lundi 30 avril 2007

The Cheese Project is currently on hold as the Cheese Monster finds where she put her Cheese Bible. This was a present from the Cheese Monster's Husband. It is different than a Cheesy Bible, and certainly different that a Bible of Cheese.
(cartoon courtesy of
samedi 28 avril 2007
No, I am not talking about childbirth.

I am talking about elections of course. I have reached the point, that most citizens in all countries (that vote) must get to during presidential campaigns, where I just can't stand seeing their forced smiling faces spouting off about the glory of France for one more televised speecifing moment.

I know who I would vote for, do you?

It is especially painful as apparently the SNCF in this one little corner of France does not want one of the above candidates to win. (not the candidate on the right).
Remember people my campaign slogan: Megan: Doing her best to screw with the French Language.
The final election is May 6th.
mercredi 25 avril 2007

Alain has taken this week and the previous week off from work to work on our bathroom. He has been tiling, and here is the progress so far.

As you can see, it is a lot of angles and corners, so it isn't easy.

We have replaced the window too.

He is almost done with tiling the shower, then we will have to caulk it, put up the shower spa thing, and put a door on. We haven't bought a door yet, we wanted to wait until we knew what size exactly would be needed (there are a lot of layers of cement on those walls in order to make the walls straight).

I guess next we will have to remove the old sink and mirror, remove the tiles from behind, tile the rest, install sink, change electricity, plugs, and light, repaint, and redo the floor. Yikes!
mardi 24 avril 2007
Today I was at the gym, eating lunch before it was time for the cardio class (there is a mess waiting to happen). I asked the instructor, a tall blond woman, a question about the class, and she heard that I am NOT FRENCH!! AHHH!!
She said "Oh, that explains why sometimes in class I say something in class and you don't seem to understand."

-Or, it could be that sometimes it takes a few seconds for the body to process the switch from side to side lunges while running in place while clapping with the arms above the head!

She seriously started speaking to me like I was deaf, with sign language and everything. "I (point to self) thought (tap finger on head) you (point to me) didn't (shake head) hear (cup hand at ear) me (point to self again)."

-I (point to self) am (tap on chest) not (shake head) stupid (rap knuckles on head)!

I am tempted to make up buttons that say in French "I am a foreigner, not an idiot. Please stop speaking to me like that."

This isn't even a rant for me, it is just DAILY LIFE.
dimanche 22 avril 2007
As this is an election year here in France, today was the primary election. There are 12 candidates, and today it will be narrowed down to 2. The final vote will be in two weeks, on May 6th.
I haven't been following too closely the campaigns. They do seem however to be less about putting down the other candidates. Haven't seen any of those Kerry/Bush '04 type of signs on private property (in front lawns/in windows). People seem to keep their political leanings a bit more private.
I can't of course vote. I know who I would have voted for. I can become French after five years of marriage.
I went with Alain and his parents this afternoon to vote in Lançon. Everyone has an assigned voting place where you must go. I guess some places have electronic machines, but this was just regular ballots. You go in, show your electoral card and ID, then they give you an envelope and 12 slips of paper, one with each name. You go into a cabinet, put one of the names into the envelope, (throw the others away I guess, I don't know). Then you go out and put the envelope into a box. As you put it in, the person in charge of the box clicks a lever or something to count the number of envelopes put into the box. Hopefully the numbers match up at the end of the day.
So we shall see tonight who the final two are.
samedi 21 avril 2007

