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. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Birthday Extraordinaire

Last week I celebrated a birthday. Not a milestone birthday, but everyone made it feel so special. 

Starting with my friends Claudine and Ray who couldn’t be with me but made a giant sign in the sand. 
I began the day with a run then showered and met friends at the cafe for coffee and viennoiseries (breakfast pastries) but since it was my birthday, I got a l’éclair au café. Normally that would be an after lunch or dinner pastry. 
Next, we were off to Narbonne Plage. No sit-down restaurants were open but we found a bar that served paninis and fries as we sat on a swinging seat and sipped our Aperol spritzes. 

Afterwards we headed down to the beach for a walk and some sand time. It was sparking and not too windy. I only put my feet in the water. 

Next we drove to Narbonne and walked around the old city. The square was full of people soaking up the sun.

 A Roman road rests in the middle of the square, about 8 feet lower than today’s plaza. 
This is a picture of the road from a previous trip to Narbonne.  
This road originally ran from the Mediterranean to Briancon in the Alps. 
Next we explored the cathedral in Narbonne which is always striking. 

No filter. That’s how blue the sky was. 

We got home in the evening in time to chat with all the kids and mom and dad back in the States. 
Some amazing gifts included an espresso maker, an olive tree for the terrace, some luxurious bath gels, a blooming hyacinth, a silk scarf and robe, a sparkly green plant, a bottle of champagne and the pleasure of spending time with my amazing friends. 
Just another birthday in France. . 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Winter Life in France

Winter life is different because fewer people are out and about. 
This has been a cold winter compared to last when it only got down to freezing 3 or 4 times. This year the temperature hovered around 0 Celsius for about two weeks when we awakened. But sometimes the temperature would soar to the 60s (midteens Celsius) under very blue skies. 
Frost still on the ground but the sun has reached the mountains.

I prefer a nice moderate temperature, like this morning it was 8 Celsius, about 46 Fahrenheit. Perfect for brisk walks or runs. 
We've  had a few foggy mornings too. 

We’ve been getting together with friends and taking care of necessary items, like this year’s visa, or titre de séjour. Ours is safely in hand for another year. After five years in France, we can apply for a 10-year card; I'll need to pass a French test and we'll have to show them five years of taxes, so fingers crossed that we succeed next year. They have an age limit, and over 65, visitors don't have to pass the language test. 
We've had a few outings. 
I explored Perpignan with a friend and we found a cozy alley filled with people drinking outdoors and listening to music. 
Aperol Spritz and Vermouth and soda

Then we went to a nearby restaurant for a scrumptious meal. 
Hope they don't run out of wine!

I had croquette beouf confit while my friend had La Ricaine -- fries, eggs, and bacon with gravy. A perfect Sunday brunch food. 
We sat at the bar in front of the chefs
We also took an outing to the beach, of course. Isn't there something about February that makes everyone want to go to the beach?

The sun was warm and the beach was inviting, but we weren't crazy enough to go in, although we saw some people going in wearing wet suits, and another guy inching into the water while wearing only a tiny speedo. 

Last week, my friend's mother died and we traveled to her funeral. It was my first French funeral. It was catholic, so that felt familiar, even though in French. 
The church was amazing. (I only took this picture after the congregation had filed out.) 

I wasn't sure about going to the burial, picturing a long procession of cars driving to some far away cemetery. But that's not how it happens here. Instead, everyone walked behind the hearse as it made its way through town, police stopping traffic, and we wound our way through the streets to the cemetery just outside of town.
It felt very intimate to walk behind the coffin and escort it to its final resting place. Prayers at the cemetery and then people filed past to say their final goodbye. Very touching.

The sun shone during the burial, but in the opposite direction, the sky turned dark and ominous. 
Grateful the rain held off during the service

Tonight we have friends coming for a simple dinner of tartiflette and salad.
Tomorrow we go to another friend's house for dinner. 
That's winter life in southwest France. Enjoying the sun during the day, enjoying the company of friends and eating hearty foods in the evening. 

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Weather Wars

 In our hometown, in Columbus, Ohio, they're under a winter storm warning. Schools have been closed.

I checked with our sons and they are safely snuggled up with their girlfriends in their apartments with enough supply to wait out the storm, plus they're still working from home, so they don't have to go out to work. 

One son checked in with us. The freezing rain had turned to snow. "What's the weather like there?" he asked, probably feeling like the whole world was a winter wonderland. 

A swirl of clouds contrasting the blue sky

"You probably don't want to know," I said. But I sent him pictures anyway as we wandered along the Mediterranean at Banyuls-sur-Mer, sipping coffee at a beachside table, 

So picturesque

then walking to a marina. 

Finally we drove over some mountains to Coulliore and had lunch at a table with a view of the gorgeous water. 

Some scaffolding on the church as they do work. 

The sun heated the air into the 60s (16 C) and we felt quite comfortable in the sun. 

