Sunday, June 8, 2014


   You may remember we acquired a kitten while in France. A soft, cuddly thing to love when we were feeling homesick. She provided us with much entertainment and needless to say, had to come back to the States with us. I was dreading the trip with her as getting her into a crate to go to a vet was excruciating. One would think she was being tortured, she would let out deep, loud growls of displeasure. We feared it would be 6,000 miles of howling under our seat on the planes. I had some strong sedatives (for her, not my children) and I kept reminding the kids(and myself), the travel was just for 1 day. One day of headache, embarrassment and frustration- we could do it. Low and behold, Cat did not make a sound the entire trip- no sedation needed.
   We snuck her into the hotel for the night in Albuquerque where she bounced off of the walls for a few hours, then back into the crate for the drive to Colorado. Now she was so used to the crate, she slept peacefully for the 4 hour car ride. Bravo mon petit chaton!
   One thing I missed while in France was to-go coffee and iced tea. I kept one with me for most of that first day back, starting the day with hot coffee to go from the hotel, to iced tea later in the morning for the drive.
   I do miss the rose from France, though.
My roady coffee
Almost home

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Last Market for Me

   I woke up early the day before departure, restless but tired, needing to embrace every last minute of our year abroad. I ran into town to hit the boulangerie for a last Sacristan pastry and bid farewell to our favorite Patissier. It was market day- I will miss these regular village gatherings, listening to the French chitter/chatter of catching up on the week's worth of gossip. After filling their baskets, friends migrate to the cafes for a drink and rest to watch the passers' by.
   Summer produce was just starting. Ripe melons, cherries and apricots were so full of flavor. I will miss the dedication to the taste of food.

Saying Good Bye is Tres Difficile

   Bags are in the car, house is clean and we are very patiently awaiting our return to the USA. Yes, we are all very excited to see our friends and family. But as I watch my kids move about today, there is a sense of mourning. I feel it too. Our neighbors, our commune, have become family. Being 5,000 miles away is significant and while the Internet makes the world a small place, there is no arguing that we are far apart.
   While I fully intend on returning to France within a year or so, it will most likely be longer before I can spring for 4 tickets for all of us to return to Provence. The kids already ask when they can come back, which makes me feel like the year abroad was a success. I can not commit to when we will all be able to return, but it will happen, someday. And even though many miles separate us, I am thrilled to have these new friends and know we will be reunited in the not so far off future.
   So, without much of a pity party, I want to say a bientot to my friends, family and life en France. C'etait un super annee. Merci.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Last Market Makes a Good Meal

   I woke up early this morning, remembering at day break that it was my last full day in France. I went to bed last night feeling the same way- as soon as the rain passed, I just wanted to be outside, listening to the coo-coo birds and frogs,soaking in every last minute until dark fell at 10:00. 
   I had to hit the trash bins, recycle and drop off some books for a friend in town this morning, so I decided to wander through the market for one last time, too. The French markets are so full of life. Of course, there is produce galore, but also so much more. Similar to our local Colorado market, it is a major social event for the community. By mid-morning, the cafe tables are full. Half of the canine community are sniffing one another, while pedestrians are trying to pass by in the narrow streets, bidding one another bonjour. Vendors get progressively louder, doing their best to make as many euros as possible in the morning hours.
   Even though I am supposed to be emptying my cupboards, I couldn't help but buy a few poitrons(red peppers), chevre, and gambas(shrimp) to share with friends back at the best place of all- our garden table.
   Oh, and yesterday friends brought over fresh sardines which we grilled and ate with fingers with a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of salt and yum- Youngest Child has a new favorite culinary treat. Second only to Escargot- he has done well in France.

Zetta giving me a lesson on eating sardines.
Early summer produce.
Every market has their rotisserie chickens- they are delicious with potatoes roasting underneath...
There are several vendors selling flowers.
Early morning market.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

The End is Near

   We are literally counting down the hours until our departure. The house is looking very empty, the fridge even more so. Every moment is being savored by either a last visit to favorite towns nearby, lounging in the sun at our house and of course, a last visit to the sea yesterday.
   The water was the warmest it has been this spring, which made it easy for even temperature sensitive me to float in the ultra-salty Mediterranean one last time. New friends aside, the sea is what I will miss the most.
   Good-byes are hard. I have no doubt we will reconnect with most of these new friends, but a year or two may pass before seeing each other again. Thank God for technology that allows us to stay connected virtually.
   It is with mixed feeling that this year comes to a close. I am excited to see family and friends, my animals and my home, but my experience here has been a dream. Even though it was hard at times, feelings of isolation, frustration with lack of communication, too much time in close proximity to my children, (and them feeling just as sick of me), our minds are full of memories that we will draw upon for the rest of our lives. Some day, getting lost in Nice will be hysterical, even though I was in tears driving down a minuscule, one-way street going the wrong direction, coming to a barrier, then having to back out a couple of hundred meters while passers-by watched with amusement.
   Our flight leaves Sunday. That day will be quite an experience, too, mostly due to the fact that our wild French cat will be travelling with us, too. We considered finding her a new home here, as getting her into a carrier is a feat in itself, let alone a 5,000 mile air journey, but she is our greatest souvenir of all. As the time nears for that day, I remind myself it is but 1 day- and will be yet another part of our experience that we will reminisce about in the future.
   Yes, good-byes are hard, both to friends and to this most amazing year.
Fountain in Barjols
Typical lunch out from a boulangerie
Last day at the beach with friends
Apres picnic siesta
Enjoying the salt and sand of the Mediterranean for the last time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Markets and More

