Monthly Archives: March 2012
Today was one of those days where I just wanted to go out and take a nice stroll along the beach. The weather here has been so perfect and I just didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to go to one of my favorite beaches. I have already written about Le Lavandou in another post (click here), but I thought I would show a couple of pictures of our walk along the beach today.
I had taken our badminton rackets and birdies in hopes that it would not be too breezy to play a game on the beach. Unfortunately, it was too windy so we happily strolled along the boardwalk instead. I love this beach because it is one of the few beaches near me that is actually large and sandy, not rocky. This time of year is great to go and visit for a day out since the weather is usually nice and the tourists haven’t flocked here for vacation, yet.
Just look how we had the whole beach and walkway practically all to ourselves. The water almost looks like a giant lake and was so calm and inviting.
Sometimes You’re the Winner, Sometimes You’re the Loser, Sometimes You’re in the Middle and Sometimes You Learn New Things
The winner today was me.
I FINALLY, after 6 months of waiting, received my new carte de titre from the French government. Back in September when this whole thing started who the heck could have ever imagined that it would take this long to get my replacement card and all because I just needed a change of address! My card wasn’t even expired. Boy did the prefecture give me a hassle, too, and it was mostly about not liking the fact that I smiled in my picture. So I went over to the local market and took a photo with a very unhappy look and guess what??!! They liked it! The actually decided to use it on my new card and voila! I have an identity card with a picture that looks like an axe murderer!
When I went over to the my town Maire today, the lady who has been helping my family get our cards was so happy that mine was finally in. She definitely knows the aches and pains since she is the one whose job it is to do all the paperwork. The only thing left for me to do is give her 19€ in tax stamps for it. Say what?? Yup. The thing cost me 19€ but nooooo, I couldn’t just whip out a check for it. She said it had to be in government tax stamps. When I asked her what window I could get those from she told me I had to go to the local gas station and get them! Really?? I can’t get government tax stamps at a government office??!! I have to go to the local Total gas station to buy government tax stamps for my government issued carte de titre? Cuz that makes sense how? Cuz I’m in France, that’s how. So tomorrow morning I will be moseying over to Total to get those things. Whatever!
The loser today was poor Dude.
For months now the prefecture has been telling the lady at the Maire that there was nothing left to do for Dude to get his new card. We never received it so I was guessing that they were waiting to send it with mine. No dice. Today she told us that they didn’t like Dude’s picture, either. It was not for the same reason as mine, though. They didn’t like the photo paper it was printed on! They also decided to add a few wants to their list. Here is what they are: a copy of his birth certificate (which they already had), a copy of the receipt that we paid our property taxes, proof that we owned our house (which they already had) and our current electric bill. Now keep in mind that they never asked for any of this for me, just for him! Whatever! So she gave Dude a temporary paper card that is good until his real carte de titre is ready. Then do you know what else she said? She told us that when we come back in to finally get his real card that we need to bring copies of everything again to start the process all over for his next card. She figured that since his is only good for 1 year at a time, we had better start on it a full year ahead of time! Really?? Why? Cuz it’s France.
Tinki was the sometime you’re in the middle winner today.
None of her stuff is ready, but we also didn’t get any negative notes on her card so I guess that puts her in the middle (no card but no bad news either). The original prefecture lost all her paperwork and we ended up having to do her whole file all over again. For her they wanted a copy of Dude and I’s marriage certificate translated in French. They didn’t ask for that for Dude and I’s cards! I turned that in a few weeks ago, but still no word. Why?? Cuz it’s France.
The cool things I learned today were:
1. There is a potentially good school for Tinki to go to. I am super excited to find out if this is going to fly cuz right now she is being home-schooled and although she meets the requirements for going to college in the states, she is not meeting any French kids (and has no desire to) and she is not learning the language. So the lady at the Maire gave me the phone number of the director of this school and told me her son goes and he really likes it. It is a Lycee Agricole and the kids there learn all about animal care and agriculture. I think Tinki will really like it. They have horses, pigs, chickens and other kinds of animals for the kids to learn about and take care of and they get to go hiking and learn how to grow their own food. I would like to sign up if I could and Dude said “ditto” for him. It sounds like fun. I am going to try to call the director tomorrow and see if we can get a tour of the school and figure out how to sign her up.
