Saturday, December 30, 2006
Festivities continue, of course, with preparations for the New Year's Eve réveillon well underway. This year we'll be celebrating at home, en famille, which will be a nice change from the huge meals of the past few years. And I will certainly have some blog-related New Year's resolutions to share -- so don't forget to click by in 2007!
Monday, December 25, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I've noticed a lot of expat blogs are full of sadness -- I won't say whining -- about the supposed lack of Christmas spirit in France. Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon in Rodez, getting my Christmas shopping done -- finally. And I can assure you that Christmas spirit was everywhere, starting with these two high school students who were perched on a bench in Rodez's public park, le Jardin du Foirail, displaying their version of Christmas spirit.
When I asked if I could take their photo and explained that a lot of Americans and Brits felt there wasn't enough "esprit de Noël" around -- for lack of a better translation -- they vehemently denied it: "Mais si, mais si." So yes there is -- and they are living proof of it. Joyeux Noël, guys.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Legally, only small food shops can do business on Sundays, and just in the morning. Other shops can open a certain number of Sundays per year -- I think this depends on the département. Sundays before Christmas are of course among the most popular choices.
Some retailers flaunt the law and open on more Sundays than allowed, then pay the fine. And superstores such as IKEA are dying to get permission to open on Sundays, yet employees and their unions resist. Despite France's low rate of church attendance, Sunday remains sacred as far as shopping is concerned.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
When we moved to Aveyron in 1995, Rodez had just been through a series of grands travaux, with a fairly new -- and lovely -- public media library, town hall, and departmental archives building. Eleven years later, the city is going through more changes, some of them major and most of them controversial.
Living outside of Rodez, I'm not really up on the advantages and drawbacks of the projects that some say will transform Rodez as never before. One is to change the Ilôt Bonald, a rather rundown area behind the Place de la Cité , into an underground parking lot crowned by other urban renewal projects.
Many city dwellers are worked up about the loss of a fascinating -- I won't go so far as to say charming -- part of the town. Others feel the neighborhood needs, quite literally, a good cleaning up and some nice new apartments to get more people living in town. Shopkeepers reeling from the recent opening of a new galerie marchande, or mall, on the outskirts of the city will likely be pleased with any measure that makes it easier to park in the centre ville.
I don't really have a position on these plans, but am glad I got a picture of this huge old house, just a few steps away from the town center, because it will apparently be going down when the new project goes up.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
I can't help but feel Our Lady would suffice as the most beautiful Christmas decoration possible -- especially at night -- but I do generally enjoy the town's efforts to light up the holiday season.
More and more Aveyronnais are decorating their houses inside and out à l'américaine, and despite a certain ambivalence about this trend, Christmas decorations usually bring a smile to my face -- wherever they are.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Maybe a few of you have noticed that I haven't been posting to this blog nor Cuisine Quotidienne as frequently as before. (How can I write a cooking blog when I don't have time to cook?)
Blogging and I haven't fallen out -- but life is very full. My teaching job excites and enthuses me as much as ever, and it is in full swing: new classes with company clients, tests for my college students, activities to supervise, papers to correct...it never ends.
Also, there are new horizons opening up to me: professional business blogging , the fun of writing about wine for a great site with a fantastic editor, and also doing a bit of educational writing for an ESL publishing company in Taiwan. So you'll forgive me if La France Profonde is not updated as much as before. It all depends on what else is going on in my life...and right now, there's a lot!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
All over France, Beaujolais nouveau is in the news. But local "new" wines have made significant inroads into the vin nouveau market. The proof is in the product. When I stopped off after work today to buy a bottle or two of Beaujolais nouveau, the fresh food market I shop at had a choice -- and tasting -- of three Gaillac primeurs and just one Beaujolais. Hats off to Gaillac wine producers for making their new wine a commercial success. I would say that here in Aveyron it has almost dethroned Beaujolais nouveau.
