samedi 30 août 2008
Whether they are pregnant.

Yes folks, that is what I am subjected to lately.

Apparently everyone has decided that 2 years of being married without starting a family is quite enough and that we had better get going.

The worst is Alain's grandfather.
They really really really want a boy. Partly because they already have a (great) granddaughter, and partly because Alain is the last of his line.
So for the first couple of months, pepe asked me every single time we went to visit them..
"So, have you put on some weight?"
Okay, this is annoying on many levels.
1) No I haven't.
2) Is this a compliment where he comes from?
For the first couple of times I just smiled and said no while seriously wondering where he was coming from. Does he just like hearty Italian woman? Did I actually put on a half a kilo that only he can notice? Then I realized- oh, this is probably just his way, hoping I'll say "Why, yes actually. We are having a baby."
Finally I got fed up and told Alain to say something the next time.
So the next time my (non-existant) weight gain came up, Alain said "Il faut pas dire ça au femmes pepe quand même."

He has asked Alain if anything was "en cours". Kind-of like "brewing" or "baking".

But the absolute best was the following (when Alain was in the kitchen with Meme).
P: Anything on order?
Me: Huh?
P: Have you guys ordered anything yet?
Me: Ordered anything for what?
P: Parents.
Me: Ordered something for my parents?
P: Mama and papa.
Me: My parents have ordered something?
P: Alain papa you mama.
Me: Oh. No, not yet pepe.

Good grief. At some point you wish they would just come out and ask in a straight-forward way without hidden meanings and obscure ways of saying it from the 19th century.

Anyone else know other ways to ask someone if she is expecting in France?
Anyone have any good "none of your beeswax" responses?

Oh, and while we are on the subject of people who actually ARE having a baby, Alain's sister just announced that she is pregnant. Good. Maybe that will get the heat off me for a good 9 months or so.

Perhaps I should have a shirt made that says "Nothing on order yet" and just wear it every time we go see people. Then when I come over without that shirt on, then they can ask.
mardi 26 août 2008
As Alain is still on vacation until September 1st, he is working full-spead ahead on our apartment. He is finishing the wall he built in our bedroom for the closet, and now needs to finish re-doing the rest of the walls in the bedroom- fill up the holes with concrete, sand, and then put the MagicLiss on, and sand again. Then the walls will be smooth and ready to be painted. In order for him to access the walls and not get everything covered in dust, we had to move everything out of our bedroom. Now the old armoires are in the living room, all the tools are back in the smallest bedroom, and we had to remove the mattress on our bed. We didn't have any other free space, so we put it on the second bed that we bought, which is in the medium bedroom. It is a pull-out bed, and we have been sleeping on it for a few months now. So now we are sleeping on two mattresses, and are starting to get quite high off the ground. I guess we could also throw the
couch mattresses on there (the couch is technically a bed, and has another pull-out bed underneath). Also could borrow the inflatable bed from the in-laws, and throw some sleeping bags on top.
We have ordered the crown moulding, so hopefully it will arrive in another week or so. Then we can glue it around the ceilings, and start painting! Woohoo! Then we can move back into our bedroom, and clear out the other rooms, paint, finish the living room, and then GET RID OF the sacks of cement, pieces of brick, broken tiles, bits and pieces, etc. The kitchen won't be finished, we still need to install the new sink and the dishwasher, but that can wait. It has been almost two years now, and I think we have both had it. We just want to LIVE on the weekends a little. Go to movies and museums, actually clean the apartment instead of just figuring "well, I could dust, but really what's the point?"
And go back to sleeping on one mattress only.
samedi 23 août 2008
Yesterday, during my lunch break, I went to the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle in Aix. It is part of my 101 Things resolutions- visit one museum per month.

Marseille and Aix have the kinds of museums that I like- not too big, not too expensive, and with visiting expositions that change every three months or so. I prefer to go every few months, spend an agreeable hour or two max visiting a museum, reading everything there is, and then... leaving.

Not the kind of museum where you go and it is overwhelming but you start reading everything at the beginning but then by the end are fed up and just blow by barely glancing at the small print and then feel guilty about the 15€ you wasted.

No, I much prefer the 2.50-4€ to spend on the "little museums".

