A little, not so French culture.

One thing I absolutely love about this area is there is so much to do, as I’ve said in the past we have mountains, beaches, the city,  museums, shopping and concert halls you name it – we’ve got it. But every now and then, we veer off the ‘French’ way of life and become just a little bit “Middle Eastern”!

I’ve been married for the last 36 years, quite amazingly to the same man! He’s from Iran, having said that he’s spent more time in the UK and France than his home country and so he has more European habits than Iranian. I won’t do all the gushing about the Persians, suffice to say that if you know one, you’ll know what I mean when I say they are an incredibly friendly, hospitable and proud lot!

Iranian New Year is looming! It falls every year on the first day of spring, which makes sense really, a new beginning. It’s called Nowruz (Now meaning New and Ruz meaning Day.)

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Spring Anemones in my garden!

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My Calla Lilies are unfurling!

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My garden is full of these little fellas, they are called ‘gendarmes’ or ‘policemen’! They are good for the garden I’m glad to report because I have hundreds of them!

Even though I’ve been married to an Iranian for so many  years, I can’t claim to be an expert on all the intricacies of the culture but I do know a little. However, last week I experienced a new celebration, we celebrated The Fire Festival, called Chahar Shanbeh Suri (Red Wednesday).

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The festival dates back to at least 1700 BC during the early Zorastrian Era (one of the oldest surviving religions). It takes place on the last Wednesday of the Persian year. It’s a evening of celebration and enlightenment, friends and family gather to celebrate.  Bonfires are lit and young and old jump over the lit bonfires shouting,”Sorkhi ye to az man, Zardi ye man be to.” Which roughly translated means “Give me your lovely red glow and I’ll give you my sickly colour.” Well something like that! Here in Montpellier there are quite a few Iranians and so every year they get together on the beach and build bonfires and celebrate the Chahar Shanbeh Suri. (All of this information I’ve gleaned from friends, family and Wikipedia!)

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It was a lovely evening, we set off from the house with our other Persian friends and made our way to the beach, the boot of the car full of unwanted pieces of wood and the obligatory, dead, Christmas tree which added flames to the already brightly burning fires, 7 in all, one for each day of the week. It was a lovely evening and not at all cold, we had a packed a picnic, some goodies and a bottle of something French just in case the fires didn’t keep us warm enough. (Well, it would be a shame not to!) The moon which was on the horizon when we arrived, was pale and watery as the evening progressed, the moon rose in the sky and became brighter and brighter, throwing reflections across the sea to the beach, it was truly beautiful. I’m afraid my iPhone photos don’t do it justice!

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Our little bonfires

We duly jumped over the 7 fires, asking that the red glow be ours.  Don’t panic the fires aren’t big, (not like November the 5th fires in the UK). Although I must say the last one was a little larger than the others and I did balk a little, thinking I may just singe the hems of my jeans. It was great fun, we chatted with people that we’d never met before, we shared our wine and others shared what they had bought with them, an evening of partaking and freindship.

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At about 11pm my friend and I had to go and get something from the car, we left the beach and went to the carpark,  found a bench by the side of the road and sat for a while watching the moon and listening to the waves crashing on the beach in the distance when ‘Whoosh’! “What the heck was that?” ‘Whoosh’ again, as we followed the sound we realised that two men had just whizzed by on inline skates, at a rate of knots! A couple of seconds later a third, they zoomed up the road, to the roundabout and zoomed back towards us! One of the chaps stopped to say good evening and have a chat, he set off a little while later to catch up with his friends who’d zipped off into the night! It really is something that a total stranger should stop for a natter at 11pm, he just wanted to say hi and bye. His name was Christophe!

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Now you see him!

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And now you don’t!

We returned to the beach and huddle together, keeping warm by the now, glowing embers. We returned home and as I lay my head on my pillow, I was glowing, I felt so happy. It wasn’t a French evening but it was a very special evening.

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One Year On … living in the South of France.

I woke this morning with the burning desire to write, I’m not sure why. Later on I realised we were the 7th January, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but tomorrow will be exactly one year since we’ve lived in this house. Maybe it’s a timing thing.

We never moved here with the rose-tinted spectacles, we didn’t have visions of us living in a ‘mas’ (typical pink-roofed, stone house with peeling wooden shutters, swimming pool complete with views over the vineyards). We didn’t imagine ourselves sitting at a wrought-iron table, me in my big, floppy, sun hat with flowing, floral dress and the Hubster in his white, linen pants and shirt sipping a chilled, glass of Rosé and nibbling olives while watching the sun go down over the horizon.

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We knew we were coming here to work, integrate and live real lives, we aren’t retired, we aren’t well off and we knew we would have to fit in. We are living the same lives as we did in the UK but we are in France.

My first impressions of living here are ones of joy, happiness, warmth and bewilderment. We have known France for over 30 years, all our holidays have been spent here, my sister lives here, we speak the language and so I was not expecting to be as surprised as I have been.

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The French of the South are incredibly friendly, on entering a shop people (including the other customers) say hello, people here … smile, the southern people will say hello as you pass them in the street, they will stop and help you kindly with directions, there appears a lot less shrugging than you will encounter in Paris for example.

The weather has to be the biggest difference we’ve noticed since we’ve lived here in the south of France. The heat? Yes, but more than that, the brightness, the almost guaranteed daily blue skies and sunshine, it makes such a difference to my mood. I feel a surge of happiness and light-heartedness every morning when I look up at the sky, even on a day like today when it is quite frankly, bloody freezing! (The thermometer dropped to -5 last night) Having said that, the winter here is so much shorter and then it shoots straight into summer with a very short, if non-existent spring!

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When I think that the UK and France are such close neighbours we are poles apart in attitudes and behaviour, especially being down here in the South. I think the one thing that I’ve noticed the most is the completely different sense of humour, I have a dry, quick somewhat (read: very) sarcastic sense of humour, whereas here in France most of the people I’ve met have a very literal sense of what makes them laugh. My dearest french friend explained that in France you wouldn’t insult a friend ‘Why would you do that?’ I explained that we would only do that with a friend because they are the ones who understand that no harm is meant! I watch French comedians on the TV and the audience and guests are rolling around laughing and I don’t get it, I don’t even feel my lips curl up at the edges, it’s just not funny to me. I find myself in situations whereby I have a brilliant, acidic one-liner that springs into my mind but I’ve learned to just push it back as I know that it will either fall on stoney ground, receive strange looks or even worse, offend someone!

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Since I’ve been here I’ve enrolled for the TEFL course, (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Woah, yep I’ve gone back to school! Why oh why didn’t they teach me all this back at school? Do you know your modal verbs, the phonetic alphabet, the 4 conditionals not to mention all the tenses, seriously when was the last time you had to think about whether you were using the Perfect Past of the Future Perfect Continuous? Well, na, na, ne, na, na, I know them now!

