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Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine

In the town of Saint-Maximin-la-Saint-Baume is located one of the most beautiful basilicas in all of Provence. The outside unfortunately needs quite a bit of work, but once you step inside it is wondrous to behold.

The construction of the basilica began in 1295 A.D. and the Gothic style was chosen by Charles II d’Anjou. It was he who discovered the tomb and relics of Mary Magdalene in 1279 A.D which had been buried since 716 A.D. The relics were hidden there as protection from the Sarrasins who were pillaging and devastating the region at the time. It is said that Mary Magdalene spent many years in Penance in the Grotte de la Sainte Baume (also known as La Sainte-Baume Grotte Marie Madeleine) located in the hills above Saint-Maximin-la-Saint-Baume.  The crypt of the basilica, which was built in 1316 A.D., contains an ancient Gallo-Roman tomb of the fourth century and four beautiful marble sarcophagi decorated with scenes of the Christian religion and allegedly contains the skull of St. Mary Magdalene. You are allowed down into the crypt to see the sarcophagi and the skull. It is quite an eerie feeling, I must say. Is this really the skull of Mary Magdalene? I couldn’t tell you, of course, but it has been legend for many centuries and the Catholic Church believes it to be so.

In 1348 A.D. due to the plague, construction stopped for a while on the basilica. Work started again in 1404 A.D. All construction was halted in 1532 A.D. after 237 years of being worked on. Due to this, the front doors to the church and the bell tower were never finished.

The basilica’s dimensions are superior to those of the other churches in the region. It measures 73 meters long, 37 meters wide and 26 meters high.

Behind the alter is the seventeenth century work of art entitled “The Glory”. It was sculpted by Joseph Lieutaud. It represents the Holy Trinity who is surrounded by angels. The walls of the choir area were carved from 1681 to 1692 in walnut wood by Vincent and Jean-Baptiste Funel Oleri who were brothers. It contains 94 stalls and 22 medallions depicting the life of the Dominicans and is one of my most favorite things about the church. The delicacy in which these two very talent brothers carved these masterpieces is unreal and rivals none in my opinion. There are also many angels atop the choir area and a large crucifix above the main door leading to the main alter which was installed in 1676 and made of marble. The pulpit was carved in 1756 by Brother Louis Gudet and is made of walnut. It contains seven medallions depicting scenes from the life of St. Mary Magdalene.

The basilica is also home to a magnificent organ. The order of the Dominicans wanted an organ present in the church that would match the magnitude of the basilica itself. They got their wish.

From 1772 A.D. to 1774 A.D, Jean-Esprit Isnard and his nephew Joseph constructed the organ which now resides in the basilica. It is immense and matches very well the size of the church and like the carvings in the choir area, the organ is absolutely marvelous.

I could spend hours in this church just gazing at all the little intricate details that are present. It is truly a work of art in and of itself.

Visions of Sunsets and Boats on the Mediterranean Sea

Sunset in Cassis

Sunset at Les Lecques near Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

La Cadiere sur Mer

Another view of the sunset at Les Lecques near Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer

Ile du Petit Gaou near Six-Fours-les-Plages

Vacation Weekend at La Feria in Arles- Day 3-Horse Show, More Bullfights and Dancing in the Street

Thanks to going to bed much earlier on Sunday night, we were all able to get up and make it out of the house on time for our morning bullfight. I was still tired but somehow when you know you’re going to do something exciting, you just manage to get yourself up and going no matter what it takes or how you feel. You push the limit cuz you know it’s worth it.

This particular bullfight was preceded by a show of the horses on which the matadors were going to ride during the event. The corrida we were going to see this day was quite a bit different than the one we saw on Sunday. Today was the day that the matador showed off not only his skills as a bullfighter, but also the grace, skills and beauty of his horses. The people really came out for this one. We even got to hear some bands play for us while waiting to enter the arena.

Here’s a glimpse of the show of horses.

I have no idea how these horses were trained to do some of these moves, but it was wonderful. I especially loved the horse at the end of the video that did a prance and waved his head back and forth. Amazing!

After the show of horses it was time for the day’s event of bullfighting. Today we had brought Tinki with us. We thought that she would at least like to watch the horses. The bullfighting was altogether a different story, though, and once the end came I had her sit down and not watch. I actually had her lay her head on my shoulder and shielded her eyes a few times if I saw that the end for the bull was going to be in view.

