Browsing Posts published in 2011

Playing The Field

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Let me start by saying that I love my husband. I do. Really I do. Okay now that that’s out the way let’s get to the heart of the matter shall we?

My current husband is actually my second. My first, affectionately known as my practice husband (ex-husband is just so cliché), was and I imagine still is a lovely person but he was without a doubt Canadian to the core and by that I mean obsessed with hockey. I’ll spare you the gory details but I will say that there was many a Saturday night when I weighed the legal ramifications of a psychiatrist slipping her mate a Prozac cocktail against the preservation of her own sanity. Continue reading “Playing The Field” »

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Real Men Eat Tarte

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Not long after we arrived here on the Rue I noticed that a house across the street, previously shuttered up tight, was slowly coming to life. Each day out came a serious looking fellow of a difficult to say age with a thick gray mustache and beard and a myriad of tattoos. He wore exotic leather sandals with soles that curled up over his toes, you know the kind you see on movie characters who ride Arabian horses through the desert and cut people’s heads off with giant curled swords. In my head he was mysterious, dangerous even and I had all kinds of wild stories attached to him.

Despite my intrigue, timidity trumped curiosity so I never got beyond a quiet bonjour to him. Then one day Neil and I were huffing up the hill and there he was again. He stopped in the middle of the street and offered us a deep and solemn bonjour and said, “Jean-Claude.” Finally someone in France opens with their name. He paused for a moment, looked at us intensely, “Do you like apples?” Of course we like apples. Then he raised his large arm and with a toss of his hand directed us to his truck.

Next thing I knew we were driving up the road with this stranger who in my mind was the local mafioso bringing the feckless immigrants to a local dog fight arena. He stopped in front of a large plot of land full of bushes and trees and got out. Curious indeed. I decided to trail behind the men you know just in case I had to make a break for it. Continue reading “Real Men Eat Tarte” »

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Grape Expectations

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Did I ever tell you that I enjoy a glass of wine from time to time? Actually anytime is wine o’clock in France. I’ve seen glasses tipped as early as 9 in the morning, hardcore even by Newfie standards. I haven’t worked up to that pace yet but I will say this, the best wine I’ve ever had in my life is made right here in Burgundy. I’m partial to the whites and they’re enough to make me believe that my mid-life melodrama was a stroke of genius. Never mind that I’ve neither paycheck nor purpose; great wine for only a few euros, no real need to be sober and nothing but time on my hands, it’s the perfect situation.

Wine is big, no make that huge, business here and has been going on long before Jesus was even a gleam in god’s eye. Thomas Jefferson himself stocked his cellar from Burgundy wine producers whose ancestors to this day craft some of the world’s most prestigious vintages. The grand harvest or les vendages as the French call it has come and gone. Of course I was too busy sipping wine to go down to the big vineyards but even here in Semur one can connect to the art of le vin.

Just beyond this ancient door, one of my favourite neighbourhood sights, is a small vineyard owned by two lovely Americans who are part of the international group drawn back year after year to this great town. Continue reading “Grape Expectations” »

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Reality Estate

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Oh don’t you just love October? The only thing I love more is September. Here’s a little piece of French fall in all its glory.

Just over the Pont Pinard, that famous Semur landmark and site of my recent joy attacks, sits this amazing maison that apparently dates back to the middle ages. It’s an incredible building and here’s the real kicker, right now it’s for sale. The list price is 179,000 euros, not a bad deal at all for this part of France but unless they drop the price a bit, say down to $1.79, I’m out. Of course there’s another reason I’m out. Continue reading “Reality Estate” »

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Living My Life

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Despite any evidence to the contrary I don’t have a whole lot going on from day to day. I just go about my life; doing laundry, eating my face off, writing and watching old episodes of Arrested Development and Mary Tyler Moore thanks to the miracle of Apple TV. A fairly mundane state of being by anyone’s standards.

The other day a lovely woman in Chicago sent me an email that said I was living her dream. But I suspect if she hung out with me for a day or two she’d be bored to sobs and race back to her thrilling big city life where women wear hooker shoes and go out for cocktails on Thursday nights. One woman’s dream is likely another woman’s cauchemar (nightmare), yet another stunning example of the useless French words I know.

