mercredi 31 mai 2006

(All the professional pictures in this post and the following posts are from our photographer, Jacques Bouaziz, a photographer here in Marseille, I highly recommend him to anyone looking for a photographer in the Bouches du Rhone area. Also, please do not use these photos without permissions. Thanks.)

The morning of the wedding, after having slept a grand total of 4 hours the night before, I went to the hair salon in Salon to get my hair and make-up done. Leah came with me and had her hair and make-up done as well. Lucie arrived later with Manon. We left the salon around 11:30, went back to the house and had a quick bite to eat. Around 1 we arrived at the bed and breakfast in Lancon, which was close to the Mairie. The tourist office had given me a list of places to stay in Lancon, so I had called around, looking for a place to stay. We had originally thought that mom and dad would be staying in a hotel in Salon, which would not give me much room to get ready, plus would then have to get in the car all done up and drive to Lancon. So I had reserved a room several months ago. It turned out to be absolutely beautiful- a very old house with a swimming pool and also an antique store. It was so perfect that we decided to just do the pictures there instead of going all the way over to a public park in Salon and coming back (also saving lots of time.) Mom went off around 1:30 to meet Alain at the church, they had to tie on the pew bows and make sure everything was set up. Mom returned, we got dressed, and then the rest of our family and the photographer arrived. We had some pictures taken, then at 2:45 it was time for Alain to arrive. I was picturing him arriving, knocking on the door, and me going out to meet him. Instead the photographer told him to go back to the City Hall and wait there. So I see him taking off, not looking at me, and am thinking "Why the heck is my groom taking off?" Dad, Mom and I walked out to where everyone was waiting in the square in front of the City Hall. Around 3 the Mayor came out onto the steps and clapped his hands (I think meaning- Okay, enough now. Let's get this show on the road.) We made our way into the City Hall, first Alain and his mother, then Lucie and Manon, then Guillaume and Olivier, and then Dad and me. After everyone was assembled, the ceremony began.
mardi 30 mai 2006

Yes, we did it. All of the legal hassels finally paid off. Alain and I got married here last Friday.
It was a great time, and a big thank you to everyone who was able to come.
Anyway, the whole week was great with no major problems (no lost passports, canceled flights, etc.) and I hope everyone had a good time and enjoyed the french customs and villages. I will post more as I get the chance, but am also waiting for pictures of the ceremonies, the reception, etc. to post with the entries. So, if you were there and have some nice pictures, I would really appreciate it if you would email them to me. Thanks, Mrs. P.
jeudi 11 mai 2006

Alain has a song that I like to call the Stinky Stinky Cheese Song.
Here is how it goes.
"Cheese, cheese, stinky stinky cheese.
Cheese, cheese, I want to eat you."
One of the best things about being in France is of course the cheese. There are so many variaties. Types of cheese that I never would have touched B.A. are really great tasting- goat cheese and peppery cheese and blue cheese. And most of it is really cheap here compared to the US. The same type of cheese, such as Boursin, is five times cheaper.
I proposed to Alain that I could travel around France, eating a different type of cheese every day and write a book about it (there are over 500 types of cheese according to the Cheese book he bought me for my birthday). I could call it "My Year of Cheese". He thought it was a strange idea. I don't know why.
Most tourists to France know that an entire meal can be made out of a hot baguette or two, a couple types of cheese, maybe a sausage, and some wine.
samedi 6 mai 2006
Today I went to the large post office downtown, as I had to do an actual "important" thing- deposit two American dollar checks. (now please keep in mind that this is the same place where I did the exact same thing a few months ago). After a thirty minute wait (which is always amusing because the French just do not do lines. They do not. They refuse. They wander in and tell someone vaguely to guard their place, then they go off and sit and wait. Or else a mom with a toddler in a stroller comes in, walks right up to the front of the line and glares at you until you let her go ahead of you.)
La Poste cannot figure out if wants to be a bank or a post office, so it does both ineffectively. Americans, please do not whine about stamps going up several cents. It is still in my opinion one of the cheapest, most efficient postal systems in the world. Sending the same letter costs twice as much in France and packages are much more.
Point 1: inefficient. There are no slips or forms out in the waiting area, so everyone must wait until they get up to the teller to fill out their deposit slips, customs forms, whatever. They could put them out front, but then people might steal the forms! Why, I don't know.
Point 2: dirty. There are automated stamp machines, which are great. However, the stamps are the peel-off kind. There is no trash can to put the backs in, so they are all over the floor. I would think that the postal workers would find it easier to put a trash can or at least tape a grocery bag to the side of the machine rather than sweeping up the litter every night, but I guess not.
Point 3: long waits. Mainly because of the first reason, but also because of haphazard lines, and not very many tellers.
Point 4: when a package arrives, they will never leave it in the mail area on the ground floor of building. If you are not there, they will take it back to the post office and wait for you to come pick it up. But instead of right then filling out a You've got a package! slip and leaving it that day, I think they mail it to you or something. I have gotten slips that say that five days ago they tried to leave a package and that I could have picked it up four days ago. Sure glad it wasn't important!

So, back to my experience today. When I finally got to the front, I explained what I wanted to do. Nope. Can't do that. What do you mean? I have done it before, right here! Nope. We don't do that. We have never done that. You have to send it into the central office. Okay, so you want me to send two large amount signed checks by mail? Yep. Sigh.
I came back and talked to Alain, who agreed that we would just have to do it that way, and get it certified.
So I went back to La Poste across the street, and waited again in line. (20 minutes). I got to the front and just to see what would happen, said that I wanted to deposit two American checks. Oh sure, no problem. The lady filled out the slip and sent them on their merry way. (There are ATMs, but you cannot deposit money into them.)

