Sunday, August 21, 2005

 

Riviera Update

Hmmm lots to tell. I have been having a good time here enjoying the beautiful landscapes and playing with Marine and Manon. Boy have they taught me lots - and not just french! We are quite close now and are quite accustomed to each other's habits. Playing with Barbie, My Little Ponies, Playmobile, and Lego and watching the Barbapapas is pure nostalgia for me and hardly seems like work sometimes. Dora l'Exploratrice and the Teletubbies however are getting on my nerves a little. We go out to the playground and the pool here in the village, or out to the beaches (no - you girls don't want to set up next to those kids, how about over there by those hot guys...). The beaches here are gorgeous, the swim trunks are not ten sizes too big (not too tight either - just more flattering), and it's ok if you forgot your bikini top. In fact, it's even ok if you forgot your bikini altogether and just wear your thong (not that I have, but I have seen). During my free time I have been staying around here in La Garde Freinet, or going to the many nearby towns like Grimaud, St. Maxime, or St. Tropez for shopping, the beachs, the clubs... I have met many interesting people this summer. There are tons of people who vacation around here so there is always someone interesting to talk to or go out with. It is always sad when their vacation is over and they leave though! The only constants are the village folk - who vary immensely. Everyone knows each other - and it is not uncommon to have coffee with a retiree, some crazy guy, a 14 year old kid and a 23 year old rudeboy... always good for a laugh and an interesting discussion. I have to say though that this has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Going to live in a place not knowing a single person and not really speaking the language has been - um - a challenge. The first month was the hardest when I couldn't understand french very well - but it is way easier now. Each conversation I have with a new person usually includes a "well aren't you brave" in there somewhere - which always makes me feel better. My job is not exactly the best for helping me to meet people here (it would be so much easier if I worked with people)- so I have had to learn to strike up conversations with strangers. This has worked surprisingly well for me (no one thinks I'm crazy - I think) and I have met lots of interesting people and made friends this way. Being here has done wonders for my shyness and my (over)sensitivity to say the least! Having wheels has also proven crucial to my social life (and sanity). It is so important to have a car (or a scooter) around here or you are stranded in the town you live in. Scooters are everywhere - you only have to be 14 to drive one, and you don't need a licence! This is most scary when you are a ped - particularly in the villages where the windy streets are so narrow that a car can just pass. Thankfully you can hear them coming - unlike all the new "silent" cars around here. No old cars here - it's weird (stricter safety and environmental standards). The architecture in this area still amazes me, but it is becoming "the norm" for me now and all the villages and towns are looking the same. It will be so weird when I go back to Canada. Sometimes I go to Toulon, which is an old port town about 45 minutes from here, to take the girls to see their grandparents. They have a big property and really cute goats! A few weeks ago I went there and saw Iggy and the Stooges with Jean-Jacques sister and her Scottish boyfriend (also Pixies fans!). The concert was just outside of Toulon on Ile de Gaou, this cool little island just for concerts and festivals... it was sooooooooo windy. I mean wind in general is an element I have had to learn to live with since I got to the Riviera - but I mean this was intense (long hair was a weapon if not secured). But I can't imagine a more gorgeous place to see such an act!! The concert was amazing. Iggy was well - Iggy - and he looked great. He was really into it and put on a fabulous show. One of the best shows I've ever been too. Speaking of music, I have no CD's with me (just music on my laptop) so in the 4X4 I listen to Riveria Radio - the english music station. It's so funny - it's like all this really cheesy / typical music from the last 20 years. I get to sing along to "smooth operator" and "karma cameleon" when I'm out doing the shopping in the morning, "stayin' alive" and "smells like teen spirit" at various times in the afternoon, and "I was made for loving you" when I'm heading out of the village at night (no joke - everytime). I think it's maybe more the mix that gets me. It's for all the rich British people here. There's also the BBC news, and ads that help me with my wealth management and tell me where to find the best yacht. The wealth here is sickening sometimes... and the prices for those who can pay (always better when someone else is taking you out). Translating lyrics has also been fun. I have friends here who can sing songs word for word but not know what they are singing. What? I am singing about starting a riot? Really?! I am getting used to life here. It's a much slower, relaxing pace. These people really know how to take it easy - it's so nice to see. Even the people who work (lots of people here don't need to or are here at their summer home) take there down time. Practically everything is closed Sunday, and most shops close for part of the afternoon everyday. No 24 hour supermarkets / Kinkos here. I miss a lot of the food I got to eat in Canada, but am also experiencing lots of new good stuff here. Freshly baked bread is a good thing. I have not, however, starting using little pieces of baguette in place of my knife to get the food on my fork! Wholewheat sandwich bread is available (although it is like Wonderbread and has "american" written all over it with american flags), and whole/sprouted grain bread is available only at night in my dreams. Chestnuts are a speciality here (not a pain in the butt to rake up off your lawn or to sing songs about at christmas) and I have been enjoying chestnut crumble and chestnut cream (kinda jam-like). The fruits and veggies are excellent, and I realize how much GMO stuff we eat in Canada! Stuff is smaller, looks better, and is tastier here - makes me suspicious. It's been a little hard as a vegetarian to find stuff at the markets and restaurants. I mean there is always something good I can eat but getting my protein has been a bit of a challenge. Veggie burgers have not made their way onto restaurant menus here yet... And not many vegetarians have made their way south by the number of questions / comments I get! No people, I am not going to die, and yes I eat more than salad. The family is respectful of this, and Jean-Jacques waits till after they have finished eating to tell me it was a horse or a rabbit. I doubt there is still anyone with me after this outpour of random tidbits of my current life - so I will end here, and hope the pics explain more...