Friday, November 10, 2006
As you may know, I also write for the Well Fed Network, and the site has just gotten a spiffy face-lift. Check out some of the new sub-sites: Just Baking, Cook Smarter and Kid's Cuisine look especially promising.
I used to contribute to Growers and Grocers, but have recently switched over to Wine Sediments, edited by Andrew Barrow of the excellent wine blog Spittoon. Andrew just took over editor's duties for Paper Palate too, and I hope to find a little time to write for this site which deals with cookbooks and the culinary press.
If you like France, you probably love cooking, so I hope you'll take a look at some of the above sites. And if you stop by, don't hesitate to leave a comment!
Thursday, November 02, 2006
"Halloween was a marketing gimmick aimed mainly at children. It's a big festival of consumption selling outfits, masks, gadgets and it couldn't last forever," declared former "Non à Halloween" president Arnaud Guyot-Jeanninin to Reuters. His group has disbanded, its mission accomplished.
As an American expat, I have always had mixed feelings about the importation of Halloween to France. Although I was happy that my children could celebrate it with their friends -- and one daughter especially loves the holiday -- I can understand the consternation of French people who don't want to adopt a celebration that is foreign to them, despite its Celtic origins.
And then there is the uncomfortable cohabitation between Halloween and All Saint's Day, or la Toussaint, on November 1st. The latter is a national holiday and serves as the French family Memorial Day; traditionally, it is the time to decorate family members' graves with flowers. The idea of whooping it up in ghoulish costumes the night before visiting the family cemetery legitimately represents a disconnect for many.
What do you think? Has le Halloween come and gone?
Monday, October 30, 2006
Derrick Schneider of An Obsession with Food recently expressed amazement at the variety and quality of meats available in "France's Wal-Mart-like hypermarchés," and it's true that one can find just about all types of meat in a Géant or an Auchan. I shop quite a bit at the hypermarchés, so I can't play holier-than-vous, but I do try to buy most of my meat at the local butcher shops...so that they will still be around in ten more years.
Friday, October 27, 2006
It's always fun to identify an Aveyronnais business far from home. Once when visiting Paris, we drove by a café called "Au Trou de Bozouls." Since we live quite near this geographical landmark (le trou) as well as the village of Bozouls, we got quite a kick out of seeing a little piece of Aveyron in the capital.
I just got back from a few days in Toulouse, and was tickled to find a trace of Aveyron there in this hotel, named after the Rodez cathedral tower.
Indeed, the diligent Aveyronnais made -- and are still making -- a fortune in the hotel and café business in Paris, and they seem to have left a trace in Toulouse too.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
I don't hear many Ruthénois wax eloquently about the city's main post office, but it is one of the local buildings I enjoy taking a look at, especially on a sunny day. I imagine it was built in the 40s or 50s and that the deep red stone, not especially common in Rodez itself, was brought in from the Marcillac valley. I was unable to find any information about the building on the Web or in my books about the area -- maybe one of my readers knows more than I do?
Saturday, October 14, 2006
The rue Béteille is the main road up to what the locals call the piton, or the top part of Rodez. Years of traffic have left the street dingy and depressing, and the town hall has embarked on a major project to cheer up this gloomy part of town. I was lucky enough to be on the rue Béteille AND to have my camera with me one day when they had just torn down a building, revealing this old advertisement for "overactive" Castrol motor oil.
The next time I walked down the street, new construction had gone up. The sign, having made a brief reappearance after decades of reclusion, was once again hidden between walls. Who knows when it will be visible again?
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I love my French home, and this blog was created to praise it. But after 16 years of living in France, I figure I have the right to a few issues. And one is getting particularly under -- or on -- my skin. It's a good thing the French government is finally gearing up for a true ban on smoking in public places, because I'm not sure how much more I can take.
Already I avoid the staff room at my job because I hate to go into class smelling like Gitanes . This problem should be cleared up soon because the decree banning smoking in offices, stores, schools and hospitals will take effect in February 2007.