This exposition, "Parfums, Une Histoire Naturelle" is in town until the 28th of September. I had never been to the Natural History museum of Aix, so I decided to check it out. It was on the first floor of an old historical building. There were some old containers for perfumes from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, etc. and they spoke a little about the history of perfume, the different natural ingredients in perfumes, how the scents are extracted, etc. I would like to go visit the French city of Grasse some day, it is between here and Nice. It is a famous town for making perfumes.

It took me about 30 minutes to look at everything, then I went upstairs to the permanent collection, which is mostly fake dinosaur bones eggs, human skeletons, and stuffed wild animals. Overall, interesting, learned a few things, and spent an agreeable hour.
mardi 19 août 2008
I sent in my file for my third carte de sejour at the end of July, including a self-addressed stamped envelope (following the directions of "attach 4 stamps"- well, that's great but four stamps of which amount?)

I had done this before, but had never received anything in my self-addressed envelope.

When I collected our mail last Friday from our neighbor who was collecting it for us while we were away, I saw the envelope. Knowing it couldn't POSSIBLY be my carte de sejour, I figured it was probably a notice from them that something was missing. Which, even then would be amazing- wow. they actually contacted me right away to let me know something is missing instead of waiting their usual 10 months?

I opened it up, and it is is a Recipisée (the temporary 3-month card that I had to keep renewing last year) of my carte de sejour, which means that I have filed the paperwork and am waiting for the carte de sejour. What an improvement. Of course, they didn't actually date it three months from the time that my card will run out (end of September), so it is only good until beginning of November. However, this means that when I go to the Prefecture in November to renew it, I can just drop off this old one downstairs and head on up to the waiting room instead of having to wait in the line on the ground floor, show proof that I sent in the file, THEN head up to the waiting room, which will save a good hour or so.

Unless of course they send me the renewed one before this one expires, at which point I will just faint.

Perhaps they figure that they have tortured me enough? Have I passed the Test? (ie- If we can stay married for at least two years through all the hell they put us through to renew the carte de sejour, then they make it easier on us?) Nah.
lundi 18 août 2008
On Thursday we decided to visit the Villa Nobel, where Alfred Nobel lived his last few years. This mansion was later bought by a branch of Alain's family, before it was sold to the city historical society.

Many people don't know that Nobel developed dynamite and amassed a fortune, and when he died decided to set up a foundation to honor those who have contributed the most to humankind. Alain would love to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The mansion was nice, a small museum in the basement. I wouldn't have been too happy to have been his neighbor- imagine someone playing with dynamite the next house over.

We decided to leave on Thursday night after the fireworks, instead of early Saturday morning. We were pretty worn out from our vacation. The beds are terrible, it was hot, and at some point you begin to miss luxuries such as "flushing toilet" or "shower".

We packed our bags and cleaned the house Thursday afternoon, then went down to the Porto Vecchio for dinner, then waited for the fireworks, which began at 10:30 instead of 9:30 as we had hoped. The fireworks were nice, but didn't seem to fit the music at all. After they were finished, we walked back, loaded up the car, and left at 12:40 am. It took us three hours to drive back to Marseille. We unloaded the car and fell into bed.

I woke up at 9 am like clockwork, moved the car, and bought some croissants. Alain slept until 12:30. We spent Friday watching TV and doing laundry, and then slept until 11 am on Saturday, then spent the rest of the day grocery shopping and watching tv. Sunday was spent eating croissants and watching TV. Made the most of vacation. Back to work!

Lessons learned:

5 Things you didn't know about Italians:

1) They don't talk in anything less than a shout. Especially at 8 am. Especially right outside your bedroom window.
2) They can have entire conversations consisting of 2 words.
example, "ciao" and "bello"
Ciao bello!
Bellisimo, ciao!
Ah, mio bello! Ciao ciao!
Ciao bello ciao!
Bella ciao ciao!
3) They can make a living riding vespas, eating ice cream, and going to the beach.
4) Italian women color-coordinate their Vespa to what they are wearing.
5) There are more scooters than Italians of legal-driving age. You do the math.

Fundamental Questions posed

1) How much pasta can a Franco-Italian eat in a week?
2) Do the Italian women of 20-30 years old realize that in 20 years after sunbathing like they do, their skin will resemble their Gucci leather handbags?
3) Will I, with my light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, ever have a suntan that resembles that of a dark-haired, dark-eyed Italian sun goddess?
4) How long can I go without a shower and a flushing toilet?
5) Is there such a thing as eating too much ice cream?
6) Are the days when, upon my travels, my digestive system could handle eating a rat fried in oil from a street vendor in India with nary a gurgle over?

