Thursday, May 18, 2023

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm.

"Mais non! It doesn't make sense. It doesn't sound like that at all!" she insisted. 

This passionate response from my French friend came after she asked me what we say in America for the sound a rooster makes. 

Maybe I didn't sell it to her, I think, and I make a crowing sound like "Cock a doodle doo!"

"Non, it's cocorico. It sounds just like a rooster!" she insisted. 

"It sounds like a drink," I insisted. "I'll have a cocorico in Puerto rico."

We were both bent over laughing as we continued walking down the road, the sun shining on us after walking five and a half hours so far. We had started that morning in Figeac, France, in the Lot region. We'd left behind the more extreme mountain climbs in the Aude for rolling hills and homes built of bleached stone with carefully sculpted roof tiles. We planned to walk four days along one of the many trails that lead to El Camino de Santiago in Spain. In France, the routes are called Chemin de Saint Jacque de Compostelle 

On Tuesday we dropped the car in St. Cirq la Popie, our ending point, and we took the bus back to Figeac. We found a restaurant in Figeac, eating dinner at 8 p.m. When we opened the menu, we nearly fainted at the perfection. I had told Claudine on the bus that I hadn't eaten foie gras or duck since I'd been back in France. Then we searched for a restaurant that served foie gras. We ended up at La Puce a l'Oreille in Figeac. Starting with foie gras then moving on to magret de canard (duck). 

"If we eat foie gras for dinner every night, we'll gain many kilos before we get home," Claudine pointed out before taking a bite of the starter and pausing for the sheer pleasure of it in her mouth. 

If ever there was a meal fit for the word sublime, this was it.  The setting, the service, the food. Surely we were ready for our hike the next day. 

The jovial host at the B&B saw us off after coffee and croissants. We stopped at a bakery for a baquette sandwich -- jambon sec, butter and lettuce. The bakery server cut the sandwich in two so we could share it later. And, voila, we were off. The trail would be 21 kilometers from the Figeac to Corn. 

Corn is a strange name for a town, but in France, they don't call corn corn. They call it maïs with two syllables. A fairly steep climb took us out of Figeac, but the entire hike, 15 miles, we only climbed about 1400 feet, which we struggle up in 45 minutes leaving our town.

Hiking long distances in France is very different from the United States. We don't carry tents and sleeping bags. We don't pack our bags with beans and rice to eat over a fire. We walk from town to town and sleep in a gites or B and B. We have dinner in a restaurant or at the host's table. 

After a few hours of hiking, we ventured through the village Faycelles and stopped to take pictures of the irises lining stone steps. At the top, we stopped for coffee and a panoramic view of the valley and river below. 

Two hours later in Beduer, we walked into town to find that the only store near the trail had closed at 12:30. We couldn't buy drinks for lunch, but we had our water and our sandwich. Claudine had brought along two pain au chocolat from the day before, so we had those for dessert as we sat at a concrete table by the cathedral with a view of a nearby chateau. We chatted with hikers from Canada, from Nantes and Orleans France. Most of the hikers on this trail are from France. 

During our six hour hike, Claudine had declared it "French speaking only" so that I could practice my French. Walking and following trail markers and trying to speak only French, it was a challenge. But by the end of the day, I wondered if I'd be able to speak English when I called Earl later. 

We walked a few kilometers outside of Corn to our BnB, thinking we would never get there. Stopping to take pictures of a field of poppies. A climb up to the BnB and we were greeted by a giant white Great Pyrenees dog with deep woofs.

Finally, after 15 miles, 22 kilometers, we could take our shoes off our tired feet. Rinse the salt of sweat from our bodies and enjoy another great meal, this time of cucumber in creme fraiche for starters then couscous with lamb and carrots followed by gelato. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Weather and Marriage

 This morning I jauntily set off on my run. The weather app showed cloudy skies and nothing to worry about until high winds around 1 p.m. The temperature was 7 C, that's about 44 Fahrenheit. As I ran my 5K, I stopped and shot a picture of a rainbow. What luck!

When I turned back toward home, the rainbow wasn't visible and the wind began to pick up. Soon the rain joined it. A light misting at first, then it began to pour in earnest. I usually finish my runs with a walk to stretch, but the dire weather convinced me to keep running until the end as hail began to pelt the bill of my Nike cap. 

I made it inside the kitchen, soaked and shivering. 

"Well that was unexpected," I called to Earl as I walked in the house. 

He came to the kitchen and held up my bath towel. "Need this?"

I pulled off my hat and my jacket, handing them to him. I untied my soaked shoes and peeled off my socks so I wouldn't leave wet footprints on the tile floor. 