I also must admit I go out less than before because smoke in restaurants and cafés annoys me more than in my insouciant youth. I'll have to wait a little on that front -- cafés, bars and restaurants have been granted until January 2008 to comply with the smoking ban. But at least there is hope on the horizon...I know I will live to see the day when I can enjoy a meal out in France without worrying about smoke puffing over from the next table.
(Photo extract from the Macon Daily, "France to Impose Smoking Ban")
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)
Friday, September 29, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I don't know where I'm going, but I know where I've been...
...to Rodez, Millau, Montpellier, the end of the earth, the school supply department of the local supermarket, farms, Toulouse, elegant restaurants, my own back yard, work, rooves, shops, the Aubrac plateau...
For my 100th post, I want to say thank you to all of the expat bloggers (see sidebar) and French Daily Photo bloggers (also see sidebar) who click by and take a look at my little corner of the French countryside.
Also thanks to my husband Thierry who travels all around the Aveyron countryside and provides some of the photos for my blog.
And I've decided to give my blog a new name for the 100th post. La France Profonde is where I am; "an American in Aveyron" is who I am.
(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Although I write about life in rural France, the truth is I am not that isolated. I live in a village of over a thousand inhabitants; I go to work in a dynamic medium-sized town. Some Aveyronnais, however, live and work in sheer isolation. Could you do it?
(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Did you believe me? Actually, the truth is not quite as romantic. Aveyron does boast many stone bread ovens, or fours à pain, some "communal"-- belonging to a whole village or hamlet. Others, like this one in an old farmhouse, belong to individual properties. Most French people don't bake in these ovens anymore, but some are still in use.
I am personally looking forward to baking some bread this fall and winter with a much more modern contraption: la machine à pain:
(First photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
My previous post on school supply madness in France brought in a number of comments, but I'm not finished with this issue yet. Yes, I did survive the six trips to buy notebooks and pens, although I'm not so sure about our pocketbook. I read that the average cost of going back to school for a middle school student, including PE clothes but not books, is around 200 euros, or a little over 250 dollars. And what is this money spent on?
A lot of it goes to notebooks and binders -- cahiers et classeurs. Angela told me of a new system in her son's high school in Southern France which sounds wonderful:
"...last year the school encouraged the students to buy a bloc notes pad. The lessons were done on the pad and the sheets then transferred into the relevant classeurs at home. It really works and no excruciatingly heavy bags."
Unfortunately, that system hasn't been adopted here yet. Every class -- and the students have up to 12 -- requires its own notebook or binder. That may sound simple enough, but the choice of model is overwhelming. Don't forget, you can't just go pick up ten notebooks. Each teacher gives his or her own requirements, so you have to make sure to:
- choose the correct size -- 24 x 32 cm, 21 x 29.7 cm, 17 X 22cm...
-choose the right type of lines, the cahier à petits carreaux apparently being there just to fool people like my daughter's friend as teachers usually don't ask for them...
-select the appropriate number of pages -- 96, 140, 198. This has been a sticking point a few times as stores do run out of certain models.
-sometimes, choose the type of binding, but this is fortunately rare
So you can see that the margin for error is large, as is the budget. You also have to buy protège-cahiers, or notebook covers, which are notoriously out of stock in our area. One year my older daughter started talking about driving to Albi (over an hour away) where she had "heard they had transparent 24 X 32 notebook covers." I did not entertain the idea.
Finally, this post wouldn't be complete without a description of the epitome of the French school supply system: le cahier de brouillon, or the scratch paper notebook. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but it really does exist. It guarantees there will be no sloppy work on feuilles volantes -- literally "flying sheets of paper." We couldn't have that, could we? So all "scratch paper" work is done in a little notebook, that can thankfully be used for all classes.
I must admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the scratch paper notebook. And it's one of the cheapest things on the list.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
The construction of the Millau viaduct has put Aveyron's second-largest city on the map in a big way, and certainly must be attracting more English-speaking tourists and residents, as this Millau real estate agency indicates.