Answers to the above:

1) This question will never be answered because an American-American will crack before said Franco-Italian is able to complete his experiment. However, said Franco-Italian could do some physics equations and computer simulations to arrive at an approximate answer of 50.
2) Obviously not.
3) No and see answer number 2
4) Number of days stayed minus 2
5) Yes. But so what?
6) Yes. See question number 4.


I enjoy going to San Remo, but only for short periods of time. I don't know what will happen when the next generation (Alain, his sister, their 3 cousins, and the assorted spouses) take over the house. Between paying of inheritance taxes, yearly taxes, utilities, and repairs, it will most certainly be cheaper to just pay one week at a hotel, and one will certainly be better lodged. Wow, a toilet that flushes and an electrical system that doesn't short when a hot pot is plugged in!!!

Yet I don't know if anyone will be able to buy out the others who don't want to continue to pay for the house, nor be able to pay for a new(ish) appartment. Also don't think that much would be gotten if the house were to be sold- two smallish bedrooms, a toilet that doesn't flush, and a kitchen with extremely old wiring and no hot water. No parking or air conditioning. If another developer came along and offered to tear down the place, build an apartment building, and offer a one-bedroom apartment in exchange, I think everyone would jump on the offer now. As it is, the place isn't even usable for half the year or so- no heating. Exactly how did the human race survive up until now? I don't know.

I'm not even sure if everyone will want to continue going there- it isn't like we live in the boondocks of Podunksville- we live in Provence for goodness sake. We have a beach, ice cream, and rollerblading facilities. Not within walking distance, but at least we can stay in the (semi) comfort of our own homes.

But all in all, it was nice to go and have a break.
dimanche 17 août 2008

By Wednesday, we were tired of the sun and beach. We decided to go up into the mountains and visit.

We first visited a town we hadn't visited before called Badalucco. Around the town were artworks, I guess by the local residents?

(Cat on Vespa)

Afterwards, we quickly visited a town called Montalto Ligura, high up on the top of a hill, then went back to the town of Triora, the witch's town that we had visited last time. We ate lunch, whereupon I found out that a Taglia di Frommagi is not cheese with pasta, but a cheese plate. Ah well. I have never been one to turn down a good cheese plate. Then we walked around the village, which I liked better this time than the previous time. This time the sun was out and it didn't seem so gloomy. We walked up to a cemetary on the top of the hill, overlooking the village and the surrounding mountains. Very nice view but I still prefer American cemetaries- European ones seem so overdone. We left around 4 to return to San Remo. We looked at house prices- not for any serious reasons, just to see. You can buy a ruin for about 35,000 in Triora. I think I would actually prefer to live up in the mountains somewhere. Whereas apartments in San Remo are 200,000 or more.

samedi 16 août 2008
The next few days we spent going to the beach right near the "house" which is quite rocky and also rollerblading on the new track that has been installed along the coastline between San Remo and Arma di Taggia- perfect for rollerblading, biking, and walking. It reminded me of California.
On Sunday we put on our skates and skated the entire length- several kilometers, about 40 minutes each way. I fell a couple of times, but I am getting better. "Controlled Crash" I like to think of it.

I sunbathed and read Madame Bovary (in French) on the beach, while Alain swam. I went in a couple of times, but it is extremely painful due to the rocks. Should have worn some kind of foot protection, such as the Croc knockoffs that 40% of the people were wearing.

The water was quite warm, and there weren't too many people there.

Neither of us got burned this year, which was an improvement.

Alain likes snorkeling, and I like the idea of it but every time I try the water gets in my goggles and I see the fish and freak out. Oh my god, there are fish down there!

On Monday we rollerbladed to the beach at Arma di Taggia. I tied my beach towel around my waist as I didn't have a backpack- also added an extra layer of padding. The beach is sandy, but finally the sand is just as annoying as the rocks. It started raining, so we rollered back in the rain.
vendredi 15 août 2008
We got back from our trip to Italy at 4 am on Friday morning. It took us two days to recover.
It was quite a trip.

I guess I should start with what happened before we even left for Italy.