Here’s a video of one of the events. Again, as with my last post, the killing of the bull is not in the video.

Now, for those of you who are ardent bullfight lovers, have grown up in the south-east of France or in Spain, you might think I was being silly with regards to my daughter, but for the average American, bullfighting is not exactly a sport of choice. I actually think many Americas would be up in arms about this sport which is probably why it hasn’t taken off there. Now, yes, there are animal lovers in France, of course. We’ve all seen the French with their dogs or cats, but every other animal on the planet is fair game and not worth coddling over. Let’s face it, meat eaters win out here and it makes no different what meat that may be.

We Americans, in general, think that every animal out there is a potential pet and totally adorable (regardless of what animal it is) and shame to anyone who would hurt any of these creatures. We bring our children up all sheltered about where the food comes from and how it gets to the table. Let’s face it, we’re mostly animal lovers with a capital A! I’m guilty of this as well and of course, brought my children up this way. So that being said and my daughter an ardent animal lover with a capital A, I did what most mothers would do and said, “Don’t watch”.  Boy did I get some weird stares from the French! Here I was surrounded by families with small children all watching these bulls get annihilated one after the other and they were all cheering for a good fight, kids included. That’s just how it is here. Now, I’ve been told that there are rules and regulations which must be adhered to at all times during the bullfight but heck if I could figure out what they were.

The bullfight is a sport of passion here in Provence much like soccer. The French come out in droves to see this event a few times a year and the matadors are admired like they’re gods. This is a sport that is deeply rooted and has a long history here. Who am I to change that and I wouldn’t want to. Even though a bullfight is not my event of choice, I do respect that it is a cultural event for this area.

That being said, I do confess that Dude and I were always rooting for the bull. We sort of felt like he was the underdog in this whole thing. Besides, it seemed as if everyone else was rooting for the matador so why not help the little guy out, right?? We did have two choice moments where the underdog made our day and boy did Dude and I cheer. The best was when during the second bullfight the bull actually said (yes SAID) that he’d had enough of this and he jumped the fence! Literally jump it and started running around and scaring people in the bottom row!

It was awesome and boy did Dude and I yell and cheer. I tell you it was super exciting. I figured they should have stopped the bullfight right then and there and let that brave bull go. He deserved it, but it was not to be. He had to go back in the arena and finish out the bullfight.

During both the events on Sunday and Monday I got to thinking about how I really felt about the bullfights. I did say I would give my take on it, so here goes. Mind you, I have no intention of protesting, no intention of not ever seeing a bullfight again or telling people to stop spending money on the sport. No way, this is just how I think it goes in my mind.

So, I came to figure that this is not really a fair fight in my opinion. The lovers of the sport will say yes it is (remember there are rules here) but if you really think about it, the cards are very much stacked against the bull and completely in favor of the matador (in this type of bullfight anyway), especially when the matador is on horseback. So here go my reasons for thinking this:

1)      The taureau has only his horns (big deal, he has to have something to defend himself with, sheesh).

2)      There are individual stages throughout each bullfight and at the end of each stage the matador was able to leave the arena and come back on a fresh horse that was totally raring to go and not tired at all. The same horse didn’t fight the whole time. How is this fair, the taureau was the same taureau? He couldn’t go out and have another taureau go take his place so he could rest up.

3)      The matador is usually higher than the taureau so he is able to get a clear approach on the attack and almost always from the top.

4)      There are these little alcoves in the arena that the matadors can run and hide behind to protect himself if need be. The taureau has nowhere to hide. He is always out in the open and given nowhere in which he can run to safety.

5)      There are times when 4 or 5 matadors are in the arena trying to confuse the taureau, why can’t there be 4 or 5 taureaux in the arena to confuse the matador? Come on matador, give us a real show!

6)      The matador can stop and take a break if he needs to, the taureau can’t say, “Wait folks, hold on, I need a quick drink and a break to get back up to speed. I’ll be right back, K”.

7)      If the matador gets hurt, the fight stops and the guy is taken out of the arena for treatment. Nothing happens when the taureau gets hurt, that’s part of the game. You aren’t going to see a fight stop for the taureau to get some medical treatment.

8)      The matador can reason. He can watch the taureau’s actions and manipulate the taureau to turning to his weaker side. He can make the taureau do a great many things just by knowing and studying the nature of the animal. The taureau cannot reason, he is doing what comes by nature. He doesn’t know what the intentions of the matador are therefore he plays along. Animals cannot reason, that is what sets man apart from them.