   We have stopped by a few markets in the past week, gathering some gifts for friends and enjoying the beginning of summer produce in Provence. Strawberries are readily available and full of sweet flavor. The asparagus is waning, being taken over by zucchini flowers. I bought a handful today, stuffed them with local goat cheese, dipped them in batter and fried them- yum.
   It is funny that we have been here for nearly a year, and though these villages are small, we continue to find new shops. Today, we stopped into a homemade pasta store- tagliatelle for dinner- I will let you know how it is. We also popped into a patisserie that we did not know existed- it was France's mother's day- I don't know if that is why it was so busy, but the place was packed. Chocolates, nougats, candies, cakes and all kinds of delicious sweets were displayed.
   We are busy packing and cleaning, though I feel a strong urge to get out and explore for our last days here. We have less than a week, then it is back to Colorado to re-enter our already wonderful lives that exist there.
Fried Squash Blossoms

Textiles galore
Looks like summer.
Sweet delicacies


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Porquerolles- A Great Finale to the Year

   Undoubtedly, I am trying to pack in as many fun adventures on our last days in France. The weather has been gorgeous so as you can probably guess, we headed to the coast spontaneously the other day to a new place for us- Porquerolle Island. At the southern tip of Hyeres, a ferry takes you a short distance to this small island that is strictly protected by the French nature conservatory. It is 2 miles wide and 4 miles long. The only cars on the island are residents and delivery vehicles. So, upon arriving on the island, we rented bikes and began exploring.
   First stop was to the southern side of the island which is lined with a rugged, wild coast-line. Cliffs plummet down to the sea. It was spectacular. We crossed the island to the eastern side where a narrow strip of land offered black sand on one side and white sand on the other.
   We cruised through the cute town to grab some picnic provisions before heading west to La Plage de Notre Dame where we waded in the crystal clear(though frigid) water.
   I am sorry we did not discover this place before our last week, but I am grateful to have made it one of our last memories of this year abroad.
The day's transportation. 
Spectacular coastline.
Heading down to the beach.
We will miss the clear, salty water...alot. 
Beach activity- building structures with driftwood.
Readying for lunch service.
It is all about the beach.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Garden's

   Many villages have large strips of land that is parceled and leased to townspeople for gardening. Most homes in town don't have yards- these are small, narrow multi-story homes. If they are lucky enough to have yards, they too, are charming with color, whimsical furniture and charm. But, the community gardens are wonderful. Cardoons, artichokes, strawberries, trees dripping with cherries- tomato plants are in and thriving as well as eggplant, peppers and everything else you can think of. The season is so long here and water does not appear to be an issue. This is a gardener's dream.
   And the roses- they are everywhere and run the gamut of color. ALong with jasmine and honeysuckle, the air is blissfully sweet.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Limoncello is Ready

My Limoncello is finally done, with 11 days to spare. After 1 month of steeping lemon peel in alcool pour fruits, I added sugar syrup and let it sit for another couple of weeks. Upon tasting it, I decided it was too sweet, even though I did not add all of the syrup my recipe called for, thankfully. So, I added some more lemon peel to the bottles and let it steep for a couple more weeks. Now, it is ready. Still a little sweet, but plenty drinkable, Limoncello is lip smackingly good poured straight from the freezer. The color is brilliant yellow, almost neon.  If I had not made it myself and know the alcohol content, I could easily go overboard with this drink.
I am very proud of it and can not wait to start a batch as soon as I return to Colorado. Be warned friends, it takes 2 months, but then I will gladly share my Limoncello with you on my back porch, watching the amazing Southern Colorado sunset! A Bientot.