The San Jose Mercury has just published a three-part series about the city and its viaduct, and if you're interested in the area, you might want to take a look at the articles.
"A bridge to France's hidden charms" deals with the viaduct and the surrounding tourist sites and villages; "Millau Viaduct" gives a few statistics about the bridge, and "If You Go" gives advice and links for potential tourists.
If you miss out on these articles -- they may be taken off line soon -- take a trip down the A75 freeway, complete with photos not only of the viaduct but also of the freeway rest stops, thanks to the France section of Abelard.
Interestingly, one of the above San Jose Mercury articles finished with a quotation from a Belgian businessman who spends his holidays in the Millau area:
"'We returned because of the beauty of the area,'' he says. ``And because the area isn't overcrowded by noisy people.' Take that, Provence."
One of the original premises of this blog was that Aveyron could become the next Provence. Time will tell, but if it happens, the Millau viaduct will certainly be a factor.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I'm certain that somewhere in France this week, a parent is having a nervous breakdown over school supplies. French teachers demand uniformity in the type of notebooks, binders and paper students use, and the resulting school supply lists are notoriously daunting.
My youngest daughter has just started 8th grade. Her list -- handed out at the end of 7th grade -- contained 46 different items. We attempted to buy them all on one shopping trip, but gave up, exhausted, after purchasing about 29. So this meant another trip back to finish up --at another supermarket, of course, because the first one lacked plenty of key items.
My eldest just started high school and faced a different system. The school doesn't send out a list in June; on the first day of class each teacher announces what the students will need . The problem is, with 10 different subjects and teachers, the "first day of class" lasts all week. And generally, the message to the students is clear: you need this for yesterday. So every evening this week, we have gone on a school supply run. We've made a total of five so far, and our enthusiasm is definitely diminishing.
Friday, September 01, 2006
I was recently asked to write a story about wine for a new expat website, blueVicar . I don't really have time to work on stories now as I'm trying to get more business writing jobs, but the site's concept is clearly of interest if you would like to try your hand at writing stories that go beyond a simple blog post.
blueVicar is for people with stories to tell about life abroad…and for those who like to read them.
Living far from our home lands, we love to hear the experiences and perceptions other people have while living here. Their stories remind us of things that have happened to us; things that were funny, poignant, scary, or just plain memorable. We live more fully knowing what others have seen; the world becomes a little richer when we pay attention to details that we might otherwise have missed.
blueVicar is a forum for people who live abroad to tell their stories. Those stories are posted on blueVicar.com and then anyone, anywhere can read them."
Another interesting aspect of blueVicar is that your work will be edited by a professional, and that is worth gold for incipient writers. So take a look at blueVicar. Their first call for submissions is for stories about wine -- and I'm sure some of you have a few tales to tell!
Sunday, August 27, 2006
What is happening in this aveyronnais field? Any ideas?
PS on September 1st : I didn't know a bunch of dirt could get so many comments! See below for the answer -- and some creative ideas.
(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau, taken on May 30 2006. Nothing is that green here now! )
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
You've seen it in winter , so now how about a look at what I see from my home office window - what I have come home to. The dryness of late August here always shocks me, but for the moment it is mercifully cool -- temperatures in the 70s.
The Aveyronnais are quite "frileux" -- they don't care much for feeling cold and often harangue their children about covering up. My French colleagues are often in huge pullovers when I am wearing a T-shirt.
Today I took my daughter and a friend to a local outdoor swimming pool, and there were fewer than ten people there. It's a beautiful sunny day, the school holidays are still on, but few locals dare swim outside unless it gets well into the 80s.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
I just got back from six weeks in Olympia, Washington, where I spend all of my summers. It always takes a few days to get in the swing of life in France, and I know it will be the same this time.
A friend from Aveyron visited me for a day while I was there. It's the first time anyone from my French life -- other than my husband and children, of course -- has seen me back in Olympia.
I picked him up at the Greyhound station, having thrown on jeans a casual T-shirt. I hadn't bothered with make-up either. Later he told me I looked so great, relaxed and at home that he could feel that I was just that -- at home.
