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Posts Tagged ‘France’

As a break from the more serious subjects I’ve written about in the past few weeks, I thought it would be fun to write about some of the language issues we’re currently dealing with Little Miss. If you have some speech funnies to share, please do leave them in the comments at the bottom so I can have a giggle also!

So, bringing up a bilingual toddler is fun right? Who said that? I think it is Frustrating with a capital F. I mean, how do you know what language she is going to speak in each time she opens her mouth and what about understanding those sentences when she combines both languages? Frustrating for Mum and Frustrating for her! Poor babe can’t work out why Mummy (or Maman as she also calls me depending on her mood) can’t understand her.

Until a few weeks ago, Little Miss wasn’t really saying anything but now it’s a constant dribble of bilingual blurb spouting from her mouth from 7am in the morning until 8pm in the evening, and if we’re lucky we get a two hour break at lunch time. That sounds harsh, but you try deciphering what a frustrated two year old is trying to tell you in 35 degrees heat and with extra kilos making you hotter than you should be and a blocked nose making you more temperamental than you usually are. Got the picture?

I am sure that somewhere, a Mum is going to look at this and think that’s so easy and wonder why on Earth I am complaining? Well, she is just really, very, very lucky and obviously didn’t get to experience the full on terrible twos at the same time.

So, back to Little Miss. As I said, it’s bilingual blurb. When she wants milk she says “mi-lait” which is half English with Milk and then French with Lait.

She doesn’t yet seem to have grasped that words have beginnings and ends and everything she says comes out without them. The other day she was in the pushchair and suddenly started screaming “apple, apple, apple”. Now, I took this as meaning she wanted an apple so got quite frustrated as she had only just had her snack and was telling her that there was no apple. Then a passerby stopped and handed me a hat – CHAPEAU except Little Miss was only saying APEAU which is part French for hat and of course I wasn’t expecting French at all.

So that’s pretty much the story of our communication at the moment. She says something, Mummy (or Daddy) grossly misunderstands and then there are tears. I was never any good at those games where you had the guess the actor or film just by clues so I’m not really very good at this game.

I’m loving that we’re able to communicate (eventually) but I’m really looking forward to less misunderstandings as I am zonked!

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Ah how very British of me! A post about the weather. Well, it has to be said that the weather has been pretty crazy recently and I have heard that the UK has actually been getting better weather than parts of France too which is a turn up for the books and not what we’re used to hearing!

For those of you in France, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. The endless winter came to end suddenly last week and we launched ourselves straight into summer with temperatures soaring over 30 degrees with no time to gently dip ourselves into the summer way of life.

Now I am reading on Connexion France (article here) that Paris is experiencing violent thunder and hail storms and parts of France have been put on Orange alert.

Taking a quick peak at my own weather forecast (which I admit to looking at several times a day, every day) I see temperatures are going to plummet again and no doubt we will be back to putting on the fire in the evening to take the chill out of the house.

Temps plummeting to 18 degres high

Temps plummeting to 18 degres high

There is one good thing about the late arrival of summer: apart from having to cobble an outfit together for a few hot days, there hasn’t been any real need to wear summer clothes so therefore no need to buy any as yet and the sales will start soon (26th June here) so I’ll be able to get my summer wardrobe at a discount! Youpee!

Date for your diary!
I love a bargain and even more so a giveaway so I’m giving you a heads up on a competition that I’ll be running here in collaboration with Subscription Save from Wednesday 19th June. Don’t forget to pop in on Wednesday to join in!

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Beaujolais is more than just a wine. It is a beautiful area full of architectural delights, rolling hills and vineyards and is within easy driving distance of Lyon.

Image from Wikipedia

Often mocked for its inferior quality wine, the Beaujolais is a beautiful region and does actually have some perfectly nice drinking wines.

Did you know that white Beaujolais wines can sometimes qualify for the renowned Burgundy appellation? Some of the white wines are that good that people will happily drink them believing them to be Burgundy when in fact they are just good old Beaujolais!

Aside from the wine, what I love most about the Beaujolais is the community spirit and the scenery.

Old houses are often built from a remarkable golden stone and when the sun catches the stone it actually looks as if they are made from gold. Property is quite expensive there due to its proximity to Lyon which is a shame as it means that it is an area that many tourists or foreign property hunters ignore.

