31 October 2014

Posts from the Past

IN SEPTEMBER OF 2007, just a few weeks after we arrived in France, I put up a post titled Some Things that will Take Getting Used To and  highlighted the following things:
  • buying milk (lait) by the six-pack
  • paying $5+ for a gallon of gas
  • not ever getting coffee to go (closest Starbucks is about 5 hours away)
  • remember that eating out for dinner will take at least 1 1/2 hours -- minimum
  • eating chevre
  • understanding that motor scooters pay no attention to the rules of the road
  • remembering to bring our own bags to the supermarket
  • everything is closed on Sunday afternoon
  • peanut butter is difficult to find
  • Dr. Pepper is impossible to find
  • trying to learn the passé composé form of verbs
Now that seven years have passed, how are we doing on this front?  Let's run through the list again and give a little progress report..
  • buying milk (lait) by the six-pack -- Got over it pretty quickly, not a problem.
  • paying $5+ for a gallon of gas -- I wish -- it's now about $7 a gallon.
  • not ever getting coffee to go (closest Starbucks is about 5 hours away) -- Good news!  We now have Starbucks -- one at each of the local malls in Nice.  And Subway now serves coffee-to-go.
  • remember that eating out for dinner will take at least 1 1/2 hours, minimum -- Not if you stick to pizza!
  • eating chevre -- I'm trying, I swear.  But not there yet.
  • understanding that motor scooters pay no attention to the rules of the road -- No hope for this one.
  • remembering to bring our own bags to the supermarket -- It's a simple concept, really.  But I can't grasp it for some reason.  We have a stack of dozens of bags at home because every time I go to the supermarket I forget bags and have to buy new ones.
  • everything is closed on Sunday afternoon -- This is beginning to change as France experiments with the idea of entering the modern world.
  • peanut butter is difficult to find -- Best solution: make your own, which we do.  Easy. Cheap. Delicious.
  • Dr. Pepper is impossible to find -- No longer the case.  Not only is it easier to find in stores, but at the cafe at my school they have cold cans for sale!!  Seismic change since 2007.
  • trying to learn the passé composé form of verbs -- Come to find out, passé composé was easy compared to all the other verb forms.  I'm still struggling with the Conditional!!

30 October 2014

Change of Address

FOR THE FIRST time since our move to France, we no longer live in the village of Le Rouret.  Because the owner of the house we have been in for the past two years is using it for himself this year (actually, it is his daughter who will be using it) we had to find a new place to live. Slightly stressful, to be sure, but Kerri and I love change and the idea of trying to find a new place to live is, well, kind of fun.

We landed close-by near a small, medieval village.  Our house isn't directly in the old village, which is too bad in some ways, but we're very close and -- as you can see -- we have reason to be happy with the new place.  Warm, sunny weather in October 30 doesn't hurt.

Halloween decorations, of course.

Coffee with Stephen Roche

THIS MORNING I took our car in for a follow-up 'controle-technique' visit and headed over to the Cafe Du Cycliste here in Chateauneuf-de-Grasse for a cup of coffee while I waited.  Two minutes after I sat down Stephen Roche (yes, that Stephen Roche) and a cycling partner pulled up on their bikes and sat down at the table next to me.  Roche, for those of you who don't know, won the Tour de France in 1987 and his son Nicholas is a top-level pro who just signed-on to ride for Team Sky -- one of the biggest and best cycling teams in the world (I have a soft spot for Nicholas because he used to go to the school where I now teach)  Stephen Roche has had a home here in the South of France since the early 80s when he was a pro and he owns at least one hotel and some other real estate in the area.  It certainly  isn't uncommon to see him riding in the area.

I guess today was one of his riding days.

Of course, I was too embarrassed to ask for a photo, so I don't have one.  But the best part -- he was riding a brand new Carerra bike. Carerra was the team he rode for when he won the Tour in '87, so it appears there are still some ties there.

Seriously, Back at It

TIME TO GET this up and going again, if only to help us chronicle our years in France.  As you can see, "for a while" has turned into a much longer time period than we (or anyone) would have expected.  But that can be explained...and will be at some point.

Now to figure out how and why so many spammers are commenting on this dormant blog.

29 December 2012

Yeah, uh...

OK, so quite a while between posts. 
Quick photo from this afternoon at the Gorges du Verdun.