You may have already heard about the ‘red tape’ in France! It’s true, every single word is true. I’ve set myself up as a self-employed English teacher and the amount of forms to fill in was staggering and complicated to say the least. The amount of paperwork I received in my letter-box following this was even more impressive. Setting up a bank account was an experience I’d rather forget – I won’t go into detail but let’s just say it got to a stage where I ended up in fits of giggles as I was expecting a hidden cameraman to appear at any moment. I can only compare with the experiences I’ve personally had in the UK, I’m quite sure that anyone foreign settling in my homeland may well tell a different story.

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The south of France has a different clock to the rest of the world, it has three speeds, slow, slower and even more slow! At first we found this so incredibly frustrating, you want an appointment? Sure but it’ll be in about 10 days time, I don’t think anything has been done on the spot, ad hoc, but hey surely that is, in fact, one of the reasons we moved here in the first place, the pace of life.

There are so many pluses it’s hard to know where to start, we are living in quite possibly one of the most beautiful and least advertised areas of France. We have kilometres of beautiful beaches within a 15 minute drive.
We have as previously mentioned, the weather.
We have the hinterland which is stunning, rugged and carpeted with thyme which makes every step a sensory delight.
There are medieval and fortified villages and towns that are waiting to be discovered.
We have gushing rivers, for diving into or canoeing down on a hot day.
There are mountains, should we feel the urge to take a hike vertically.
We have a city within a few minutes walk, which is vibrant, colourful, full of culture and events, many of which are free.
The old historic centre with it’s narrow, little streets in which you can get lost. Montpellier has a holiday feel to it, it buzzes from morning to night, winter as in summer.
The city is virtually car free and there is a fantastic, tramway system.
And last but not least, we have bikes, something I never thought I would do at my tender age of 55 soon to be 56, but my old ‘velo’ has become my trusty steed and I love it to bits.

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And so dear readers, that is how I’m feeling at the moment, and have felt for the last year. I wake every morning and pinch myself just a little bit, I worry that I’ll wake up and realise it was just a wonderful dream, because that’s just it – I’m living my dream.

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Family history … digging up graves!

Firstly, may I just warn you if you are highly religious or not very forgiving, you may not want to read this, it does involve a church, giggles and total ignorance on my part. I apologise in advance, please don’t judge me, we are who we are!
Many years ago I started researching my family tree and even if I do say so myself, I’ve done a pretty good job to date. The family tree has been put on hold for the last couple of years but I was thinking about one of my (not so) fine moments as a Genealogical sleuth!

I never knew my mother’s brother, he died before I was born. He lived and died in London and as I was living in Surrey at the time, I decided to take a trip into London and have search for the house, where my grandparents lived with my mother and her brother when they first came to England from France. I had pored over the old, creased, black and white photographs of the house hundreds of times, and by now felt I knew it.

My friend,  agreed that this sounded like the perfect adventure and decided to join me on my quest and we’d stop for a delicious, lunch in the city. We set off at approximately 11:00, it was a lovely, sunny, bright morning and my spirits were high…off to find 84, Archway Road in Highgate, London. What would we find? Would it be as I imagined? Would I be able to peer over a wall and glimpse the long garden at the back of the house; where I had seen a photo of grandpa posing with a smooth-coated, terrier back in the 1930s?

The journey itself was pretty impressive…not having previously driven in London City traffic, it was a baptism of fire! Nerves were taut, the sheer volume of traffic had me twitching to say the least! I was driving my lovely, new car and was delighted to arrive without a scratch or being hooted at by one of the locals.

I was so excited as I realised we had arrived at Archway Road, my eyes darting from side to side to catch a glimpse of the house numbers; 425, 316, 215 and so it continued. Houses interspersed by small parades of shops, newsagents, corner shops, dry cleaners.

We went under the huge arch over the road, beautifully ornate with the date in gold at the centre ‘1896’, It must have been a magnificent scene back in Victorian times it had since been demolished and replaced. I did read somewhere that it had been nicknamed suicide bridge, not quite so appealing!

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Before

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After

There! A sign 80-88 Archway Road to the left, we continued for a while and found somewhere to park the car. Great, Bank Holidays – Free parking!

We were both hungry and being ladies desperately needed the loo but decided to walk up to find the house and then we would have some lunch.

I was full of anticipation as we left the car and set off up the hill in search of the house. There it was sitting high on the right hand side of the road (imagine on the top of the brick wall in foreground of the above photo) but it was no longer a beautiful, old, Victorian house. Obviously, someone in their wisdom had decided to knock it down and build a Scandinavian style chalet and turn it into flats!!

To the right of the house was an upward, sloping pathway, overgrown with ivy and at the end was a beautiful, ornate, rusty wrought-iron gate leading into the garden of the house behind, a real hide away…this was number 88 and in it’s true, original splendour. This is what number 84 would have looked like. What a shame! I stood with my back to the front of the house and looked out on the most magnificent view of London including the dome of St Paul’s cathedral.

We decided to continue up Archway Road to the Church of St Augustine, we could have lunch later. Surely if my uncle had been living here at the time of his death this may well have been the church that the family would have visited, I could maybe have a search in the graveyard. Who knows what I would find?

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At the entrance, there was a huge archway with two smoked-glass, rather modern doors, my friend pushed and then pulled the doors to enter the church, it was locked. I decided to have a try, surely it would be open, I grabbed the cold metal handles and pushed and shoved, the doors rattling on their hinges, but no, they were locked. The church was closed. Damn!

Disappointment turned to hope when a small man beckoned to us from another door on the side of the building. He greeted us with a big smile, flashing the most perfect set of white teeth. ‘Come in’ he said kindly. I explained that I was looking for the grave of my uncle. He informed us that there was no graveyard as such but there was a cemetery over the road. He invited us in, explaining that there were some members of the congregation who had been going to this church for many, many years and they would be more than happy to help with my search.

So in we went, light hearted and full of hope. What a kind man! What a beautiful church! We followed our guide into the church. I had no sooner placed my foot through the door than I realised a service or mass was in session, of course it was Good Friday! The man showed us to a pew and handed us the service booklet, turned and went and sat in an adjacent pew.
It was packed, so many people! We joined in, we sang a few hymns and listened intently. Following instructions, ‘Kneel and pause a moment’, so down I went, as I got to my knees I noticed my friend, who was a lady of, shall we say, a larger size, was struggling to get down onto her knees, making a loud thudding noise as she landed, no sooner had she made herself comfortable in the cramped area between the two rows of pews than the rest of the congregation stood up again, bless her, she grabbed the pew in front of her and hoiked herself back onto her feet. This happened twice and in quick succession!

The priest and some of his colleagues then launched into the equivalent of a play. The story of the betrayal of Jesus and the crucifixion, one man narrating, the priest speaking the words of Jesus, and we the congregation speaking the words of the crowd…’Jesus of Nazarene’ ‘He is the king of the Jews’ we called…. We went through the whole thing!! You do remember that we both needed the loo, don’t you?