About a week and a half before we were supposed to leave, we got a call from Alain's cousin Jerome. He had just gotten back from Italy and said that there was a "little problem". Turns out, the toilet was backed up. He made it sound like no big deal, just that it drained a little slowly and you had to be careful. We thought about taking the portapotty that we had used when we re-did our toilet, but about a week later Alain's aunt Lydia called and said everything was okay.

We spent Friday, August 8th preparing for our trip- beach towels, snorkels, rollerblades, etc. as well as laundry and grocery shopping- and watching the opening ceremony for the Olympics.

We got up at 4 am Saturday, August 9th, and got on the road at 5. Alain drove for an hour, then I drove while he dozed. I have said it before and I'll say it again, the road from Marseille to Italy is Gorgeous! I was driving at around 6:30 am, with the sun coming up. Green trees, blue mountains, and a pink sky. Wow.

We arrived in Italy and took the exit after San Remo, which was a very smart thing to do- otherwise you spend about an hour inching your way through Italian traffic, versus taking a tunnel that leads directly to where the house is. (and by house I mean rustic cabin).

We arrived around 8 am, and Alain's aunt was just getting up. She was leaving that afternoon and regailed us with the unabriged version of the toilet catastrophy. Turns out, it was much worse than Jerome made it sound. To me, "drains a little slowly" does not mean "overflowing poo in the sink downstairs". The first day that they arrived, they tried to use the toilet, and it quickly became obvious that it needed to be professionally cleaned or else they could not stay. She contacted several different companies (thank goodness she speaks some Italian) who both said the entire pipe would have to be ripped out and replaced, for about 700€. A third company said that they could unblock it for 300€. Sold!

Anyway, by the time we arrived, it was working fine, just had to be careful to fill up an entire bucket each time and empty the bucket into the toilet, instead of being lazy and only doing half a bucket or so.

Saturday morning we went to the market and bought some Pecorino cheese and tapenade, then came back and slept for several hours on the inflatable bed (the mattresses are horrible). Lydia came and said goodbye, then took the train back to France.

Saturday evening we went for a stroll down by the Porto Vecchio and bought our first ice cream of many.

We came back, had pasta, and went to bed at about 9:30. I guess when there is no TV, no internet, and it gets dark at 9, you naturally get sleepy. Plus, we had gotten up at 4.
vendredi 8 août 2008
We are going again this year to San Remo, Italy for a week.
We went for our "honeymoon" in August 2006, but did not get a chance to go last year, as I spent my one week of summer break removing wallpaper while Alain worked on the bathroom.

The first time, the lack of a shower bothered me. I don't think it will quite so much this time, after four months of not having one.

There was a slight problem, apparently the toilet wasn't working, partially blocked up. It doesn't even flush, you have to fill up a bucket in the "kitchen" and pour it down the toilet. Alain was ready to not go, but apparently the problem has been fixed (300€ to pay a company to come and uh, suck, everything out). What a relief! Not having a toilet for a weekend is bad enough.

We plan to leave at 5 am to avoid the worst of the traffic, and also drive when it is cooler out. Oh, and also so that I can go to the market in San Remo on Saturday.

So our plans for this trip: rollerblade, snorkel, eat a lot of gelati, buy some nice Italian cheeses, eat even more pasta than usual, and try not to get sunburned.
What a great vacation!
jeudi 7 août 2008
We have decided to build a closet in our bedroom, in order to take advantage of our 3 meter high ceilings. Except that we don't have any place to actually put the closet, so we decided to build two walls, one next to the radiator and one right when you enter in the room. It sure isn't easy working with these old buildings, where nothing is standard size. For example, standard kitchen cupboards and appliances are 60 cm wide. We have one wall where the sink goes that is 125, and another that is 110. It is quite a game of mix and match. And our doors are 208 cm high, and now the standard sizes are 204 or 211. Ah well. Back to the story.

Last weekend we went to Castorama and bought 65 bricks. Brought them back, unloaded them, hauled them up to our apartment, and stacked them in the hallway.

This weekend, as Alain is off from work, he started building the walls. It went surprisingly fast, in three days he had finished.

Now we (he really) has to finish them, then redo the rest of the wall in the bedroom, then we will probably start painting. Woohoo! Also have to build the shelves in the closet and order the doors, which will have to be special made. The biggest they can make is 2.8 meters. Sigh. We will have to use a suspension rod system that comes down from the ceiling for the top rail of the doors, which shall be very expensive. But at least we will finally have closet space.

Blog Archive


Favorite Posts