So there you have it. Some of the reasons why I think this is not a fair fight. I do feel bad for the taureaux since they didn’t ask to be in the arena. They were enlisted, they are not volunteers. So that’s why I have to root for them.

Anyway, like I said, I’m not out to change the way of thinking on bullfights or anything, it’s just my opinion.

Since there were several events that day, Tinki and I watched a few then we headed off to take a look at the renovation of the arena. I wanted to get some good shots of the work that had been done. I can’t believe how great the arena looks. The city has done a nice job of cleaning it up.

I was also able to take some photos of the surrounding city from the view point of the arena.

After the event we all headed over to the American Bar (yup-you read that right). It seems that a friend of a friend owns this place and we had reservations for a late lunch. Here we are all hanging out enjoying the fact that the sun actually came out that day!

As before, Patrick and Jean-Claude busted out their guitars and played for us and anyone else who would listen. They also serenaded some police officers who seemed to enjoy the music.

Then, right before food was served, Nicole, who is a friend of Patrick’s and works at the American Bar, came out to give us all “the bise” and say bonjour. Patrick talked her into dancing while he and Jean-Claude played a song. So here she is Flamenco dancing in the street while a crowd gathered around to watch.

Man, I better start taking lessons so I’m ready for next year!

Dancing and music over we proceeded to have lunch and what was on the menu??? Taureau, of course. Dude, Tinki and myself stayed on the veggie plan since we don’t eat taureau. It was cool, though, cuz for dessert we got ice cream and cheese (together).

After fine food, dancing and music it was time for me, Dude and Tinki to head home. There was another bullfight at 5pm, but we didn’t have tickets for that one and we had a long way to go to get home. After stopping back by Patrick and Toni’s house to get our stuff we were off. We managed to arrive home around 9pm so that wasn’t too bad. We were, none the less, totally exhausted from our weekend, but in a good way.

The dancing, singing and food are enough to call me back again. Fete, fete, fete….Oleeee!

Vacation Weekend at La Feria in Arles–Day 1

This past weekend we packed up and went to Arles for La Feria. This fete or “party” is probably the most important of all fetes in the region. It last for four days and consists of bullfights, food, alcohol, dancing and hanging out with family and friends. When I say four days, it means four days, non-stop since this party lasts continuously throughout the weekend.

La Feria of 2012 was the first that my family had ever been to. We were lucky enough to have been invited to it by our good friends Toni and Patrick (remember them-the angels that saved us last November when we were drowning is sewage). They live in the Camargue which is about 20 minutes from Arles and when we went to visit them a few weeks ago they invited us to go party with them over Easter weekend at La Feria.

Even though La Feria started on Friday, our first day wasn’t until Saturday. We arrived in Arles around 4pm, just in time to meet and greet Toni and Patrick and their friends and then it was off to the town center which is where all the fun happens. Everyone was on their way to the bullfight that evening, but since we didn’t have tickets for this particular event my family took the time to stroll around Arles, eat and take photos.

The day happened to be cold and rainy, but it didn’t dampen our spirits at all. The town was abuzz with people everywhere eating, drinking and partying. With as crazy as this event can get, it really is about family and friends getting together and enjoying themselves. There are so many things to do and see. For the kids there are a million different carnival rides, food galore and they even sit in on the bullfights.

During the few hours my family walked through town, I was able to snap some shots (which was a bit tough sometimes since there were so many people around). I don’t know about you, but I like to have my photos “people free” for the most part unless I want a specific photo of someone or I want to show how crowded a place is. In the case of this particular day, I was really hoping for some “people free” photos! I did get lucky for the most part so I can’t complain.

After making our way across town, we came upon all sorts of food vendors. I tell you, there wasn’t anything a person was not able to find here. There were all sorts of varieties of food and goodies to make anyone’s mouth water and the best part was that not everyone had to eat at the same place. It was one of those things were you walk up, order, and walk away eating the food! We even found a place to buy American hot dogs (whatever that means!)

My family ended up eating some chicken sandwiches with fries on top (they love putting the fries in the sandwiches here in France) and then off we went to go and see the ruins of the ancient theatre.

