vendredi 30 juin 2006
(picture courtesy of La Provence)

There are two things that Marseille does very well- trash and strikes. When they combine into one (ie the Garbage collectors go on strike) watch out! Within about three days the city is going to reek. Especially in high summer.

Here is some info from another website.

Nationally, SNCF is running about 50 to 60 percent of normal on long distance routes. Marseille is still on strike, and there are no trains running from Toulouse, Montpellier, or Limoges. Service is increasing in the west with four return trips from Paris to Nantes and Rennes; and 50 percent of normal service to Bordeaux. The Eurostar trains to Brussels and London are supposed to operating normally.

Note also that the port of Marseille is shut down and the garbage collectors are still on strike, in addition to buses, in Bordeaux.

La Poste- A minority of sorting centers are still voting for
strike action, so deliveries are expected to be irregular all this week. Mail your Christmas cards as soon as you can. In France, cards are usually sent for New Year instead, so it is not unusual to get cards at the end of January.

The date? 1995

And again
September 1999:- Big subjects in the papers are the garbage strike in Marseille

And finally, from some exchange students
Marseille 2003
-Why go to the most criminal city in France?
Although the tourist books say:
“Marseille only has 4 places of interest”, we discovered that there is a lot more to enjoy in and around Marseille that is worthwhile to sniff from a couple of hours to taste the French lifestyle. (please do not do this when the garbage men are already on strike for a week!)
Apart from the garbage men to be on strike the public transport and even the students of the university have been on strike several times, but it only made us realize that the NS is not that bad after all.

-After a short holiday break were we visited Spain, we returned to
Marseille in the evening and are confronted with a terrible mess in the streets. Everywhere in the whole city the streets are filled with garbage and for the first time of my life I see rats and cockroaches peacefully dining together. Marseille was already not the cleanest city of Europe, but at that moment it was the dirtiest place on earth. The cause of this mess was, obviously, a strike of dustmen. This strike took almost 2 weeks and fortunately the municipality of Marseille found a great solution: spraying a citron-odoured liquid in the streets! An anti climax to leave Marseille like this after nevertheless a great time.

Hmm. Let me get this straight. They are saying that there are student strikes, transportation strikes, La Poste is slow and annoying, and that the garbage people are on strike? I don't believe it! Okay, it seems like I have been pretty negative about Marseille lately. But I really think that besides maybe Quito, Ecuador it is the dirtiest city that I have lived in. There is a high amount of graffiti, dog droppings and general trash all over. People really just do not seem to care that they dropped a sandwich wrapper on the street 2 feet away from a trash can.
Dog droppings are not required to be picked up by their owners. Or perhaps they are, but it certainly isn't enforced. The most that people will do is to drag their dog over towards the gutter or a patch of dirt when he starts to squat. So the good news for dog owners in Marseille- you don't have to pick up your dog's poop. Bad news for everyone else- you are walking in dog poop.
So normally the trash cans are emptied once a day, then someone comes by as well with a big broom to brush all trash on the sidewalk into the gutter where it will be washed away by the water that flows through the gutters. (on purpose from faucets, not rainwater.)
Then people come through with huge hoses to power wash the trash off the sidewalks into the street where it is swept up by a big street cleaner. It would be impossible to get people to park only on one side of the street this night and the other side of the street the next night. Why? because there are simply not enough parking spots as it is, much less when half of them are required to be empty.
There is some recycling, but mainly for glass and plastic. I haven't seen any paper/newspaper recycling bins.
So this latest strike lasted for a little over a week and was, as always, about the hours of work and salary. After a strike it takes several days just to pick up all the extra trash by hand that was set around the garbage cans. It is actually quite a shock to see how much trash is accumulated from the people living on one street in a week. It seriously makes you worried about the environment.
lundi 26 juin 2006
One thing that I have found that seems to be unique to learning French is the Dictée. Basically, it is a way to test your listening comprehension, spelling, and verb conjugasions all at the same time. The teacher reads a text, and you have to copy what he or she reads. Sounds easy right? Nope. Because there are a lot of spellings that you can't hear and have to know that they are there, depending on the text. Such as the difference between "je suis allé" for a man and "je suis allée" for a woman. They sound exactly alike. Whereas for English, if you know the spelling, which granted can be tricky sometimes, you can pretty much get it right.
Even when I took one semester of French 101 in Virginia the teacher did this. Here in France, there is a TV show where a man comes on and reads a Dictée and the audience tries to write what he says, and the home audience can do the same. Oh Boy!