His comment puzzled me. Was there really an obvious difference? After 16 years in France, do I still seem somehow unnatural there?
All I could find to answer was: "Here, I'm not a foreigner."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Aveyron has a huge number of dairy farms, especially sheep's milk producers who supply cheese-makers such as the huge Roquefort industry. The neighboring Lot department is more famous for goat cheese, but Aveyron produces some.
These Aveyronnais goats seem curious about what lies ahead for them. Probably the usual: milking, eating and a few trots around the farm.
(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
The site Cigar Aficionado tells us:
One of the oldest names in aperitifs is St. Raphaël, which dates from 1830. It was invented by a French physician named Jupet, who, legend has it, was concocting a quinine-flavored aperitif wine when he suddenly lost his sight. He prayed to the patron saint of the blind, Archangel Raphaël, and his sight was restored. Grateful for the miracle, Jupet named the potion St. Raphaël Quinquina, and it became immensely successful. St. Raphaël is based on mistelle, a mixture of grape brandy and grape juice, which is flavored with quinine, bitter orange peel, vanilla and cocoa. It is sweet in style and is made in gold and red versions.
Much as I hate to promote any form of smoking, this cigar site presented a great article about old French aperitifs.
Monday, July 24, 2006
I get a daily newsletter from Le Monde, and sometimes it is worth it to scan down to the very last line. Today the French daily presents an article about Washington State , where Olympia is, where I am at this moment.
If you speak French, take a look -- but don't delay, their articles only stay available a few days.
Friday, July 21, 2006
I count on my husband for some of my photos of Aveyron, because his job as a financial consultant for farmers gets him out in the country a few days a week. He just sent me this intriguing trace of an advertisement from the past -- but does anyone know what this bottle represents?
This isn't a guessing game! I don't know the answer myself -- but maybe you do.
Update: Okay, now I do know the answer because my hubby- photographer told me! But I still would like to make you guess...
(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)
Thursday, July 13, 2006
For six years, I have been spending most of the summer in my home town -- Olympia, Washington.
So my two-month teacher's vacation happens away from "home" -- or "back home" , in another sense.
I miss the summer activity in Rodez. It's the only time we see many tourists around, and they add a festive note. I don't get to go to the summer music festivals, like Estivada, a fun weekend of music and other performing arts which focuses on Occitan and other traditional languages and culture.
There are also great classical music festivals in Conques and Sylvanes which I would love to go to someday -- and if you're in Aveyron this summer, think about getting tickets!
I don't miss, though, the increasingly searing heat Aveyron experiences in July and August. Although Rodez and my village are at an elevation of about 2,000 feet and don't get as horribly hot as Albi and Toulouse, residents still suffer. This summer is looking especially dry, although we may not be in for the canicule of 2003 -- which I fortunately didn't experience as I was in the cool Pacific Northwest!
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
If you want to take a look at -- or even buy -- some of the area's specialties, click to Made in Aveyron. Since my husband works in agricultural finance and management, we personally know or know of a lot of the producers represented on the site, and the products are of very high quality.
I'm wondering if all of my expat readers also feel that they live in an area with great food. Is every part of France as proud of its culinary heritage as Aveyron?
Saturday, July 08, 2006
But now to the real news. In my last blog, I alluded to a meeting I would be having with a fellow blogger -- actually an ex-Blogger blogger -- and it was Antoinette of Trapped in Trappes! I know a lot of you in our little expat blogging community read her hilarious but sad take on French life, which disappeared suddenly a few months ago. A lot of you were, like me, worried about her.
So imagine my surprise when I got an email telling me she and her family were spending their holidays in Aveyron -- mainly because of my blog -- and that she would like to meet me! Despite my crazy pre-departure schedule, I managed to have lunch with her, her charming husband and darling three-year-old son. The blogosphere is an amazing place.