Some of Mr Piglet’s family have lived in the Beaujolais for years and Mr Piglet even lived there himself for a while.

My first initiation with Beaujolais life was whilst celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November. We had been invited by Mr Piglet’s uncle who is a part time winemaker for the unveiling of his Beaujolais Nouveau. Mr Piglet didn’t give me any forewarning that the wine tasting would turn into an all night party!

The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!

After tasting his wine, we were carted off to the neighbours to taste their wine and so it went on. On foot we trekked from house to house and Mr Piglet was running wild buying bottles and bottles of all different wines wherever we went promising to stop by the next day to collect. I realized that Mr Piglet who was supposed to be driving was definitely over the limit so begged his Aunt to let us stay the night.

Worse for wear...

What I liked most about it was that it wasn’t youngsters running amok whilst drunk like you would expect in the UK maybe. The atmosphere was jovial and youngsters, families and the old of age were all mixing together, socializing and enjoying some good old plonk, saucisson soaked in wine and various other specialties.

Party in the cellar

All in all the Beaujolais has a lot to offer and is definitely worth checking out. Maybe I’ll chose to share some of my other stories about time spent there soon…

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year now since I moved out of our Villeurbanne loft, had a baby and moved to the French countryside. The trials and tribulations of the house purchase have become a distant memory and yet I hadn’t even started exploring the local area until this weekend (apart from a trip or two to the lake for lunch and a swim).

Sunday morning, we awoke to beautiful sunshine, it was cold but sunny. After the Arctic weather spell, cabin fever had set in and I was itching to get out and explore. Mr Piglet had told me about Morestel and over breakfast he happened to mention that one of his clients had sung the praises of the market.

Baby Piglet still loves her naps so any exploring needs to be done pretty much between nap times so within half an hour we were all dressed ready to go.

It took about 20 minutes to get there from here, 20 minutes in which I saw the temperature drop from 8 degrees to 3 degrees and the sun be replaced by fog. Great!

When we arrived the market was immersed in fog which enabled me to take a few unusual pictures, including one where the church (high above the town) looked like it was surreal.

Submerged in fog

Church

Morestel is an old painters town and was home to François-Auguste RAVIER. His home is now a gallery which is unfortunately closed until March. In fact, all of the galleries and arty shops are closed until then but we still had a nice walk around, exploring the market and taking pictures.

Ravier's House

Whilst at the market, we spotted some chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs. Baby Piglet had a great time looking at them, bewildered, scared and intrigued – all at the same time! I had a fun time watching the expressions cross her face and then she started talking to the birds!

After visiting the market and getting some fresh vegetables, we had a wander through the town and up to the old town. I had fun taking photos and the locals had fun staring at me! I love architecture so the ancient buildings and different eras were of much interest to me.

Castle

By the time we got back to the car Baby Piglet was fast asleep!

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I feel old. My frequent trips to and from the hospital in Lyon for my eye have meant that I’ve spent more time than I dare consider sitting in waiting rooms and hanging about in hospital corridors.

 

Whilst in the beginning I couldn’t see and Mr Piglet’s comments about how young the Doctors looked fell on deaf ears (I thought he was having a crisis as his birthday was coming up), as I waited on Tuesday, I was astounded by how young these Doctors were!

 

I cringed inwardly as I watched Converse clad feet, holey jeans and ribbon bracelets parade around in white Doctor coats. Spots, nose piercing and those weird things that make your ear hole get bigger were everywhere. I knew that it was a teaching hospital and automatically assumed that all these kids were just out of high school and on work placements.

 

But no! Alas! These ugly ducklings were fully fledged Doctors (or ophthalmologists) and were totally qualified to treat me. As I watched the young girl examine my eye and provide notes I felt as if she should be asking her Dad permission to stay out late (it was past 6pm). Thank goodness that there were more senior members on the team too although they only looked about my age. What happens to the older members of staff? Do they evaporate somewhere?

 

I have another question though – whatever happened to dressing up for work? I know they spend a lot of time on their feet but their clothing hardly looked clean yet alone suitable for a professional person. Maybe times have changed, they obviously have and I am obviously getting old.

 

I always assumed and was used to being treated by Doctors that were older than me not considerably and noticeably younger than me.