Yes, dear readers. I have decided to do it. Unfortunately not traveling around France trying a different cheese a day and writing a book, but the next best thing- trying a new cheese once a week and writing a post in my blog. However, should anyone want to finance Megan's Year of Cheese Tour de France, please let me know. Anyway, look for a weekly post, titled with the name of the cheese, reviews, history of the cheese, etc. For some background, please visit this post. It even warrants a new label: Fromage
vendredi 20 avril 2007
Yes, gentle readers, it is that time again. Time for my monthly rant. Only this time, not about La Poste. I think that a) there is nothing left to say (that hasn't already been said) about how bad it is and b) I haven’t been subjected (knock on wood) to it lately.
No, my new topic is the SNCF. Yep, the trains. They decided to strike, again. Heaven knows why. All they will say is “Due to a social movement by a certain number of our employees...”I feel like going up to the desk and saying “Please! Explain to me what your problem is. Then I can maybe understand why it has become my problem for the past two months!” So I have been taking the bus from Marseille to Toulon, which takes a good 50 minutes. So glad I bought the monthly train subscription! I really feel they should be paying me back for this. So I have to walk to the bus stop, which takes a good, 10-15 minutes I would say. I could take a bus, and then switch, but they never come on time. So I wait about five minutes past the time they say that they are going to come, start walking, and have it wizz by me several minutes later. In defiance, when I take the train to go home in the evenings, I sit in first class. It is my own personal recompense. It is not like the difference between first and economy from New York to Paris. This is slightly better seats and less grafitti. I dare any SNCF ticket collector to come along, check my ticket, and try to fine me for sitting in first when I haven’t paid for it. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Oh no. Hell hath no fury like a megan forced to put up with an entire country on strike for two months.
Alain thinks it is because of the elections coming up. Certain public sectors want to show that they are important and need to be dealt with by the new government, so they do this by making the Ordinary Citizen’s life miserable until the OC complains to the government, demanding that something be done. Hey, to make things really super duper, how ‘bout you throw in a garbage collector’s strike too? Seriously, they want more people to take public transportation for pollution, traffic, and parking spots reasons, but then make it infuriatingly impossible to actually get to work on time, or get home after a long day of work. The price is reasonable, but when you can’t count on being on time for work, one gets ready to say “Screw it, we’ll just buy a second car. To hell with the environment!”
Yesterday, I was sitting on the quai, reading the newspaper and waiting for the train. A guy comes up to me, dressed in a white t shirt and khaki pants, holding a SNCF blue hat. He asks to see my ticket. He didn't look like a ticket collector, he looked and acted like a guy trying to get my number. (He said it in the way that guys do when they think they've thought up a great pick-up line). I said no. He said -No, Why? Because you don't look like a SNCF ticket collector. -But I have this hat. Then show me some ID. (You never know, he could take my ticket and run off with it). Finally another guy (dressed in the full blues) comes up and asks to see my ticket. So I show it to him and complain about the strike. Vous faites chier à tout le monde!
This afternoon, on what would have been my day to get home early, I spent an hour playing musical trains. First it was quai 1 at 17:52. Then quai 2 at 18:12. Then quai 2b at 18:30. That train was announced, but then blew right past without stopping. Another train pulls up, the announcer says that it is going to Marseille, everyone piles on. And sits there for about 10 minutes until the message gets fully passed that no, this train is not going to Marseille. Everyone piles back off, goes back to quai 2 to finally catch a train at 18:55. Apparently it is because of the elections, because I overheard another guy talking about it. Wow, one more reason to love politics!
samedi 14 avril 2007
I find this song "I Don't Need a Man" by the Pussycat Dolls, completely hilarious. At first listen, it isn't bad. The lyrics
"I don't need a man to make it happen
I get off being free
I don't need a man to make me feel good
I get off doing my thing
I don't need a ring around my finger
To make me feel complete
So let me break it down
I can get off when you ain't around Oh!"

etc. sound fairly Girl Powerish until you watch the video.

I don't NEED a man either. I freely admit that I WANT one, am THROUGHLY happy with the one I have, and wouldn't TRADE him even for a man with a shower in his apartment, but I am not dancing around 3/4ths NAKED on tv proclaiming that I don't NEED one.

If this was Gloria Steinham dancing around in a muumuu, it would be somewhat convincing. But when your other songs are "Loosen up my Buttons"
"You been saying all the right things all night long
But I can't seem to get you over here to help take this off
Baby, can't you see? How these clothes are fitting on me
And the heat coming from this beat
I'm about to blow
I don't think you know"

or "Beep"
"Every boy's the same
Since up in the seventh grade
They been trying to get with me
Trying to Ha, ha-ha, ha, ha-ha
They always got a plan
To be my one and only man
Want to hold me with their hands
Want to Ha, ha-ha, ha, ha-ha
I keep turning them down
But, they always come around
Asking me to go around
That's not the way it's going down"

You loose credibility.

What does this have to do with France? Just that Frenchwomen, for the most part, seem to own up to the fact that yes, they are dressing like that in order to attract men. That they didn't spend 100 euros on uncomfortable lingerie for a week long retreat in a convent and that they don't really LOVE wearing five inch high stilettos. At least they are honest about it.
jeudi 12 avril 2007

On Easter Monday (which, by the way I didn’t even know was a holiday until moving to France) Alain and I went to visit this small town north of Salon de Provence, which neither of us had been to before. It is close to Les Baux and a town called Saint Rémy that we have not visited yet as well. It is a small town of about 1600 people, and my parents had visited it when they were here with his parents (while we were busy talking with the priest for wedding planning). Both sets recommended that we go, so we did.