Then a man stood and gave a reading. It was at this stage I looked through the booklet and saw the order of service … we wouldn’t be out before it was dark…there was the cross to bring in, the reverence of the wood, the reverence prayers, of which I think there were about 27, then there was communion to be taken in the Chapel next door! Oh what had we done?

I gestured to my friend and she wasn’t amused she just muttered…’it’s as thick as a novel!’ At this stage, in true Michelle tradition when faced with any serious situation, I was engulfed by a fit of the giggles, my back was shaking, I had tears in my eyes and I soon realised I was grunting! Albeit quietly, but grunting nonetheless, my companion gave me a sharp dig in the ribs and gave me the same look my Mum used to give me when I was a child!

How were we going to get out of this? I certainly didn’t want to show any disrespect but I was now needing the loo more and more desperately! There were so many people and we’d already made a show of ourselves, firstly by rattling and banging the glass doors, well how was I to know that I was visible from the inside? Then we’d entered in the middle of the service and it wasn’t a service that I was familiar with and I could only see exiting as a choice.

I decided damage limitation was the only option, I crept over to the man and explained in a hushed voice that we needed to get back for the children! We placed our booklets down and made a quiet exit. What children?

I don’t know what the congregation must have thought of those two strange ladies that turned up for their Good Friday mass. Sometimes, I feel so guilty for my immaturity but I have to tell you we laughed all the way home! How on earth do I get myself into such ridiculous situations.

Needless to say we never got to the graveyard, never found the grave, never had lunch and we didn’t find a loo until it was nearly too late! To this day, finding the grave is still on my ‘To Do List’ but I think I’ll wait a few more years until I attempt that one again and never on an Easter weekend!

I’m an ENFJ! What are you? Can we trust personality tests?

I wonder if I’m the only one who does this? I’m constantly questioning myself, asking questions about my personality, querying why I react the way I do, how I deal with situations and people, often wondering why I don’t ‘think’ and ‘see’ the same way as others.

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This is a twisted and turned version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, I really like the almost Celtic feel that it has by distorting it.

I’m that sad person who clicks on the links from websites, ‘Personality Finder’, ‘What makes you tick?’, ‘Typical Traits of an Aquarian’ and any other plethora of rubbishy websites out there. I’m never overly convinced by the results, they always seem to be far too ambiguous and could in fact apply to my husband, sister and on some occasions they resemble my dog’s character more than mine!

Maybe all of that has changed, I was browsing a website the other day and there was a reference to a personality test called the MBTI, which stands for the Myers Briggs Test. It started up in 1943, so it’s got some longevity, it’s used often by HR departments and during development and training, this doesn’t mean it’s a scientific test by any means!

I thought I would give it a go. It’s a simple test, a series of questions that you have to answer as honestly as you can, hardly rocket science.

There are 16 personality types according to this test, my results showed that I  am a ENFJ. (E -Extrovert, N – Intuition, F – Feeling, J – Judgement)

So how close to the truth was it? I shan’t go in to all the details because once the test is over, the results come in thick and fast, I’m talking reams of information. I’ll try and go through a couple of character traits that rang true or false with me.

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Eggstaordinary results?

I was interested to see that ENFJ’s have as many weaknesses as strengths! This was interesting as having recently attended an interview, where I was convinced I would be asked what my strengths and weaknesses were, this has been at the front of my mind over the last couple of weeks.  So I wondered if this test would come up with the same answers as me.

May I just start by saying that ENJF’s account for just 2% of the population, no wonder I’m always wondering why I question the way I am compared to others!

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I like being just 2% of the population!

 

 

I couldn’t bear to start with my strengths as it seemed a little big headed, so here we go … all my faults laid bare for all to see!

WEAKNESSES

Tendency to be smothering and over protective

Hard to say, I don’t have children so whether I would be like this or not – I’m not convinced. I’m certainly not over protective of my husband, although I was a devoted dog owner, so maybe! I do tend to take people under my wing so I would say protective but not smothering.

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Tendency to be controlling and/or manipulative

Ouch! Well, I’ll agree to the controlling, I do like to be in control of things (is that a weakness?) However, I refuse to put my hand up to being a manipulator.  I’m not intelligent enough to be manipulative (except Photoshop manipulation!) even emotional manipulation is too much like hard work!

Don’t pay enough attention to their own needs

This is hardly surprising, leg hair grows at an alarming rate, nails need polishing, hair needs washing, of course I don’t pay enough attention to myself, but it’s not just me, it’s every women I know!  On a serious note, I do think that women are born with an inbuilt caring quality whereby they do tend to put others first.

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Aghhhh the pain!!

Tend to be critical of opinions and attitudes which don’t match their own

I wouldn’t have said so, I’m a strong believer in the fact that everyone is different and has the right to their own opinions, blimey, life would be a bore (or maybe not) if everyone thought the same as me! I will however own up to not liking criticism, yes I know it’s constructive but I’m still not mad keen on it!

Sometimes unaware of social appropriateness or protocol

This is getting serious now! Well, if I’ve had a glass or four of wine, what would you expect? No, I’m sorry I’m not accepting this! And by the way if I am ever guilty of that, then I blame my MUM!! (Sorry Mum!). May I also point out that not everyone can balance a spoon on their nose!!

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Etiquette, what etiquette?

Extremely sensitive to conflict, brushes things under the carpet

This is pretty apt, although with age I am getting much better at getting stuck in.  I don’t like arguments, I don’t like to see others upset and I don’t like being upset myself, in my opinion, an argument can waste a day of your life and life is too short.

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Under the carpet, head in the sand, whatever!

Tendency to blame themselves when things go wrong and not give themselves credit for when things go right

Well, I certainly wouldn’t take the blame for something that I didn’t do,(I’m not a total buffoon)  but I am pretty rubbish at taking credit for myself. If I were better at it, I would’ve taken my photography to another level!

STRENGTHS

Phew, glad that’s over! Now let’s see something a little more positive …

Good verbal communication skills

Well, I have to agree that I’m a talker, Mum used to call me a chatterbox but now I’m in my 50’s (I’m a quick learner) I have calmed that down a little although I can be heard gabbling away to myself.

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Words, there’s just so many of them!

Very perceptive about people’s thoughts and motives

If, by this, they mean empathetic then yes, I stand guilty as charged. This is definitely one of my character traits.

Motivational, inspirational, brings out the best in others

This is pretty close to what I had regarded as my own strength, I had thought enthusiastic and able to motivate others, so thats pretty damn good.

As for inspirational – Wow I wish! Do let me know if any of you find me inspirational – so we can have a good laugh!!

One of those Days!

Definitely brought out the best in this fella!

Warm, affectionate and affirming

Wow, I’m beginning to look like an angel aren’t I?

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A cross-eyed angel!

Fun to be with, sense of humour, energetic, optimistic

I would say I do have a sense of humour, a very British, dry sense of humour which isn’t always understood here in France, I do tend to get some very odd, spaced-out looks every now and then! As for Energetic and Optimistic, that’s me alright, buckets of both. 10 out of 10 for that.

