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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

I’ve been a bit quiet over the last week both here and on the blogosphere in general as I decided to take some me time in honour of the French holiday season.

Last weekend we went back to Lac du Bourget and spent a great weekend in the rain, constantly hoping for it to stop so that we could get out on the lake and wakeboard. After hours of watching the drizzle and storms, the clouds finally dispersed so we made a mad dash down to the lake, jumped on the boat and went out. Five minutes later, the clouds started to gather again and we just made it back to shore before the mother of all storms rained down upon us. No wakeboarding took place :(

So quite a disappointing weekend really.

View from the house - how I would love to have a view like this

Our next trip was on the Monday back to Aix les Bains and was more promising. We spent the first afternoon baking cookies with Hubby’s Godson and the little cousins. Cookie making with a 2 year old, 6 year old and 9 year old is an interesting experience. Once they were finished I had to keep reminding myself not to eat them as I had watched the dough go all over the floor, in and out of the kid’s mouths, behind their ears, in their hair…

Hubby monkeying around

After a while the sun decided to come out and we went up the mountain to a monkey park. I say monkey park as it is an activity park where kids and adults swing from trees like monkeys. The French call this accrobranche (accro for acrobatic and branche for the tree branches). For ages I thought it was called aquabranche and had something to do with water. How very wrong was I! Needless to say I was not equipped: heels and palazzo pants aren’t quite the right the right attire for walking on a tightrope or swinging amongst the trees and nobody could care less that I had a swimming cossie and towel in my bag.

Not being able to do anything and faced with waiting in the cold for hours (14 degrees!) whilst everyone perfected their monkey swings (how appropriate!) I was relegated to looking after the two year old and helping him around the kiddies course.

It was not easy as I had to keep hooking him up and I think the other parents considered that I was a Mere Indigne (not a good mother) as after all, who would take their kid to a park dressed like I was? I must have been a funny sight as I tried to scramble up through the trees so that I could unhook and rehook him all whilst he was wailing or looking at me as if I was an idiot.

On one part I got stuck and couldn’t get down, so there I was with a two year old stood 3 metres off the ground hanging by a rope and me, stuck. Thankfully a parent came to my rescue (or more so to the child’s) and helped me out, all whilst I was trying to explain that he wasn’t my kid and I had no idea what an accrobranche was! Thankfully we were able to complete the course unscathed and the little boy enjoyed it so much that he he looked up at me expectantly and asked if we could do it again. I told him that no doubt his Daddy would take him another time… I was not going to risk his or my safety anymore than required in one day!

It was 14 degrees at the Monkey Park!

After that we went down to the Beaux-Parents for a few days where the temperatures were stifling (39 degrees, what??) and I convinced my Mother-in-Law to teach me to make legumes farcies (one of my fave French dishes). She was very patient and spent a whole morning talking me through the family recipe – I didn’t realize it would take so long to make! You can see the recipe in my latest Expat Focus article here.

So quite a funny week and oh yes… how could I forget? I quit smoking! Desperate not to pile on the pounds I have taken up a new hobby to keep me from nibbling or becoming anxious – fly swatting! Seriously, at the BP’s I spent hours swatting flies. It’s like keep fit. Keeps your mind off the ciggies, off  food (essential) and gives you a full body work out at the same time! So far, the scales have stayed the same and I’ve managed to stay off the weed so to speak so all’s good.

Fly Swatting Results! Yuck!

Happy Fly Swatting Day everyone! (because I decided that today is fly swatting day)

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No where for me to spend my Euros!

I wish I could close. Shut down for a month. Not answer any calls, any emails – just bugger off and leave a sign like this:

Shop notice saying they're closed from 25th July to 26th August

This is a common occurrence in France unless you live in an area popular with tourists such as the Cote d’Azur, but for us mortels that are not lucky enough to live in a place so desirable that everyone else wants to come and visit, we are stuck with the majority of shops being closed!

It’s true that the streets of Lyon are pretty much deserted at the moment, but wandering aimlessly to my Osteo appointment this morning I really thought it was a Sunday. I walked down a whole street, 1.2 kilometres and every single shop was closed! This was in a middle class neighbourhood and there were plenty of people buzzing around in the nearby market so surely proof that not everyone had gone on holiday?

I do not know why shops here and elsewhere in France shut down for a whole month and as a business owner I feel that it is ludicrous. I really wish I could either join in or that the shops would open again!

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Common sense is obviously somewhat lacking at the French Fedex’s offices during the summer. At almost the same time last year I had a run in with them (my first of many) which you can read about here.