It's not up to me to tell you how she's doing or to give you any update, but maybe she will leave a comment on this post when she gets back from vacation. Here's to you Anntoinette!
Monday, July 03, 2006
Usually I don't use this blog for personal news, but a few interesting things are happening that I wanted to share.
First, today I am having lunch with a fellow blogger who chose to spend her vacation in Aveyron because of my blog! What a treat! I will tell you more about it after the lunch if she wants me to share the information.
Second, Saturday evening I was able to enjoy a "double fête" -- we were invited to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday AND that evening, France upset Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals. So the local paper's predictions of gloom and despair were wrong. I don't know if my friends want to appear on my blog, so I'm providing an almost dark photo of the birthday party! It will give you an idea of the atmosphere though -- it's been so hot that at midnight, we were still eating outside.
Finally, I am leaving for the States on Wednesday and will be there with my daughters until August 17th. I do plan to keep up on this blog, although I'm not sure exactly what form my summer posts will take. Keep on clicking by...
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
What I wouldn't give to snoop around this abandoned "Café Restaurant." I wonder if any vestiges of its heyday are strewn around the interior. An old menu? A few dusty plates and glasses? An empty bottle of Suze?
(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
I bet most of the Daily Photo bloggers in France are blogging about the "Fête de la Musique" today, so I'm not going to post my dusky shots of this yearly music festival.
Instead, let's have a word about something that inspires me much less: soccer. Today's headline in the local paper, Centre Presse, was:
"Pourquoi l'équipe française est désespérante."
Roughly translated: "Why the French team is driving us to despair."
This Rodez resident, at least, is keeping the faith. And we'll know tomorrow evening if the French team will survive the first round of the World Cup.
POSTSCRIPT JUNE 24th: The French team surprised their morose fans by making it into the second round, where they will play against Spain next Tuesday.
How far do you think the French team will go?
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
One of the interesting aspects of living in Aveyron is the department's great geographical diversity. It is part of the Midi-Pyrenées administrative region, but only the western part of the department really has the feel of that area. Just north, we have the cold and mountainous Cantal department, which is part of the Auvergne. And the south of the department turns to Montpellier and the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
I used to feel a stronger link to Toulouse, where my husband did his studies, but lately I have been going to Montpellier more often and have become quite a fan of the Languedoc. If you are interested in this region, I can recommend a great site that will give you all the information you need. The Languedoc Page is bursting with tips, links, and just about everything you need to know about this small but fascinating region of Southern France. Enjoy!
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Le gâteau de hareng marinés, fenouil et poivrons,
Raisins secs, pomme verte et radis:
Feuilles de chou au gingembre et champignons crus:
Salade d'oranges à l'huile d'olive, chocolat blanc à la fleur d'oranger,sorbet citron poivre vert:
I'm not going to attempt to translate the menu items, but I can refer you to a review by fellow Internaut who did a write-up of the restaurant and provided English translations for the dishes he tasted.
Aveyron has three one-star restaurants and one three-star restaurant. I have been to all of them, and hope to get back to them now that I am blogging so that I can share the experience with my readers!
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I thought it would be interesting to give my readers a few glimpses of French schools. This is a primary school in a suburb of Rodez. Decorating school entrances with pencils must have been a fad at some point; my daughter's junior high school has them too.
It would be easy to say this is a "typical modern French primary school", but it's not accurate to generalize.
For my expat and French readers: how about posting a photo of a school in your area? Send me the link so I can do a summary of them.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
By the way, Thierry is a private consultant specialized in farm management, and he gets out and about in Aveyron, especially in farm country, a lot more than I do. Some of the photos on La France Profonde, and occasionally on Cuisine Quotidienne, are his. Look for the credit at the bottom of the post.
(Photos courtesy Thierry Jouanneteau)
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Weather in Aveyron was fairly cool in May, so cool that we didn't even notice the lack of rain. In one week, with a little more heat, the countryside -- and lawns -- have dried up. Rounded haystacks are everywhere: a beautiful sight. Yet we can only hope for some precipitation this month.