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Opimistic? It must be what I drink every morning, a little cup of rainbow!

Good money skills

I knew this was going too well! Good money skills, are you kidding me? I’m dreadful with money. It’s not that I spend a lot, in fact, I hate shopping, so that’s not my problem. I blame it on number dyslexia, even though I keep the accounts accurately, I have a total inability to remember numbers!

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Loyal and committed

Another definite quality that I possess, 35 years of marriage can vouch for that!

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Strive for the Win-Win situation

Someone I know will giggle when she reads this! You know who you are!!

Driven to meet others’ needs

I have worked for years with the public and in Customer Service so this too makes a lot of sense.

 

And so there you have it? Me, in a nutshell! I think overall the result was pretty acurate, what I’m going to do with all this information is a mystery! If nothing else, it was fun, harmless and gave me a topic for a blog!  I would recommend giving it a go if you have 30 minutes to spare. Just google MBTI test and you’ll find it online.

Keep in Touch

A ‘Keep In Touch’ Greeting card, featuring a collection of pens on a white background.

Drop me a line and let me know how you get on …

 

Best Laid Plans … I don’t think so!

Wow! I had no idea my post from last night would receive such a response. I had a couple of messages here at WordPress but on my Facebook page, I received so many comments from women in exactly the same position as me with regards to odd sleeping patterns!

So here I am, again, at 2:30a.m. perched on my stool in front of the PC. I went to bed at about midnight and fell into a heavy slumber only to wake up 2 hours later – full of beans!

Today, was one of those days where nothing really goes the way we’d planned, or had nearly planned!

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Superb views, empty roads and rising temperatures!

Our lovely friends wanted to take us to a restaurant on the outskirts of Montpellier, we’d  been wanting to go for a while but seeing as it’s been Tourist season and the last Saturday of the month had passed, we decided today would be the day. Anticipating, our trip, this morning I laid out a lovely summer dress and prepared my bag, complete with camera.  An added bonus came in the form of a phone call from our friends to say after our meal out we would be taken to see the waterfalls, not far from the said restaurant, where we could go for a dip. How exciting! I busied myself, collecting all the things we would need in my beautiful wicker basket, swim shoes, bottles of water, towels, suntan lotion, bikini, “Where’s your costume” I shout to the Hubster, no answer, I go and find him and ask him where his swimming costume, OK, I go and get the said costume  and pop it in the basket. Great – ready for the off!

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The scenic route

We were just waiting for the phone call to tell us at what time to leave, (depending on the reservation) collect a friend on the way and Bob’s your uncle.

The phone rang, damn it, the restaurant was full! Operation Subsitution was deployed, my friend and I hit the internet, to find a replacement restaurant in the same area.  Bingo! 15 minutes later, a reservation was made. OK it wasn’t the restaurant that we had wanted to go to, but hey, we were going out for the day, with our friends, the sun was shining and we were going to the river! What more could I ask for?

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More beautiful views

Watches synchronised, we made for the car.  We had to get a move on, the booking was at 1 p.m.and we had about an hour’s drive. I called our friend to say we were on our way to collect him, ‘Ah I’m not going to make it!’he tells me! Unforeseen circumstances had scuppered his plan to join us. We set off, one down!!

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The ivy clad restaurant

 

We were to meet our other friends en route, we made it on time and followed them through the beautiful French countryside to the substitute restaurant – it didn’t disappoint. The location and food were splendid and we thoroughly enjoyed our long, leisurely lunch. I opted for, Amuse Bouches, followed by a beautifully cooked, rump steak with peppercorn sauce, accompanied by Dauphinoise potatoes and Aubergine mash, washed down with a chilled bottle of local rosé wine. All of this followed by the most scrumptious chocolate and pear dessert! Yum!

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Entrance to the terrace of the resto

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Restaurant garden

We left the restaurant, taking the scenic route to the waterfalls. I stood on the bridge, the best vantage point to take in the view. Oh boy, what a disappointment! Not the waterfalls, but the sheer amount of people who had settled in for the day, I could hardly believe my eyes. They were everywhere!

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Not a spot to be found!

Groups of people, young and old,  families gathered having picnics, youths plunging into the water, children shouting, babies crying, dogs barking, people just standing around chatting and socialising,  there was such a cacophony being carried on the breeze up to the bridge where I stood. It was multicoloured mayhem! Needless to say we didn’t stay! We got back into our, now, very warm cars and in baths of perspiration and desperation hit the air-con button.

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I told you it was busy!

OK not a problem, we decided we would make our way to our usual location on the river, for a dip before heading home. As we approached the spot, there were no parking places at all but a kilometre or so further on, we pulled in and parked up. By now, everyone was ready to plunge into the nearest pool of water. We just had to climb down the steep bank to the river’s edge. Laden down with bags, baskets, camera and now feeling very, very, hot and if I’m honest, a little irritable due to lack of sleep, I soon realise why  we don’t normally come to this spot! I could’ve done with crampons and a guide rope!

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Desperately seeking swimming spot!

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One of the pretty riverside villages on our trip

The relief when we got to the bottom was evident, the guys dumped everything they were carrying and launched themselves into the crystal clear water, splashing me temptingly with the cool droplets. I ferreted through my basket, ‘Bikini, bikini, where’s my bikini?’ I called half-heartedly to the Hubster ‘Have you seen my bikini?’ I knew the answer, of course he didn’t know where it was, I had a sinking feeling as I realised my bikini was back at home, lying on the bed! More sinking feelings as I realised that as we’d been to the restaurant, I wasn’t wearing my usual shorts and scruffy teeshirt, Oh no!

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Improvising!!!!

Well, not being a girl who takes no for an answer, (well not often!), I threw off my shoes,  hitched up my skirt and waded fully dressed in the river, I got soaked, from head to toe, from outer garments to my underwear and I didn’t have a care in the world. I spent the rest of the afternoon in various stages of undress until my clothes were ‘dryish enough’ to get back in the car for the drive home, where I’m pleased to announce I managed to drop off for about 10 minutes and felt like a new woman by the time we arrived, even if I did look as though I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards. The sight in the bathroom mirror was somewhat creased, damp and dishevelled!

This evening was spent having an impromptu meal with our friends, it hadn’t been planned and you know what? Everything went without a hitch – wouldn’t you know it?

 

 

Insomniac or Biphasic?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you’ll know that most of my blogs are written in the middle of the night!
For years I have considered myself to be an insomniac, after all, I spend hours of the night awake, wandering around the house wondering why I’m so alert when the rest of the neighbourhood is in slumber. I look for things to do that don’t make too much noise, I’ve done the ironing in the past, edited my photographs, played endless games of Candy Crush, Solitaire and Bejewelled Blitz, watched ridiculously boring TV programs on mute with the subtitles on! My salvation was my blog (which has been on hold recently as we’ve been up to our eyes in brick dust, plaster and paint but there lies another story).

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My friend the moon, always keeps me company!