It would appear that their corporate brain goes on vacation during the month of August. Or, maybe they’re working in collaboration with organized crime and earning themselves a neat profit from criminal activities?

What leads me to think this?

Fedex have mastered the knack of finding unoccupied properties during the summer months and marking them clearly as targets for all and sundry to see.

How do they do this?

They put a bright yellow sticker on your front door saying that you’re not there!!!

Fedex advertising to Criminals when a property is empty! BRAVO FEDEX!!

Yes, seriously. Whilst La Poste, DHL, UPS and other courier companies are behind the times and simply leave a calling card in your letter box, the intelligent folks at Fedex have over-engineered the calling card and have diversified their business activity at the same time.

Thankfully, the bright yellow sticker was only on my front door (which is street facing nevertheless) for one day, but imagine if I had been decided to stay away for longer? As it was I had been away for 5 days due to a bereavement in Hubby’s family, but I could have quite possibly stayed longer in which case my property would have been advertised as empty all that time! Or, some clever monkey could have nicked the post it for a bit of fun and I would have been none the wiser that they had tried to deliver.

Seriously Fedex – get a grip and use your brains! Do you really want to be responsible for burglaries and missed packages when you could just go back to basics?

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Happy Holidays!

Friday already! I haven’t had chance to do anything at all this week as I’ve been busy busy trying to clear up at work before heading off to Corsica tomorrow!

A week of pure relaxtion, good food and being a true tourist awaits me and I cannot wait! It was nearly all ruined though as I only realised this pm that I had forgotten to hire a car… OOPS! Thankfully I was able to get one cheaper than before, I don’t think I would have dared show my face to Hubby if not.

So, I’ll see you all soon and will look forward to catching up with you upon my return! Be good :)

ps. I don’t know how many of you read the comments once you have posted, but just in case you don’t, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for all their support ref my last post.

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With the intense heat of the last week and my crazy schedule it’s been a bit manic with not much time to blog!

Wedding Cruise

Last Tuesday I attended a wedding party of one of my first French friends I met when I was just 16 on one of the boats on the Saône river in Lyon. Despite living here for many years, a river cruise is something I had never done we were lucky that the day was so perfect for such an activity. The weather was just hot enough to spend the whole evening on deck, cruising along without feeling any chill whilst coiffing back champagne and enjoying delicately prepared nibbles from a well known traiteur (which I don’t know and need to find out!). I didn’t get chance to take too many photos as conversation was flowing and I hadn’t seen a lot of people on the boat for 10 years plus, but if you’re ever in Lyon it is definitely something I would recommend.

Then last Friday I dashed off on a last minute business trip to Paris on what was to be the hottest day of the week and the last day of school for Parisian kids. What a nightmare! The heat in Paris was so intense you literally melted, I thought things were tough in Lyon where it is often hotter than Paris, but mix in the Parisian pollution, tall buildings and that many people everywhere and the heat feels far more intense.

Whilst I was in Paris I was lucky enough to be able to meet up with Karin from An Alien Parisienne in a Starbucks close to Opera Garnier. It was great to meet Karin and it is a shame that she’s in Paris (or that I’m in Lyon) but I’m sure we’ll get other opportunities to meet up in the future. I’m sure Karin won’t mind but I’ve pinched one of the photos she took of us to share here (below).

Karin was excellent in guiding me from the tube to Starbucks and then she kindly accompanied me to my meeting as I didn’t have a clue where I was going (I’d forgotten to take any maps, duh!). It is only thanks to her that I know I have seen the Opera Garnier now, I have often wondered what the building was!

Another thing I have to thank Karin for is introducing me to Picasa for my photos – it’s great and I love it. Picasa is another reason why I have not blogged this week!

At the end after all my meetings, I was a melted, tomato sauce splattered wreck and wanted one thing and one thing only – to be back home. Alas, I was not going home tonight though, I was off to friends for a weekend! As I waited in the crowded Gare de Lyon with everyone who was going South, I started to wish for rain. This is most unlike me, but the heat was just so intense and with all the people standing waiting for their late trains it was extremely claustrophobic and I could barely breathe without touching other people as my lungs expanded. I ventured outside to try and get some fresh air before I fainted and was overjoyed to feel spots of rain on my bare arms. ‘Hurrah’ I though as I stood there embracing the rain. It was a short-lived sensation though, my train had been announced and the platform was the other side of the station – not an easy feat trying to cross Gare de Lyon during the peak traveling period like that! I have now made note never, ever to travel again by train during peak periods such as last day of school.