Here is an example of what you hear for a dictée.

"Leh bah-ca-laur-ay-at a faytay ses doo cent shans en doo meel un. Ceh dee-plome res poor ahn gran nohm-bre day joone jhan une ayta pahm-poor-tan dahn leur par-cour scolaire. Leh bah-ca-laur-ay-at day-mure un eggs-ahmen deefeecile ohs you day ghen-air-ah-tions deh joone lee-say-ens qui see pray-san shaq ahnay. Ce-day-pan-dan, dehpui lay loi deh ori-en-ta-tion deh mille noof sans cah-tre vahn noof, leh bah-ca-laur-ay-at ah chan-jay deh ohb-jec-tif. Il neh sah-jee plu deh leh con-fair-air ah oone aye-leete may deh loov-rir lar-jay-mahn ah twot lay coo-che deh la poh-puh-la-tion dahn sen sue-see dahc-say ah lah coul-ture poor toos. Il ee ah may-teh-nahn une grahnd dee-ver-see-tay deh bah-ca-laur-ay-at. Dahns quel-que shan-nays, la pluh-par days Fran-says sehron tee-too-layr deh ceh dee-plome qui ooh-vreh lay poort ah bow-coo dough-tre sehx-ah-men ooou cohn-coor."

So that is what you hear. I wonder if anyone who knows French can figure out my phonentic translation. Besides the words, the teachers says the ponctuation, such as comma, period, etc. I am getting better at guessing where the accents marks are supposed to go. It helps to have a reader who is good at reading dictees. It is EEM POHR TANT that they pronounce correctly, remember to say all of the punctuation marks, and don't get lost and skip words.

Anyway, here is what you are supposed to write.
"Le baccalauréat a fété ses deux cents ans en 2001. Ce diplôme reste pour un grand nombre de jeunes gens une étape important dans leur parcours scolaire. Le baccalauréat demeure un examen difficile aux yeux des générations de jeunes lycéens qui s'y présentent chaque année. Cependant, depuis les lois d'orientation de 1989, le baccalauréat a changé d'objectif. Il ne s'agit plus de le conférer à une élite mais de l'ouvrir largement à toutes les couches de la population dans un souci d'accès à la culture pour tous. Il y a maintenant une grande diversité de baccalauréats. Dans quelques années, la plupart des Français seront titulaires de ce diplôme qui ouvre les portes à beaucoup d'autres examens ou concours."

Eet ees vair-ry dee-fee-coolt.
vendredi 23 juin 2006

Yesterday I took the TGV up to Lyon to meet a business contact. (How cool is that- Speeding through the South of France on the TGV for business? But I bet it gets less cool after the 100th time.)
I got up at 6, took the subway to the Marseille train station, (picture) the Gare St. Charles. My train left at 7:40. It was rather uneventful, but I was disappointed that I couldn't see more- on the ground level you see mostly hedges and privacy fences. You have to be on top to really get a nice view of the beautiful countryside. I vowed that on the way back I would sit on top. But on the way back there was only one level. And I slept. Oh well.
The trip was supposed to take a little over an hour and a half. Instead, it took about an extra half hour just pulling into the train station in Lyon. I got off the train and looked for the nearest Metro station. Except that the Metro was on strike. Go France!
Upon leaving the train station, I immediately got stopped by some woman handing out something. Forget what I said in the Mademoiselle/Madame post. Apparently, even dressed up in my "Big Girl Important Clothes" I still warrant a Mademoiselle.
Lyon has quite an extensive public transportation system- four metro lines (compared to Marseille's two), a tramway, and I think a hundred bus lines. I stood for about 15 minutes just trying to figure out where I was on the map and how to get to the old part of the city. The bus line map was labeled with the stop names and names of each quarter, not the street names. So it was an interesting exercise in deduction to try to match up my tourist map (printed rather badly from my book) with the street names to the bus line map. I finally decided to just walk in the general direction of where the old town must be. Lyon is described as
"France's second city, dramatically sited on the banks of the Rhône and Saône rivers, has been a vital gateway between north and south since ancient times. Upon arriving you immediately feel a brin du sud, or touch of the south."
Marseille and Lyon both vehemently contest that THEY are the second largest city in France after Paris. I think it depends on whether you count just the city or the suburbs as well. Anyway, in order for a tourist to feel that it has the "brin du sud" I think you have to be arriving from up north. Coming from the south south of France, it definetely feels northern. Alain once was amazed when talking with another American in the US who told him that she had visited the South of France. He asked where exactly she had visited in the south. She replied "Lyon". He laughed because all true Provençals think Lyon is WAY UP THERE. I think that if you divide France horizontally in half it is considered in the southern half, but I think it still has some attitudes of the north. And the Southerners definetely consider it the North. Of course, I was only there for half a day.