Typing away at the computer has been my saving grace. I just love the peace and quiet, I used to have Charlie, my canine companion, lying at my feet breathing heavily as he slept next to me.  Now it’s just me, with the soothing, gentle snoring of the Hubster and a damn fly buzzing around the room. Eventually, in a couple of hours later, I will feel my eyelids grow heavy and I’ll toddle back to bed for another couple of hours sleep.

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Just one of my night-time past-times!

Back to the insomnia, the Hubster and I have had endless ‘heated’ discussions about my nighttime antics, he just ‘does not’ understand why I can’t sleep eight hours as he (and most of the western world) does. He thinks I’ve trained myself into waking up! Sure, that sounds like a brilliant idea doesn’t it? Admittedly, I do tend to have habits that aren’t really conducive to a good night’s sleep, nicotine and caffeine, but he’s the same so how come his head hits the pillow and he gets a full eight hours totally comatose and I’m lying there twitching, not to mention the dreaded hot flushes that go with my age!

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My drug of choice

Whenever I talk of my lack of sleep, I receive no end of advice:

  • Stop drinking coffee after 11 a.m. – you’ve got to be kidding right? Me? Not drink coffee? (I would give up the will to live if I didn’t have that sweet, black, strong nectar)
  • Have a warm bath before bedtime – this just gives me, what I call, runny legs and I’m fidgeting for hours.
  • Drink herbal concoctions and trust me I’ve heard them all and tried most of them – yeah, well I’m sorry they just make me pee, I’m up and down like a Jack Rabbit, so that kind of defeats the object!
  • Herbal tablets – great if you want to look and feel like a zombie for the next 24 hours, listen I’m 55 years old, looking half-decent in the morning is hard enough!

I’ve tried so many remedies and I can say, hand on heart, I haven’t yet found one that works. I’ve never been to the doctor with my problem as I’ve always been fortunate enough to have evening or late starting jobs and so manage to get a nap in during the day before starting work.

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Tick tock, Tick tock!

I was describing my nocturnal habits to my friend the other day and said that I have a pretty regular pattern, I go to bed, drop off almost immediately and then almost every single night, four hours later I wake up and I’m ready to face the day, fully refreshed, yep at 3, 4 or 5 in the morning! What? it’s a nightmare! What to do? Do I get up or do I lie there and try to go back to sleep? I inevitably get up, find something to do and a couple of hours later go back to bed and manage to fit in another couple of hours.

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And the morning arrives, just as I’m ready to go back to bed!

It was while I was telling her about my 4 hours blocks of sleep that I decided to have a quick look on the internet and see what I could find and by jingo, there it was!!! Eureka! I couldn’t believe it, there’s a condition called Biphasic sleep and believe it or not, up until we had street lamps, just about everybody would have this pattern of sleep. People would have their 1st sleep and then their 2nd sleep! Just like me!

Charles Dickens mentions first and second sleep and in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales there is a reference to ‘firste’ sleep. I quote from Wikipedia.org;  “A case has been made that maintaining such a sleep pattern may be important in regulating stress. An interesting point is that the waking period was used to pray and reflect, interpret dreams, scholars and poets would write uninterrupted whilst others would visit neighbours, engaged in sexual activity or committed petty crime.” (Thank you Wikipedia!!) not that I’m about to go out stealing in the dead of night!

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The proverbial wooden hill?

It’s normal, I’m normal, I can’t tell you the huge sense of relief I felt as I read the articles about it, experiments and studies that had been done, this was me, this is my night-time cycle. It was pretty amazing and now as opposed to clock watching and thinking I must go back to bed, I’m doing what my body clock is telling me to do, it has given me such peace of mind.

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Night time can be pretty cool though!

A week off!!

Yes I know, we’re not working, so how on earth can we take a week off? Well, we are busy doing up the house and we are now at a point where even though it’s far from finished, it’s livable and we were feeling ready for a break or at least a couple of days away from the dust!

My sister and her husband had  booked a week at a golfing resort not so far from here,  so our clubs were duly dusted down, shoes polished and we loaded up the car with high expectations for the week ahead.  We were heading to another department of France down on the south coast, this time the Pyrenees Orientale. I was so looking forward to just relaxing and enjoying the fine weather.

Well it wasn’t to be, we woke up on the first day, the skies were not grey they were black, the wind was up and it was cold and down right miserable. What to do? It was a Sunday and wet, so we set off for Perpignan in the hope that the clouds would be scattered by the wind and the sun would put in a welcome appearance.

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Grey skies over Perpignan

Perpignan is a  lovely town, we parked in the City Centre in and went off discovering on foot, it didn’t rain too much but the sun was absent. We enjoyed wandering around the historic centre. I never tire of winding, narrow streets and alleyways, I love the architecture down here, the colour of the buildings and the balconies.

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I just love the colour of this building

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One of the many alleyways

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BoBo means ‘Hurty’ in French!

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No takers for the city’s bikes -far too wet!

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Some lovely facades on the buildings

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Colours that brighten up the greyest of days.

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A little bit of window shopping!

On our way home we decided to brave the weather and go and walk on the beach, it was a struggle! The wind was howling and the sand was whipped up, lashing our faces. The normally calm turquoise Mediterranean was angry and grey, crashing white, powerful waves onto the near deserted beach. Our walk was rapid, to the edge and back to the warmth of the car!

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No sunbathers today!

I think you’ve understood by now that Golf was off the menu! So day trips were going to be the way forward for the week. Each night, we gathered around the television and many a ‘shush’ was shouted out as the weather man appeared in front of a distinctly grey map of the south of France. (I may just point out that Paris was hitting 27 degrees!!)

Our next day trip was to Collioure, which is a lovely little fishing village on the coast (going in the direction of Spain) We had passed here two years ago in Harry the motorhome, it was one of our less successful days as we’d arrived just as the traders were closing down on market day and ended up in a right mess with a 3.5 tonne motorhome winding our way through the stalls, I can assure you, it’s a lot easier to undertake the narrow streets in a car! As we arrived the sun came out and we ambled around checking out the little side streets. We ended up having lunch in a wonderful little restaurant called Chez Simone on the front, overlooking the sea. I can highly recommend it, we ate so well, starter of Carpaccio of Sea Bass, followed by Sea Bream, and finished off with a delicious strawberry and almond basket. We had a lovely bottle of chilled local wine and left feeling as though the holiday had started!

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How long can you make a drink last with a view like this?

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And the sun came to join us.

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Colourful Collioure

The next day we went on a trip to Spain, well it’s just a 30 minute drive, on arriving on Spanish soil, the weather took a turn for the worse and so four heads came up with the idea of driving further south. There is a town called Girona, which we had missed on our motorhome trip due to lack of parking. Well, what a lovely surprise, the sun came out and after driving around for at least an hour waiting for a parking space to free up, we entered the town. It was now we realised why the car parks were all full to overflowing … Girona was celebrating the ‘World of Flowers’! What a lovely surprise! Every street was decorated, with flowers, hanging baskets, works of art, colourful displays, every fountain, doorway and staircase had flowers strewn upon them. It was truly a sight for sore eyes. I can also say that even without the flowers the town itself is beautiful. We had a wonderful tapas lunch consisting of Spanish cold meats, spicy potatoes and fish beignets. Fabulous.