 

This is going to take some getting used to. I had better start putting plenty of anti-wrinkle cream on.

 

When was the first time that you felt old?

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The great thing about where we live now is the easy accessibility to many places of interest including Annecy.

I had never been to Annecy before and had heard great things. I know there is quite an expat community there and normally expats are drawn to touristy type places. Even my Mum (Grandma Piglet) knew about Annecy and had been hankering to visit it for the last couple of years, but when we were living in Lyon the long drive and battle with traffic to leave the city was off-putting for everyone.

My image of Annecy was mainly of the lake. I am drawn to lakes (water in general) so this had been my focus point, my reason to want to visit. The lake (Lac d’Annecy) is nearly 15 km’s long and 3.5 km’s wide. It is surrounded by mountains and is the second largest glacier lake in France, after nearby Lac de Bourget (near Aix les Bains).

The decision to go to Annecy was last minute. BabyPiglet had slept pretty much through the night and I had awoken that morning with plenty of energy, a rare occurrence. So I suggested to my parents and Mr Piglet that we make hay whilst the sun shines (this expression has a lot of truth in the countryside I have discovered) and head to Annecy.

Because of the last minute decision we didn’t get chance to research and we all piled into our little C4, BabyPiglet included. Thankfully we were only in the car for 45 mins before we arrived as we were squashed in like sardines!

Upon arrival in Annecy, our first thoughts were deception. Grandma Piglet began to wonder if she had imagined all the nice things she had read. The buildings were new, the architecture mediocre. As we sat in a traffic jam waiting to enter a car park we were all quite glum, no-one fancied walking around a commercial centre.

We parked easily and left the car park the opposite way to which we entered it and we were greated with Annecy’s fabulousness. It was like how I imagine Venice!

Arrival in Annecy - one of the first views we had

Medieval buildings rising out of the water, a canal like passage running through the street. All that were missing were the gondolas. The streets were buzzing with tourists and brocanteurs – an antiques fair was in full swing with ice cream eating tourists swarming around the stalls like bees around the honey pot.

Annecy - view from the lake edge

Annecy - walking along the water's edge

The outing was our first trip out with BabyPiglet so we were anxious to be comfortable and ensure she didn’t get hot, tired or hungry. Not easy for new parents with a small baby! Pretty much as soon as we arrived we stopped off at a small restaurant adjacent to the water and overlooking some really picturesque buildings. On the other side of the water canal was a hairdressers shop – we wondered how anyone could access it to have their cut.

After lunch we carried on walking around for a while, but I soon became achey and wanted to rest again. By this point we had arrived at the Lake and had spotted THE tourist trap – tour boats! Mr Piglet had passed his river and coastal boat license last year so that we never had to go on these boats again, but seeing the water, the boats and knowing that we could go on one there and then I was like a kid. A few quick checks with the company re-assured me that there was a shaded area and that we could get the pram onboard so off we set! Baby Piglet’s first boat trip!

The Tour Boat

The trip itself was a bit of a downer, the boat was packed and Baby Piglet became a tourist attraction herself. If I’d asked for a Euro for every time someone peeked over at her I would have probably have had enough to rent a private boat for a few hours. I was delighted though as she was totally unfazed about being on water as opposed to dry land and was quiet and relaxed throughout the tour.

Baby Piglet on the boat

Next time we'll rent one of these

If I win the Euromillions you may find me living around here

Afterwards, we decided it was time to head back to the car before she got tired and grumpy – the dreaded feeding marathon was approaching. Every evening from about 6pm she feeds non-stop stocking up for the night. It’s hard work but the reward is well worth it – uninterrupted night sleep for her and me!

On the walk back we couldn’t resist stopping off at one of the hundreds of ice cream parlors and each having an ice cream. There are ice cream parlors everywhere in Annecy, it was amazing. I had never seen anywhere in France with so many ice creams! Definitely not a place to go when you’re on a diet!

Once back at the car we were all tired and pleased to be on the road back to the house. Mr Piglet informed us that we’d only visited part of Annecy and that we still had the shopping area left to visit. It wasn’t possible to visit that area on the same day as we’d run out of time so we will have to plan another trip back next time my parents are over.

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Hello! It’s been a while but boy have we been busy settling into our new home and adapting to life with Baby Piglet. I’ve barely had a chance to get behind a PC and my online time has been limited to Twitter and Facebook on my crackberry whilst I’ve been nursing.