There’s something to be said for snuggling up in an apartment during a winter storm, but there’s a lot to be said for walking Ali g the Mediterranean in the sun, too. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022


The problem with not blogging for so long, is that there is way too much to blog about so then it's discouraging and I'll never be able to catch up! 
But, after Sillygirl asked in the comments a few times, I realized that there are some loyal readers who might worry what has happened to me, so I thought I could at least share some pictures with you.
First, we are safely back in France having dodged Covid around the world, well at least in the U.S., Ireland and France, so far. 
We returned a week ago and our friends have been so welcoming and supportive, like they missed us. I know we missed them. 
My first hike back in France, this horse posed with the sunrise between the mountains. 

Our trip to the States, three months long, was too much, but we enjoyed every minute we got to spend with our sons and my parents, plus time with our siblings and nieces and nephews. Then Covid got crazy and we just hunkered down over the holidays, only seeing Tucker, who had Covid the week before we got there, and Spencer and his girlfriend. Earl's sister and her kids and grandkids all had Covid over the holidays, canceling our plans to gather. We ended up skipping out on our flight from Columbus to Florida and renting a car instead to avoid Omicron, which seemed to infect everyone, even those of us triple vaxxed. We couldn't risk taking Covid back to my parents as Dad was preparing to have his pacemaker replaced (all went well). Also, we knew if we tested positive, we wouldn't be able to board the plane back home. After three months  of staying with other people, we were ready to get home. 
But, as always, there's the terrible pull in the pit of my stomach as I say goodbye to my sons or to my parents. Leaving our sons and my parents behind is the hardest part of living in France. When I say that, I hear the scene from Love Actually when Colin Forth tells his Portuguese housekeeper and love interest that dropping her off is the worst part of his day. I find myself reminiscing about the boys' childhoods, the quick patter of their feet on the wooden floors before diving onto our bed in the morning. I see their beautiful chubby cheeks and innocent eyes. 
They're both planning trips to visit us this year with significant others, so fingers crossed that it actually happens. 

Mom and Dad both had birthdays while we visited. They're doing great and staying healthy while avoiding Covid. It's tricky these days. Luckily, their favorite thing, golf, is outdoors. 

We left Florida on a Sunday. Our flights were scheduled Tampa, New York then Dublin. We were spending a few days with Grace and Jack since they hadn't gotten home for Christmas. Jack is still waiting on his visa from the Irish government and doesn't want to leave the country in case there's difficulty returning. Grace is working on her PhD in Archeology, focusing on cultural heritage, especially our area of France. How convenient!
Our Tampa to New York flight got delayed, which meant we wouldn't make our New York to Dublin flight. My knee-jerk reaction was to get to the airport as quickly as possible so we could take an alternative flight. I stayed online with Delta the entire hour and a half drive to the airport and we only got our new flights resolved as we were leaving our rental car. At the airport by 1:30, our flight wouldn't leave til 8:30. Now we were flying Tampa, Atlanta, Paris, Dublin. I know! I couldn't believe I couldn't leave any of our five suitcases in France while we were there. 
But we made it to Dublin the next day and quickly embraced Grace. We enjoyed four nights with her and Jack, making up for our missed Christmas together. 

Daughter/dad hugs. Of course we went for a walk on the beach in Dublin.
We're so lucky to get sun when we're there. 
The countryside is stunning in Ireland, even in January. 

This climb in Bray was a good workout and had beautiful views. 
On Friday we flew back to France and our friend Derrick met us at the airport in Toulouse. It's two hours from home, but flights to the closer airport had been cancelled. 
We arrived home just in time to make it to our visa appointment. 
Since we moved to France in 2018, we have had to renew our visa every year. This is our 5th year, which means next year, we can apply for a 10-year visa or carte de séjour as they're called in France. 
After receiving our visa, we celebrated by walking about La Cité in Carcassonne. As stunning as ever.
The sky and the outer walls of the chateau
And so we're back. We've been enjoying time with friends, drinking inexpensive wine and stocking up on scrumptious pastries, along with walks and runs in the countryside. It's not a bad life.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Book Review The Vanished Collection

As I read The Vanished Collection by Pauline Baer de Perignon, I couldn't help comparing the differences between a book written for a French audience versus a book written for an American audience. In France, the subtleties count. In the U.S., we want the mystery laid out and the answer hinted at throughout so we can feel that sense of accomplishment at the end. 

At the beginning, the conflict was unclear. The author's cousin had hinted that perhaps her great grandfather's painting had been confiscated by the Nazis. Confiscated seems too tame a word. Stolen, taken, ripped from his grasp. But the family thought he had sold his collection. They thought her great grandfather and grandmother voluntarily moved from their Paris apartment. They didn't even think about the Jewish roots of their family and the dangers the ancestors faced living in occupied Paris. Slowly, the author reveals the research she did and how she discovered her great grandfather's life during World War II. 

Having researched the topic of stolen art during World War II for my novel The Summer of France

I was already enthralled by the idea of looking back at undiscovered thefts by the Nazis and the effort it takes to try to redeem the crimes committed in the 1940s. This book was set within the past five years. I enjoyed The Vanished Collection and the peek into the French mind, where no one wanted to discuss the atrocities of the Nazis during the war, preferring not to remember that neighbor turned against neighbor. But the author needed to knock on each door and dredge up each memory to search for the truth of her great grandfather's life. 

You can find this book on Amazon in kindle or paperback

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'...