We wanted to get out of Marseille since most of the museums would be closed and the parks would probably be overflowing, but not go anywhere too far away. It took us about one hour by the autoroute (cost 2.40 euros). We arrived around noon, and proceeded to buy some bread (olive bread), navettes (a regional biscuit specialty), then went to another store and bought some cheese, plastic knives, and a bottle of coke. Oh what a picnic!
We walked up to the top, to the ruined church and ate our picnic. It was a nice day, not cold or too windy. Not too many tourists either. We wandered around for awhile and then headed back down to the main part of the village at about 2 pm. We stopped in the little church, then wanted to buy some postcards and eat some ice cream, but both were closed for lunch. Imagine that! Bet in high tourist season they wouldn’t be. Or perhaps they would, considering this is the South of France and all. Since we didn’t want to wait around until 3/3:30 when they decided to open up again, we headed back. We stopped at his parent’s house for cappucino and leftover chocolate cake from Easter. All in all, a good Easter Weekend.

From Provence Web: The village is surrounded by the superb landscapes of
the Alpilles, with olive groves, green valleys and vine fields punctuated here
and there by super tastefully restored residences. From a distance before you
arrive in the village you'll see Eygalières, perched on the summit of a small
hill. As you approach you'll be able to make out the small houses which make up
the village and you'll have only one thought, stop a while to visit. You'll
discover a village which has known how to preserve its’ authentic charm with
it's beautiful stone houses, almost always framed with a touch of green or sweet
smelling flowers which allow glimpses of beautiful gardens beyond. The houses,
wisely cling together along the small winding streets. The main street takes you
up to the village Church from where you can visit the chateau ruins, and the
esplanade of the old gatehouse and Saint-Laurent church. The Eygalières local
history museum is also worth a visit. It can be found in the Chapelle des
Pénitents (XVII°) and presents some prehistoric relics as well as an interesting
collection of agricultural tools. From the museum there are magnificent views
towards the Caume mountain, the Alpilles and the River Durance. Similar views
can also be enjoyed from the Calade path which leads past the chapel. For
cyclists, take the D24 from Eygalière and you'll enjoy a lovely tour around some
of the famous Alpilles landscapes. Take the direction of Aureille and you'll pas
by the pretty Pas de Figuières at 247 m altitude, whilst breathing in the heady
scents of pine trees, wild herbs and of course all to the backdrop of the
singing cicadas.Sites to visit: Saint-Sixte chapel XII°C and the hermitage
(1 km East of the village), Pénitents Chapel (XVII°), Local History Museum, and
the Parish Church. Things to do: Walking/Hiking, Mountain Biking,
Boulodrome, and Summer Events.

For more pictures

lundi 9 avril 2007

Yesterday, Alain and I celebrated Easter as normal with a big family meal. Heck, it being a day ending in Y could be cause for a big family meal.

I baked bread, which is about the only thing I can do without giving them food poisoning. It is a multi-grain flour that all I have to do is mix with warm water, salt, the correct type of yeast (baking soda, not so much), and a couple hours of later and flour all over the kitchen, have bread.

We left Sunday morning around 11:20 to drive to his parent's house, about 40 minutes away. There was a huge traffic jam that took us about an hour to get through, so we didn't get there until 1. Were supposed to be there no later than 12:30. It was okay though, as they were still setting up the table, but we missed Manon's easter chocolate hunt in the garden. We sat down to eat, and here is what we had.
Starter: raw salmon slice, rice pilaf, gambas, endives, hard boiled eggs, asparagus (ooh! my favorite!). Then we had a hot thing in a shell. Sorry, can't get more specific than that. Then there was the main course, lamb and vegetables, followed by a fruit cake, a chocolate cake, and then later on an apple tarte. One bottle of wine and one bottle of bubbly was served, along with copious amounts of chocolate. All of this took about eight hours.
For more on Easter, please see my post from last year.
vendredi 6 avril 2007

And no, for once I am not talking about La Poste. I am talking about the SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer- national French train network). Around about, oh, the second week after I started working, they decided to go on strike. No real reason why, or at least no reason that was explained to the disgruntled passengers. The day before they would post a notice saying that they were on strike, but that the following trains would still be in operation.

There are two trains that I can normally take to get to work on time. One leaves at 7:37 and gets to Aubagne at about 7:53, the other that leaves at 7:49 and gets in at 7:59. They said that the 7:37 was canceled, but that the 7:49 was still running, as well as the 8:11 and 8:48. I figured that that would be okay, even if I had to do an all-out sprint to catch the bus. It typically makes a loop through the centre ville and then passes close by the train station before heading out to the industrial area. It usually gives me a five minute margin to sprint to the stop. So I got there a little before 7:49, only to find out that it was canceled. But the 8:11 was still running, which meant I would get to Aubagne in time to catch the 8:40 bus, only being an hour late for work (my second week, woohoo! That could be a record!) So I waited for the 8:11, only to then see a sign that it would be ten minutes late. Okay, can still make it.

