Friday, September 17, 2021

Living Under a Vaccine Passport

Tuesday morning, Earl and I drove to the city of Castelnaudary. 

Beautiful flowers fly above the streets

We parked in the lot across from the hospital, and I went in for my first French mammogram. But before I could enter the hospital, I needed to show my pass sanitaire. The pass sanitaire is a vaccine passport. If you haven't been vaccinated in France, forget visiting the hospital for yearly exams like mammograms or colonoscopies.  

Here in France, we are required to show a Pass Sanitaire. That is a QR code that proves we have been vaccinated if we want to eat in a restaurant, have coffee in a café, or enter the square to listen to live music. 

Cappuccino is available with the pass sanitaire

The rules began on August 9th and since then, surprisingly, cafes and restaurants have been busy with patrons who willingly pull out their phones and show their passes. France currently has a loophole that people can get tested every three days and show their negative tests. The Covid tests are free for French residents now, but in October, residents will have to start paying for them, 50 euros per test. That is in hopes of convincing people to get the vaccination instead of getting regularly tested. 

There are many French people who are upset about the requirement. There are even some restaurants and bars resisting. They don't ask to see the pass or they don't scan them. 

A music fete this summer where our pass sanitaire was screened before we could enter the square.

One cafe owner said "We hate to ask our friends for their pass." Then she hesitated and said, "But a coffee, that's not really a necessity, is it?" And that's the point. You don't have to go out for a coffee. You want to go out for a coffee or for a drink with friends. 

Here in France, we know what it is like to forego those pleasures. From October 30, 2020 through June 9, 2021, restaurants and bars were closed for dine in, whether outside or in. We didn't sit and drink with our friends. No music played in the town squares. We were lucky to wander through markets with our masks firmly in place to buy the necessities -- food only. Clothing and trinkets were not included in the markets. 

Now, it's our turn, the vaccinated, to go out on the town. To raise a glass and celebrate that we have survived the initial phase of a pandemic. 

A kir perhaps

In Esperaza, a town know for its free spirits, the Gendarmes patrol the market, reminding people to keep their masks up firmly over their mouth and nose. 

This picture truly captures Esperaza

Earl and I sat for a coffee one Sunday, listening to music nearby as two guys played the didgeridoos. The waiter came out to take an order of a nearby table. The woman sat smoking a cigarette. The waiter asked for her pass sanitaire. She said she didn't have it. He said he couldn't serve her. She protested, waving her cigarette in the air. No, he insisted and she reluctantly left the outdoor café. Her empty table was quickly snapped up by someone who was vaccinated. 

I heard a French official explain that for a year and a half, he and his daughters had been isolating to avoid the virus and to avoid spreading the virus. Now they have their vaccines. It is their turn to go out to restaurants and movies and music festivals. Those who aren't vaccinated can isolate, staying home to avoid getting Covid. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Yay, For My Legs!

If you were ever to ask me, what part of your body would you want to change, I would, without hesitation, say my legs. My legs are short and I have strong calves and chunky thighs. I'm kind of used to them, it started happening around 5th grade as I hit puberty. I always envy those people with sculpted legs;when they put their legs together, there are three perfect triangles between their ankles and calves, calves and knees, and thighs. That's not and is never going to be me. But today, I'm feeling very thankful for the strength of my legs. So thank you legs, for not letting me down. 

Sunday morning, we took our friends' dogs for a walk and snapped a beautiful photo of the clouds in the mountains. Thanks, legs, for being strong. 

Then we rode our bike 12 miles to a market and had coffee and pastries with our friends Sue and Steve. Again, my legs came through, pedaling hard, even when we had to go up a steep bit to check on another friends' house.

Saturday, I ran 7 miles! It wasn't fast but I didn't stop to walk, just kept moving, my legs churning and churning, out 3.5 miles and back 3.5 miles. (That's 11.2 kilometers total). It's probably been over a year since I've had a string of good runs, so I have been determined to get back on track, following a training schedule. I can't tell you the last time I ran 7 miles, but I owe it all to those sturdy legs (well, the lungs and heart helped too). 

Legs still climbing
Just a few weeks ago we climbed Mount Bugarach, again I owe a huge thanks to my legs, partially my arms too on those very rocky parts. 

The next time you think to complain about how a body part looks or how you wish it looked a different way, just think about what an amazing job it does. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Beach Birthday Celebrations

 Last week, my friend Sue had her first French birthday. This fell right before her first French wedding anniversary and her official Franciversary, the day she moved to France. 

We all wanted to celebrate so we took a day at the beach. 

The beach reminded me of my days in Corsica.

Our friends have a puppy, so we had to look for a beach where dogs were allowed. We ended up going to La Franqui and walking to a part of the beach where there weren't any "No Dog" signs. 

