jeudi 28 octobre 2010

Steeeeeeerike ... 3? 7? We've lost count.

The Phillies may be done for the year, but it's still grève (strike) season here in France. The port of Marseille is blocked by the striking dockworkers, which means no deliveries of gas. I waited in line more than half an hour last week at a service station...and I was lucky to find one that had anything to sell.

Somehow the airport managed to stay open, and our visitors from London were able to arrive and depart, no problem. We spent a great day hiking along the cliffs overlooking the sea...
...where we could also see the oil tankers waiting for the port to open up again. They're there along the horizon.
Another stop on our "France on Strike" tour was the university, barricaded to I'm not sure if we're on strike over retirement age or education reform.

What I DO know is that, as a teacher, striking is a personal choice, until the students barricade the school and you can't get in. My 6th and 7th graders aren't going that far, although a few of them did try to convince me that a strike is actually an official day off, and if you want to go to the protest, you can, but you DEFINITELY don't need to come to school. Sorry, guys. I'm not THAT out to lunch.

But back to our weekend visitors, and the baseball metaphor: we had a fun "France on Strike" activity planned. According to Josh (because I wouldn't know), strikes are noted in baseball stats with the letter "K." So, we decided to buy a bunch of canvases and put a "K" up on the wall each time there's a strike that affects us in some way. Between the time when we decided to do this and the time we finally got around to doing the paintings, we'd lost count of how many strikes there had been. So we just did five and called it even.

Now I need to figure out how to get them to hang straight. Any tips on hanging canvases?

By the way, the olive tree "K" is Josh's masterpiece. He's really digging les oliviers, which is a convenient fascination, since they're everywhere. We've even got one on the terrace, where we did our "Painting in Provence" afternoon.

We are LOVING our terrace. Yesterday we hung out there after work, drinking tea, skyping Josh's mom, and watching an episode of the office. The terrace was also VERY useful on Monday evening, when our electricity decided to join in the spirit of the grève. We turned on the stove to cook our friends one last dinner-en-provence before taking them to the airport, and POP, we blew the kitchen fuse. And, it was one of those old fashioned ones that actually has to be replaced. No way THAT was going to happen until the next day, so we whipped the burners out of the way cool custom-designed-oven/butcherblock thing and set them up on the bar outside. It was a bit cold standing out there in the starlight stirring greenbeans, but dinner still got cooked and the house didn't smell like pork chops afterward, so we might make the "outdoor kitchen" a more frequent occurrence.

En tout cas
, the painting-on-the-terrace will definitely be repeated: there's another huge strike planned for November 6th, which just so happens to be the day we're heading in to Paris for a friend's wedding. Something tells me we're going to get some more wall art out of this one.

lundi 18 octobre 2010

Alps Camping Fail

A few weekends ago we decided it was finally time to use the tent we'd lugged across the Atlantic. We also decided to take a break from all the stress of moving (including constructing an entire apartment-full of Ikea furniture) and go on a little romantic weekend vacation. We drove up to the French Alps, hoping to see some fall foliage.

Apparently it was too early for fall foliage.

Josh had researched great hikes/camping spots in the Parc National des Ecrins, so we set off up the mountain to find a place to bivouac for the night.

We had forgotten something about the Alps: they're really, really steep. Which means there are no flat parts to camp in--at least not within a three hour hike of where we started. And we'd spent an hour going the wrong way, which meant we weren't going to get anywhere campable before dark. So we turned around to head back down the mountain, and I had a panic attack. Turns out I'm more afraid of heights than I had realized.

I don't have any trailside pictures of the steep part. I was too busy trying not to die.

After Josh (who had to wear both backpacks) finally coaxed me down off the mountain, we debated what to do. I was in favor of paying a campground to let us stay there, legally. Josh was in favor of finding a hidden spot to set up the tent in someone's back yard. I had visions of being woken up in the middle of the night by some ancient disgruntled farmer, threatening us with some kind of garden implement and refusing to call his dogs off. We explored the valley for a couple of hours until we found a spot that seemed remote enough that we wouldn't get caught for illegal camping. It still had me worried.

We set up the tent. We climbed inside. And then Josh realized he wasn't feeling too well.

Three hours later we were back in our apartment, snuggled in our new Ikea bed and stargazing out our bedroom window.

dimanche 17 octobre 2010

New Place

Still no internet in the new apartment, but this poor blog is languishing. So, I’ll give a quick update of life in the Krauthaus.

The car is back from the shop after a new alternateur (luckily covered by the dealer) and we’ve begun our research into French lemon laws. Gee, the things you never thought you’d end up learning about.

Our apartment is faring much better. In fact, it’s not really an apartment—the lease calls it a maisonette, which I suppose translates as “cottage.” Apart from a ghastly sulfur odor that wafts up out of old pipes around here, and the fact that we’ve run into walls, trees, and rocks trying to squeeze in and out of our tiny parking berth, we’re really happy with the new place. Here are some “before” photos, taken while the old tenants were moving out. Once we’ve finished unpacking and decorating I’ll do another virtual tour.

Here’s the kitchen, with that infamous custom-made oven/butcherblock...thanks to everyone who convinced me via facebook to buy it from the last tenants!

The bedroom has custom storage cabinets, too, and a gorgeous view out over the valley.

There’s also a den/guestroom/office, and our favorite part: the terrace!

Complete with a bar!

Too bad it’s gotten too cold for outdoor parties.

We’re also enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside. No loud music! No people smoking outside our windows! But we do have one new neighborly annoyance. Listen to this:

Peacocks. The people next door keep them as pets.

Apparently there was one digging around in our garden the other day; dirt was scattered everywhere and there were telltale feathers:

And a few days ago I woke up and looked out the window to find a peahen watching me from her perch on the next rooftop. Our landlord says we should chase them away, but I’m not sure the nuisance could possibly outweigh the novelty. Peacocks! Oh lala.