Gorges du Verdun, December 2012

22 June 2012

Still Going

1991 VW GOLF GTI -- bought it for a couple thousand Euros a few months after we arrived in France.  Still going...

14 June 2012

Dinner for 25 -- in Paris

IT'S BAC GRADING and examination season and that means 6-7 days in Paris (not a terrible thing, for sure).  Each year the coordinating school takes the whole lot of us out to dinner -- usually at very nice place -- and we always enjoy a nice evening together.  The restaurant has been chosen for this year: L'Autobus Imperial.  It's located in the 1st Arron. and has been described to me as THE Art-Nouveau restaurant in Paris (the only one?).  The website looks good -- take a look.

It all starts next week.  Now I just have to mark 35 bac exams -- each consisting of two 7-10 page essays. 

12 June 2012

We're Moving

WE CANNOT DESCRIBE how lucky we have been to live in this house for the past few years.  We found it on a summer-rental web site and I remember writing to the owner on a whim and asking if he would be interested in renting it during the non-summer months -- September to June -- and he said yes.  The property owner lives in Paris and he and his family have been the most incredible "landlords" we could have imagined.  [Note: it an odd Small-World moment, we soon discovered that his children went to a school in the Paris area that is a sister-school of the lycée where I now teach.  I teach in the American section and his children went through the German section]

But next year this house will not be available and so we are getting ready to spend our last few nights in La Cigaliere -- and we won't soon forget it.  Those of you who have visited know what a little slice of paradise it is.  So that's the bad news.  The good news is that next year we will be living...next door!  More on that later.

The house, with a view of perhaps our favorite part -- the full glass
dining room that gives us incredible views of the Nice, the sea, and the surrounding mountains.
In winter we see the snow-capped mountains and the sea while we eat.
Just one of the many sunrises we enjoy each morning.
This is just one photo -- but Kerri and I often remark on how
no single sunrise is like another.  Each is different, and each is spectacular.

04 June 2012

Another Summer Pack-Up

AS WE GET ready for what is now a routine -- getting ready to get our of our house for the summer -- I decided to upload some photos from previous summer adventures.  It's been a while since I looked at photos from the summer of 2010 and 2011.  Those were great summers for us -- as most of them seem to be.

Each summer we have to leave our house for nearly 3 months and every summer we find a new place to spend a bit of time.  Previous years:

  • Summer 2008 - Puivert, France (Pyrenees)
  • Summer 2009 - Strasbourg, France
  • Summer 2010 - Macchia, Italy 
  • Summer 2011 - Poitou-Charentes, France
Recently updated web albums can be accessed here.

02 June 2012

You Know What's Fun...Family Visits

ONE OF THE highlights of our little French Adventure is the many visits we have had from friends and family.  Just last month our house was full of friends and family from the States.  We never get tired of it.  This time the treat was especially fun for me because for the first time since we moved, my dad, brother, and sister all come to visit at the same time.  As usual, we crammed a lot into a small time period (including a little road trip to Barcelona for my family members) and spend a lot of great time together.  Loved it. 

My dad with Patrick and Julia -- Avignon, France

My precious little sister and my precious little wife. -- Dolceacqua, Italy

My precious little brother trying to get a photo with the kids...and without me -- Ventimiglia, Italy.  (Julia was so happy to find an American Flag scarf at the market).
My dad with his three children.  
Cool Cats.  

30 April 2012

One More Photo

ONE OF THE other parents forwarded this photo which shows both Nice hockey teams playing -- the Under 10 team on the left and Under 8 team on the right. Beautiful setting. Beautiful Day. Beautiful Photo. Thanks Pascal.

29 April 2012

Under-8 Outdoor International Ice Hockey Tournament at 6000 Feet

IT'S PRETTY COOL.  This weekend Henry's hockey team participated in the 6th Annual (yes, they've had that many) 10-and-Under hockey tournament that is held every spring in the French ski resort of Alpe d'Huez.  8 teams competed from France, Switzerland, and Italy and Henry played with the 8-and-under team and had what he called "an awesome" time.  That's a great way to describe it even though his team finished without a win and was outscored by...well, a lot.  But Henry was just happy to be skating around, shooting pucks, and watching other kids his age play.  He got to celebrate a couple of goals of his own so that added to the fun.    

From left to right: Nice 1, Nice 2, Laussane, Alpe d'Huez, Gap, Geneva, Chambéry
Henry and his "line mates" waiting for their shift

Yes, the kids loved the eye-black the coaches gave them.  It really was bright and sunny.

Morning view from hotel/apartment

Don't really need to say much about this one.

One of the 21 switchbacks on the climb up Alpe d'Huez.

The road is much steeper than it looks on T.V. -- if that's possible.  Brutal in places.

Dinner in Alpe d'Huez
Team Nice getting a pre-game pep-talk

09 April 2012

What Brightens Your Day?