But first, we had lunch along the waterfront. 

A lake, or etang, stretched inland between the sand and the sea

Although it looks beautiful and had lots of birds in it, it was a little stinky.

Sue and I toasting her birthday. I had sangria. 
Earl and Steve in matching blues
After lunch, we began the long walk out across the sand. But the sand was soft and not too hot. We took the dog off the leash and he ran like a crazy hound into the etang trying to scare off the seagulls. We kept walking farther and farther down the beach trying to avoid the "No dog" signs. Finally, I suggested we just play dumb if anyone approached us about the dog. There were other dogs, so we set up our beach blanket and the dog rolled on it immediately, sprinkling it with sand.

The pup in the foreground. Earl striding into the Mediterranean

This was a pretty perfect beach. The sand was soft. The entrance into the Med was not precipitously steep as it had been at some beaches. We could walk a long way out without it getting too deep, as a matter of fact, a sandbar allowed us to stand in knee-deep water and let the waves break around us. 
Paddling around in the sea when it's a gorgeous blue is glorious. 
Afterward, we tried to rest on the beach, but the dog had other plans. 
He immediately began digging, covering our blanket with sand. We tried shaking it out a few times but he went right back to digging. 
Earl spread a towel away from the blanket to see if the dog was after us specifically or just the blanket. At one point, the pup was just pummeling me with sand and I had to go back in the sea to rinse off all the sand. I still found a bunch caked around my ears in the shower that night. 
Sue and Steve thought it was hilarious, until the dog turned his digging super powers on them. 
Digging to Australia.
Ice cream on the boardwalk

After rinsing off, we headed back to the boardwalk for beers and ice cream. Mine was a Mama Mia with salted caramel ice cream and sauce. The addition of the Haribo candies did nothing for me. 

This was a terrific beach and we'll definitely visit again. As September stretches in front of us, we know our beach adventures are coming to an end soon. 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Reveling in Revel

 My new-found weekend freedom led us to Revel on Saturday.

The center of town has a covered market and a bell tower on top.

If we'd known, they give tours from atop the bell tower on Saturday mornings. Next time!

Revel is about an hour and half away from us and we got a late start so didn't arrive until 11 a.m. If you've been to French markets, you know that the market will soon be closing down around noon or shortly after. It is a Bastide town, which means it was originally fortified by walls against marauders. 

The Medieval buildings in the background, the arcades or covered passageways behind the vendors.

Revel is a charming town with Medieval roots, as is obvious from the timbered buildings, including some that are being shored up at the front so they can be rebuilt at the back. It reminds me of Mirepoix, but the square and the historical center are more substantial than Mirepoix. 

The facades will remain

If you're looking for bras, socks or summer dresses, this is not the market for you. It's hard core food and from the region. And even though this is the first weekend after the Rentrée, when everyone goes back to school or work, it was crowded. Every seat was taken at every café as we walked around the outer part of the market -- twice. We decided we'd skip coffee and just eat lunch in awhile, so we wound around the inner part of the market.  

The beams that hold up the 14th century roof over the marketplace
More beams and plenty of tomatoes

Then Earl glanced across the way, saw some empty chairs and made a beeline for a plastic table. We sat, waiting a bit for coffee, but the view was nice and the people watching was excellent. 

Delicious coffee and relaxing
I'm amazed by the Medieval architecture, but I'm really drawn more
to the metal railings on the building on the left. 
This building is obviously not Medieval, but it is pretty 

After leaving the market with bananas (not locally grown) two lavender plants and some tomatoes, we walked back toward the car. Ahead, we saw a food truck with crepes. We walked toward it, wondering where we could eat. We're American enough to eat in the car, but we've been in France long enough not to. Plus, it's illegal to eat or drink as you are driving in France. 

Across from the crepe stand was a Mexican street food truck. Mexican food is not often found in France. 

The back side of the truck

We stood in line and ordered, similar to a Chipotles kind of plan, burrito or salad. What meat? Chicken for me. What fixings -- salad (lettuce), corn, rice, black beans, creme fraiche (sour cream-ish), then what sauce? Chipotle for me. The French aren't big fans of spicy food, so I thought the medium sauce would be ok. It was, but a bit spicier than I had anticipated.
Definitely street food

 We found a bench under a tree and ate our burritos. I do miss Mexican food. 

But, back in the States, I would miss Medieval villages like Revel. 

Friday, September 03, 2021

The Dancing Fountains in Beziers

After a hectic summer, I have been playing catch up with work, trying to earn more money since I'm not able to teach university classes. Then recently, I learned that a new law in China would prevent teachers from outside China teaching students there. VIPKid is still offering classes to parents who bought packages, but the country suddenly called a moratorium to teaching for a week at the end of summer. I was free from my 12-3 teaching hours for nearly a week. I wasted no time in planning an outing, this time to Beziers. 