Lyon was founded by the Romans in 43 BC on the site of a Gaulish hill-fort settlement called Lug[o]dunon—from the Celtic sun god Lugus (light) and dúnon (hill-fort). It was recognized as a major point on the roads between the north and south and later became the capital of Gaul due to it's geographical position and the rivers. There are still two large Roman amphitheaters remaining, one built in 15 BC for 30,000 spectators.

Lyon is now the capital of the Rhône Department. It has 9 arrondisements (haha, less than Marseille's 16), which are different areas or departments of the city.

So I walked towards the old part of Lyon. The City Hall is beautiful. At least, I think this is a picture of the City Hall. For some reason they have a big Bull statue in front. You would think they would have a Lion. I walked toward the big Eiffel Tower wannabe but had to turn back before I reached it so I would make my meeting in time. It is like an illusion- you think it is getting closer as you walk towards it for 45 minutes, but it still remains really far away. The Marseillais tease the Lyonnais for being copycats- they copied the Notre Dame de la Garde church of Marseille and the Eiffel Tower of Paris.
In reality, the tower is the Tour Métallique and was built in 1893, and now is a television transmitter. And the church is the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière "the hill that prays", described as a "gaudy mock-Byzantine creation- a riot of turrets and crenelations, marble and mosiac- was built in the late 19th century and has become one of the symbols of Lyon." Anyway, I didn't get to judge the gaudiness for myself, as I had to get back to my meeting. My feet were killing me by this time anyway. So I limped back to the train station, our appointed meeting spot.
On the way back, I noticed Lyon's handing of traffic. They seem to have a much better grip on it than Marseille. Or maybe it is just that Lyon is past the growing pains that Marseille is in the throws of right now in constructing the tramway. Lyon also has a Rent A Bike program. They have red bikes stationed at various places in Lyon. You have to insert a card (probably a bank card I am guessing, or ID card at least) into a computer system, and it unlocks one of the bikes for you. This seems to be working well, unlike poor Charlottesville who had a similar yellow bike program and all the bikes diappeared within about a week. I think the difference is that in Charlottesville they relied on the honor system whereas in Lyon there is some amount of accountability and traceabilty.
I met my colleague for lunch. Although Lyon is considered the Gastronomic Capital of France, we had a 13 euro lunch right by the train station consisting of a salade verte (green salad. Which usually in France means just lettuce.) a personal pizza, and a dessert- chocolate moose for me. He left around 2. I was planning on walking around some more, but didn't feel like braving the bus system or walking all way back to the Vieux Lyon, so I wandered around the shopping mall across the street. Pretty typical mall, one could almost believe that they are in a US Mall. They even have The Body Shop here. Oh, and no food courts. There tend to be little cafes and stands in the malls, not a big eating area.