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Welcome to Girona

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A fountain filled with Hydrangeas.

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Flowers on every street

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A private moment captured.

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This looked so classy.

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Ideas for using up old plastic bottles

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Stairways full of blooms

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Even the umbrellas had a flower theme

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Artists’ work

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Lawns to the church

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Simple yet effective

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Inner courtyard

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A riot of pinks

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The pink in the bottom left hand corner is a collection of pink plastic glasses creating a beautiful pink shade.

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Blues were in too!

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Even tomatoes were used in displays

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Girona

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Perhaps my favourite display.

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The delightful town of Girona, this is the back of the historic centre which backs onto the river

Our next day trip was to Leucate, which is inland and north of Perpignan and if I’m not mistaken I believe it is in the Aude department of France. Leucate has a port and a very large lake where oysters are farmed. We were here for a ‘degustation’ (tasting). At certain points around the lake are little fishermen’s cabins and here they serve up oysters and some serve mussels. These cabins aren’t restaurants, there are no cooked meals, just oysters and mussels and they are raw! We chose a beautiful little cabin called ‘Les deux Tontons” (the two uncles) It was gorgeous, overlooking the water, all in blue and yellow. At the entrance was a huge pile of empty oyster shells! We chose a long, wooden table with benches set with the essentials, glasses and napkins! The menu was short, oysters, oysters or oysters, different sizes but all oysters.

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Oyster shell mountain at the entrance to the cabin

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If we’d asked for a table any nearer to the water we’d have had wet feet!

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Our table was called the ‘Bardot’

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6 of the best

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The cabin of ‘Les deux Tontons’

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Little cabins on either side, all serving oysters

The waiter (well fisherman) dressed in Wellington boots and plastic apron  was delightful, smiling and happy, we ordered various sizes of oysters and some of the local white wine. The oysters arrived on blue plastic plates with a wedge of lemon, along with a basket of brown sliced bread. That was it, simplicity at it’s best. We sat, overlooking the water, the sun had once again come out, we were surrounded by people sitting, tasting and chatting and just generally enjoying themselves.

I forgot to mention that I’m not overly keen on oysters but these were something else! I think it was such a lovely experience, a true rustic yet working decor, surrounded by fishing nets, buoys, oyster shells, barrels and boats..What’s not to like? Oh and the oysters were really good, not at all the salty mouthful that I have experienced in the past.

 

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Leucate Port

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Not quite so rustic

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What a way to end the day!

Our last trip was to a little village called Elne which is about 10 minutes from where we were staying. What a little find, a jewel of a village, which boasts the most stunning cloister. It has narrow steps to the top which give a 360 view out to the mountains to one side and the sea to the other. As you can see, once again the sun was out to play.

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Views that take your breath away.

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Glass blower’s studio

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Entrance to the Cloister

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Inner courtyard

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Stunning red roofs, taken from the tower.

All in all, we had the most fabulous week, even if we were a little obsessed with the weather, looking back at the photos I see that we were indeed very fortunate.  I apologise once again (I seem to do this on every blog post) for the amount of photos that I publish, it’s just I can’t help myself when I see so much beauty – it just has to be captured and shared!

To pee or not to pee ? Public loos with no hooks!

I wasn’t intending to write a blog today but as I’ve got all my jobs done and it’s miserable outside, yes, my UK friends, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s raining!

I have just a couple of odd photos milling around that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject but I’ll pop them into a slide show at the end of the post and  hope you’ll enjoy them all the same!

Well, dear reader, you should know me by now … I tend to be full of the joys of Spring one minute, ranting, raving and grumbling the next!

I’m seriously thinking of setting up a National Campaign over here to raise awareness of the shortage of hooks in ladies loos! Surely it’s not too much to ask, a hook screwed in behind the toilet door?  I’m actually contemplating carrying a suction hook in my handbag that I can attach to the loo door when I’m out and about.

You see the thing is (and I do believe I’m right when I say this) if men had to cope with what we, the fairer sex, have to cope with, there would be hooks everywhere, we’d be tripping over the damn things!

Picture the scene, just this weekend, at the Pont de Gard. I’m wearing jeans with a belt (yes I know, I’m showing off cos I’ve lost a teeny bit of weight!), a t-shirt, a fleece and a puffy body warmer. I have a long cotton scarf around my neck. I’m carrying a back pack and a camera, pretty normal gear for a day out sight seeing. It started to get a little warm and so I removed the fleece and tied that around my waist.

Ah the moment comes and I need to visit the loo … Oh damn it, I went before we left home but I need to go again, do I go or do I try and hold on til we get back home. Nah, no way I can hold on, it has to be done!! Time to attack the public loo.

You know what’s coming don’t you. I enter the cubicle, look for a hook – no hook. Can I hang something on the doorknob? no. Can I hang my bag off the loo roll holder? no!  OK time to get organised.

1 – Hitch camera over one arm and sling it around onto my back.

2 – Do up the zip on the body warmer and tie in all loose ends of my scarf to avoid the dreaded ‘dangle’.

3 – Secure the back pack over the camera, ensuring all loose ends are securely fixed and not hanging down.

4 – Remove the fleece from around my waist and tie it around my neck with so it is now dangling like a bib and obscuring total view from neck down to knees!

4 – Firtle around under the fleece to undo the belt, drop my jeans just to knee height. Now this is a lady thing, it’s very clever – it’s the ability to drop your jeans from the waist and pull up the legs at the same time,  all the while observing the hems to guarantee that they don’t drop over the shoes and hit the floor, which is wet.  With what? I’m not sure but best to be avoided at all costs!

5 – Back up gently in reverse, totally blind and hope and pray that my aim is good.

6 – Damn and blast, it’s only then I realise that I didn’t grab any paper prior to my preparation maneuvers and the toilet paper dispenser is behind me so I have to twist and turn and grapple to grab the evasive end of the roll.

If at any moment someone were to shout ‘Fire – Everybody out’ I have no idea how long it would take me to get out, let alone what I would look like, some kind of deranged Hunchback from Notre Dame with toilet paper flowing behind me no doubt.

I would also like to point out that this was the kerfuffle that I had to go through in a totally modern toilet block, I won’t even go into the detail of what rigmarole I go through when it’s a ‘hole in the ground’ loo!!!

Oh life, well peeing, was so much easier when we were living in a motor home!!!

So there you go that’s my rant, I just don’t understand why no hooks? What do you think ladies, is it just me? However there are a couple of loos in Montpellier that I’ve found that are really good, hookwise! Maybe I should list them up, a Facebook page with a list of loos with hooks!! Now there’s a thought!

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Bucket List is shrinking!