The theatre was amazing and I took plenty of photos to savor the moment. It wasn’t open for visiting on this day, but you can purchase tickets to see it and take a tour. We settled for gazing at it over the fence. It is a beautiful place which was constructed around the 1st century B.C. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t get close enough to the ruins to touch them. I wanted so badly to do so and kept trying around every corner I could, but to no avail. For those of you who have been reading my posts for a while know that I have to touch every old stone, ruin, building, etc that I possibly can. It just gives me chills to do so. I guess I will have to make it a point to go back for the tour and sneak in a quick caress of the ancient stones!

After touring around the theatre we passed by an old church which has a small court yard off to the side.

From this area you can gaze out over the city and on a clear day, even see the Cevannes Mountains. On this particular day, since it was cloudy and stormy, we didn’t get to see the Cevannes but were able to see the ruins of the castle at Beaucaire which is not far from Arles. We also met the most charming, old French man who chatted with us for about 30 minutes. That story will definitely be in an upcoming post.

After that, it was off to meet up with our friends who were exiting the bullfight. While we were waiting for some others to arrive in front of the arena, I was able to take a photo of one of the matadors exiting as well, who had been hoisted up on someone’s shoulder and paraded down the steps. The crowd was cheering and clapping so I gathered he was an excellent bullfighter and had put on a good show.

There were crowds of people waiting around the arena and I caught this guy dressed up in what I gathered as his party wig.

Once every one met up, it was off to a Bodega for dinner. A Bodega is a place you go in town that is normally a car garage or some kind of store throughout the year, but during La Feria they magically transform into a restaurant/bar/dance hall. It’s crazy and there were Bodegas everywhere. The one we went to had these wonderful paintings on the walls of bullfights and La Ferias in the past. They served up Sangria, bread, salads, chicken and rice and paella. I had the chicken and rice because I don’t eat any type of fish. I also abstained from the Sangria since 1) I don’t drink and 2) I was the designated driver that night. Let me tell ya, Pepsi goes just as good with chicken and rice as Sangria does so I didn’t feel all that bad.

The food was terrific, the music was very loud and very Spanish and festive. All in all the 2 plus hours we spent at the Bodega was pretty good.

Once dinner was over it was off to The Andalusia. This is an old cathedral which is transformed during La Feria into a grand dance hall. Inside are large screen televisions showing past bullfights, music and speakers set up on either end of the cathedral, lasers and lighting and posters. The floor is separated into two areas with large pieces of wood laid on the ground on which people dance the traditional dances like the Flamenco, the Tango, and the Cha Cha. They will even play Gypsy music to dance to. Everyone young and old can come and go as they please. There is no charge and people just come dressed as they are, although some do come decked out in traditional dress.  You can stand around and watch for hours while people do these traditional dances. You can even join in if you know how to do the dances. I don’t so I was content to watch everyone else and it was just wonderful! The tradition and history of the region really comes alive on this weekend every year!

Here are some of the videos I took of the dances.

After a few hours of all this fun, it was time to take our leave. It was getting pretty late and we had another busy day coming up the next day. It ended up being quite a feat to get back to our car. Around every corner and down practically every street there was a party going on. We actually got caught being herded like cattle at one point because this one area was so crowded that we could barely make it through! The music was so loud and everyone was out in the street having a great time. As we “tried” to get through and stay all together, I started to get the giggles and then couldn’t stop laughing! Then I was hopping around and dancing like a crazy person and I didn’t even have anything to drink! It was so much fun!

When we finally made it out of the city center and were heading towards our car, we happened upon two guys who were completely drunk and one had fallen down in the street! The funniest part about it was that he had an éclair that he was finishing eating and he just stayed there, laying down in the street while eating it! We were all dying laughing because he wouldn’t get up. He clearly wasn’t hurt in the least bit and he was completely happy to stay there and finish his éclair! Just like a true Frenchman, never let anything get in the way of a good dessert! Then our friend Patrick was trying to help him up and give him his jacket and then they started singing together while Patrick’s friend Christian (who by the way is a total riot and one of the most jolliest people I have ever met) started to serenade him with Patrick’s guitar! So there all of us were, myself, Dude, Tinki, our friends Toni and Patrick, their friends Christian and Claudine and these two guys in the middle of the street singing, laughing, and playing guitar. It was hilarious and we all couldn’t stop laughing. We must have been amusing ourselves for about 20 minutes or so before we could finally be on our way again towards our car. Boy, what a night.

