My son and I are leaving our small town in southeastern United States to live for a year in a small town in southeastern France. It couldn't possibly be THAT different, right?

Saturday, December 31, 2011


Waiting for the train to Grenoble

The "place" across from the Hôtel Ibis Centre  We were also right next to a McDonald's.  Ugh!

The number one attraction in Grenoble, the Téléphérique

Even on a rainy day the views were impressive.

In the bubble of the Téléphérique it was still cold and wet.

Is that rain or snow?  Hard to tell.

We're in the Alpes!

It was mostly rain, unfortunately.  Jed's new snow boots still came in handy.

At the Musée Archéologique, we had audio guides.

We saw lots of bones in the crypt.  Spooky!

The remains of the church where the Musée Archéologique now stands.

Cool lion and snake statue!
La Halle Sainte Claire where the indoor market is held. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

La ferme aux crocodiles

Living abroad with a young child is permitting me to go see some sites that might have interested me as a single traveller but that I would not have bothered to visit.  Sam, Jed, and I saw one of those today:  the crocodile farm in Pierrelatte about twenty minutes from where we live.  I have been intrigued by the brochures, but I kind of thought that it might be a bit of a cheesy roadside attraction.  We wanted somewhere close by to visit today, though, so off we went to see some reptiles.  What we found was a huge facility with a nursery and a laboratory and a big conservation effort.  Here a few of my favorite photos:

We had hoped to see the crocs being fed, but that only happens once a week so we just had to watch them lounge around in the sun and occasionally crawl to a better spot.

The croc-themed playground was really cool.  Jed was almost too big for this tunnel, though.  I'm glad that he made it out!

They keep this place pretty warm so I was dying in my fleece.

This is the beginning of the visit before Sam realized that the temperatures would mimic those of New Orleans' swamps.  

The huts in the background were inspired by huts found in Bénin.


"New" car

Coming soon:  photos of the car that Béatrice's parents brought to me on Monday.  It's tiny, and red, and cute.

OK, here's my Opel aka my little bucket on wheels!  I love it!  Béatrice's parents and her niece Lauren delivered it the day after Christmas and ended up spending four hours with us because Monsieur Gougeon decided to repair our shower.  Bless him!  I was getting tired of washing my hair in the kitchen sink.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011


This was the least hectic Christmas week in recent memory.  Because we know very few people, we did not buy lots of presents for people outside of the family.  This meant that all of our present-buying energy and money was focused on Jed who only asked for one thing:  100 marbles.  We easily found that along with a few surprises, and Jed was thrilled.   
Jed added two new wrestlers to his action figure collection.

These chocolates were a special request, and the guys came through!  I remembered them from when I lived in France over 25 years ago.

I have never been responsible for a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal so today was a little scary for me.  I was able to pull it off thanks to the rotisserie chicken man at the market.  I bought my chicken yesterday and then just roasted carrots, beets, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and green beans.  That and a pear and gorgonzola salad and an ice cream bûche de Noël was our Christmas lunch.  (The things that look like worms in this photo are onions.)

Jed was feeling particularly generous today and agreed to try a sliver of chicken, two potato chunks, two green beans and some lettuce.  If you do not live with a picky eater, this might seem like very little, but it represents real progress for Jed.  And then a Christmas miracle occurred!  Jed ate carrots!  

Jed and Sam spent most of the afternoon working on this 200-piece puzzle.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Movie date

"Une mare abandonnée. Deux enfants tombent sous le charme de ce lieu sauvage. À travers leur regard, leur imagination, la mare devient un royaume secret, à la fois merveilleux et inquiétant. Ils sortiront tous les deux transformés de cette expérience initiatique. Les réalisateurs de Microcosmos sont passés maîtres dans l’art de capter l’infiniment petit et de créer, à partir de ce réel fascinant, un monde de poésie."
This was the only non-animated film playing at the same time as Sam and Jed's movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks, so I decided to give it a try.  I called my friend, Bénédicte, and invited her to come along with me even though I had an idea that this was not exactly going to be a chick flick.  Her twins are with their father this week so she would have agreed to watch turtles race if I had asked, I think.  And that's pretty much what we watched in this film!  It is an absolutely beautiful piece of cinema, but there's not a lot in it to keep a girl awake in a dark, warm theatre.  I recommend it for people who like to watch National Geographic.  The insect photography is breath-taking---and I'm not joking.  I know that it might seem like I'm making fun of the film, but it was lovely---the parts that I was awake for anyway!  Maybe I should have gone to see Mission Impossible!  If only I could stand the sight of Tom Cruise!
After the movies, Bénédicte came over to the apartment for wine, smoked salmon, cheese, and pears.  She hopes one day that Jed will give her a kiss on the cheek, but she is happy for now that he will get close enough to her to pose for a photo.