Then 8:21 came and went, no train. They then said it was canceled and the next train would be the 8:48. But this is a direct train, so I would get to Aubagne in enough time, if not to catch the bus when it leaves the train station, at least to catch it on the loop. That time came and went, and now I am starting to get nervous that I won’t even make the 9:00 bus. Finally the train came, at 8:51. I figured I could still catch it if it went direct. But nope, it stopped at the three smaller stations (La Pomme, St. Marcel, and La Penne sur Huveane) because of any commuters who needed to go (or leave from) those stops. So I got into Aubagne about 9:10, too late to catch the bus. I called my work and asked if someone could come pick me up with my tail between my legs. One of the guys came and fetched me, so I was a whopping hour and a half late to work. Yikes. That entire week not a day went by that I did not have some problem with the train, either going to work or going home. The other option is to take a bus, which is about a 20 minute walk from our apartment, leaves three times per hour, and takes about 40 minutes. Still no guarantee that you will catch the Aubagne bus on it’s once per hour run though.

The picture above is a pamphlet from the SNCF that I picked up in the middle of strike week.

Basically, it says "With the TER, no more stress!" Yeah!

jeudi 5 avril 2007
In honor of my brain being fried this week, I am going to keep this short.

One thing I find odd about French bathroom habits is the way that they respond when someone knocks on the door or when knocking on the door (to find out if there is someone inside) in a public restroom.
What they usually say is
"Il y a quelqu'un?"
Is there somebody?
Then the response is
"Il y a quelqu'un."
There is somebody.

I haven't made an in-depth study (that will come after my book of cheese). When I do, I will call it "French Bathroom Habits". That will be a best-seller that one.

I just find it strange. Even if you don't knock and are opening up the door they shriek the same thing, only with more urgency. There is somebody!
Now Americans usually say something along the lines of "Just a minute" or "I will be out in a minute" or "I'm in here." Are the french distancing themselves with the impersonal usage from the act of eliminating? Which would be strange considering how preoccupied they are by it. The question of how are you "ça va?" comes from the "How are things (flowing)?"
dimanche 1 avril 2007
Happy April Fish Day!
April 1st, or le premiere d'avril is also celebrated in France.

From Wikipedia (french version)
"An April fish joke is done on the 1st of April of each year to friends and acquaintances. It is also custom to do jokes in the press, such as newspapers, radio, television, and on the internet.
For children, it consists of attaching a paper fish on the back of people one wants to mock. "April fish!" is also the exclamation as one is discovered, or to warn the victim of a joke, or that the story that has just been told is false.

Legend has it that this tradition originated in France, in 1564. Then, the year would have begun on the 1st of April, but the France king Charles IX decreed, by the edict of Roussillon, that the year would begin henceforth the 1st January following the Gregorian Calendar, marking the lengthening of the days, instead of at the end of March, (Solstice). Those who didn't follow the new calendar were called "fools" and sent invitations to fake parties and the like.

But indeed, the civil year never began on the 1st of April. If the exact origin of the usage of the fish remains obscure (perhaps because of the Christian symbol), the legend says that several of the subjects continued to celebrate around the 1st of April. Thus was born the fish, the April fish, the day of fools, the day of those that do not accept reality or see it differently.

It is worth noting that many different cultures have had days of foolishness around the start of April, give or take a couple of weeks. The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis. The Hindu calendar has Holi, and the Jewish calendar has Purim. Perhaps there's something about the time of year, with its turn from winter to spring, that lends itself to lighthearted celebrations

This custom to do jokes is found in many countries, although not always with fish:
The British preserved their April Fool's Day (certain Scottish speak also Gowk or of Cuckoo), the Germans have their Aprilscherz, and this custom exists also in Belgium, Canada, Italy, the United States, Switzerland, and even Japan.

Nevertheless, the conjectures remain: was it to mark the end of zodiac period of Pisces, or to extend the period of lent, where it is forbidden to eat fish, or that one wanted to confuse the simple-minded with the offering of a fish? Or that fish are dumb and easy to catch?
In France, at the beginning of the 20th century, one sent oneself pretty post cards all decorated with fish. One wrote oneself, for this occasion, warm messages and wishes."

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