As we headed back towards Toni and Patrick’s house, I got stopped by the “police nationale” for a breathalyzer test. Fair warning for those of you who would like to go to La Feria in the future, you must have a designated driver since every, single exit out of the city has police checkpoints ready to stop each and every car. Of course I passed with flying colors since Pepsi and water aren’t too detrimental.

When we finally arrived back at our friend’s house it was 3am! I hadn’t realized what party animals we were. Shame on Tinki and her 15 year old self for not keeping her parents in line 🙂

So off to bed we went very quickly since we were headed back to Arles the next day for some more fun. Fete, Fete, Fete!!! Oleee!!

Chapelle Ste Philomene Puget-Ville

On Sunday, we took a road trip with no particular place in mind to go. Well, our travels took us to Ste Philomene near Puget-Ville in the Var. I had never heard of this place though it is an historical monument of the Var department. While traveling along the windy roads near Puget-Ville we ended up seeing a sign that simply read Ste. Philomene. We decided to follow it and see where it would take us.

About a mile down the road we came to a small parking area on a hill. Once parked, we descended towards a barrier and followed a sign saying “chapelle”. The dirt path takes you on a little tour of the trees and shrubs which happens to be the start of a botanical hike. Many of the trees and plants are labeled with their French and Latin names. Around 5 to 10 minutes later we came across an open field with a wooden statue of what seems to be a monk. Across the small field there is another sign reading “chapelle” which pointed us in the direction of a few steps and down a cobblestone path.

Once we made it to the bottom of the path, there was another statue of a cross, with Mary and Baby Jesus. Just across from this statue were some steps leading us up to the chapelle. At first it appeared that we weren’t going to be able to enter through the tiny gate, it seemed to have a lock on it, but then we found it to be not locked at all. We entered freely and stepped out onto a grand terrace with a small building just off to the side. The view of the valley was simply amazing from the terrace. The little building was locked up tight but I was still able to get my camera through the gate to snap some shots of the interior.

Leaving the terrace we headed left and down more steps. Here we found the main entrance of the chapelle. Unfortunately we could not enter as the main doors were locked. We made our way around the side of the chapelle and were greeted with views of the bell tower and side door. We also discovered that the second half of the building was now a private residence. What luck for those people living among the restored ruins of an 11th century chapelle!

We also discovered that you must have an appointment to see the interior so next time I am in the area I will be heading off to the office of tourism to make my appointment.

In searching for information on the history of the chapelle I was not able to find much even though it was first constructed in the 11th century. Apparently, it was first called Sancta Maria Descensa when constructed, then the name changed to Saint Jacques and then finally it was renamed in 1840 to Ste Pilomene.

It was originally built of stone and has three naves of equal length. It has a simple Romanesque style and is separated by arches and pillars. The original roof was replaced by the current terrace (the one where the view is extraordinary and on a clear day one can apparently see Toulon!)

The restoration began in 1837 and then was resumed in 1910. Though there have been periods when no work was done, it has been continuously worked on since the 1960’s thanks to volunteers, aid from the Beaux-Art school in Toulon and since 1978 by a society called the Friends of Old Puget.

After taking in the views and searching around the chapelle, we headed back up the cobblestone path and discovered that it leads to the rest of the botanical trail. On this day we decided not to continue the trail, but instead, we would go back with our appointment to visit the interior of the chapelle and do the botanical trail that day.

I would love a chance to speak to the owners of the place. I know I would enjoy hearing how they acquired such a great find and what it has been like to restore their part and be there while the chapelle is being restored. What a wonderful piece of history to be able to have. I definitely am looking forward to my next visit and perhaps I can discover more history about this place.

Strawberries, French Children Behaving Badly and DVD Deals

Last week I finally had my first batch of strawberries for the season! I don’t know about you, but I am always excited for the “fresh fruit” season and I am one to buy strawberries like nobody’s business. The other day when I was at my local market they had such delicious ones for a promo price that I couldn’t resist. My only regret is that I didn’t buy more barquttes of them! I figured that I was going to have one whole barquette to myself. Well, I guessed wrong. Come lunch time when I busted out my strawberries I was in the mind frame to eat them all myself cuz they were so juicy and red. Then Dude gives me that puppy dog look like, “Are you gonna share with me?” I so did not want to, but being the nice person I am, I went halfsies. After eating my half that became a big regret! Usually the first strawberries of the season aren’t the best ever, but that was not the case this time! Next time, I’m not sharing 🙂

Later that night we went out to run errands and decided to stop of at FLUNCH. I’ll admit it isn’t traditional, cozy, south of France like, but I’m finding that going out to eat is really digging into my pocket book and this place give you a pretty good meal for your Euro and you can go back for seconds on some things. The meal ends up being about ½ the price of a local restaurant and so we go every once in a while. Normally it is usually a Monday night we end up there cuz that’s when we camp out at the office and I can’t cook. The restaurant is usually very quiet and not many people since we eat around 9pm. Well, last week we spent the night at the office on Tuesday and going to FLUNCH on a Tuesday was the biggest mistake we made.