2) There is a doctor in town for us to go to. We haven’t had a need to ever go to the doctor since arriving in France so we have put off signing up for our general practitioner. In France when you find a doctor you have to register with the Caisse Maladie that he/she is your general practitioner and then they do all the paperwork so the government can pay for you and this and that. Well, we all need to have some check-ups so the lady at the Maire gave me the name of the town doctor that her and her husband go to and she said he is a nice guy. I guess we will try him out since I have no other leads. I still need to find a dentist but this is a good start.
Well, to top off my day (and this is the best part), Tinki and I played Badminton in our lovely garden for a little over an hour this evening. It was awesome! The weather was great; warm with a light breeze and the sun was still shining. We had a great time and it was the first time we have been able to play since buying the rackets and birdies. We only lost two birdies over the wall and into our neighbor’s yard so I’d say we did pretty well for ourselves seeing how we are not professional players or anything. It was lovely being in the garden and just having a good, relaxing game. I have mentioned how much I love my garden, right? Well, what’s not to love about being outside to enjoy it on a day like we had today?
After the game, it was taco’s and rice for dinner. Every once in awhile Mexican food just calls to me and tonight was the calling. Besides, it goes with my new vocabulary word that I have been saying all weekend which is “OLAY!!” Why have I been saying that all weekend you ask? Well, that’s a story for next time. I will keep you “posted”.
What started out as just wanting to put a dresser in Tinki’s room today (so she could finally take every article of clothing out of her suitcase after 7 months), actually turned into a bigger production. Dude said that since we were going to take a break from any more major projects for a while (we are trying to save money and also take a breather from working on the house) that means no painting or flooring, we might as well just put up her bed, dresser and book shelf so she wouldn’t have to feel so much like a transient.
So began the project which took us all afternoon. Luckily everything worked out and we had no major issues (that’s a miracle in itself, I tell you!).
Tinki’s bed is a bunk bed set that we bought about 20 years ago for our older two children and it’s been through all of them. Now Tinki has it all to herself. It’s a really nice solid oak set with a dresser and bookshelf and it has actually made it through 4 children, 4 major moves and 2 years in storage. Definitely part of the family heirloom collection 🙂
The set was taken completely apart when we moved here and in the end we had a lot of pieces for it. Putting it together required both Dude and I, and for a while, we even needed Tinki’s help. Some of the pieces are really heavy and the bed has bolts to keep it together.
First off, we had to go down to the first floor apartment to find all the pieces. The apartment is the holding place for pretty much everything we own right now.
After Dude dug out the pieces from the apartment, he then handed them off to me to bring through the garden then through the garage and then I left them at the bottom of the staircase on the ground level and Tinki took them up two flights of stairs to the 3rd story. We actually had to use our furniture dolly so that Dude could pull the dresser up the stairs and Tinki and I helped by pushing the dresser from the bottom. This piece is the heaviest piece of the set and our staircases are curved at both the top and bottom so it was touch and go for a bit, but in the end we got the dresser into her room.
After all pieces were laid out in the bedroom, we got to work on putting it together. Dude was able to find all the bolts, drills and the ratchet necessary (this was a first)to get the job completed. I can’t believe we actually found everything we needed and the job went without a hitch.
Now Tinki has her bed, a dresser for her clothes and shelves for all her knick knacks. There’s still dry wall on the walls, concrete floors and wires sticking out of the dry wall, but at least it’s a start.
She has already picked out the colors she wants her walls to be but paint is expensive so we’re waiting on that. I’ve already picked out my flooring but since Dude hates it we might just be living with concrete FOREVER.
Oh well, at least Tinki will sleep comfy and cozy in a real bed instead of on the floor where she has been since moving in! Oh, and she does have sheets on the bed now, too 🙂
My family set out for another day of hiking and this time we settled on an area in the high Var near a town called Sillans-la-Cascade. Just across the road of the old ramparts of the town is a trail that leads you to the Cascade de Sillans (aka the waterfall of Sillans).
Ample and free parking is across the street and the walk to view the waterfall is only 5 or 10 minutes from there.
At the first fork in the road you will come to a sign which says Panorama view of the Cascade and points to the right. Take the trail up a few feet and veer towards the left and you will get a terrific view of the waterfall.