The lights and water were beautiful, like fireworks on the ground. 

Earl and I have traveled to Beziers before. Here's a link to a previous post when we considered moving there in 2015 as we visited towns and cities on our reconnaissance mission. But I was hesitant because the Catholic church and rioters killed 20,000 Cathars in Beziers during a crusade in 1209, known as the Albigensian Crusade. It just seemed like bad karma to move there. Bezier is beautiful though with a large swathe of park running through the middle of downtown and buildings in the Haussmann-style of Paris.

A Facebook post for people who live in Languedoc, the former name of our region of France, alerted me to a light and music show in Beziers. The musical fountain occurs at 10 p.m., so we needed to stay overnight. We convinced some friends to come along and traveled the two hours. First, a stop at the nearby beach Valras Plage. We had lunch in the square that faces the beach then spent some time in the cold Mediterranean (I don't think it ever warmed up this year) before dozing on the sand.   

The beach was not very crowded just two days before La Rentree, the day the French return to work and school 
The park in Bezier was decorated with all kinds of colorful creatures.
Us at the restaurant Pica-Pica
Strange lay out of the deviled eggs with caviar and lobster included

At 10 p.m., the music started. The fountains and lights had been going for a while. I think just the lights and water spurts were magical. 

I'm not sure if the music added anything to it. Some of the songs included YMCA, Laissez-moi Danser, and Formidable. 
Definitely worth watching.
Some of the illuminations in the park
The next morning, we had breakfast and wandered around the park, posing for a selfie in front of this Titan fountain. 
With Sue and Steve

This theater has topiary chess pieces in front of it. 

We stopped in Narbonne on the way home and had lunch at a restaurant along the Canal du Midi. 
The cathedral in Narbonne and an amazing sky. 

Lovely relaxing days without any teaching.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Climb Every Mountain

 There's a strange upside-down mountain in the Aude of France and today we climbed it. 

Earl at the peak 

Pic de Bugarach is about 45 minutes away. It's lore is probably bigger than the mountain though. It's called upside down because the lower layers are younger than the higher ones. Some legends say there is a space ship inside the mountain. In 2012, as the Mayan predictions of the end of the world circulated, people gathered at Bugarach where they thought they would be safe from destruction because the aliens would take them to another planet. About 10,000 people gathered there on December 21, 2012. But the world didn’t end and they stayed on earth. 

We had no such expectations as we started our hike today. Our friends Alain and Isa led the expedition. Alain had climbed Bugarach before. He’s French so typically underplayed how difficult it would be. 

When we started, all fresh and hopeful

Alain said the first part was difficult but then it was easy. About an hour and a half, he said. Then when we arrived he said the first hour was difficult. Gulp! 

The walk was uphill as you’d expect on a mountain. There were some tricky bits, but as we rounded a corner, the wind began to blow ferociously and I climbed with my hands up a rocky wall. 

Isa and Earl looking like they're at the end of the world, maybe walking to Mordor
The part that nearly did me in

I felt like a kids’ picture of a stick person on the side of a mountain. I sat down halfway up and took off my hat then pulled on my sweater. Before I turned around and started up again. Holding onto the rocks as I climbed against the relentless wind. Half way up, I stopped and took off my hat so it didn't blow away. I also put on my jacket. As I turned around to start climbing again, a water bottle fell from my backpack but I wasn't about to scramble down to get it. I would retrieve it on the way back. 

Looking a bit bedraggled at the top of the mountain

I have never felt a fear of heights while climbing before, but I think the wind added to my fear because it was so strong. 
We enjoyed Isa's stories as we climbed and we made fun of a man behind us who was carrying his fluffy white dog while scrambling over rocks. We saw a few vultures.

At the peak, we ate our sandwiches and some trail mix before heading down again. 

I had been dreading the downhill, wondering how I would get down that rock face. I anticipated sliding on my butt for much of the trek. 
Alain and Isa were not put off by the strong winds at the peak
A gap between ridges
High and rocky

But the hike down was fairly quick and I was halfway down before Earl stopped to pick up my water bottle and I looked behind me. I was walking down the rock face, no problem. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Kirkus Review Mention

 Searching for some news articles I had written, I googled myself and came across a Kirkus Review article that featured my book Paris Runaway. Not the initial review, which was flattering, but an article call "The Last Time They Saw Paris" by David Rapp in March 2018.

Hmmm. What could I have been doing in March 2018 that I didn't notice? Oh, I know. I moved to France and was trying to sort out my new life. 

The article is very flattering. Here's the link in case you want to take a look. 

But I'll let you see the first two paragraphs here: 

The city of Paris has long captivated American writers. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and James Baldwin set key works there, and the City of Light’s rich history, gorgeous structures, and stunning artworks remain sources of fascination for authors in all genres. Here are a few eclectic works that Kirkus Indie has reviewed that take full advantage of the French capital’s many charms:

Beginning with -- moi!

