24 February 2006

Winter Break 2006 Week One

We spent most of this first week of break really getting to know our neighbors - Joseph and Maddy - and their grand-daughters...Alexandra and Laura. Celia and Laura got to be fast and furious friends much to my delight as Laura speaks very little English. Celia spoke more French this week than I have heard in the whole time we have been here. She needed very little help from me to communicate...only a bit of translation for the trampoline game rules like Crack the Egg. She is definitely incredibly able to speak very well in her second language! I was very proud of her.

Joseph and Maddy joined us for apperos (cocktails) one evening. We made Mary Z's wonderful homemade tortillas for them and had grilled Tri-tip with Stan B's incredible seasoning and salsa imported by Mike from Nob Hill along with screwdrivers made with fresh squeezed Spanish clementines. Joseph and Maddy gobbled it all up inspiring Mike and I to start a soft taco or burrito stand here...They love Mexican food, but there is nothing like it here!

We had a long lunch with them all one day this week and went on bike rides and long walks in the vineyards. We had interesting and amusing discussions with Joseph on a wide range of subjects...he is very funny and a great story teller. He is never short on a firm opinion about politics and the French way of life. He loves to try out his English imitation of his computer language tutor. The phrase ofthe day yesterday was "I am a man" which he said so fast in imitating the computer that it sounded like "Imaman" We are so fortunate to have such warm and wonderful neighbors.

13 February 2006

Et Voila!

A discovery was made on a subject that long piqued my curiosity. It is the meaning of the words often shouted at Nathan's soccer matches...Hélicopter! Mike and I have tried for a long time to figure this one out. I even asked another French father what it meant...was it a soccer term in French or what?! He had absolutely NO clue what I was talking about. Then right next to us a mother screamed it out. I said to him...Voila! That is the phrase I cannot understand.

What it turns out to mean truly is "Allez Quentin!" or "GO QUENTIN!!"

When said very loud, quickly and with the strong accents of the men I hear it from, I'm sure I heard Hélicopter. There are THREE boys named Quentin on Nathan's team and evidently all play strongly. To say the least, it was so embarassing to have my bad ear for French so openly publicized. No doubt all of the fathers got quite the chuckle out of that one!! That americaine and her thorough knowledge of the French language and soccer vocabulary!!

This past weekend while I was watching Nathan's game (By the way...Nathan had his game on!! SO impressive! His coach was overjoyed with his play!!) Over and over I heard "Allez Quentin" rubbing that salt in the wound.

06 February 2006

Weather Report

The weather here changes daily. One day it is so sunny and incredibly pleasant...one day it is grey and cold to the bones. It does seem that all of the measured rainfall for the month falls in one 24 hour period. I do appreciate it better than a long drawn out drizzily dismal greyness that could be the alternative.

The pictures here are truly within one week's time. We went from a light covering of snow one weekend to a brilliantly sunny Saturday the next. Celia tried her best to jump in the pool, but at a water temperature of around 40 degrees...even our little waterbug could not find the courage to take the plunge.

We are looking forward to the constant sunshine that is characteristic to this area. According to our friends, pools are in use from May through September. We did swim in the sea from June through September, so we are very excited at the slight warming that is happening...that and the incredible speed with which the days are lengthening. It now is light from around 7:30 am to almost 6:30 pm. By summer, the sun will stay up until after 10 pm.

Pictures from the Truffle Fair

05 February 2006

Truffle Fair in Uzes

Recently, we found ourselves at one of the most truly french events that we have witnessed so far...the annual Truffle Fair in Uzes. They had demonstrations of truffle hunting by dogs and pigs, food and truffles, truffles, truffles for sale. The truffles sold for incredible prices...800 to 1,000 euros per kilo! (a kilo is 2.2 pounds and a euro is around $1.20 each!! Therefore that all translates to around $960 to $1200 per 2.2 pounds!) For twenty euros, we purchased a small chunk around the size of a ping pong ball. It tasted and smelled like very rich soil...interesting, but certainly not worth the hype!!
The truffle hunting demonstrations were so fun to watch. The announcer let anyone who wanted to try their dog out at hunting. The best of them found one truffle and then proceeded to mark his territory on every other little sprout of a tree.
Then the master dog was sent in. He completely ignored the scents of the previous dogs, focusing so patiently on his job. He gently dug them out of the sand and held them like an egg in his mouth until they were dropped in his owner's hand in return for a small treat.
Then about thirty minutes later it was time for the pig to show off. This was no ordinary pig...he was HUGE! He waddled into the pen and stuck his snout in the sand and snorted out the nuggets. As he did this, his owner held a stick right next to his snout. As the pig found each truffle, there then ensued a battle between the trainer and the pig for the truffle. The stick was lodged in the pig's mouth to dislodge the truffle before it became a very expensive snack. The pig was absolutely maniacal about finding and fighting for the fungus. At one point, the announcer had gathered a handful of truffles in his pocket that the pig had found. The pig came running up to him and starting attacking him to get at the truffles. The owner seemed to treat this with a very lackadaisical attitude and just quietly pushed the pig off. The announcer came out very shaken with what we hope was a minor bite on his arm. I think the pig should seriously think about job retraining. His job security was sorely tested!!