1 August 2016 : French Sabbatical

080116So, gang, I got the transferring of posts from one blog to the other finished earlier today. This is the kind of thing one can accomplish with extra hours in the day. For me, these extra hours began at 4:30 this morning when I discovered I was wide awake.

Yeah, yeah, something about jet lag. But I think this intercontinental travel thing might be a clue to enhanced productivity! Since you’re wide awake when you’re used to being asleep, you can get so much more done!

Don’t start in on me about sleep deprivation. I know there is likely a downside in my plan somewhere, but I’m just too darn tired right now to think of it. In fact, here at about 3:15pm, what I’d really like to do is, yawn, take a nap.

Anyway, anyway, I’m getting away from myself. My point is that the old French Sabbatical blog, the one I used to post a record of what my family did EVERY day from July 2010 through July 2011, is all cleaned up to just have sabbatical postings on it. It also has a search feature so you can try to find things that interest you (Line 2, for example). And it’s got a Monthly Archive feature so you can look at the posts for each of the 13 months we were in France.

Really, you should go take a look.

31 July 2016 : Home

About an hour ago, Melinda and I made a quick trip to Metropolitan Market, a grocery store near our house in Seattle (no, Celeste and Manon, they do not sell clothes). We wanted a light dinner after a full day of traveling, and settled on a salad with shrimp and a salmon roll on the side. ChartreuseChloe joined us and Alex was present but had already eaten.

While at the store, I thought I’d check on the price of a bottle of Chartreuse. And there it is in the accompanying photo. 50 bucks BEFORE taxes, over $60 after taxes. In France I could buy this same bottle for 24 Euros. Total. With the exchange rate being what it is, that’s not even $27. And, oh, this is the little bottle…

About our travel day… We had a little stress in London just before midnight last night when we thought our transportation plan to the airport had fallen through. In the end it worked out, although our flight was delayed nearly two hours leaving London. The explanation for this was the plane was late leaving New York due to it having to wait for a pilot to arrive. And although we weren’t chosen, Melinda and I volunteered to get bumped from the flight if the situation presented itself. We would have received two $800 travel vouchers and have been put up for a night in a London hotel.

Darn.

But, yes, we are home and that is nice.

26 July 2016 : France Geography Lesson

We are all profoundly saddened by the attack in Normandy today inside of a church. Melinda and I were just trying to make sense of it but it is so hard to do. To call it senseless, while in so many ways seems true, is to perpetuate misunderstanding and, perhaps, contribute to the continuation of violence. To find a way for these kinds of acts to make sense feels crass and almost sounds like a condoning. It’s so hard.

Given Melinda and I are in France and have recently returned to Nantes from Normandy, I thought it might be of interest to place ourselves on a map. I’m guessing that at the very least our families in Seattle will find this interesting.

You'll locate Nantes in the lower left. I've marked it with a red pin. The other red pin above and to the right is Auvillars in Normandy, the location of Bernard's parent's house.

You’ll locate Nantes in the lower left. I’ve marked it with a red pin. The other red pin above and to the right is Auvillars in Normandy, the location of Bernard’s parent’s house.

So I enlarged this map to zero in more on where we stayed and visited in Normandy. Auvillars is the red pin on the left. And Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where today's attack took place, is the pin on the right. You'll also see Honfleur and Deauville, places we visited last week. When Bernard drove us to Paris last week, it was along the A13.

So I enlarged this map to zero in more on where we stayed and visited in Normandy. Auvillars is the red pin on the left. And Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, where today’s attack took place, is the pin on the right. You’ll also see Honfleur and Deauville, places we visited last week. When Bernard drove us to Paris last week, it was along the A13.

On a more upbeat note, here is Melinda in our living room just a few minutes ago. We are creating a debrief document of this year's trip and she is being the scribe.

On a more upbeat note, here is Melinda in our living room just a few minutes ago. We are creating a debrief document of this year’s trip and she is being the scribe.

25 July 2016 : Babysitter Americaine – Update

So, apparently, a great day like today deserves three posts. So be it. I’m not following any self-imposed rules like I did during the sabbatical when it was one post with one photo per day. Now I’ll do whatever I please, which for today means three posts. And we still have a dinner to attend tonight at the home of the Porcher’s, Sandrine and Laurent.

imageAnyway, the title of this post is significant in that it represents one of the most important activities of the sabbatical, the babysitting Chloe did of Zacharie and Luce. She was hired to take care of them and familiarize them to hearing English. It was this experience that had great influence on Chloe’s undergraduate studies of the value of learning multiple languages and doing so when one is young.

Soon after we arrived in Nantes this year, I reached out to Penny, Zacharie’s and Luce’s mom, to see if they were available for a quick get-together. They were and the rendez-vous took place this afternoon in the infield of the Hippodrome. We were unable to connect with Chloe via FaceTime, but I did manage to send her some pictures as we chatted, and even got her a couple of videos. All in all, it was pretty wonderful. The kids are so sweet and Penny is so kind. She made a delicious brioche for the occasion.

I encourage you to go back in time and refresh yourself about Chloe’s connection to these kids. Start here.

25 July 2016 : Aveze

This is one of those experiences that make me feel I really live in France. I can’t begin to explain the significance of it, so profound is it for me. So I’ll do my best to just report it.

imageAt noon today, I accompanied Bernard to the home of Denis and Jeanne Chassagne. They are the Bertail’s next door neighbors and I’ve long heard about them. They are everything you’d hope to find in an elderly couple – kind, welcoming, and enjoying your company. It was an absolute privilege to spend 90 minutes with them in their home.

We sat on their terrace overlooking their backyard. M. Chassagne had prepared the table in advance of our arrival. On it, we’re a couple of bowls of crackers, but more importantly bottles of Ricard and Aveze.

As you likely know, I’m a huge fan of Ricard, the French pastis that is typically served before dinner with ice and water. It’s licorice flavored and I love it, despite my inability to pronounce it correctly in French. I’ve only seen it prepared with ice and water, never mixed with something else.

M. Chassagne served Ricard with Aveze, which is another French liqueur. It’s got a medicinal quality about it and is either loved or hated. Melinda, for one, loves it. I found it in the US and use it sparingly in a variety of cocktails back home that Melinda refers to as “her medicine.” It’s also expensive in the US, although not so here.

So M. Chassagne put in my glass what I will refer to as one part Ricard and three or four parts Aveze. He then added three ice cubes. That’s the drink. Very strong. Bernard suggested we add some water, which we did, M. Chassagne explaining in French that he was doing so because it was warm out and he was “thirsty.”

I loved this drink.

As the conversation continued, M. Chassagne explained that a classic drink is a touch of Creme de Cassis and Aveze. Of course he proceded to get his bottle of Creme de Cassis and made us that drink, pouring by eye. It, too, was wonderful. Finishing it, he proceeded to pour me a simple Ricard, after getting up, looking for, and discovering that he had no more Aveze.

I think he began with almost half a bottle.

Christine warned me that he was quick to refill empty glasses.

Oh, did I say that this interaction began at noon?

I loved it all and am pleased to have meet M. et Mdm. Chassagne. They are well into their 80’s and enjoy having the Bertails next door, given they have no grandchildren. M. Chassagne recollected how he came to help Theo at our house during the sabbatical when he was having trouble with the lawn mower (Theo mowed our lawn for 10 Euros). I remembered that!

The Cassagnes have traveled the world since retiring and enjoy cruise ships. They even spent a night in Seattle in 1996. I tried my best to track the conversation in French, Bernard translating much of it. I think Aveze helps with my comprehension.