Saturday the hot weather persisted and I was unable to do much, but come Saturday evening I had a new lease of life and we enjoyed a boat trip with friends around Lac de Bourget near Aix-Les-Bains. Now, this is somewhere I would love to live if I ever left Lyon… I did get one of those free property magazines but I don’t dare open it and look just in case I see somewhere I really like the look of as I think I may just be tempted!

Lac du Bourget

Aix-Les-Bains is only an hour or so drive from Lyon and it is a fantastic thermal spa town sitting on the Lac de Bourget. We weren’t staying in Aix itself but in a nearby village at one end of the lake. I love being around water when it’s very hot and I can say that we definitely appreciated being on water Saturday evening and most of Sunday as temperatures soared past 34 degrees celsius.

Since returning from the lake, the hot weather has persisted in Lyon and yesterday I registered 36 degrees, so it’s now been officially declared that the canicule (heat wave alert) is persisting in Lyon and as I write this the temperature is increasing steadily and yet the sky is slowly being covered by large, grey menacing clouds. I think we’re going to be in for one heck of a storm later! I miss the fresh air from the lake and all I can inhale here are car fumes. I may just sneak a peek at that property magazine this weekend after all…

Where would you like to be during this heat wave?

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Ahhh… I’m back from another week in Portugal, nicely relaxed, fairly tanned and with more weight around the midriff… My holiday mostly consisted of eating, drinking and doing nothing which is absolutely perfect!

Of course, there was a certain amount of football as my Dad is a huge footy fan and I have to say even I enjoyed what I watched.

I was glad to be abroad when France got knocked out, it must have been havoc in the city – I wonder if any cars were burned (car burning is a common French occurrence when youth are discontent with things)? I feel sorry for France though, politicians have become too involved in their sports and they are a good team even if their behavior was disgraceful. They did represent their country well by going on strike though didn’t they?

As for England, well, bitterly disappointing but then I think I hear that at every sporting event – never live up to expectations.

So my dreams of watching an English or French Final on big screen TV in the city square as I did in ’98 (albeit not in Lyon) have been dashed. Who knows who’ll get the final, I think Germany (it wouldn’t be as bitter if we lost to the finalists) or Brazil but I will leave predictions to the specialists as I don’t know anything!

So, aside from watching the footy, we had a good holiday and got to explore some areas we hadn’t seen before such as Praia da Rocha near Portimao. Praia da Rocha looks like a typical holiday resort with manicured beaches and tall apartment buildings. The beach looks just like a postcard though:

Perfect Postcard Pic - Praia da Rocha

I also savored some Portuguese cuisine, although after 4 years of regular trips to Portugal I have to say that their cuisine is nothing special and normally consists of grilled meat or fish, limp salad with no dressing and chips. Fish is also quite expensive and generally has a very fishy taste which I’m not too keen on (okay, so fish should taste of fish, but sometimes for me it tastes too much of fish – are you following?). Due to the extreme lack of variety in Portuguese Cuisine, I like to eat at my Mum and Dad’s rather than going out for a meal; fresh salads, BBQ or good comfort food and dishes from my childhood such as Shepherds Pie.

Monteclerigo Beach

On one particular day we were enjoying a glass of lovely Portuguese vino overlooking the beach and decided to make the most of the excellent weather and stay for dinner. I chose Pork Medallions in a mushroom sauce with chips and salad. When the meal was served I was surprised to see I had been given Crisps with fried onions on them! Chips in French does mean crisps but I had never been given crisps in a restaurant in either France or Portugal before so I was gob smacked to be given crisps as part of my meal!!! The pork was actually nice even if it was undercooked in the middle and the salad was much fresher than what I’d become used to. However, the fried crisps and onions were just disgusting, as bad as they sound.

Crisps for Dinner?

Talking about the beach, one day I was on the beach playing with my new IPhone app and was trying to take some artistic photos. Through the little lens of the application, I spotted a parasol and though it would be cool to include it in the photo. I hadn’t spotted the man underneath it with his hands down his swimming trunks! YUCK! The beaches around where my parents live are quite remote so you often get the odd nudist and exhibitionist but this was taking things to a whole new level. I think he may have heard my exclamation when I looked up, as shortly afterwards he was laying on his side with his leg up in the air and striking poses!!!

Rude Man on Beach

My favourite time on holiday though has to be the end of day aperitif with bread and cheese, sardine paste and chilled white wine overlooking the glistening sea near one of my favourite beaches. Paradise!

Wine, Cheese, Bread and Paste

View to Arrifana from Bar

I was pretty ill (again) before going on holiday – I had caught a chill with the dreadful French weather and it had gone to my sinuses. What a delight it is to return to gorgeous weather in France, it’s been a long long time since I haven’t been able to say that so I hope it’s going to be a long time before I moan again.