Everything’s going hunky dory and Baby Piglet is proving to be an absolute delight except for when she has a growth spurt and then she turns into a milk monster. I’ve struggled to keep up with her but things are getting better as I get better (yes, I’m still not quite recovered).

Here’s a wee pic of Baby Piglet yesterday in her summer dress that her Gramps bought her:

Baby Piglet at 7 Weeks


Hasn’t she changed? I get quite nostalgic already when I look back at the photos and see how much she has changed and she’s only 7 weeks old!

The house is great. We felt at home immediately and whilst country life is taking some getting used to (more of that soon), we are so pleased to be here despite everything we had to go through to get here.

It took a while to get rid of the old owners and this Wednesday we were finally able to celebrate them vacating the workshop and leaving the property forever. We cracked open a bottle of bubbly after Baby Piglet had gone to bed and I was drunk within a few sips.

Its been great to get lots of help and sit back and watch as friends and family unpack our stuff and help us settle as I look after Baby Piglet and rest. The only downside is that Mr Piglet has discovered the full extent of my hoarding. The garage is full of boxes and the bedroom wardrobes are full and yet there’s still boxes everywhere and they’re all full of my stuff!

I’d managed to hide my hoarding during the packing as my Mum packed most of my clothes (including all the ones that had never been worn and still had tags on) but she’s not arriving until Tuesday and my French family already unpacked them!

I’ve been well and truly caught out and have promised to sell lots of stuff at a car boot or online as soon as possible. I actually felt embarrassed as they unpacked a box of clothes I wore 13 years ago (all in excellent condition though). Now that I’m a Mum I don’t want to hang on to this stuff and am finally ready to leave it behind me. Mr Piglet will be delighted I’m sure!

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Chez nous

Chez nous

Moving day was interesting.

The old owners were still moving out. They were supposed to have given us the keys on Wednesday but weren’t ready. They had a wardrobe to move still which took them 4 hours to dismantle and take out. It wasn’t a big wardrobe either. Words failed me but I no longer care so I watched on amused. No wonder they weren’t ready to move on time – they had made a simple job super complicated!

A few things have stood out for me since we arrived:

  • 1. There are cows (brown and white ones, not Milka ones unfortunately) at the end of the garden.
  • 2. The postman honks when he gets here and then stays in his car. I wondered what on earth was going on this morning.
  • 3. Its cooler inside the house than it is outside, we all need to wear an extra layer, Baby Piglet included! I had been told to expect this but found it hard to imagine. The house is made of pise which in its brut state to me looks like weetabix. Its a traditional building material for old farm houses in these parts and keeps the warm in in the winter and out in the summer. Clever stuff!
  • 4. Storms here are much scarier than in the city.
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    Who here pays their electricity and gas bills by automatic direct debit? Did you know that it is likely you are financing the utility companies by doing this?

    I’ve always been useless at paying bills, I would open them, put them on my desk, have a couple of really busy days and they’d soon be buried under mountains of paperwork and forgotten about. Fed up with getting reminder letters, I set up direct debits for all of my utilities thinking it was the right thing to do…

    Only it wasn’t, I’ve had some astronomical bills come through since and last summer I started paying scrupulous attention to what I was being billed and debited. The thing with direct debit is that because it’s so automatic and doesn’t require much effort we can have a tendency to not pay attention to how much we’re paying.

    Since last summer I have been carefully checking our electricity consumption and comparing it to the bill. Each bill I have received since has been erroneous; the first one by about 30 Euros, the second one by 150 Euros and yesterdays bill by 400 Euros! Each time these amounts are debited from my account and I have to call up EDF to get them to correct it! It’s ended up taking me more time to sort out than simply writing a check and it’s always them that owe me money, never the other way round!

    Yesterday really took the biscuit though as I was not expecting to be debited more than 700 Euros for my electricity bill as I hadn’t paid attention to the bill when it arrived so was caught rather by surprise.

    Thankfully a quick call to EDF resolved the situation without any upset and the lady was really helpful, even suggesting I ask my bank to refuse the direct debit if it had put me in difficulty (not exactly what you want to do when you’re trying to get a French mortgage mind…). I have never come across someone as helpful as she was and I was truly grateful for her for not making things difficult for me. Within 30 minutes I had a corrected bill and credit note (a reimbursement would take 3 weeks and we’ll be moved by then). This is one of my only examples of good customer service in France but it goes to show that it does exist, albeit very rarely.