The trail continues on up through the hills and the hike gives you a terrific bird’s eye view of the surrounding area to the left. The valley is dotted with houses, vineyards and olive trees. You don’t have to worry about getting lost or wandering too far away from where you started as this trail makes a circle and brings you right back to the waterfall and the area where you started from (the first fork in the road). Trails like this are wonderful and happen to be my favorite kind. It makes hiking simpler when you are able to end your hike at the same place you began. It’s just more practical when you are only hiking for a few hours or for the day, and not there to camp out and make it a weekend trip!
This particular hike was only a few kilometers and we easy hiked it at great leisure (stopping to admire the view and take plenty of photos) in about 2 hours. Towards the last 20 minutes or so of the hike we came upon an old house in ruins. I bet in its heyday it was a great place to be. You can’t see the waterfall from this spot but you can definitely hear the sound of running water which happens to be a sound I absolutely love! It has to be one of the most soothing sounds you could listen to.
Once back at the fork in the road, make your way down some concrete stairs. This path will wind around and become a dirt path which takes you to the base of the waterfall. Unfortunately you can’t get near the falls as they are blocked off with fences due to the danger of falling rocks. The river which forms at the base, however, offers every advantage to get as close as possible. There is a wonderful area not far down the path where it would be a lovely place to venture out on the large rock and bring a book, read and listen to the running water. I must remember to do that next time (with my picnic lunch!)
You can only travel so far on this path and then it dead ends and you must turn around and go back in the same direction from whence you came. I never saw one person on the hiking trail above, but down at the base, there were a great deal of families and couples strolling near the water.
There are other trails to hike in the area and we proceeded to follow one to the Chapelle St. Laurent. You can get to this chapel the easy way, which means you head back to the parking lot and follow the trail up the hill that is behind the parking area. Reaching the chapel this way will only take about 15 minutes.
We decided we were going to follow the signs and go the “back way” which takes you past some houses, a corral, across the main street and through another housing track before connecting again in a wooded area. It also takes you past two World War II monuments of men who were killed in the area by the Germans during the war. Once you past the two monuments, the chapel is just around the corner. This way takes about an hour or so verses 15 minutes going through the parking area, so which way you go depends on how you really feel about hiking!
The chapel itself is no real treat to look at, though it has been nicely restored by the volunteering town’s people. The real treat is the view you get from the back side of the chapel. If you go around the right side of the building and out onto the rock, the view of the farmlands, houses, the town of Sillans-la-Casade and the olive tree groves is amazing! I could have stayed in that spot all day just drinking it in. I was so grateful and lucky that the day happened to be warm, bright, sunny and there was no wind. It made for a wonderful site to see.
After resting there for quite some time, we headed back down the trail on the right of the chapel (opposite of the trail we arrived on). This took us down to the parking area and offered us closer views of the old chateau in the town just behind the ramparts. This chateau is now a government building and houses several government agencies.
If you’re looking for a hike that is more on the easy side, then hiking around La Cascade is a trail you would want to take. You can approach it leisurely and it is pretty safe for both young and old and everyone in between. The hike to the Chapelle St. Laurent is a bit more difficult so I would discourage taking very young children. There is also the danger, when you reach the top, of being on a very steep cliff which offers no protection if one should fall.
If you have been to the waterfall or the chapel, I would love to hear all about it and if there are other trails around the falls you have hiked on, please let me know. My family is always looking to find interesting hikes to explore.
If you want to see more photos of Sillans-la-Cascade and la Chapelle St. Laurent they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.
So, my blogger friend, Sara in Le Petit Village, posted a little piece about herself a few days back and I up and stole the idea from her cuz it totally looked like fun to do. Guess what?? It was!
I figured it would be nice if you all knew some trivia about me so without further ado, here ya go:
Random Things Everyone Should Know About Me
Age: Forty-something (Yikes-that’s what I say when I look in the mirror, anyway! Oh-I also tell myself that I’m sure looking old these days).
Chores that you hate: Going to the grocery store and cooking (too bad I have to do both in order to live)
Dogs: Nope, but if I had a dog it would be a wiener dog cuz they are the cutest things EVER!