My return TGV ticket was for 5:30, but I wanted to see if I could catch an earlier train back. I was able to exchange it and catch the 3:15 train. There were two women watching a DVD (I think Pirates of the Caribean) on a portable DVD player. Without the headphones on. After a couple of minutes of LOOKS from me and some other passengers, I finally asked if they would please not mind putting the headphones on. Well, apparently this was a huge imposition and how Dare I Ask That. They did finally do it with much huffing and puffing. I meant to stay awake and look at the beautiful scenery but conked out, made it back to Marseille a little before 5. So that was my interesting trip to Lyon. (picture below- lion crossing the crosswalk)

mardi 20 juin 2006

Congratulations Coralie and Sylvain! June 17, 2006

This weekend, Alain and I went to the 100% French wedding (versus the 75% of so French wedding that we had) of his friends Coralie and Sylvain nearby in the town of Hyères, where Lucie, Nicolas, and Manon are living.

When we woke up Saturday morning the sky was grey and intermittently raining. We hoped that it would get better later on. We left for Hyères around 9:45, taking the toll highway (3 euros in tolls). It took us a little less than an hour and half, but it would have been shorter if we had known exactly where we were going. Luckily, beach traffic wasn't too bad and besides a slight detour in Toulon we managed to find our way.

Lucie and Nicolas fixed lunch for us, and we played with Manon. The ceremony at the City Hall started around 3:30, so Nicolas dropped us off a little after 3. It was packed. As it was on a Saturday and in a bigger town, there were 12 weddings scheduled for the same day at the City Hall! It was strange because there were about 3 other brides in the area, waiting for their turn or having just got done. All the guests got mixed up and just as one group was finishing another would drive off honking and stuff. Alain met one of his old friends, Stéphane there. They did their Master's together in Marseille. I had been worried about not knowing anyone there and having to talk to complete strangers in French, but it turned out okay.

Coralie's dress was pretty, not sure what company made it, but it had sort of a pick-up look and no train. The bodice was covered in lace, and she had a piece of lace around her neck and lace gloves. Her bouquet was small white lilies, and she had fake ones in her hair. The groom wore a black suit and an ivory vest. The Mayor was a woman, which is the first time I have seen a female Mayor here.
It was interesting to see how different couples (and brides especially) react emotionally to different parts of the day. Like I got emotional when the Mayor pronounced us married, but them not at all. Whereas she got very emotional walking down the aisle, but I was fine up until the Prayer we had written.
Then we walked to the church, which was very pretty, but much more austere than ours was. It was made of brick or stone with stained glass windows and no paintings. The priest was much younger than ours was, and actually played the guitar and sang the Psalm, which was the first time I have ever seen a Catholic priest do that!

After the church ceremony, we walked back to Lucie's and had some water and rested before driving out to the reception. The reception was a very pretty area, way out in the countryside with vineyards all around.
The reception started at 7:30 (actually, we didn't know we were supposed to drive out with the whole group to the reception right after the ceremony to take pictures, so we showed up later and they all wondered where we had been.)

The cocktail hour was quite nice, then we went inside. There were fifteen tables, decorated relatively simply with a candleabra at each table and some rose petals sprinkled around. They had a Chinese theme as they are going to China for their honeymoon. Each table was named after a different city or monument in China.

The entree was a buffet and the main dish was leg of lamb. I took a picture of the menu so that I would be able to remember everything we had.

Between courses, one of their friends got up and did some magic tricks. Not sure if it was planned ahead of time or not, but it was a nice addition. He did one trick where he had the groom pick a card out of a deck (a 2 of hearts), and show it to the audience but not to him. Then he took a piece of newspaper and said that the newpaper would magically reveal what card was picked. He burnt a hole into the paper, and the burnt design developed into two hearts. Get it, get it?!
Around midnight they brought out the piece montee, shaped as a little house. I didn't really get to enjoy our piece montee as I had no appetite on our wedding night, so it was nice to try another one. We left around 2:30.
It was so nice to go to another wedding, especially so soon after ours. After their ceremony I joked to A. that we could run in the church and quick say our vows. He said "not with this priest!". We danced a lot more than at our own wedding. It was fun. We left around 2:30 am to drive back to Lucie's for the night. The next day we played with Manon, ate breakfast, then lunch, then left around 3 to drive back to Marseille. (Below, Alain in his suit, the second time in less than a month. For someone who wears jeans and t-shirt every day to work, this is quite remarkable.)