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After the cold weather of the past few weeks, last week’s holiday was a shock to my system and to my wardrobe.

Having carried out the necessary prepping allowing me to bare my legs in public, actually committing to and wearing summer dresses and sandals seemed like a strange experience. My tootsies weren’t prepared but thankfully I was having a lazy beach holiday so didn’t need to share my un-pedicured feet with anyone as they were safely hidden in Crocs.

But, did you know about a new fashion faux pas? Forget strap lines or white bikini marks, you now have to watch out for Croc Spots!

Bearing in mind the weather was so awful before I left, I didn’t really expect everyone in the city to be in full summer mode when I ventured out in long trousers and trainers whilst sporting my new beach tan. How did all these French women get their feet done, their legs waxed and a fake tan so quickly? It seemed as if every woman in my local Carrefour was in sandals and summer dress mode. They must all be extremely organised, I bet they all had in scheduled in their diaries as I can never make an appointment that quickly! The beauticians must have made an absolute killing last week.

As for me, well, I’m busy exfoliating and will be going to get a pedicure this week to try out a new gel type varnish devised especially for toe nails. It’s supposed to be long lasting so we will see about that.

I also need to sort through my wardrobe and devise some city suitable outfits for my larger shape given that all the clothes I wore last year are now too small and all the clothes I bought this year (so far!) are suited more to the beach than the city. If I can’t find anything then I think a trip to New Look will be programmed, not the best quality clothing but at least I know they’ll fit!

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Last Saturday I was praying for the Volcanic Ash cloud to stay away and yesterday I was praying for it to come back so that we could stay in our Paradise for a little longer. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and I am now consoling myself in the Lyonnais sun, knowing that I’ll be going back to the Western Algarve in just 4 weeks so I’m now back to hoping that that Icelandic volcano that no-one can pronounce stays away again.

My Suitcase

I’ve unpacked and have spent the morning wondering how men can travel so lightly? How on earth do they do it? I was quite proud of myself last week when packing, as my pile of clothes on the bed waiting to be packed appeared to be quite small compared to what I had been used to packing over the years. I congratulated myself thinking that my sailing trip last winter where our baggage was restricted in size and quantity had done me some good. Maybe, but not as much as Hubby! He put me to shame and my pile seemed like a mountain next to his little hill.

I was so worried that he really hadn’t taken enough clothes and had forewarned my Mum that we would need to do some washing. He had packed 1 swim shorts, 4 t-shirts, 4 shirts, 1 pair of shorts, 1 jumper, a pair of Crocs and had jeans which he was travelling in.

I on the other hand packed 4 dresses, 2 bikinis, 7 tops, 2 pairs of trousers, 3 pairs of shoes, 2 beach wraps, 4 jumpers/cardigans plus the clothes and shoes I was travelling. This really didn’t seem like a lot and I definitely had plenty to wear, but unpacking the suitcase now I’ve realised that half of it has gone unworn! I was never a Girl Guide but did go to the Brownies a couple of times so could it be them that trained me to pack for every eventuality?

Our suitcase weighed in at 25 KG so I’ve made a mental note to myself that if I ever travel Ryanair I will have to get Hubby to do my packing, otherwise my excess baggage charges may just be as much as my ticket! Thankfully we were travelling Easyjet so no problems, how I love Easyjet!

What really annoys me though, is that I had left a load of my toiletries in Portugal to save weight in the suitcase and to save me having to pack them again in 4 weeks time. Shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen… you name it, I’ve left it there to make more room in my suitcase (for more shoes maybe?). I was seriously regretting the sunscreen this morning though as I’d vowed in my quest against ageing never to go in the sun without adequate protection again and to my horror, this morning I realised that I had left all my sunscreen in Portugal bar my special factor 50 face cream!

Determined to be able to enjoy the sun whilst respecting my resolution to protect my skin, I searched amongst the hundreds of lotions and creams I appear to collect and eventually came up with some spray on sunscreen, factor 20. Perfect I thought, until I started spraying it on. A weird odour of celery caught my nose before the stinging sensation on my skin started. I think the lotion has turned into a celery scented vinegar! Anyway, it’s on now and I’m writing this sitting in the sun and so far no adverse affects…

Jims British Market

Jims British Market
When we arrived back in Geneva yesterday, I remembered that there was a British supermarket not to far away so I convinced Hubby to take us there on the way back to Lyon. Battling with TOM TOM who did not appear to want to go anywhere, yet alone a British supermarket we eventually made it there and I entered into English heaven as I explored the aisles of food and delights.