Essential start to your day: Coffee, coffee and more coffee (along with those chocolate chip muffins they sell at Auchan)
Favorite color: Any shade of purple that exist on this planet.
Gold or Silver: Gold, but I could go for a mixture, if you know what I mean.
Height: 5’7” and ½ (that ½ is very important to me)
Instruments you play: None. I do, however, love the violin more than any other instrument and I’ve always wanted to learn how to play it, maybe someday when I finish my house.
Job title: At home or at work? Wait, I’m the boss in both places so there ya go.
Kids: No thanks, I have some already in the form of 3 girls and 1 boy (and no the boy wasn’t the last one even though EVERYONE asks me that). By the way, his name is Little Dude (really).
Live: I do every day (of course that could change in an instant with all these insane drivers here in the south of France)
Mother’s Name: Orvillee,(Orville +Lee and that’s how it’s pronounced, too) Isn’t that beautiful! The story I heard was that she was supposed to be a boy so my grandparents were going to name her Orville after my grandpa. Well, when she popped out a girl they just added an “e” to the name cuz my grandparents were real creative like that, and voila, Orvillee. I have always loved it, contrary to my mom who has always hated it.
Nicknames: Boss, Ash
Overnight hospital stays: Definitely and hated every minute. Having children at home seems like a good idea now.
Pet peeves: Drinking out of a Styrofoam cup, drinking directly out of the milk or juice carton, people not respecting personal space, bad customer service and mean people (they suck)
Quote from a movie or tv show: Now you will receive us. We do not ask for your poor or your hungry. We do not want your tired and sick. It is your corrupt we claim. It is your evil that will be saught by us. With every breath we shall hunt them down. Each day we will spill their blood ‘til it rains down from the skies. Do not kill, do not rape, to not steal. These are principles, which every man of every faith can embrace. These are not polite suggestions, these are codes of behavior and those of you that ignore them will pay the dearest cost. There are varying degrees of evil. We urge you lesser forms of filth not to push the bounds and cross over into true corruption, into our domain. But if you do, one day you will look behind you and you will see we three, and on that day, you will reap it. And we will send you to whatever god you wish.
And shepherds we shall be, for thee my Lord for thee, power hath descended forthfrom thy hand, that our feet may swiftly carry out thy command. We shall flow a river forth to thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.=The Boondock Saints (best movie EVER)
If you want to see the quote in action, go here. It’s freakin’ awesome. WARNING-It is a bit harsh, sorry, but they really are good guys. Oh, and you should also know that this happens to be my girls night out movie, too 🙂
Right or Lefty: Right (although I use my computer mouse only with my left hand, weird huh?)
Siblings: Nope, I am a lonely only and it’s one of the things I am most sad about in my life. I have always wanted a brother or sister and I always will. My mom told me while I was growing up that I was all she could handle. Jeez, I was a saint, too! (I do have 2 step brothers and 1 step sister, but we didn’t grow up together). I totally had 4 kids because I was (and still am, thanks mom) an only child. I never wanted them to be lonely so I gave them enough playmates that given the event a few were fighting then they would have someone else to go play with. It worked. (true story)
Time you wake up: As late as possible (like 9am or 10am on the weekends)
Underwear: Thongs baby. I don’t go for that granny stuff cuz my butt isn’t the greatest anyway and I don’t need dumb panty lines making it worse (of course Dude says I have a great butt, but he has to say that or he doesn’t get his weekly allowance)
Vegetable you hate: Broccoli –it’s super yucky.
What makes you run late: Dude
X-Rays You’ve Had: A ton and mostly for broken fingers.
Yummy food you make: Lydia’s Famous Haitian Home Made Chicken Soup. Everyone in the family loves it and it’s the first thing I always make for my guest and it pretty much is the only thing I actually like to cook (remember I hate cooking -see above)
Zoo Animal: Panda Bears (I sooooo hate monkeys so that’s why they don’t appear in this coveted spot)
Last Wednesday I post a picture of the tree in my garden that had just started to show little buds. It looked like this.
Well, now my little tree has flowers on it! I can’t believe how many buds have opened up into lovely little pink flowers and today, just one week later, it looks like this.