lundi 19 juin 2006
Yep. It is about that time. The time of year that mom would absolutely hate in Provence. The really really hot season. People ask what the temperature is, and no matter what the thermometer says, there is only one answer. HOT. Because it always feels like it must most certainly be hotter than 28 Celsius. Perhaps they forgot a digit.
The one advantage over last summer is that this summer we won't be moving furntiture up three flights of stairs. Inland it is much cooler, as well as up in the North Pole. Hanna invited me to come visit her in Finland, I may just have to take her up on it. :)
It is so hot that even night does not bring much of a relief. We don't have air conditioning, which is not that rare in France. Now stores are starting to catch on, but a lot of homes do not have air conditioning, nor cars. Fans don't really do much other than make noise.
I thought, having spent 8 years in Virginia, that I was prepared for hot summers. Oh no. This is the kind of hot where I feel like I am going to have a panic attack and start ripping off clothes. I don't know if it is because it less humid or more humid or what, it is less supportable than Virginia. Oh I miss Colorado!
There really is nothing that can be done besides
a) take a shower
b) accept that you are going to be sweaty and nasty for several months because you got sweaty again right away
c) wish you could have a nice big piece of land with olive trees, a hammock, and a pool.
d) or at least air conditioning
e) try not to focus on the fact that it is only June, and that July and August are only going to be worse until it finally starts to break in September.
f) long for the days of fall and winter, until you remember that in the winter you were cursing the freezing cold Mistral wind and wishing summer was here
g) realize it is a vicious cycle and go take another shower.
vendredi 16 juin 2006
Much to my chagrin, I have been spending a lot of time at La Poste lately. There are a few things I have noticed.
1. When waiting in line, it helps be elderly or pregnant. This is not a guarantee however.
2. Start your own home business, and get a Carte Professionelle. That way, you can go to the head of the line. You will get a lot of glares and mutterings, but you won't spend forever and a day waiting in line.

After many hours of standing in line and observing, I have come up with, drumroll please, Megan's Theory of Postaltivity.
It goes like this
amount of time you will spend waiting in line (w)
number of people ahead of you (n)
So, roughly, if there are 10 people in line ahead of you you will spend 22 minutes waiting in line. This is to take into account the people who will jump in front of you.
Mind you, this isn't a Law yet, as much more sampling would be required- specifically, trying lots of different post offices in different parts of France at different times of the day. And frankly, I would much prefer My Year of Cheese if I must spend a year traveling around France.
This Theorem is independent of the number of tellers. There can be 15 tellers, 15 people waiting in line, and it will still take you 30 minutes. I don't know why.
The one thing that Going Postal is good for, besides verifying my theorem, is to practice my zen attitude.
Case in point- Monday afternoon, had to deposit some checks. There were 15 people ahead of me. This would normally be a time that you would think would be high volume of customers, thus more tellers would be available. Alas, no. There were two tellers, one was completely occupied with a man who I think was depositing his paycheck in cents. So, for the sake of our story, there was only one teller operational. Tempers and the temperature were running high. First a girl waltzes in, goes to the front of the line because she has the Carte Pro. Then an elderly man with an oxygen tank comes in, goes right to the front of the line without even a By Your Leave. I think people were about to strangle him with the cord on his oxygen tank. There were other elderly people who had come in, informed the last person in the line at the time that they were
behind them, then went to go sit on the side, waiting their turn. There was also a significantly pregnant woman waiting in line.
One youngish guy informs the lady behind him that he is going to go outside and smoke a cigarette and to please hold his place. On his way out he starts complaining loudly about the guy taking forever and a day with the other teller.

So here are the points of discussion in Megan's Memo to La Poste.
1) hire more tellers for goodness sake
2) have ATMs that can actually handle more than just giving out money. Ie. deposits!
3) have the precious customs forms, check deposit slips, etc. available on the other side of the window for people to start filling out ahead of time
4) have one teller line dedicated just to bank business, another one just for sending and receiving of packages, etc.
5) have an extra person who just fetches and carries packages from the storage room instead of having the tellers get up, lock their computer, wander aimlessly in the direction of the package room, spend a couple of minutes getting reaquainted with where the packages are, then finally wandering back in the direction of the window.