But hum-drum days aside there is the odd dream being realized over here. Not long ago I put a year in France under my belt and so far that’s pretty high up on my ‘things I’ve always wanted to do’ list. And today I’m crossing off another one, ‘someday I’d like to write a book’. Now I’m not saying it’ll ever be anything other than a pile of kindling but who cares? The point is that I wrote it, all 65,000 words of it. It was a lot of work and it took a lot of time but I loved every minute of it. Okay not the minutes where I nearly tore all my hair out because I don’t really know how to use Word but all the rest were a pleasure. Continue reading “Living My Life” »

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I’m a busy little beaver this week trying to turn a blog into a book which in my case involves wading through thousands of photos, literally. I thought I had it all settled but Rusty keeps showing me one lovely snapshot after another and I can’t decide which ones I want to use.

So instead of a load of words today I offer you this photo taken early this morning at our beloved boulangerie…

I only wish we had smellovision because you can’t begin to imagine how good it smells in here. Who has the perfect words for this picture?

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All my life I’ve been that 90 pound weakling desperately trying to keep a bit of weight on while the rest of world packs on the pounds just from gazing at a donut. But since moving to France I’ve discovered even I can gain weight as long as the right tonnage of dough is ingested. I’ve also discovered that I’m very easily intimidated in this new culture. I think it’s mostly about language but it’s also about everything being so different from what I’m used to.

Take a simple thing like going to the gym. I’ve finally returned to regular workouts, congratulate me please. Apart from being proud of myself for shifting my attention from the bakery to strength training, I’m also proud that I’m no longer feeling ridiculously lily-livered every time I go. But let me tell you it was no easy feat.

For the last 12 years I’ve worked out in gyms exclusively for women and I liked it that way. Never mind the gawking, it was all the grunting and groaning that finally did me in. But there’s only one gym around these parts and there’s no escaping the big boys at this one, not even in the change rooms, or should I say room as there is only one. So far driving home soaked in sweat is working out just fine. Continue reading “The Politesse Of Pumping Iron” »

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Double Take

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No matter how many French language CDs I listen to, no matter how many verb tenses I learn something always catches me out. This sign in town still gets me every time.

Here’s where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I knew the word bois meant wood long before I knew the word tampon meant stamp. Now that’s medieval.

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Open Season

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Don’t you just love September? It’s my favourite month with all its autumnal majesty. Here in Semur the days remain sunny and warm but the cool misty mornings and clear crisp evenings make enduring summer heat waves all worthwhile. The leaves are turning and already I can smell the sweet scent of chestnut fires burning somewhere in the distance. I tell you it’s magic.

I know that this will all too quickly be replaced by a long gray winter so I’m frantically trying to spend as much time as possible soaking in the pleasures of fall. Sunday we woke to a glorious day and decided that we’d finally get over to see a chateau in Lantilly, a town just around the corner. For some reason we hadn’t managed to drag our pastry laden arses over there yet and once there my suspicions that we are the worst tourists in the history of French tourism were confirmed.

The weekend before last all the chateaux in France were fully open for viewing and admission was free. What was I doing? I don’t even remember but I bet it involved eating. And this weekend the chateau closest to us was now closed for the season. Merde. But as we drove home we passed through a pretty village called Grignon not far from Semur I saw the perfect place for a fall fix. So I hopped out of the car and raced down the lane.

Then I turned my back to the road to capture this vista…. Continue reading “Open Season” »

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All In A Day’s Walk

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Okay heat waves and harassing hooligans aside I love this town. One of the great things about living in old Europe is how the everyday becomes the sublime. Places that I always took for granted in Canada, banks, libraries, city hall (mostly because they were just, well, boring) take on new meaning here in Semur.

I often start or finish my day here at Mademoiselle Elodie’s House of Pain…

She calls it ‘physiotherapy’ which in French is pronounced ‘sadistic torture’. Oh now I’m just teasing, she saves my life three times a week. After Elodie finishes untwisting the pretzel lady I’m loose enough to promenade home and the first place I see is the local Caisse D’Epargne also known as a bank.