Well, we’ve just got over the Easter weekend here in the South of France. Is it different to Easter in the UK? A little maybe, the first thing that is definitely amiss over here, are Hot Cross Buns! Having worked for Marks & Spencer in the past, Hot Cross Buns were something that I was never short of at this time of year, in fact with staff discounts and BOGOFs (buy one get one free) I used to purchase loads at knock down prices, eat plenty, freeze packets and even manage to leave a couple of packets on my neighbours doorsteps!

Easter Saturday, we went into Montpellier centre and walked around the streets and did a little bit of shopping. It was a glorious day, the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm, buskers are back on the street and no matter where you are there is music wafting on the air. It was really lovely, it reminded me of our arrival in Montpellier.

Saturday night, we celebrated Persian New Year but I shall leave all the details of that out as it really isn’t French is it??

Easter Sunday, and we were woken by the bells, oh yes they do like their bells here! Fortunately it wasn’t too early and so didn’t ruin a good night’s sleep or the lie in! We had a busy weekend so please come along for the ride!

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We weny to Sete which is just along the coast. Sete is a major port that has a network of canals and is known as the Venice of Languedoc Rousillon, it has bridges here and there and boats everywhere! Sete is the birthplace of French singer/songwriter George Brassens and also of French poet and philosopher Paul Valery. Oh and it is also home to the Tielle, which is a slightly spicy, squid pastry which is totally delicious. This weekend Sete has been celebrating it’s 350 years as a port and so there were all sorts of attractions. Lots of tall ships, military ships, pirate ships along with little sailing boats, dows, and wee, fishing vessels.

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It was packed along the canal sides, there were demonstrations of rescues at sea, survival and first aid lessons,  there was a plethora of traders, selling the typical blue and white stripy t-shirts and jumpers, the beautiful, waterproof souwesters, artisans smoking herring, wine producers, tinned fish and olives, activities for kiddies and of course music, shanty fisherman tunes.

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Smoking Herring

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It was a sight for sore eyes. I really enjoyed the afternoon, strolling along and stopping every now and then to take in some sight, sound or smell.

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I’ve looked better!

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We’d built up an appetite so popped back to the car, only to bump into some friends of ours from Paris who we hadn’t seen for over 10 years! I can’t even begin to tell you what a wonderful feeling it was to see them.What a surprise!! They had just arrived and were visiting their daughter and family, they had come to Sete for the festivities, what are the chances of bumping into someone like that, it was obviously meant to be!  They had eager grandchildren and we had rumbling tummies, so telephone numbers were exchanged, goodbyes said, tight hugs given and promises to keep in touch.

We we set off along the coast to a town called Bouzigues, which is on the Etang de Thau (a saltwater lagoon). This is where the oyster beds are, it’s an amazing sight, mile after mile of square frames on wooden stilts, this is the home of French Oysters, it’s said that all oysters in France start off here in Bouzigues!

This quaint, fishing village runs along side the lagoon, we chose a little, restaurant and ordered oysters – Surprise surprise! Now you either love ’em or hate ’em, personally, I’m not fussed either way! To me, I’m afraid they just taste like a mouthful of sea water so I ordered King prawns and one of our friends ordered sea urchins ( I tasted one but I’ll put my hands up, I really didn’t like it one bit!) However, as we sat eating seafood, sipping chilled white wine, gazing out at the sea there was an authenticity to the whole experience.

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Devoured!

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Oyster farming at Bouzigues

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Etang de Thau

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Bouzigues

You would think that would have been enough to do over the Easter weekend but no, on Easter Monday we made our way to the Pont de Gard. What a wonderful day, the weather although a little overcast, was warm and the wind had dropped so we were up for a walk.

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Pont de Gard

OK a little bit of history, the Pont de Gard is in the Gard region of France, it’s tallest Roman Bridge in the world, it’s 360m long and 50m high over three levels. It was built approximately 2000 years ago and surprisingly only took about 5 years to construct. It is rather impressive.

There were a couple of other tourists on the bridge who insisted on pointing out the carving of not one but two penis’s!!! All very odd, I took the photo and so you too can see it! I’m not sure what it signifies, it wasn’t mentioned in the guide pamphlet!!!

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Not one penis but two!!

The river seemed fairly low the day we were there but people do swim  and canoe in the river!

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As it was a Bank holiday there was much to see and do here also, the French really know how to entertain, I think the thing I always notice is the amount of music you hear in France, it’s pretty much everywhere and the Pont de Gard was no different.

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There were activities for children and adults alike, donkey rides, organic market, old fashioned games, picnic areas, and a signed walk which we decided would be a perfect way to walk off the burgers that we’d purchased and devoured!

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New recycled hat anyone?

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Organic jams

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Love this, Gratte Cul which literally means ‘Itchy Arse’ made from the little fibres in the Rose Hip, what we used to call itching powder!

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Enter a caption

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Yes, we walked this far!

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All in all, it was a very enjoyable day out and I was chuffed to bits, the Pont de Gard, has been on my bucket list for a couple of years now … tick!

On our way home we drove to Uzes, (lucky me, as this too has been on my list for a while). We stopped long enough to have a coffee, sitting on the main square in the town absorbing the atmosphere, it was truly lovely and so typically French. There was a potters market on while we visited and some of the items really made you want to reach for your purse, just as well I don’t have a proper home yet!

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The square was lovely, with a fountain in the centre and beautiful buildings all around set above arches at street level. The stone is such a soft colour here and all of the shutters were painted in soft pastel colours, cream, greys, sage greens and powder blues. The trees as yet have just buds on them, but I can already imagine me sitting there in the summer being grateful for the cool shade the trees in leaf must provide. A definite big tick for Uzes and definitely a place to return to.

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And so there you have it, a very busy Easter weekend, it was so enjoyable. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside and am still pinching myself on a daily basis just to make sure that I’m not dreaming all of this!!!

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I hope you enjoyed sharing our weekend, I shall keep you up to date with our little day trips and other happenings here in the Languedoc Roussillon area of France, until then take care.

Service, what service!

I thought I would introduce you to a side of living in France that some of you may not know about. Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos that relate to this subject so I’ll drop some others taken on a recent trip to Paris, just to break up the post!!

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A grey day in Paris

I want to introduce you to Red Tape!. The French seem to be obsessed with paperwork, they were when I lived here over thirty years ago and they still are!  I can hardly believe it.

I will give you a run down of my day, just three days ago. I had three things on my to do list.

Go to the bank to transfer our account.

Go to the prefecture to drop off my application for a resident’s card.

Go to the local retail chain of FNAC. (electronics, photography etc).

We’ve had a bank account based in Paris for a while and now that we’re settled we decided to move our account down here. We went to the bank the last week and were told which papers we would need, “Great” I said, “I have them here in my bag”. “Oh no, Madame, we must make an appointment in order to do that.” Once the appointment was made for yesterday (a good week after our visit) we mentioned that the Hubster wouldn’t be able to attend. Would it be ok for me to go on my own? The answer was a resounding yes, no problem at all. I checked, was she sure? After all it is joint account, didn’t we both need to be present? No, was the answer, as long as I brought all the papers and passports for both of us, it wouldn’t make a difference.