The birds have started to come back and sit on the branches and sing their lovely songs. It reminds me of the scene in Mary Poppins (my favorite Disney movie with real people) when Ms. Poppins opens the window in the nursery of Jane and Michael and the little bird jumps on her finger so they can sing together. I don’t think my little birds will go for that so I won’t even try. They’d automatically fly away if I started singing to them! Believe me no one wants to hear that awful sound. So, I’m content to just watch them chatter and sing to each other.
The cats have come lurking back, as well. If only I could keep them from climbing the trees and trying to eat my little bird friends! I have a good view of them while they are prowling about so I can give them an evil eye before they pounce.
The bees and wasps have also made their way back to my garden. I am okay with bees since they make honey and all (as long as they stay on the flowers), but I absolutely hate wasps and we’ve had a few in our house.
I’ve been known to run and scream, call for Dude, and then when he comes to save me I hide behind him. Yes, I am a self-proclaimed chicken when it comes to these bugs. This spring we are getting screens so I can actually open the windows and enjoy the fresh air without those pesky creatures coming in. Screens seem to be a novel idea in France and I have no idea why. I guess the French don’t mind flying insects as much as I do.
We are able to actually move back into our living room since the temperature has gone up. I’m totally thrilled since it is my favorite room in the house and it’s been closed off for 3 months now. This is the room that gives me the wonderful view of my entire garden and gorgeous trees.
Ahh-happy is the heart during springtime in Provence.
I guess by now you know that I am a girl who digs springtime! I’ve been so happy to be outside these past few weeks that I am just over the moon every day that I’m able to venture out. This is the time of year that makes me wish I had an outdoorsy kind of job.
I’m lucky that my office has enormous windows and a gorgeous view. That does help, though it isn’t quite the same as really being outside.
So today at lunch, Dude and I took off to a local boulangerie for some sandwiches, drinks and desserts (I love the combo packages you get here in France at the local boulangerie/patisserie!) and headed toward the Route des Crêtes which is in the hills above La Ciotat.
There are many places along this route where you can stop and take advantage of the scenery. We found a place to stop not too far up the route, parked the car, took out our little picnic and had lunch outside with a magnificent view. It was a bit hazy today, but the sun was shining, the air was warm and the view was of course, perfect.
I am so eager every day to just get out and experience spring time. Even though we had only an hour to enjoy our meal and the scenery, it was enough to satisfy the little voice inside my head that says ‘get outside when the weather is nice’.
Yes-I do hear voices, but only the good kind 🙂
Tonight, at sunset, Dude and I took a stroll along the small beach and the port at Cassis. This village is one of our favorites to visit in the area and I have written about its charm before. It’s quite close to where I work so we are often there during the week in the evening time and can be seen window shopping and pastry shopping while enjoying the beautiful views of the Mediterranean.
Cassis is one of those towns that tourists flock to during spring and summer vacation. If you happen to visit during the tourist season you will find yourself feeling like herded cattle as you make your way around the walkway of the port. Every restaurant, shop, bars, and ice cream store in this village is full of people and you’re lucky if you can find a place to sit and relax. The main streets are crowded with tables and chairs and wide-eyed vacationers taking in the beauty of this delightful little town.
Normally during the summer months we avoid this place. After all we have the whole rest of the year to enjoy it while it is peaceful. Tonight happened to be one of those amazingly, peaceful nights. Since it is the beginning of spring, vacationers have not started to make their way to Cassis. This was the perfect night to venture there as the weather was calm and the temperature perfect for an evening stroll. There were no crowds, only a few other couples and families enjoying the warm evening.
This is the way I like to enjoy Cassis. The calm water, the warm air and the feeling like this picture perfect place is just for you and you don’t have to share it with anyone. I always comment on how wonderful it is to be able to visit whenever we want to and watch nature show off her magnificent sunset. We are so spoiled just like everyone else who lives here!
Our first outing of the season (not officially spring, yet, but it sure feels like it) was to the Château du Castellas which is located in the hills above the town of Forcalquiert.
The chateau was built in the thirteenth century and was modified in the fifteenth century before being abandoned for good in the seventeenth century. Though it was one of the strongest medieval fortresses in the Var, little is known of the goings on at this château. The history seems to be short and not very much information was documented.
