings watching flood waters rise or fending off the cold. Now, here in Southwestern France, our evenings burst with activity.
This week we had three possibilities to choose from on Tuesday -- a night market, the France World Cup semifinal at the local bar, or an English quiz night (also at the local bar). We went to the market night and enjoyed duck sandwiches followed by a dessert waffle with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Wednesday night was the England semifinal World Cup game, and we joined some Brits at the local bar. As the second half continued with no one scoring, I decided to walk home rather than watching the rest of the game (England eventually lost to Croatia).
Thursday, we had no plans, but we ended up grabbing a pizza and a salad and joining our friends Jack and Jules at their house along the river, playing cards until 10 when the light began to fade and we wandered home.
Tonight is a party for Bastille Day, known to the French as Fête National. The city will shoot off fireworks over the "chateau" that sits on the hill overlooking downtown the night before (Friday). But first, I might bike out to the lake with Jules where we'll bask on the stone chairs or drift on the float she brings along in her car.
We lounge on stone-carved seats with the lake and the mountains as our view. 
If we want to watch TV, we head to the local bar.
We've been catching part of the Tour de France
 at the bar where the bartender knows our name

Saturday there's a market then music in the square. Sunday there's a morning market in another town, along with the World Cup finals on a big screen downtown.

Were there this many things to do at home in Ohio and I just didn't pay attention? Probably.
But, we have strategically placed ourselves here so that we can walk to many events, and that makes a difference. If we were isolated, we would hesitate to drive to events. Plus, one of us would have to be the designated driver. Now we both walk, we drink some wine, we dance, we sing, we enjoy the camaraderie of our new English-speaking friends (still working on the French friends).
Another huge difference is that we have no television at our house in France. Television numbs you. You sit and watch without the willpower to turn it off. It sucks away time and makes you tired. Did anyone ever get to the end of their life and say, "I watched a lot of great TV"?
And some people may say they don't have a television, but they're watching shows on their computer instead. Same thing, different technology.
Earl and I were watching more programs on the computer before we moved here and got sucked into the socializing vortex.

So, if I had to sum up the reasons we are so much more social, I'd say it has to do with:
Location (being able to walk places)
Job-free schedules (we aren't as tired as when we worked full-time schedules)
No TV (which sucked up more time than we were aware of)
New friends
And I can recommend it. Being out with people, experiencing new things, making new friends, it feels good. I hope you'll try it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Faux Pas a Day

My latest French faux pas was at the local grocery. Our town has a small store, called Spar, that is right down town. That's where Earl and I go for our groceries when we can't find them at the twice weekly market.
Our market
One afternoon, I decided to use the leftover chicken from our rotisserie chicken to make a chicken salad. I love a nice chicken salad with mayonnaise, apple pieces and grape pieces on a croissant. So I headed down to the spar. I picked a couple of firm apples and looked in vane through the rest of the fruits and vegetables for grapes.
Finally, I went to the register to pay for my other purchases. I told the woman behind the register that I had looked for grapes (the French call them raisins) and couldn't find any.
"Raisins frais?" she asked. Fresh grapes.
Try again in September, she told me. Of course, the French wouldn't carry out of season fruits. The grapes will be harvested in September and that's when I can buy them in the grocery store.
I hurriedly explained that as an American, I'm used to being able to find any type of produce at any time of year. She smiled and clucked slightly.
I went home and used some golden raisins in place of the out-of-season grapes. 
The finished product
Eating is different here, but we're learning.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Wine Flows Like a River

While living in the U.S., Earl and I were occasional drinkers. We'd open a bottle of wine and have a glass or two a few times a week. If we went out to dinner or if we had friends over, we'd definitely drink -- wine, beer, cocktails. One of the things we loved to do in summer was walk to Third and Hollywood for gin and tonics.
But we were never big drinkers.
All of that has changed since moving to France. Wine is definitely less expensive here, but it's also part of the culture. If we're out for lunch, we often drink an aperitif and then wine with our meal.
A glass of white wine in a beautiful glass. 
Dinner is the same.
Now that we've landed in a village and met friends, we frequently gather for drinks before moving on to meals. Festivals, celebrations, games of cards... they all require glasses of wine.
Pre-dinner drinks in this area often consist of blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine.
Since I became a mother, I could count on one hand the number of times I became tipsy. Now, I would probably fill up those fingers in one week.
Just this week, we celebrated Fourth of July with a party at some British friends. Wine, beer, spiked punch and watermelon jello shots 
For July 4th, my friend Jules created Jello shots shaped like watermelons. 