I like to believe that there are better post offices somewhere in France. It is a hope I am holding onto.
mercredi 14 juin 2006
Going from being called Mademoiselle every five minutes to Madame is strange. Here in France they seem to use titles a lot more- when you enter a store "Bonjour X" (X being of course Madame, Mademoiselle, or Monsieur). These are then followed by Merci X, Au revoir X, etc. Of course, I still get called Mademoiselle a lot. Probably because I usually am wearing a backpack and have my hair up in a ponytail and they figure I am about 17. If I am with Alain we usually get a Monsieur et Madame. Or if I am more dressed up I can sometimes score a Madame. I never know what to do. Say, "Excusez-moi, C'est Madame, s'il vous plaît."?
Mademoiselle is technically for all unmarried women, whether they are 12 or 72. But I think most people would not call an older woman Mademoiselle, especially if they were unsure of her status.
Another blog discussion on this.
And further

While I wouldn't launch a petition to remove the word entirely from the vocabulary, it does seem strange to be confronted with it on an hourly basis. In the US most people do not use Miss to address women, it is usually Ms or Mrs. On the other hand, non married women say that it makes them feel old to be called Madame sometimes.
lundi 12 juin 2006
The day after the wedding, Mom and Dad had a brunch at the house that they had rented. So after checking out of the B&B (It was so nice, I wish we could have stayed another night, but there were things to do and people to see), taking stuff over to J&J's and picking up the rest of the stuff from the Château (Nicolas and Jacques drove in Nicolas's car, which had been decorated for the wedding- they got lots of honks and strange looks.) we went over there. We had a chocolate and pear wedding sheet cake, and we put our little cake topper on top. I had "Congratulations Alain and Megan" written on the top so that he could have his name first for once. :)
It was nice to see everyone again one last time before they took off for every corner of the world- US, Europe, Thailand.
Then we went to J&J's to see some of the people from his side, before driving back to Marseille for the night. The next morning we drove back out to Salon/Lancon to spend time with the various groups. All in all, we were quite exhausted but it was nice.
We picked up the photos from the photographer the following Saturday. For some reason, people seem to insist on spelling my name like the car- Mégane. But he did an excellent job overall.
So, once again, a big thank you to everyone who was able to come.
mardi 6 juin 2006

The menu was as follows.
For starters: Terrine de saumon en cœur de Saint jacques, quenelle de crème fouettée aux herbes. This was a kind of salmon paté with a cream on the side.
The main dish: Rôti de magret de canard, bordelaise Sa fine garniture.
Duck with potato garnishes and a vegetablish pudding.
Next course: Méli mélo de salades aux fruits secs,Fromage servi au buffet
Salad and cheese.
Dessert: Pièce Montée- traditional French wedding dessert- cream puffs that are normally stacked into a pyramid but can be made into other shapes such as cars, windmills, hearts, etc.
Champagne and Café

We were presented with a gift of a huge (magnum?) bottle of wine that was personalized. I guess we have to save it (can be saved for up to four years) for a special occasion.

I felt that the meal was very good, but had absolutely no appetite. I ate most of the starter, a bite or two of duck, no salad or cheese, and one cream puff. The rest I fed to the guys at our table.
During the meal we went around to each table and had a picture taken. After the main dish, we had our first dance to "Man of the World" by Marc Cohn. The lyrics:
I want to be a man of the world, With blood in my veins and a hurt in my heart
Out in the street with the noise and the dirt, And the ones still looking for a brand new start
Oh I've been sleeping far too long, Hiding out in a palace of gold
Show me one thing before I'm gone, That can't be bought and can't be sold
Show me how to come alive, Show me how to make you mine
'Cause if you'd only be my girl, I could be a man of the world
Then I could be a man of the world

After that, Dad and I did the Father/Daughter Dance to "Apple of Your Daddy's Eye" by Peter Cetera. The DJ announced that it was an American tradition beforehand. For the third dance mom announced the couples that were celebrating their anniversary in the month of May and asked them to please come up and dance to "Power of Love" by Celine Dion.