The place was packed (it was around 8:30ish) and there were kids EVERYWHERE! I guess that Tuesday night is “bring your kids for a cheap meal” night or something cuz I had never seen this place in such disarray! It was so loud and noisy and as I looked around it only took about 2 seconds for me to realize that the lady who wrote the article a few weeks back about how French kids are better behaved than American kids and how French parents are better than American parents was probably the biggest load of crap I have ever read! I knew that article was a crock the minute I read it, but this was real life, living proof I was right! Not that I am promoting it or anything, but here it is if you want to read the article. I definitely wasn’t seeing or experiencing what she claims to experience and know. Granted I am probably making a bigger deal out of it than I should, but I was a bit burned up by this article and its elevation of French kid’s behavior.

No sooner had I picked up my tray than some family in line was having issues with their two kids. One was in a stroller just screaming her head off and the dad wasn’t doing anything. I assume he was waiting for his wife to console the kid, but she was already occupied with their other kid who threw a conniption cuz the mom took her tray to pass it through the register. In doing so the kid hauled off and smacked the mom. So there was the mom grabbing her kid by the arms to tell her to knock it off and then this kid starts screaming so now they have two kids outta control. Great… I’m so not getting in line after them.

Once we get through the check out, Dude and I survey where to sit cuz I don’t want to be anywhere near the bazillion kids running around and it was just that, they were literally RUNNING in the restaurant. In looking to my right there was a group of four kids and they were bouncing a ball to each other in the restaurant! Seriously! Yelling and running for this ball in the middle of the restaurant and letting it bounce into other people’s tables and chairs!  One kid even knocked over someone’s drink on their table!! Totally not going over there.

So I look to the left and there is another group of kids running around hitting a balloon in the air to each other! REALLY??!! Not going over there, either. Dude just looks at me and says, “Oh man, THEY are EVERYWHERE!” We finally had to find a little corner table, but still couldn’t get away from kids.

Some of them were running around playing tag and hide and go seek in between the tables of the other guests! A few of them knocked over chairs in their effort to get away from each other! Can you imagine! People are coming into the seating area with their trays full of food and they are trying to dodge out a control, running around kids! I would have completely lost it if one of the misbehaving French kids had run into me and I had dropped my tray full of food!

I was finally gonna lose it when three kids came around the back of my chair and were screaming at each other and knocking themselves into my chair. Then one little boy pushed the little girl and she started crying very loudly behind me! This was a dang circus, I tell you.

Do you wanna know what the parents were doing the whole time??!! Absolutely nothing! I never saw one parent get up and get after their child! All the adults just sat there like nothing was happening! I couldn’t believe that every parent considered it normal for their kid to run a round and disturb all the other customers and why the heck did the people working in the restaurant not say anything. There was something seriously wrong here!

Dude and I were disturbed during our whole meal with crying, yelling, screaming, running, pushing and shoving kids. We never ate a meal so fast to get outta there!

If a parent wants to let their kid run around and play during a meal, they need to go to McDo and let ‘em loose in the play area, not inside a restaurant even if it is FLUNCH there is NO excuse for what we witnessed.

I was livid by the time Dude and I left and all I could think about was how I wanted to have a good talk with the woman that wrote that stupid article and tell her what she is really full of!

After getting a breath of fresh air, Dude and I headed over to the market next store to browse the DVD section and take our minds off terrible kids! It worked and soon we were delving into the 3 for 20€ section and having a good time finding some deals.

Goods and services are so expensive here, that we are always looking for deals anywhere we can. Dude and I never go to the movies. We instead have spent a few years building our own DVD collection and, both here and in The States, we would always look for the good deals. If you wait awhile you’re bound to get a few movies for a good price. Sometimes it’s 4 DVD’s for 20€ or 30€ and sometimes it’s 3 for 20€ or some other variation. The movies are usually older ones, but hey, that’s cool. You just gotta be patient. Well, on this night we scored big cuz we found three great movies that were actually not that old! In fact, Dude found three others he wanted too, but we had to stick to the budget so I made him put them back. We’ll get to them the next time around.