 

This was my birthday. It started with champagne, then bottles of rose, then everyone getting thrown in the pool...  Posted by Picasa

 

Laurence and JJ's sister Michele having fun Posted by Picasa

 

Even Meme ended up in the pool Posted by Picasa

 

The happy goats at the grandparents. They have a huge yard to run around in and (I had to ask) are not for meat but to help keep the grass and weeds down.  Posted by Picasa

 

I have lots of pics of this guy - he likes to pose and make funny faces!  Posted by Picasa

 

At the port in Toulon... OK - this trip hasn't been about history, but if I have this right, this is where Napoleon beat the Italian army and got back Toulon in 1790-something...  Posted by Picasa

 

At the fireworks in Toulon... Posted by Picasa

 

This is Ile de Gaou where the Stooges concert was... lots of big groups have played here. It was magnificent.  Posted by Picasa

 

Before the show...this doesn't demonstrate the wind factor as much as I had hoped, but let's just say I was afraid to get much closer to the edge and opened my eyes on the count of 3 for the pic Posted by Picasa

 

Iggy... Got some (awful) pics of the Stooges - not worth posting... of couple of them were so out of it. They played well though. Wicked show...  Posted by Picasa

 

This guy is how old? His jeans were sooooo low rise... Posted by Picasa

 

He invited people up on stage... Sorry blurry pic - complete with the token dork who takes off his pants... Posted by Picasa

 

Even in France SOMEONE has to bring out the bongo drums at the party.... uh...  Posted by Picasa

 

People jump on beds at parties here... not just this party... And no - not with confetti - I really need a better camera... Posted by Picasa

 

So you can't actually see it in this photo - but I am pointing to the most expensive bottle of import wine on the menu at this restaurant: Canadian Ice Wine - 90 Euros...  Posted by Picasa

 

Hanging out with Lucas, William, and Sandra. Yes mom and dad, they also think it's funny you have the same names! It's all about the chains...  Posted by Picasa

 

The girls had just watched Mary Poppins and brought out the dusters. Before the questions came, I told them Mary was an exception and not all nannies clean.  Posted by Picasa

 

At the beach...  Posted by Picasa

 

Manon (and the Franklin she won) on the carousel at one of the village festivals. There have been a few festivals here... this one had an 80's cover group that changed costumes each song! Soooo funny...  Posted by Picasa

 

Walter. No - they promised me he will never be dinner.  Posted by Picasa

 

Glamour girl. Marine is at that age - getting into hair and make-up... Posted by Picasa

 

And I'm the lucky model who gets a new hairstyle and sparkly make-up.  Posted by Picasa

 

My housekeeper. Manon likes to hang out in my room and clean with her little broom... I wonder if I actually liked cleaning at that age...  Posted by Picasa

 

At the beach for a picnic dinner Posted by Picasa

 

At the lantern festival with the girls Posted by Picasa

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