DURING OUR LITTLE Cup of Coffee Road Trip last Christmas break we started talking about the kinds of things that happen during the course of a normal day that make us feel good.  I'm not sure who said it, but someone in the family said that it is often little things that make the day a little 'brighter.'  With that idea Kerri suggested we start a little family project:  to actually take notice of the little things that brighten our day -- specifically the little things other people do that make our day a little better.  A couple of days later Brightened My Day was up and running and our project was underway.

Our goal is to write one thing someone did to brighten our day -- and to do it every day for one year.  Today is day 100.

The idea was to get all of us (especially the kids) to recognize little things we can do to make other people feel good and to realize the bickering and fighting is a waste of energy and time.  Some days they seem to understand the concept (as when Julia said, "It brightened my day when a friend told me how much she liked by bag") and some days we're not sure if it's quite sinking in (as when Julia said, "It brightened my day when mom and dad let me have extra TV time").  But hey, we're sticking with it and are hoping to keep it going for another 265 days.

Check in from time to time if you feel like it: Brightened My Day.

26 March 2012

Coffee in a Cafe

JUST A QUICK point:  while it is almost impossible to overrate how great it is to sip coffee outside at a Parisan cafe on a nice spring afternoon, it is equally difficult to describe how bad the coffee at these cafes can be. 

11 March 2012


HARD TO BELIEVE this is our fifth Paris-Nice race.  Yes, we went again this year -- to both the Saturday afternoon stage which we watched from near the top of the Col de Vence (about 15 km from our house) and this afternoon uphill individual time trial up the Col d'Eze (a 9.5km climb that starts in the heart of Nice near the port).  Cycling races are fun to go to because --except for the biggies like the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, etc) the riders and teams are completely accessible.  In what other sport can you literally stand five-feet from an  elite athlete and watch him warm up?  In what other sport can you literally lean against the team bus/car or literally put your hands on their equipment (in our case, having the kids check out how Tom Boonen's handlebars feel)?  It doesn't hurt that the teams give away goodies, either.  We've made out with cool stuff water bottles and other trinkets from Rabobank, BMC, Garmin, Saxo-Bank, Radioshack-Nissan-Trek, and the list goes on.  Next week: Milan-San Remo (again!)

Our spot near the top of the Col de Vence.  You can barely see the Med in the background.

A 12 minute lead for Thomas De Gendt!!

The peleton arrives with Team Sky doing the pacing.

Can you see Kerri, Julia, and Henry eating their lunch as the peleton goes by?
Cheering on Tejay Van Garderen near the start of the final stage.

Frank Shleck getting read for his TT

Wiggins won the stage and Paris-Nice!!  In yellow all week.

Little Magazine Write-Up

THE LATEST ISSUE of Code Sport Cote d'Azur (which, admittedly, I had never heard of until this month) has five-page spread about the rising popularity (and success) of the professional ice hockey team here in Nice.  As a little bonus, there is a nice glossy photo of Henry's team in the section of the story that focuses on the growth of the youth teams in the area.

The main story in the magazine (featuring a photo of Finnish forward Joonas Sari)

Henry is somewhere in the photo on the left page (blue helmet and jersey in the middle-left portion of the picture).
As for the pro team -- they have just clinched the regular season title (3 points up with one to play) and they will begin the playoffs in two weeks.  Nice currently has the lowest team budget in their league and if they win the championship they will have a very hard time making it to the top French league (Ligue Magnus) unless they get a significant influx of funds (hello Russian oligarchs in the area??)

04 March 2012

USA 1 : Italy 0

Patrick and Sam checking out the field before the match.
LAST WEDNESDAY PATRICK and I got to do something really fun.  My friend Dave (family blog here) called me last Monday and suggested we take our oldest sons to the USA-Italy soccer match that was taking place just a couple hours from here in Genoa, Italy.  Because I was scheduled to take an 8:00am flight to Geneva on Thursday and I knew we wouldn't get home from the match until about 2:00am, I said I probably wouldn't be able to go.  Dave -- appropriately -- suggested I was being a pansy and said I should go anyway.   I changed my mind  (it's stunning, actually, to see how easy it is to get me to do sports-related things).  That was a great decision.

Patrick and I after the match (notice my home-made
American flag shirt.  Classy).
We had a blast!  We drove together -- munching on unhealthy (and some not so unhealth) food, talking sports, listening to music, and generally teasing Patrick and his son Sam the whole way to Genoa.  Once the match started we sat back and enjoyed a little bit of history.  We watched as the United States defeated Italy for the first time...ever.  A nice second-half goal by Clint Dempsey was the winner. The stadium in Genoa is called Stadio Luigi Ferraris and it was first opened in 1911.  And while the seats were a bit small and there was absolutely no leg room, every seat was great (including ours) and the atmosphere was terrific.