"Is that it?" Earl asked, gesturing to my shirt and my pants.

"Yeah, I'll hang my pants on the radiator upstairs," I told him. 

He turned to strategically place my wet clothes on the radiator in the kitchen. 

"No show today, folks!" he said to himself.

"You've seen this show plenty of times," I reminded him. 

"Yeah, but it never gets old. That's why I bought season tickets."

Guess I'm pretty lucky after 32 years of marriage. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

The Opposite of Sun Worship

 It gets hot in the south of France. Summer days can soar into the 90s or even 100 Fahrenheit; that's in the 30s Celsius. 

And like most people in France, we don't have air conditioning. We get only a few moments of smugness as we consider that we aren't harming the environment, before the sweat wipes away that do-gooding feeling. 

So how do we stay cool in the summer? It's about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 C) inside our thick- walled house, but that's only because we have learned how to keep it cool. 

Usually, we throw open the shutters on our windows in the morning to embrace the sun, 

The sun peaks over the mountains in the morning.

but in summer, I prop the wooden shutters open like a tent rather than opening them fully. 

The muted light filters in and the air can circulate

Sometimes I close the windows as well. At night, I do the opposite, I throw the shutters open, allowing the light from nearby street lights to fill the bedroom as the cool air filters through our lace curtains. 

The sun peeping through the guest bedroom window

The most important thing is to protect the indoors from the strong sunshine. We also keep the fans running -- overhead fans in the bedrooms and office. Standing floor fans in the downstairs rooms. 

Even with our shutter method, the upstairs is decidedly warmer than the downstairs by evening, but once the sun goes down, the shutters are opened and I place a fan in front of the window to suck in the cooler air. 

At night, the temperature has been dropping down to 16 or 17 Celsius, in the 60s Fahrenheit. That gives the house a chance to cool off before the next day's heat assault. 

Once you get used to it, it doesn't seem so hard to live without air conditioning. After all, we've already adapted to only run the dishwasher and the washing machine at night when the electricity prices are lower. 

Sunday, July 03, 2022

A Moment in Time

For the past six months, I’ve taken a picture on the last day of each month of the bridge and river on my way home from a walk or run. 
Sunny January but the trees that aren't conifers are bare

February things began to sprout

March and the mountains start to look green

April going out like a lion with rain

In May the river was lined with flowers

This is a sad June picture, overcast and the water severely down,
 but some rain is predicted this week

This last picture is the view from the bridge, back toward where I usually shoot the picture. The road isn't really visible, but you can see the cemetery that borders the road. 

On July 2, I was walking across the bridge and caught this fisherman in action. 

I won't get to take pictures on the last day of the month for the next few months. We're headed back to the States to spend some time with Mom and Dad. Dad is freshly out of the hospital and we have no reason not to go help out, except that we may miss some parties, and even I'm not that selfish. 
Hopefully, we'll get to enjoy the summer fêtes in France next year. 
This year though, we'll get to enjoy August in Florida. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

French Bread Secrets

It’s true that many places in France have baguette vending machines. Baguettes are iconic in France, and a meal isn’t a meal without bread. 
The vital vending machine

This morning, after an hour-long hike before the temperatures rise too high, I stopped at the bakery and saw a woman filling the baguette machine. 
I knew I needed to peek inside to learn the secrets of the baguette vending machine and share it too. 
The young woman politely stepped back and let me snap a picture while juggling the bread and pastries I had already purchased. 
Et voilà! 
The inner workings
Baguettes lined up in a row waiting for customers to put their 1,20 in and have a baguette slide into their hands. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

@AmericanAirlines - You Broke a Mother's Heart Last Night

 I can't tell you how excited I have been for the past few weeks as I anticipated Spencer's visit to us in France.

Spencer visited us in 2018 before we moved to the South of France

He has never been here and my hope is that when he walks in the door he feels that same relief, the feeling of coming home, that I do when I visit my parents. 

He scheduled a week off work. That's not easy as an American. We don't get that many weeks. He paid for his own ticket, choosing a slightly more expensive flight so he could limit his airport time. He paid for a checked bag and an aisle seat. 

We planned to pick him up in Barcelona then to drive to Roses, Spain, a beach community on the Mediterranean to spend a night before returning to our home in the south of France. 

We filled out the required forms for him to enter Spain. He got to the airport in Columbus two hours early to check in and he waited for his flight to Philadelphia where he would board his 7:30 flight to Barcelona, arriving there around 9 on Sunday morning. Then he learned the plane from Columbus to Philadelphia was going to be late, then later. Finally, he realized he would miss his connection in Philadelphia. 