From the information I found it seems that it was originally built for the Viscount de Marseille and then the following three centuries remained in the Agoult family. After going through many architectural changes it became the property of Pontevès and then Lord Hubert de Vins du Garde who was said to have massacred hundreds of villagers during the religious wars that plagued the country towards the end sixteenth century.
It was altogether abandoned during the seventeenth century as more peaceful times came upon the region and the villagers began moving down into the valley below to farm and grow crops. This area is the current site of the city of Forcalquiert.
Since 1978 the château has belonged to the community and has been the site of numerous archeological excavations. Just outside the château walls was found the remains of buildings including what seems to be a chapel.
The hike to the château is not long at all. Parking is located at the base of the hill just next to the road. Follow the dirt path (which becomes paved) up the hill. Once to the top, go left and you will see a sign that says the ruins are dangerous and access is forbidden.
Even thought it states not to enter, you can go up and see the ruins. The sign is there to let people know that they visit the site at their own risk as there is a good chance of falling rock.
The views from the top are magnificent and it is very obvious that this place was one of the most beautifully built fortresses by the large amounts of gorgeous cut stone , which has a lovely pink tint to it. There is a court yard in the middle of the ruins and several different doorways in which you can go inside to see some of the different rooms.
One area appears to be either a church or a large kitchen. There is a huge steel beam running across the top in order to reinforce the structure and the remains of what was once an enormous fireplace sits at the head of the room.
In another area there is a small alcove with a fire place and two stone cut seats near a window.
The third doorway seems to be a room with a reservoir for holding water. You have to crawl a little ways into a hole in the wall to see the room, which is full of water, and to see the hole in the roof for the rain to fall through. There is a large window in the room and a staircase that leads out and down around the outside of the château.
Traveling back through the doorway you can make your way to the left where there is a small doorway and a ledge. From up on the ledge you get a beautiful view of the town of Forcalquiert. Turn around and look up and you will definitely marvel at how the stone wall is still standing. The enormous wall has rocks that are just loosely seated and look as if a small breeze could topple them. This area is very dangerous to be in due to the falling rock so make sure you pay attention at all times and it might be wise to take a quick peak but not linger long.
Once back in the court yard, cross to the other side and make your way up an old staircase that is now in total ruins. There are two alcoves with windows that give you a terrific view of the valley below. Just above these alcoves are the remains of a second and third story that is still standing, but just barely. This is another area that is very dangerous due to falling rock. I found it unbelievable at that height that what was left of the walls were actually still there. Due to the high winds in this area, it’s amazing that anything is left of the top stories.
Upon exiting, go straight and you will descend into an area that is flat and grassy. This could have possibly been a garden, but nothing remains there now except some of the rampart walls. Again you have a tremendous view from this point.
When leaving the château, travel back down the dirt path that you arrived on. Before descending all the way you can take a short path to the left that will bring you around the side of the château so you are able to see the ramparts and walls from a different perspective. From below looking up, you really get the sense of how grand this place must have been. It surely must have given the villagers a sense of awe when looking up at the hill on which it sits. When completely intact it must have been monumental and most likely an oppressive sign to the villagers.
It is a shame that not more of the château remains today. Over time with the towns people looting the fortress to make homes for themselves out of the rock, the weather and the wind have all taken their toll. What remains today is still very impressive and the beauty and color of the cut stone reminds you of how once an opulent place it truly was.
If you want to see more photos of the Château du Castellas they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.
Today was the first day I saw little buds on one my garden trees! I was so excited that I just had to snap a couple of shots. It’s not much, but it was enough to really get me all smiley about the fact that spring is coming!
I love spring. Out of the four seasons, it is my absolute favorite one. The days become longer, the temperature is perfect (most of the time), windows are open, and all the world comes alive with blooming flowers and the leaves back on the naked trees!
The air seems fresher and people just generally seem to be in a better mood.
When we first saw our house, it was on 4 April 2011 and the garden trees were already in full bloom. I hope this year it will be the same. If so, the month of March will be a rapid change to my garden that I adore so much. I simply can’t wait.
Spring is also the time to get out and explore. I plan on doing just that since I am so found of hiking and sight-seeing.
I have such a happy heart today all because I saw my little buds. Oh spring, how I love thee 🙂