What a great night in Genoa.

Italy (left) and the US (right) during the national anthems.

02 March 2012

Robbed!! (For Real This Time)

LAST SUMMER I put up a post provocatively titled Robbed in Paris where I describe (with photo evidence how Kerri and I paid 8.20 Euros for two cups of coffee.  Well today's post title is not meant to be provocative:  I was actually robbed last night.

Actually, mugged would better describe what happened.

I'm in Geneva to meet with my doctorate adviser and last night I went out to grab a bite to eat near the hotel where I always stay (plug, plug, if you ever need a hotel here).   I was wearing fairly nondescript clothing: jeans, grey sweater, long black coat and black back slung over my right shoulder.  As I was walking down a busy street near the train station, a young guy -- couldn't have been more than about 18 yrs old -- came up to me and asked for the time.  I looked at my watch and told him it was 20 minutes past eight.  He then took my right hand and shook it while saying 'thank you' and asked if I was English.  'Anglais, Oui?  Anglais, Oui?'  I was a bit annoyed by this but didn't think anything was too out of the ordinary, choosing instead to think this guy was just a bit weird.  We walked a few more steps then he did something odd:  he lifted up his leg to give me a sort of knee-high-five and said 'high-five, high five'.  This triggered something in me and I instinctively reached my left hand around to the back pocket on the right side of my jeans and quickly realized that I felt...nothing. My wallet was gone.  The guy -- who was still trying to hold my right hand -- noticed this, shoved me toward a lamp post that was near us and started running up the street.  I yelled at him to stop and took-off after him.

[Note: at this point the story gets better if you can imagine really cool action music in the background].

The kid ran up the Route des Alpes toward the Gare Cornivan and turned left onto Rue Pradier -- a somewhat quiet street that dead-ends at the Rue de Mont Blanc -- a busy pedestrian street with lots of cafes and restaurants.  I chased him around the corner, screaming the entire time for him to stop and give me back my wallet.  Once on Rue Pradier he looked back at me several times and I could see that he was fumbling through my wallet as he ran.  Just before he got to the next cross street he threw my wallet onto the ground before turning left toward the Place Pradier.   I stopped momentarily to retrieve my wallet, then continued the chase.

As I got to the small, dark square I looked right and saw the guy running toward Rue Mont Blanc and ran after him.  By this time he was a good 50 meters ahead of me (you know, 'cause I had to stop to get my wallet, not because I'm a dreadfully slow runner) and I knew I would lose him if he made it to the busy pedestrian streets.  After a sharp right, then another quick left I reached the Rue Mont Blanc, just in front of the Starbucks I frequent every time I'm here.  I stood in the middle of the street and looked in every direction.  For the second time in the last minute...nothing.

I was breathing heavily and a guy sitting outside of the Starbucks asked me what happened.  I told him a guy had stolen my wallet and he said he did see a young kid run past and he pointed toward where he went, but we both knew it was too late at that point.  I muttered a few R-rated words then flipped through my wallet, grateful to find that the only thing missing was cash.  Unfortunately, I had just been to the bank a few hours earlier so he got the entire 100 Swiss francs I had retrieved.

It could have been worse.  I didn't feel the guy take my wallet and my decision to check my back pocket was based purely on instinct -- not because I felt something.  He got it clean!!  But I sure am glad that the instinct kicked in, because, while loosing 100 francs really sucks, it sure beats loosing 100 francs plus everything else -- credit cards, insurance cards, work cards, etc. If it had taken just 30 more seconds to realize what had happened the guy would have been gone for good. In the end, chasing him enabled me to get the wallet back and I guess I have to feel pretty good about that.

I went back to the bank and got out another 100 francs, then went to grab that bite to eat.  It didn't taste as good as it normally does.  After dinner I went back to the street where this all took place and I walked around for about an hour looking for the guy.  I know, I know -- pretty stupid to think he'd come back.  But it made me feel better to know I was out looking for the bastard.  And there is a 100 percent chance I'll go back to that area again tonight and continue my search.

Because it will make me feel better.

Geneva Map

Wallet taken at the 'Start'.  Lost the guy at the 'Finish'

26 February 2012

Oranges and Oranges and Oranges and...

OUR NEIGHBOR HAS 33 orange trees on her property and for the past few weeks she has been bringing us shopping bags full of absolutely delicious oranges (not to mention lemons and grapefruits).  I really don't have anything more to say about that, except that we now own small automatic juicer.