Best thing ever was that we had money back on our market card so by the time we scanned the DVDs and got the discount and used our market savings card, we left with only having to pay 4.96€ for everything! Yes!!! I love when stuff like that happens. That’s roughly 1.65€ per DVD! I would say that’s a major score and happy ending to our evening. We promptly went back to the office and created our own movie theatre complete with drinks and goodies 🙂

It was a great way to forget about those French kids behaving badly! By the way, I hope the lady who wrote that ridiculous article reads this and contacts me. I would sure like to give her a piece of my mind!

Happy Next Day After Valentine’s Day (aka Why I Forgot This Day Yesterday)

I totally and completely missed Valentine’s Day. Yup, I forgot all about it! How unwomanly like of me. I bet all you guys out there wished your significant other would forget about that day, too, once in a while! It didn’t even occur to me that this day had arrived until I started reading the posts of fellow bloggers and what they were doing on this particular day to celebrate. By that point, it was already later in the evening at the day was almost over.

I’m not surprised by my faux pas, though. See, Dude and I have never really celebrated Valentine’s Day. We do, however, usually remember the day, tell each other “Happy Valentine’s Day” and move on. It was just this year I did an extra special faux pas.

Now before you all start getting on me about how the heck I could forget this day. I have a very, very good explanation for it. Actually, I have two very, very good explanations for it, but the first one is the best and totally justified.

So here goes:

Firstly, I’m not really into Valentine’s Day because I personally feel I am special each and every day of the year and not just the one day that the scores of marketers and advertisers tell me that I am.  I expect tender lovin’ care all 365 days a year! There is no way I’m letting Dude off that easy and he had better treat me right each and every day just cuz. No excuses any other day of the year by telling me that on Valentine’s Day he did such and such for me and treated me right. No way Jose! I know it’s a tough thing for poor Dude to live up to, but after all these years of marriage and 4 kids, I guess he must be doing something right. Voila, best reason ever.

Secondly, my birthday falls just 5 days after Valentine’s Day, our wedding anniversary is just 3 weeks before Valentine’s Day and Christmas is 1 month before our wedding anniversary which means every year if we chose to give presents and wine and dine each other on each of these days, we get nailed with spending money constantly within about a 7 week period. What I would rather do is a one lump sum of a vacation each year and say it was for all 4 days. This year we plan on taking a little trip to Italy in the spring and I’d say that was a great Christmas, anniversary, Valentine’s Day and birthday present all in one, so it all evens out.

I’d like to note though, that I do usually take the day off of work on my birthday if it happens to fall on a work day (this year it doesn’t, dang it) and do a little day trip (no presents or specials meals) just to make it a little special on my day, which happens to be my favorite day of the year. Yes folks, no matter how old I get, my birthday is always a big deal to me and I just love that day more than any other, which reminds me of a comment my kids made to me a few years back when I woke up all singing and cheerful on my birthday. They all looked at me as I danced into the kitchen and they said, “Why are you dancing and singing and being so cheerful this morning? (Like I said in another post, I’m not a morning person so they knew I was a bit off that day). I said it was because today was my favorite day of the whole year and today I was queen for the whole day. They all looked at each other confused and then, as if in unison said, “What’s the big deal about that, mom? Your queen every day!!” So true, so true and it proves they also know whose boss.

Anyway, that’s just how it is which brings me back to not celebrating Valentine’s Day. If I’m queen every day then voila why would celebrating Valentine’s Day matter? See, my way of thinking totally makes sense 🙂

Skynet Has Become Self-Aware

Lately I have been having some trouble with my computer. I believe the stuff they talked about all those years ago in the movie “The Terminator” is now coming true and it’s starting to infiltrate my own personal laptop.

It all started a couple of months ago when I couldn’t post a comment on one of my favorite blogs. I ended up emailing the lady whose blog I read and told her that I was really reading it every chance I got, but that I wasn’t able to post comments anymore cuz my computer wouldn’t let me. The darn thing would literally refuse to do what her comment page asked in order to accept my post. We ended up emailing each other instead. I figured it was just some weird thing going on and it would all work itself out. Low and behold, a few weeks later all was worked out and I could again post my comments.