It was my first time doing a jello shot. 
were among our drink choices on that incredibly hot day. We had to keep drinking to stay hydrated!
The next day we went on a hike that ended in lunch at a local restaurant. A friend and I shared a 50 cl of wine. I took an afternoon nap and vowed not to drink that night because I felt a bit weak in the evening, but when we played cards with some friends, the wine came out again and somehow we left two empty bottles.
Then came Friday, the Bal des Pompiers.
The workers wore t shirts that proclaimed Bal des Pompiers

 It's a firefighter's ball that is held in most every French town. It starts with drinks and music, then moves to dinner with wine before more music and dancing.

The two of us staking out our places after friends saved tables for us. 

Here's the pork grilling on spits. Plenty for 350 people. 
Again, drinking followed by drinking and dancing, which is fun. But a niggling doubt starts to bother me.
Some pre-dinner beer and mussels (moules)
I did learn the importance of saying no within a week or so of settling here. We went to a new friend's house and every time I set my glass down, someone filled it up. Then I guiltily felt like I needed to drink it.
That ended up with me puking in the bathroom about 11 that night. (It was an afternoon party.) So I determined then and there that I would announce my intention not to drink more and if someone filled up my glass, then they would understand that I wouldn't drink it.
I haven't gotten drunk since then, but tipsy, yeah, tipsy still happens.
Truthfully, a lot of these functions are more fun with a nice tingle from the wine. Things are funnier, my French is better, my dance moves are more enthusiastic. We walk to these events so driving after drinking isn't an issue.
We have another set of American friends who have been living in France for a few years. They admit that when they go home, they aren't drinking very much at all. But when they return to France the wine flows again.
Maybe it's okay to drink freely here, understanding that it isn't an alcohol problem. It's a culture of enjoying food and drink.
So tchin tchin! (That's a toast here, like cheers!)

It's time for the Paris in July meme, so I'm linking to the blog Thyme for Tea that shows a list of all the Francophiles participating.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Sky Isn’t Always Blue

One of my friends recently posted on Facebook that we could look a little more miserable in the photos we post from France.
In the lavender fields of Provence
I told her we never think to take pictures when we are miserable.
But remember, a photo is just a snapshot, just a millisecond of a person's life.
I'm not saying we are unhappy, but moving to France is not a balm for all wounds.
If you had worries where you were living before, those worries will come along to the new life, too. And maybe they will even be enhanced.

Here we were in Perpignan at the canal before we made our way down the street stopping at bars and restaurants
When we lived in the U.S., Earl and I both worked five days a week. We spent evenings and weekends together and couldn't wait for a free schedule to spend even more time together. But, we should all be careful what we wish for.
Spending every free minute together is an adjustment, no matter where you live.
I would not have wanted to attempt this new life without my partner, but if I get frustrated with something, you can guess where my barbed words land.
We argue about the same things here that we argued about in Ohio. After a fight the other day, I so longed for a friend, a long-time friend who knew us both, who knew the history of our marriage, who had listened to other arguments and seen the reconciliation afterward, to lend an ear. But the time zones and the lack of a phone, except when I'm on data, prevented me from reaching out to my U.S. friends.
Luckily, I've made friends here and could turn to someone, but the backstory was way too involved.
One of the great friends I've made in France. 
Moving to France comes with its own set of worries too.
Buying a house, buying a car, setting up a bank account, getting a visa --  all in a different language ratchets up the tension. One friend in the same boat wakes up with hives every morning. Another has nightmares that cause him to dive out of bed, taking down the men in his dreams who try to attack him. We laugh the next morning when we see new bandaids on his knee or his shin, but his nightmares are a symptom of the stress he's wrestling with. You wouldn't imagine that from the pictures posted on social media. Everyone is smiling, sipping wine, toasting.
We try to allay the added stress by enjoying the other moments of our lives.
Canoeing on the Charente
Visiting new places offers a world of opportunities. But we don't leave behind our worries and our arguments. We're still working on that.
Posing in front of the bridge in Cognac

An Avalanche of Socializing

My author friend Suzie Tullett recently shared a meme on Facebook: And I commented that I had felt the same when I lived in the States, b...