He went onto American Airlines chat hoping for help. He stood in line at the American Airlines desk hoping for help. Finally, the agent told him there was a solution. He could catch the Philadelphia flight Saturday evening. Wait in the airport overnight. Take a flight to Boston the next morning at 9 a.m. then wait in the Boston airport for 12 hours before flying to Barcelona and arriving there on Monday around noon. 

That sounded like hell. An extra 27 hours in the airport. 

He called me on FaceTime. I had been lying in bed texting with him as the clock ticked past midnight here. When he called, I scurried from the darkened bedroom to a room with light. His handsome but frustrated face looked at me from the screen. What should he do? 

Spencer and Tucker leaving Paris in 2018

I didn't think anyone deserved 27 extra hours in the airport when they had scheduled a 12-hour flight. He decided to cancel and go home. And that's when my heart broke, realizing I wouldn't be able to hug him, to chat with him as we sat on the beach, to introduce him to all the friends we have made here, to show him amazing castle ruins or take him on bike rides. 

I slept for a few hours then woke up, worried about him, his disappointment, my disappointment. I wondered if he could get a flight from Cincinnati. It has more international flights and is only 90 minutes away. 

I sent him a text, and even though it was the middle of the night for him, he got on chat with American Airlines. No, they told him, he had asked for a reimbursement so now they couldn't help him. 

No take backsies. 

I tried to convince him, via text, to use his charm, but he was pissed by then, and most of us would have been. 

Sunday morning, Earl and I went on a 20-km bike ride hoping it would help relieve some stress, but it only made me sadder.

 The airline should help him get to Barcelona. Why couldn't they arrange a flight for the same price he paid when we booked six weeks earlier? We weren't booking last minute because of our poor planning. It was their last-minute cancellation that caused us to need a last minute flight. 

So many companies could boost their image if they made some sensible choices by helping clients where they can. I'm not asking for a reimbursement of the hotel costs that we paid for rooms in Roses. I  only want my son here for a week, even fewer days now that the original flight was canceled. 

I just want to give him a hug. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Finally Covid

 Two weeks ago, I started having cold symptoms -- scratchy throat and coughing overnight. I tested at home. Negative for Covid. I tested a few more times throughout the week and continued to be negative as my voice took on a deep throaty sound. 

While I lay about in bed, spring finally arrived here in the South of France. 

Some friends suspected it was allergies, others diagnosed me with a cold. 

On Wednesday, I was feeling bad enough that I told Earl he could go to a checkup doctor appointment without me. 

On Sunday we were scheduled to go to a ski resort with some friends. I decided to test one more time on Saturday. Surprise! I had Covid. I don't know at what point I went from cold or allergies to Covid, but I had tested negative throughout, until I didn't anymore.

Some people say those at home tests don't work, but when I tested for Covid, the line for positive appeared within seconds. There was no need to wait 10 or 15 minutes. I walked down to the pharmacy for an official test and they confirmed that I had Covid. In France, if you have a medical card (Carte Vitale), the test is free if you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who had Covid. The pharmacy test result included a code that I could scan to the Covid app, and it would notify people who had come in contact with me. 

I cancelled our hotel reservations and isolated in our bedroom suite -- bedroom, office with terrace and bathroom. (It sounds more plush than it is, at least until the bathroom gets redone in June.) I didn't feel horrible: just a headache, fever and tired. For three days, I stayed upstairs, sleeping frequently, requesting a pitcher of water so I could refill at my leisure. Earl made me meals and ran to the store for things we needed. Until he tested positive on Tuesday. 

Then we figured we could just have a Covid house instead of a Covid suite of rooms. 

Once I was allowed to roam the house, I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup. 

After five days of resting, I tested negative in a home test. The next day I went to the pharmacy and they confirmed that I was negative. Friends, of course, were so helpful, going to the store to pick up groceries and offering lots of help while we were both sick. 

Now we're on day 8. Earl, who previously didn't believe the at-home tests worked, is continuing to test positive. The tests cost 1.95 euros per test at the grocery. Since Earl is still positive, but I feel I have a golden pass for a couple of months, I've gone out to meet with friends for coffee or walks, but I am getting a bit anxious to resume our busy social life. 

So far, none of our friends have said they caught it from us. That is one thing I worried about. 

Thank goodness for the vaccine which made my case of Covid so mild. I know people who still struggle with breathing difficulties two years after their initial case of Covid. 

The illness was worse than a cold but definitely not as bad as the flu, for me. But perhaps the healing process was helped by being forced to isolate so I had days to just rest so I could get better. 

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...