I noticed how brightly coloured all the packaging was compared to French supermarkets and everything just seemed to scream BUY ME, YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT ME! I was shocked by the prices, everything was so expensive but compared to some of the websites some people here had suggested at least I wasn’t having to pay excessive delivery charges and I suppose that Jim (whoever he is) had gone to the trouble of getting all this to France to start off with so given the price of petrol these days and the fact that he is a French business, mark up does have to be high for him to even begin making a profit!

Anyway, not put off by the prices I indulged in several items such as proper bacon, tomato and onion relish, sticky toffee pudding, Kettles Crisps (how good are they compared to the skinny Lays crisps in France!), Angel Delight, Lazy chilli and my favourite, a chicken and mushroom pie amongst other items.

I did notice that they didn’t have any Cadburys Cream Eggs with dismay, but it’s not really the season and I am well stocked up again thanks to my Mum and Dad who made sure that they bought me some more stock :)

Jim’s British Market & Tea Room Website

So this morning, not only am I sitting in the sun all relaxed and covered in sunscreen, but I’ve also enjoyed a somewhat English breakfast of bacon, egg and tomatoes!

Yummy Breakfast!

More yummy - with delish HP sauce!

Now I think I’ll have a go on the Google Pacman they’ve set up to celebrate Pacman’s 30th anniversary – you can actually play it by using your arrow keys, quite addictive! Gosh, who’d have thought I’m nearly as old as Pacman? I hope I haven’t aged as much as that game has!

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No gardening for me this week, I’m on holiday! Thanks to a lot of luck, I managed to fly from Geneva to Faro, Portugal last Saturday for a much needed week of sun and total relaxtion. I’ll leave you to enjoy some snaps of Earth’s garden taken with my iPhone (so please excuse the quality) this week:

Arrifana Beach

Arrifana Beach

Racing Pigeon who came looking for food and drink

Another Beach!

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Jardinage Jeudi

Some people are born gardeners, others are not. I tend to class myself in the latter category much to my despair but being a fair-weather gardener is probably part of my problem. My Mum however is an excellent gardener and I frequently envy the satisfaction she gets from her garden and the hobby it has become for her over the years. I’m much better watching the gardening shows on the TV than actually pretending to have green fingers, so here goes…

There’s nothing better to take the Apero in a lovely garden, surrounded by flowers and plants, or to eat home grown produce.

We don’t have a real garden per se, more like a courtyard style back yard and as we don’t have any flower beds we are limited to growing stuff in pots. We did have a great garden in the UK but it was big and needed way too much maintenance so we’re quite happy with the downgrade.

In fact, we’re more than happy, living in a city we’re very lucky to have any outside space at all yet alone a space we can actually call a garden.

Therefore, as soon as the weather turned good, we got our gardening gloves on just like we did last year and the year before. This was also spurred on by the Flower market (with the frog band) we attended the weekend before where we purchased lots of lovely (but unidentified flowers).

So folks, I’m going to need your help please – can anyone assist in identifying any of these flowers and telling me what they like/don’t like please?

Unidentified Flowers 1

Unidentified Flowers 2

Unidentified Flowers 3

Other than the flowers, we’re re-growing tomatoes this year. Some of the tomato plants we bought, others we found growing in the pots from rotten tomatoes we forgot to remove last year. This proves that this should be a fairly easy task to have home grown tomatoes as it would appear they grow on their own!

Teeny tiny tomato plants

We were luck in that we had a few survivors from the frost and snow; thym, oregano, chives and strawberry plants which have now infested the garden (I didn’t know what rampant meant in French/gardening terms until now). How the cold did not kill these I do not know especially as it managed to kill a lot of my other hardy plants.

The strawberry infestation started from here

A surprise was the kiwi tree that Hubby purchased last year. It has always been this small weedy thing and was rather overwhelmed by the Rosemary. We actually thought it was dead just a month or so ago and now it seems to be growing at an incredible speed. At this rate it’s going to be vying for competition with the strawberries in taking over the garden.

Kiwi, Strawberries and Rosemary

For good measure and because Hubby tells me it will keep the mossies away, we’ve also thrown in some Geraniums. I’m not overawed with these yet as they look a bit scrawny and I’m not keen on the leaves but hopefully with some TLC they’ll turn out all right. Here’s hoping.

Geraniums

Anyhow, after much rummaging in the garden shed trying not to befriend any spiders or creepy crawlers, I ran out of pots so I haven’t been able to pot the Lavender and Mint as yet, which is probably just as well as I’m not sure whether they prefer sun or shade? Also, I don’t as yet know where I’m going to put them in the small space I have left!

& we bought this because it looked pretty!

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