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Same as it was over 30 years ago!

So, yesterday,  I toddled off on my bike to the local branch, I entered and announced my arrival. I was asked to take a seat. A young man came out of his office to greet me with a big smile and a firm hand shake.  I was shown into the office and offered a chair.  I explained I was there to transfer our joint account “Ah non, non, non, Madame, your husband must be here also!” Was he having a laugh?

I explained that the receptionist had said it would be fine, but no, this obviously wasn’t the case. Ah well, we decided that I would do my part of the transaction and the Hubster would have to come down later and fill in his side of the gubbins.

OK,  passport? The young man photocopied it and handed it back to me. Proof of bank account? I passed over a statement, details were checked, photocopied and handed back. All going rather well, I thought. Proof of address?  I handed over the proof of purchase, signed by the notary,  no this wasn’t good enough, when asked what he needed, the answer? An electricity bill!  Yep, an electricity bill holds more power than an official bill of sale. Not wanting to hold up the transaction, I assured him I would email it to him as soon as I returned home.

He then turned to his computer, and entered the usual, name, date of birth, address, account number, sort code etc etc. As I watched him working,  I realised he looked very uneasy, he was very slow and in fact I do believe he was talking to himself, maybe he was newly qualified? He then explained that this was a new system, normally this is done by hand!!! I exclaimed that surely it was better on the PC – he looked up at me, horrified, “Better? Oh no Madame, I much preferred writing all of this out by hand, that way I was sure I didn’t make any mistakes” Oh blimey, that didn’t really fill me with that much confidence, surely copying details from one form to another either by tapping numbers on a keyboard or writing by hand ,made no difference whatsoever, if mistakes were made – they were made! Eek, so glad I wasn’t transferring a couple of million, I would’ve wanted to check how many zeros he’d entered! However, he did admit that when the document was printed, it was much easier to read! I left the bank feeling somewhat bemused, and made a note to email the said electricity bill as soon as I could, I wondered if he knew how to use email! Half the job was done!

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Getting the job done! 

Next stop, The Prefecture, this is where all identity cards, driving licenses, passports, residence and work permits for foreigners and vehicle registration are handed out, along with the management of the police and fire brigades and a myriad of all things official!! This is paperwork heaven! I was dropping off a large, brown, manila envelope which was full to bursting with every imaginable piece of paper you could possibly put your hands on.

The contents were something like this;  Completed Form (with more personal details than you could shake a stick at) – check, Copy of Passport – check, Copy of Birth Certificate – check, (I had to order a new one from the UK), Proof of address – check, Proof of earnings (or not as is the case at the mo!)  – check, a letter written explaining how and why I am now here in Montpellier  – check and finally some form number S658933326890000000 something or other, downloaded from the internet and duly filled in and signed – check. All present and correct.

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Sacre Coeur, always stunning.

I entered the Prefecture, there were, what appeared to be, 4 queues. The two to the left were leading to a desk above which was a sign, “Cars, registration”, the two on the right wound their way to a sign marked “immigrants”,  I wondered, am I an immigrant? I’m from Europe, does that count as an immigrant? As there were no other queues I guessed I must be! I joined the back of the very long, zig-zagging queue, I stood behind two rotund, African ladies with brightly coloured head-wraps who both had the most raucous laughs, a couple of chaps wearing woolly Pakol hats, a bunch of Japanese students, two girls, who (or is it whom?)  I can only describe as, Swedish backpackers, a couple with a baby in a backpack, another in a pushchair and a toddler who’d quite obviously had enough, and some North Africans chatting away, we created quite a melting pot.

Slowly but surely I shuffled forward and approached the desk, I was loathed to hand over my envelope, (it’s been a long time in the making), what if it gets lost? My biggest fear, however, is that I will find it in my letter box in a couple of weeks time, returned with a note saying, the form wasn’t correctly filled in, the proof of address wasn’t the right one, (well it wouldn’t be the first time!) that the form I downloaded was the wrong one or knowing my luck, I’d spelled my name wrong!   Who knows/  It could be one of a gazillion things that are incorrect and it’ll all have to be done again from scratch!  Please cross your fingers for me that it’s all going to be plain sailing, although I somehow doubt it!

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Inside Galeries Lafayette Dept Store.

OK two down, one to go, I’m feeling a little ragged by now but decide there is no point in getting uppity, I live in France now, this is what it’s like and I have to go with the flow. I jump back on my trusty steed and cycle through the city to my next stop, the shopping centre.

I am here for a very sad event indeed. My mini iPad has collapsed and died and it isn’t even a year old!  Luckily enough, it’s the same store (different branch) as I had purchased it. Even more lucky,  I still have the receipt (can you believe it? not only did I keep it but I managed to find it!) and even luckier still, it has 12 months warranty and there’s 11 days left till it runs out!!!

I made my way to the After Service desk, now what you must understand is that in France, things cannot be exchanged, refunded etc.  There is no Marks and Spencer policy here, you try, you buy, you damn well keep! (You do not change your mind!) My french friend bought a TV which was delivered,  he signed for it, unpacked it, threw all the packaging away, and after a couple of days, it stopped working!  Did he get his money back?  Did he get an exchange?  Did he heck, he’d thrown the box out!!! I swear it’s true, he did manage to wangle it by buying another identical TV and using the new box to return the first TV!!!

So I approached the desk with caution, I did have the receipt but no packaging! I took a number from the machine, a bit like at the butcher’s counter only here you have to choose the reason for your visit!

The young guy behind the desk was a delight, he was so sympathetic, helpful and went above and beyond my expectations. He said he would return my poorly iPad to Apple and informed me it would most likely be replaced rather than repaired and that I would receive an email telling me when I could go and collect my replacement, right that’ll take some time then!  I wonder if I’ll get another 12 months warranty?

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Unusual Ladies Loo at Chessy Station!

I returned home well over two hours later! Exhausted and not sure whether any of the tasks I’d set in motion would come to fruition anytime soon. I decided not to dwell on it, what will be, will be!  I’ll deal with each matter as they arise. I can also say that even though everything was long-winded, complicated and what appears to me, work for work’s sake,  the people who dealt with me were lovely. They were polite, professional, kind and understanding.

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Home Sweet Home in the loos!

Looking back on my day, I can say hand on heart, I actually enjoyed all the kerfuffle, it was nice to actually sit and chat with the advisor at the bank, rather than just carry out the transaction with a nameless person on the other side of a sheet of glass,  it was good to stand in a queue and observe my neighbours as opposed to just dropping an envelope in a box and I had a real exchange and received great service from the chap in the store. I love it when I manage to see the positive in what is perceived to be negative.

And to top it off, can you imagine my surprise, when this afternoon I received an email telling me my replacement iPad was ready for collection? Guess where I’ll be going first thing tomorrow morning?

 

 

 

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