The beginning.
The first strain and adding syrup.
Ready for drinking enjoyment.
Don't mind if  Ido- look at that color!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Art Lesson

   My friends Marleen and Marc, Belgians, invited my kids over for an art class as they are both very talented artists themselves. She, a painter, he, a sculptor, they have some of their works displayed at their home which is so charming and peaceful. They have created an oasis of tranquility in the hills above this tiny Provencal town.
   On another note, roses clearly love this climate as they are blooming everywhere. At the end of grape rows in vineyards and climbing up trellises at people's small village homes. Even though many apartments in the villages have no yards, they seem to take great pride in producing lush greenery in pots or a tiny circle of dirt at their front doors.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Normandy - It Is More than just Cheese

   I still haven't finished telling you about our trip to the northern part of France. It did not stop with Paris. We reluctantly got ourselves to the rental car agency and headed out of the city which was a hair raising experience in itself as the GPS gave very short notice to upcoming directions. Trying to cross multi-lane, French highways in an obvious rental car is tough. As long as I played the nice tourist though, it all went well- smile, wave at those who yield briefly, appreciate the time others have taken out of their flurry to escape the city, to let your car in front of theirs. Getting to the country is a competitive experience up there. Luckily, I rented a small, speedy thing, opposite of the monster I drive in Provence.
   The road opened up to continue to Giverny, the home and gardens of Claude Monet. The Town of Vernon is tiny, charming and cheery. The sun was actually shining which made everything all the more brilliant. Once inside the gardens, colors flourished. Rows and beds were bursting with blossoms of every conceivable shade of the color wheel. Monet's large, bright house stood at the top of the hill, behind the gardens. A path leads one deeper into the gardens and winds around a large pond with the wisteria covered Japanese bridge represented in many of Monet's paintings. The pond has lily pads waiting to bloom and be painted.
   We wandered through the house where wonderful portraits and copies of Monet's most famous work hung. Each room was brilliantly painted and had large windows that opened above the gardens for a spectacular view of the colors below.  The shockingly yellow dining room was fun, then we passed through the blue kitchen with walls lined with perfectly polished copper pots. Even though I adored Paris, it was good to be in the country with a feel like this.
   Onward to Bayeux, another hour east and close to the Normandy coast. This was a great town. Our hotel was a pleasant change with modern amenities. There was even a TV that none of us cared whether we were zoning out to French speaking shows or English. We had a delicious meal where we enjoyed seafood as you could smell the salt in the air from the sea. Youngest Child, of course, had escargot- he will miss those chewy little critters upon our return to USA.
   Bayeux has an amazing cathedral which was untouched by WWII. Unlike many other towns in the area, Bayeux survived the war with no physical damage. The Bayeux tapestry is a 70 meter long cloth that wraps around a large, dark room enclosed in a glass case. Audio guides tell you the story that is represented on the tapestry, the Battle of Hastings led by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. The kids' audio guide must have been really fun because my children said it was their favorite thing they saw during the whole northern trip.
   Next stop was Omaha Beach, the US landing beach of the Normandy invasion. Though we read many excerpts and talked at length about this beautiful place, the magnitude of loss was not understood though a short video at the museum did put a lump in everyone's throat. The cemetery is perfectly manicured, overlooking the cliffs and the English Channel. The perfectly symmetrical rows of over 9,000 graves are a spectacular sight, obviously evoking tears to anyone comprehending the fear and loss during those days of the war. The sky opened up long enough for the younger two to have a swim, so into the frigid water of the English Channel they went.
   We had alot to pack into our three days up there, so our agenda made us continue south into Brittany so we could see Mont St. Michel. The weather turned wet and grey again, making it perfectly clear why the rolling, Normandy countryside is so brilliantly lush and green. Beautiful Normande cows dotted the fields. Apple trees abound. That part of France is famous for cider, calvados and camembert cheese, which of course I purchased while in Bayeux and it was heavily perfuming the car with the cheese stink.
   Mt. St. Michel was a bit of a let down as the gobs of tourists have the Mount jam-packed with trinket shops and terrible food stalls, masses of people slowly walking through as if on a conveyor belt. We had to get out of there. It was spectacular from a distance, we all agreed. Further along the road we found several seaside towns, lovely places to enjoy the fruits de mer(seafood ). We stopped in Cancale to indulge in a fabulous lunch and wander around this seaside village. I want to go back in the summer and stay...for a while. Rather than a traditional farmer's market, stalls selling oysters were set up above the beach. You could get a takeaway platter of freshly shucked oysters with a lemon wedge, to slurp down while watching the tide change. I wanted to stay.
   We covered alot of ground in those three days. Train tickets forced us back to our home away from home, though we were tired. About 30 minutes from our station in Aix en Provence, the skies cleared which I was incredibly grateful for. I am not much for rain and as I have said, it rains alot up there in the north of France.
Monet's Garden
From Monet's bedroom window
Delicious crab!!!
Bayeux Cathedral

American Cemetery

Over 9,000 graves of AMerican soldiers, mostly killed during the D-DAy invasion.

Omaha Beach and the English Channel along this coastline are fabulous.
Normandy cows for ooey gooey camembert- yum again.
Fruits de Mer platter

Oyster stands in Cancale
Mt. St. Michel-much better from a distance!