 Paulita Kincer’s Paris Runaway (2016), 50-year-old American Sadie Ford finds out that her 17-year-old daughter has gone to Paris with the intention of losing her virginity to a French foreign-exchange student named Luc Rollande, so she hops on a plane to stop her. Along the way, she meets Luc’s attractive father, with whom sparks soon fly. Kirkus’ reviewer calls this novel an “enjoyable romp,” noting that “through [Sadie’s] wanderings, readers get a first-rate tour of the city, complete with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that make it unique.”

Oh la la! I can almost pretend I'm in the same league with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Baldwin. 

I do think that Paris Runaway is a fun read with a lot of French scenery, wine and foods. If you haven't read it yet, here's the link to and another link to the book on

Here's the original Kirkus Review of Paris Runaway and the link

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Canoeing and Tipping in the Aude

 Monday, we finally made it on a long awaited canoe trip. We have changed the date three times because of bad weather. 

Old bridge supports framed our back and forth movements down the river. 

We went with our friends Ray and Claudine who are into more extreme sports than we are, but they assured us this was a level 1 canoeing trip, just a calm ride down the Aude river in the south of France. 

Earl and I have limited canoeing skills. We haven't gone canoeing very often, and certainly not in areas with rapids. We have been kayaking on a canal in the past few years and of course we floated on rafts down a river in Massachusetts several times, but that did not prepare us for the canoe trip. 

The biggest problem was mostly the yelling between the two of us. That and getting stuck on rocks and having to get out on slippery rocks where the water is running fast to budge the canoe off the rocks. And one time, we did turn over completely with Earl going under the water because it was deep there. 

Tipping over
Although it looks like I'm leaning on the canoe to keep Earl from emerging, I wasn't.

The circus-type atmosphere did not prevent us from enjoying the beauty during the calm parts of the river. At one point we saw two blue herons take flight and crisscross above the river like a beautiful dance. 

Ray and Claudine would stop and wait for us. That's how they took so many pictures.

The water was low, so that might have been part of the problem as we got stuck on rocks. Earl and I were just too heavy and weighed down the canoe rather than skimming over the rocks. Surprisingly, there were a lot of important decisions to make as we paddled along the canoe, watching Ray and Claudine go before us. If they had a hard time or got stuck, we would try another route , but it wasn't usually better than the route they had taken. 

Ray and Claudine were much more in sync than we were. 

At one place, we pulled the canoes up on some rocks and looked at caves. My phone was tucked away in the waterproof container that stores important things on the back of the canoe, so I don't have pictures. But Claudine did take this picture of us before we climbed back in the canoe. 

 It wasn't far from the caves to the end, so it should have all gone splendidly, but as Earl got in the canoe, I pushed it off the rocks and hopped in, I felt a pain in the back of my thigh just below my swimsuit. Had I sat on a burr from the hillside? Nope, a bee sting. What are the odds that I would sit on a bee in a canoe. Very rare. Luckily, the cold water helped ease the pain of the sting and I'm not allergic.

We provided our friends with a lot of laughs as we meandered down the river, getting stuck, turning over, getting stuck again, going down some whitewater backward at one point. But we agreed that we would try it again in the future when the water level got a bit higher. 

After canoeing, we stopped at a friend's restaurant in Couiza. Andy is an English chef who has worked on Russian yachts among other places. Last year he started a restaurant right before Covid hit. We had been there once before for English roast, which is a Sunday thing with meat and Yorkshire pudding and lots of roasted vegetables. But we aren't English so it was hard to judge. 

Monday's meal assured us that dining at Andy's restaurant À Table, which means "to the table" or "come to the table" in French, is a great experience. It started with some amuse bouches, baba ganouches (like a humus from eggplant) and little potatoes with spices and a mayonnaise-type sauce to dip them in. We ordered the 19.95 Euro menu which included a starter, a main course and a dessert. But before the starter, first there was another amuse bouche of gazpacho.  

We weren't sure, so asked the server and she said we were supposed to drink it.
It had a kick to it with garlic, pepper and paprika added. 
For my starter, I had a poached egg served over spinach and a basket made of parmesan cheese.
The main dish for me was lamb plus gratin potatoes. I paid a 6 euro supplement for the lamb. 
And for dessert, a sticky toffee pudding with a side of ice cream. I hadn't eaten
sticky toffee pudding before going to Andy's restaurant, so I can't compare it, but
the first few bites taste like delicious brown sugar and butter. 

We left Andy's restaurant very full but delighting in the delicious meal. 

We might not be able to canoe very well, but we can eat a nice French lunch and return home for a nap with the best of them. 

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'...