    It appears I’m not the only one to receive high bills from EDF, I read on TF1 about some poor bloke that got stuck with a bill for nearly 60 000 Euros at the beginning of January. The poor guy still hasn’t managed to sort it out with EDF now, so he’s obviously not had quite as much luck as I have.

    I can no longer afford to be financing these companies; if I want to invest money in them I’ll buy shares thanks very much! It’s easy for them to get away with debiting and billing what they want and then taking time to rectify, so from now on I’ll be paying all my bills by good old cheque thank you very much!

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    Well, contrary to last week when I started Jardinage Jeudi, temperatures have dramatically declined and it has been tipping it down, so I’ve not been in the mood for gardening. I did mention in my last post that my lack of talent in the gardening department is probably due to the fact that I am a fair-weather gardener.

    My Belle-Mere told me last weekend that its normal for cold spells to arrive in May, and that until the Saints de Glace (11th, 12th and 13th May) are finished we are still at risk of frost and traditionally you’re supposed to avoid planting anything sensitive until afterwards. Ah well, if I’d known that before…

    Looking at Pissou’s blog, we’re getting off lightly in Lyon compared to other places. Check out the photos of the snow that she had on May 4th – unbelievable, somebody tell the weather we’re in May for goodness sakes!

    So, not being very keen on the gardening this week I have turned my attention to improving my comfort in the garden and stuff that can be grown indoors.

    On a previous visit to the Beaux-Parents (BP), Hubby and I spotted a lovely outdoor sofa suite, complete with cushions and all. The price was right (and so much cheaper than anything I had seen over the past two years) but the location was not. Not too worried about how we would get it from Provence to Lyon, we bought it and had it delivered to the BP’s house. We weren’t feeling quite so smart this weekend when we were confronted with an absolute mammoth box! How we were going to get that back to Lyon was another question entirely.

    Hubby as always, was full of bright ideas and eventually we set off, in gale force winds, with a sofa and a table on the roof and the rest of the chairs in the car. Fearful of being stopped by the police on the motorway (and also for ours and other drivers’ safety) we set off on a long drive home, Nationale 7 all the way. Despite the bad weather, it made for a nice change and the scenery was lovely (I of course was not driving so could fully take in my surroundings). If it wasn’t for having a sofa on the roof and for fear of having it nicked if we stopped (yep, I am too used to living in a city now) I would have loved to have stopped at some of the vineyards and quaint little villages we crossed along our way.

    The whole experience reminded me somewhat of the Maghrebin families that return to their home countries with plenty of goods for their families in the summer. You often see them on the motorways with loads as big as their cars tied to their roofs and I’ve often wondered how long it would take them to arrive at destination. They are certainly determined people and it must take a lot of courage and patience to go all that way with that much stuff on the roof.

    Photo Credit: Code Clic.com

    Anyway, the outdoor suite is now back safely and installed in our garden. Unfortunately it hasn’t stopped raining for long enough for us to sit on and enjoy it, but it looks like it may stop in time for the weekend, so fingers crossed…

    A big thank you to Gillpj and Rosabell who helped me in identifying my flowers last week. They are looking a bit worse for wear after all the bad weather but I am confident that now I know what they are I should be able to grow them successfully. I guess only time and TLC will tell! On Rosabell’s recommendation I have even purchased a new hanging basked (PIC) for my ‘special geraniums’ officially called Tirol Geranium. I will be waiting until the weather improves though before re-planting!

    So, onto what’s been growing inside. A few weeks ago I planted some Basil seeds in yoghurt pots, in the hope that they would grow big enough for me to be able to plant them outside with the tomato plants. I did this last year and had three lovely Basil plants. This year is not proving to be as successful though, unfortunately my cats got at the seedlings last weekend and I only have two little spurts of a plant left! They obviously preferred the taste of Basil plants to their cat biscuits! I guess I’ll be planting some more soon.

    Poor Basil Seedlings

    Possible Culprit 1


    Possible Culprit 2

    Here’s hoping the sun comes back out in time for the weekend so I can get back in the garden.

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