Rudy and Manon seemed to have a great time and loved being together. I hope everyone else did too. Around midnight the Pièce Montée was brought out, in the shape of the château with Megan and Alain written on it. Our little cake topper couple was dancing on the terrace of the château. It looked great when they brought it in as they turned off the lights and put sparklers on the Pièce Montée. The sparklers went out and they draped towels on our shoulders. I had no idea what was coming. I thought perhaps it was so we didn't get dirty when we cut the château. They released two white doves behind us, which were supposed to fly around and then land on our shoulders I suppose. Notice my look of shock and Alain's look of concern in the photo. I wasn't quite sure what to do with the dove on my shoulder. The château was served, toasts were given. After that, people began to leave. We left around 2:30, and Nicolas drove us back to the B&B. It was a great day and I am so thankful for everyone that was able to come and those that weren't able to come but were with us in spirit.

lundi 5 juin 2006
The reception was held at the Château de Richebois, a château that has been turned into a Restaurant/nightclub. It has an interesting history in that it's original owner was an admiral who helped save the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
We had booked the Château back in August. Normally weddings are on Saturdays, as in the US, but the curé already had two weddings for the next day, the 27th, so we decided on Friday. There are several different party rooms in the château, holding anywhere from 25-200 people. We were hoping that enough people would come so that we could have the big room on the top floor with the dance floor, instead of the smaller restaurant room. Luckily, we were able to have the big room with the nice murals.
Originally, the cocktail hour was planned to be outside on the terrace which they had just finished repaving. However, the wind was too strong apparently, so it was moved indoors. We had a punch and some appetizers served.
Alain's friends had planned a surprise for him- a slideshow of pictures from his Bachelor Party. Which was a two day hike in the Alps with his friends Guillaume and Thibaut. In French the Bachelor Party is known as the "Enterrement de vie de garcon" (Funeral of the Boy's Life) or fille- for woman.
At a little after 8 it was decided that people could go up to the third level, where the reception was. Everyone else went up ahead of us, and two of Alain's second cousins carried candleabras ahead of us into the reception room. The DJ was playing "It's a Beautiful Life". I didn't really expect it to happen this way, I was expecting that we would go up first, leading everyone else into the reception hall.
dimanche 4 juin 2006

After we left the church ceremony, we went back towards the Mairie, and then across the street to a public park to take some pictures. It is traditional here to for the newlyweds to have pictures taken with the different groups of people who came for the wedding. It was somewhat unorganized, but we managed to get some nice pictures.
After that, we went with the photographer (and Lucie, Nicolas, and Manon who were helping us) back to the Moulin B&B to have pictures of just us taken. There were some stupid feeling moments- pretend like you are riding a bike! I don't want to pretend like I am riding a bike. I hate bikes. I hate biking. No one is going to honestly believe that I, a bike hater, would try to ride a bike in my wedding dress, which is impossible anyway. We settled for standing in front of it.
We had told the guests that we would be back in the square at 6:15 to ride in the procession over to the reception hall. So around 6:10 I started saying, "Okay, we should wrap this up. People are waiting for us." No, no, just one more picture of you on a bike. Okay, now go stand by the pool. Last picture, promise. Anyway, the pictures turned out great but a big sorry to everyone who was waiting for us. Our photographer, Jacques, was great. (all of these pictures, except for the one on the Intro blog which was taken by Aunt Shari, are his.) And I highly recommend him to the 0.0005% of my reading public who one day might get married in this area and need a photographer.
So then we went out to the square, got in Lucie and Nicolas's car which they had decorated for us. Nicolas chauffered us to the reception, horns honking and lights flashing. Unfortunately, driving through the town with all of the round abouts and stop lights, the procession got split up. Thankfully, everyone seemed to manage to find the chateau okay.
samedi 3 juin 2006