See when the banks look like this they get a certain amount of forgiveness no matter how wacky the process of seeking mortgage approval. A few more steps, the local library…

When I am queen of the world (which let’s face it should be any day now) all libraries will look exactly like this one. In the centre of the courtyard there are benches where I can sit and take it all in which is a good thing because god knows there’s not much point of me hanging about inside, not even in the preschool section. Ah but someday soon I’ll proudly check out my first French book, preferably one with lots of pictures and really big print.

Next I pass through the gates of ‘city hall’…

When I first moved here I noticed every town had a ‘Hotel De Ville’ which of course I thought was France’s answer to Holiday Inn. Not so, this place is the administrative hub of Semur or the ‘mairie’, a veritable extension of La République, where one seeks permission to live in France from Monsieur le Maire himself. The crowd at this place have offered us a level of service that a Howard Johnson’s just couldn’t touch.

Trust me it’s as lovely inside as it is out. What I love about living here is a simple walk to the physio clinic is inspiring and beautiful and makes me feel happy all over. Of course every place in the world has its own beauty and no town is perfect. To be sure there are parts of Semur that are crumbly, shabby and in need of some serious overhauling but I’ve seen my derrière today so who am I to talk?

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The Buck Stops Here

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Or I should say the Euro. While the world markets shake, rattle and roll and the global economy implodes, here in Semur the value of a dollar is as solid as a rock. I mean really what can you get for a dollar these days? A handful of candy? Nope. A coffee? You couldn’t even buy the foam on a latte for that. Sure even everything at these so called ‘dollar’ stores costs $1.99. And okay one Euro is a bit more than a dollar, $1.40 Canadian today to be exact but that’s besides the point.

Almost daily I’ve walked past these magnificent doors and longed to see what treasure was hidden behind them. The other day there appeared out of nowhere a brass plaque announcing daily visits every half hour. Well now, two tickets s’il vous plaît. Continue reading “The Buck Stops Here” »

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Restraint My Ass

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Okay I might not have told the whole story the other day about my afternoon at the Semur vide grenier. Those who know me might have been suspicious when I said that a rummage sale would be enough to drag me away from a day on the couch with Tommy Lee Jones. I left out something that Neil said to me on the phone that caused me to race up the stairs one leg already out of the gorgeous sweatpants that have now taken root to my flabby arse. It seems that a man need only utter one word to get me undressed: Donkeys.

I love donkeys. We see them around here all the time but always from a speeding car so when he called and said there were dozens of donkeys in the middle of Semur I was off like a shot. And not only did they have donkeys at work like these Continue reading “Restraint My Ass” »

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Après

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Well poor Rusty finally emerged from under the mountain of work he’s been tackling lately only to be met by a nagging wife (me) begging him to take some housette pictures. It’s not going to make the next issue of Architectural Digest but not bad if I do say so myself. Remember the before? A frantic couple of weeks at Ikea and every other bargain place we could find and Voilà!

Continue reading “Après” »

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I’ve made friends with a couple here who live the life I’ve always wanted. They met in Hong Kong and then embarked on a journey of epic proportions moving from country to country on a whim. They would find work wherever they went and in doing so built a life that now allows them to live half time on the Spanish coast, half time by the river here in Semur. But that’s not the best part.

Now they meander about France led entirely by their stomachs. They travel all around this great land in search of the finest cuisine and the loveliest of lodgings. If I didn’t like them so much I’d hate them. What a life. She sends me links to everywhere they go and I’m telling you these two really know how to roll in style.

Me? Not so much. Oh I’ve been around to a few places, Beaune, Dijon, Chablis and a few other wine villages but for the most part these days I stay put. What with Neil’s busy schedule, the whole housette business and a limited budget, it’s what’s on my plate at the moment. But I can’t say it’s a bad deal this.

See every day for me is a Michelin 3 star experience. I get up when I feel like it and beyond laundry and the odd toilet scrub, my time is my own. I have delicious meals served to me by Scotland’s finest Chippendale dancer. I drink exquisite wine that’s cheap as dirt and I meet intriguing people from all over the world every day.

Plus why would I need to go anywhere else when every time I leave my house the first thing I lay eyes on is this…

Never mind the rest of France, the only traveling I want to do is over that wall to see what’s hidden behind that green door. Someday maybe I’ll see all of France but for now the yellow brick road ends here.

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