So now you see why most of my french dreams take place in La Poste, trying to explain something to the clerks and I just can't make myself understood.
mercredi 3 mai 2006

Aix-en-Provence is a somewhat famous town about 30 minutes northeast of Marseille. Alain and I have been to visit several times. The general feelings of the Marseillais towards Aix is that it is a snobby, stuck-up town, that is nice to visit sometimes, but you wouldn't want to live there. The general feelings of the Aixois towards Marseille is that is a dirty, noisy, big city. I guess both are correct.

From the guidebook- "Provence's former capital is an international student's town, with one of the region's most cosmopolitan streets of restaurants and bars, rue de la Verrerie. The University was founded by Louis II of Anjou in 1409 and flourished under his son, Good King René. Another wave of prosperity transformed the city in the 17th century, when ramparts, first raised by the Romans in their town of Aquae Sextiae, were pulled down, and the mansion-lined cours Mirabeau was built. Aix's renowned fountains were added in the 18th century. "

Sights to see in Aix-

the Old Town, with a 17th century City Hall, 16th century clock tower
Roman baths
18th Century spa complex
Cathédrale St-Sauveur (with a 4th century baptistry, 2nd century columns, etc)
Musée des Tapisseries
Musée du Vieil Aix
Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle
Paul Cezanne's Atelier (Is that Cezanne coming out of his atelier? ->)

From one of my favorite authors about life in Provence, Peter Mayle "A Year in Provence"

"The road leads into Aix at the end of the most handsome main street in France. The Cours Mirebeau is beautiful at any time of the year, but at its best between spring and autumn, when the plane trees form a pale green tunnel five hundred yards long. The diffused sunlight, the four fountains along the center of the Cours' length...

Over the years, a nice geographical distinction has eveolved between work and more frivolous activities. On the shade side of the street, appropirately, are the banks and insurance companies and property agents and lawyers. On the sunny side are the cafés.

I have liked almost every café that I have been to in France, even the ratty little ones in tiny villages where the flies are more plentiful than customers, but I have a soft spot for the sprawling cafés of the Cours Mirabeau, and the softest spot of all for the Deux Garçons...

Aix is a university town, and there is clearly something in the curriculum that attracts pretty students... They are taking a degree course in café deportment, with a syllabus divided into four parts.

One: The Arrival

One must always arrive as conspicuously as possible, preferably on the back of crimson Kawasaki 750 motorcycle driven by a young man in head-to-toe black leather and a three-day stubble..

Two: The Entrance

Sunglasses must be kept on until an acquaintance is identified at one of the tables, but one must not appear to be looking for company. Instead, the impression should be that one is heading into the café to make a phone call to one's titled Italian admirer, when - quelle surprise!- one sees a friend. The sunglasses can then be removed and the hair tossed while one is pursuaded to sit down.

Three: Ritual Kissing

Everyone at the table must be kissed at least twice, often three times, and in special cases four times. Those being kissed should remain seated, allowing the new arrival to bend and swoop around the table, tossing her hair, getting in the way of the waiters, and generally making her presence felt.

Four: Table Manners

Once seated, sunglasses should be put back on to permit the discreet study of one's own reflection in the café windows- not for reasons of narcissism, but to check important details of technique: the way one lights a cigarette, or sucks the straw in a Perrier menthe, or nibbles daintity on a sugar lump. If these are satisfactory, the glasses can be adjusted downward so that they rest charmingly on the end of the nose, and attention can be given to the other occupants of the table.

I imagine there must be the occasional break for academic work in between these hectic periods of social study, but I have never seen a textbook darken the café tables, nor heard any discussion of higher calculus or political science..."

lundi 1 mai 2006

Yay! It is May Day, one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love this month because it is normally not too hot, not too cold, and lots of pretty flowers. Plus, we are getting married this month!

It is a holiday for all of France. Last week we got a flyer saying that there would be a party for this quartier in the square in front of the church. I bought tickets last week, 16 euros each. A little expensive, but I figured it was good to support the community. I managed to knock over an entire display of handcreams in the process of buying tickets, but at least nothing was broken.
So we went to the square at around 12. There were tents set up and a DJ getting ready. It was 98% elderly people, but they all seemed friendly. I danced two dances with an elderly gentleman who assured Alain that it was "not for love, just for friendship." :)
From L'Atelier Vert

But in a country where going on strikes is a national pastime and the left--if delusional--remains somewhat a force to be reckoned with, the Fête du Travail is sacrosanct. Besides, it kicks off the merry month of May, which in France is all the merrier for having more official holidays (thus, time off work) than any other month. With the Fête du Travail, and the Catholic holidays of Ascension and Pentecôte all being official national holidays and thus mandatory days off, the national preoccupation becomes "making the bridge" between the official day off and the nearest weekend. Making the bridge (faire le pont) means scheming to take yet another day or two off to connect the official holiday with the weekend and thus being able to leave town for a real mini-vacation.

Well, this month, May 1st and 8th both fall on Mondays, and the 25th is a Thursday. And, in all fairness to the French, I think there is a quite a bit of fairing le pont in other countries when a holiday falls between Tuesday and Thursday.
Anyway, we started of with Kir, an alcoholic drink similar to wine. Then we sat down and waited forever for the paella,
a rice, vegetable, and meat/seafood dish. There were shrimp, mussels, calamari, and what I like to think were beef, chicken, and ham in the dish. We danced some, but nothing to compared with the waltzes, tangos, and passo doubles going on next to us. We had some cheese and french apple pie (open faced) and then left around 2. (Below: Because every dog likes a good waltz.)
Happy May Day!

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