We walked up to the church, Saint Julitte, which was begun in the 14th century. It is quite charming. We were early, so we waited outside awhile for the priest. It gave us a few moments to relax and talk to some of our guests. Then the priest appeared and the guests were able to enter the church.
The processional started, first Alain and his mother, then his father and my mom, then Rudy and Manon, and finally dad and me. Rudy and Manon did a great job. Since we had already had the civil ceremony and Alain and all the guests had already seen me, I felt very relaxed and excited about the ceremony, not nervous at all. The priest started by welcoming all the guests. Then I was supposed to translate what he said into English for all of the english speaking guests. But at this point all of my (ahem) FORMIDABLE French skills had completely left me. After a few umms and ahhs I thrust the microphone at Alain, who couldn't really translate it either. Luckily we had written a Welcome speech, so we got that out. (Here is it, in case the people who were there couldn't understand my garbled murmurings.)
"Your presence here is very special to us. We would especially like to thank the following- M l’Abbe Delignère who has helped us prepare this wedding and celebrate today our union. Our parents who have surrounded us with their love and encouragement. We would like to remember those who are not with anymore but remain forever in our hearts. Leah, Lucie, Olivier, and Guillaume - you are the witnesses of our engagement and are here accompany us in this important step of our life. And finally all of our guests who have come to share with us this happy moment. Thank you."
I tried to read it but got too emotional at the "We would like to remember those who are not with anymore but remain forever in our hearts." part so I thrust the microphone back at Alain who finished it up.
Leah did the first reading, the "Love is Patient, Love is Kind" speech.
Next Olivier and Guillaume alternated English and French for the Psalm reading.
Then the priest read the Gospel (The Beatitudes) and gave the Homily.

Next was the exchange of vows and rings.
Megan, veux-tu être ma femme ?
Oui, je le veux. Et toi, Alain,
veux-tu être mon mari ?
Oui, je le veux. Megan, je te reçois comme épouse
et je me donne à toi pour
t’aimer fidèlement tout au long de notre vie.
Alain, je te reçois comme époux
et je me donne à toi pour
t’aimer fidèlement tout au long de notre vie.

Then we had to read another prayer we had written. Alain did fine but I got all choked up. He kept telling me "It is okay dear, Breathe" and I could hear his mother saying "It's okay Megan".
Then the Our Father, the Nuptial Blessing, the Prayer of the Faithful (read by his sister Lucie and Aunt Shari in French and English). We had the final blessing, then presented a bouquet of white flowers to the Virgin Mary, a Provencal tradition. So I exchanged bouquets, we walked down the aisle and to the side altar where the priest spoke to us for a bit, I placed the bouquet on her altar, then we came back to the front altar. Then there was the next signing of the register, again by us and all the witnesses (four of them).
Then all of the guests filed past us, giving their congratulations and went out of the church. After everyone had left, we came out and everyone threw lavender on us. The bells were ringing like crazy, which I loved. Right after us, there was a baptism to take place. (and that morning a funeral). The church was full of flowers, mostly white according to tradition.

vendredi 2 juin 2006

So the first step (well, on the actual wedding day, not including the hours of legal footwork) of a wedding in France is always La Mairie (or Hotel de Ville- no you cannot stay there overnight). As I have stated before, the ceremony must be performed first at the Mairie in order to be considered legal, before any religious ceremony can happen. So we walked to the mairie in Lancon, where all of the guests were waiting for us. We filed into the city hall, where the mayor was waiting with his blue, white, and red sash. Very official. Everyone came in and sat down. He greeted the guests, then read the marriage act (considering property, raising children, etc.). I didn't understand all of it so naturally just said Yes Okay Whatever to a life-long legal contract. He then pronounced us husband and wife. I was caught off guard for this moment and was more moved than I thought I would be.
Then the Signing of the Paperwork began. Not to be confused with the Singing of the Paperwork, which would have at least been slightly more entertaining for the guests. First Alain and I signed, then all of the witnesses. Then Alain and I had to both sign all of the papers that we had submitted for our file. We had extra due to the fact that I am a foreigner. Silly me. He handed me the Livre de Famille, which is a booklet containing all important family events. Which apparently is the "having of the grandchildren"- up to eight can be noted in the livret de famille before you have to go back and get another one. This of course is a Very Important Document which is given to you at a stressful helter-skelter moment and you had Better Not Lose It. Thankfully, I didn't lose it.
Then we had some pictures taken with the Mayor and everyone filed out. From there we processed up to the church.

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