mardi 17 mars 2009

La Belle-Mère

Our noisy neighbors are playing a loud techno version of the "Imperial March" from Star Wars. I kindof want to go over and yell at them. Or join their party. Which to choose?

We're currently hosting a visit from our (my) "belle-mère," which means "beautiful mother" and is French for both mother-in-law and stepmother. It gets a little confusing when someone discusses both parties at the same time, but in general, it's a rather lovely way of putting it.

So, avec ma belle-mère and my belle-grandmother, it's a whirlwind of cafés, pastries, museums, and cute little shops. Fun to have them, and also to have the "home comforts" they brought in their suitcases. The peanut butter was almost immediately turned into the flourless peanut butter cookies from my new favorite reading material, the great foodie blog "Everybody Likes Sandwiches." The cookies made me late for school (I started making them at 7:50 as breakfast before an 8:00 am class) but were worth every peanut-buttery bite.

Donc, je vais dormir (off to bed) because these two "belle" ladies have worn me out. Too much sight seeing! Too many glasses of rosé! Bonne nuit!

vendredi 6 mars 2009

Fun Chez Kraut

Julia: Here we are, on a Friday night, learning Old English . . . You sure know how to show a girl a good time.  
Josh: I'm letting you hold the computer.

jeudi 5 mars 2009

Back to Winifred

I finished the book "Perfume from Provence" and want to apologize to Winifred for the insensitivity of my earlier critique.  After the last pages of the book, where she switches from describing the joys of watching peasants flirt with each other during olive harvest to confessing her loneliness after the death of her husband, I suddenly feel very protective of her.  And with that comes willingness to overlook her notions of Anglo-Saxon superiority.  But should it?  Should she be let off the hook for being insensitive in one area, just because she's suffered in a another?  Or should she still be harshly criticized for her un-p.c. views?  And does it even matter, since she's dead now?  

I'm going to go do laundry.

mercredi 4 mars 2009

Books and Jackhammers

Right now I’m on winter break, not to be confused with Christmas break or spring break, each 2 weeks long. I took advantage of my free time yesterday to head down to the big public bibliothèque. Josh and I found a glass-encased silent reading room inside the library's spacious main hall. Perfect. After promising the room’s guardian that we were there to study and not to chat, we sat down at a massive old wooden table with a green leather top to get some work done.

We went to the library both for the study-inducing ambiance, and to get away from our neighbors, who are renovating their apartment. Apparently the instrument of choice for construction here is a jackhammer. Not so study-inducing.

While at the library, I picked up a book titled “Aix-en-Provence, hier & aujourd’hui,” yesterday and today. I love old photographs and many of the pictures in the book are from before the American Civil War. How cool! The old pictures were set alongside recent shots of the same places. When we got home, we plunked down on the couch right away and flipped the book open . . . only to discover that in spite of all the jackhammer noises we’ve been hearing, there were only a handful of pictures in which we could see any change from the 1850’s to the present. The only developments were that the roads are now paved and some shop signs are different.  

While in the library, I also swung by the English-language section and found a book called “Perfume from Provence,” written by an English noblewoman who moved here in the 1930’s to escape the collapsing British pound. It’s pretty much the same as reading a book by Peter Mayle, but the author is a little bit ethnocentric and classist. Sorry, Winifred, but your workmen can't possibly be "little more than children." She spends less time than Mayle does in detailing the horrors of having a house renovated in a land where people take two hour lunch breaks, but she complains a bit more. By the second chapter, while still really liking the book, I found myself wanting to say to her, “Stop complaining! You chose to live here! If you want telephone service, go back to Hertfordshire!”

It was a good lesson for me, since I spend a lot of time complaining and exasperated, and if I really don’t like it here, I could always go home. But we chose to move here and we’re glad of our choice. I was glad even this morning, as the next-door destruction (I mean construction) was again going full-swing, and this time, without announcing their intentions, they cut off our water.

dimanche 1 mars 2009

Le Printemps est arrivé!

Spring is here! The thermometer hit 16 Celsius yesterday and a friend and I walked up to Cezanne’s atelier. By the time we reached the workshop on the steeeeeep hill north of the city, I was wearing a tee shirt. The birds were singin’ and the sky was blue. I waited by a rustling bush long enough to see a rouge gorge, the first French bird I’ve seen in person other than a pigeon or magpie (I saw, from a bus window, some kind of grand heron wading in a puddle a few weeks ago, but that doesn’t count).

Friday we also had evidence of spring. We went to a local park to enjoy the sunshine and there were daffodils and pansies in bloom. I retired my winter coat . . . hopefully it can stay out of commission for the rest of the year as it’s in dire need of a dry cleaning.

The park is a "jardin à la Française," classic French gardens in front of an old mini-chateau. Now the house is an art gallery, and the park is a great place to enjoy le soleil or a pain au chocolat.  These pictures are actually from a park visit in September--imagine pansies beside the walks now.