Well, guess what?? A few weeks after that, the same thing happened again, but with another blog I read. So I emailed the writer to let him know that I was still there but I just couldn’t tell him so. Fortunately, he was able to tweak his blog a bit and that very day I was able to post a comment! So far so good.

See, I have certain blogs (no doubt you have seen some of them on my blog roll to the right) that I like to read often. Well, I also like to post comments, too. Everyone likes to get comments on what they’ve written and I think it also develops good relationships. You start to see these bloggers as “friends”. It’s nice to read about the goings on in other people’s lives and their opinions, the interests you share with them and the places they live and travel. I also think that they want to hear from you if for anything, to know that there is someone out there who appreciates their stories and is willing to take a minute to drop them a line to tell them so.

So back to the crazy computer self awareness thing.  My computer, unbeknownst to me, decided to make a New Year’s resolution without telling me before hand. Do you know what that was? To block me every time I want to post on someone’s blog who has a word verifier. There is one blog which allows me to get through, but only one. This freakin’ computer will let me take the time to write my comment, then type in my ID then type in the “secret code” word verifier and then when I hit “publish” or “post comment” the result is my comment not being posted with an error that says I didn’t write the word correctly. WRONG! I can go through this motion 5 times (cuz if it rejects you it just gives you another set of letters/numbers to input) and each time it says “no bueno”. I swear I’m gonna lose it. I’ve tried using different search engines, scrubbing my computer for bugs, etc.. Nothing. I can’t get a post in even if I paid for it. My computer has all of a sudden decided to hate the word verifier! What’s up with that?!

So, for all you guys out there whose blogs I love to read and post comments on, I’m still here and I’m still reading them. No I haven’t snubbed you, forgot about you, told my friends bad things about you or thrown you under the bus (unfortunately, my computer has done all that).

Until my computer becomes non self aware, stops doing things on its own and forgets all about its New Year’s resolution, I think I will be stuck in non-posting comments hell. Ahhh! I wanna say something. I wanna put my two cents in and this is killin’ me! Even Dude knows how bad it is for a girl to not have her say in something so apparently my computer must be having a big laugh right now.

Anywho, I still love all you guys with blogs that have word verification even if my computer doesn’t. I’m still reading and still enjoying what you are writing about, I just can’t tell you that!

Snowflakes in Provence

I was born and raised in Southern California. I lived there pretty much my whole life and always about 20 minutes or less from the ocean. Therefore, I never saw it snow in the winter. If I wanted to see the snow, my family had to make the two hour trek to the mountains to do so. Throughout my lifetime family trips to the snow didn’t occur very often, mostly because I didn’t like to participate in winter sports. I preferred the beach and the lake and summer sports.  I’m not one to snow ski or snowboard so it was never high on my list to just “go see the snow”. In fact, I was all of 27 years old before I even saw snow fall from the sky! At that time, it just so happened that I went on a spring vacation with my family to Lake Tahoe when we were caught in a late season snow storm. I remember standing in the living room of our rented condo looking out the window and watching in amazement the snow falling from the sky. I remarked to Dude that it was the first time I had ever seen it snow. He thought I was joking! I wasn’t.

Well, fast forward many, many years later and I now I live in Provence. I was told that it didn’t really snow in this region of France and if it did, the snow didn’t last too long and there usually wasn’t a lot of it.

So late yesterday afternoon, on my way home from work, I got one of the biggest treats of my life. It was snowing in Provence. Not just a little bit of snow, but a fairly good amount. I was in heaven.

Not only did I get to see it snow (for probably the second time in my life), but I also arrived home to a snow covered garden!

It was like looking at a post card. My house was just beginning to be surrounded by the beauty of freshly fallen snow. It was like powdered sugar on a birthday cake.

I was eager to find out if when I woke this morning, the snow would still be there. To my delight, it was. The snow was still clinging to the trees in my garden and my neighbor’s yard still had a thin blanket covering it.

I couldn’t wait to go out and take a quick stroll to hear the crunching of the ice under my feet.

Now that the end of the day is here, the snow has started to melt and the ice is beginning to disappear. There are no longer any traces of the wonderful white powder in the trees and I am beginning to see the familiar ground again in my yard.

Even though the snow lasted only a short time, it was simply marvelous for me. I can’t wait for the next time when snowflakes appear in Provence. It was a wonderful treat for me.

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