Sam doesn't mind kissing her on the cheek at all!

Bénédicte was the very first person to welcome me to the apartment complex.  She stuck her head out of her first-floor apartment window and called out to me when she heard me talking to Jed in the courtyard.  That's not very French, I must say.  People are nice, but they don't go out of their way like that.  Bénédicte is pretty special.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Car wash

Jean-Marie, Béatrice's friend from Paris who let me borrow his car for four months has decided (for a variety of reasons) that he would like his car back.  I am amazed that no harm has come to the poor vehicle in its time with me, and I am really grateful that Jean-Marie let a novice driver learn to drive and practice on his only means of transportation.
I want to give it back to him on Saturday morning in the same condition that it was in when he gave it to me so I spent some time today cleaning it up.  I vacuumed it and cleaned the interior and removed Jed's rock collection from the seat pockets.
I then wanted to drive it through the car wash.  I thought that this would be a simple task, but I did what I have learned to do here in this strange land.  I carefully observed the two people in line ahead of me to see how they did it first.  It STILL seemed pretty straight-forward.
Then it was my turn.  I got up to the machine to select my wash, and it said, "Insert coins, tokens, or your card."  Since there was a key pad next to the card option, I assumed that this meant that I could use my bank card so I did.  The machine proceeded to make sounds of disapproval, but it did not spit out my card or give me any other options.
Fortunately, the man waiting patiently behind me got out of his car and came to my rescue.  He said that the card slot is for "car wash cards," but he understood why I had misunderstood---being a stupid American and all.  He didn't say that part, but that's how I felt.
Anyway, he got a paper clip out of his car, and freed my card.  My hero!  I didn't have any money so I drove straight through the car wash, went to get some gas and change, and then got in line again at the car wash.  Over an hour after I began, I successfully washed the #*#* car, and it is ready to go home to Paris.  Thank you, little Laguna for a fun ride!  I'll miss you!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Le Palais des bonbons et du nougat

Wednesday, December 21st was a lost day for me.  I was so sick that I could not get out of bed all day.  I had fever and chills and felt very weak.  At times like these, it is wonderful to have another adult in the house.  I don't know what poor little Jed would have done if Sam had not been here!

I felt somewhat better today so the three of us ventured out after lunch to go to the Palais des Bonbons et du Nougat, a place that has been beckoning me and and Jed since our arrival.  It cost us a hefty 27 euros to enter the museum, but I think that it was worth it.  The entire history of sweets was on display for those who took the time to read the information and look at the pictures.  That's not really Jed's style, though, so we sped through that part, I'm afraid.  We only paused to look at candy sculptures and replicas of famous works of art in candy.  We spent most of our time in the antique toys area and around the corner in the modern toy era where we played PS3.  After a quick visit to the gift shop (the main raison d'être of this museum), Jed played in the inflatable play area known as Badaboum.  It turned out to be a fun way to spend a cold, rainy day in between sneezes.  

I forgot my camera so all of these shots were borrowed from the internet.  Sorry!

Monday, December 19, 2011

For Ann and Lynda

We took Jed Christmas shopping today with the money that his aunts, Ann and Lynda, sent.  He chose a wrestling belt and a wrestling action figure to add to his already impressive collection.

I couldn't find Christmas stockings so I bought Santa hats to do the job.  They also make for pretty cute photos, and mine is the new tree topper. (replacing the plastic McDonald's toy cat from the movie Le Chat potté)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Marché de Noël à Montélimar

After showing Sam around the town a little bit yesterday, we stopped by the Christmas market in front of city hall.
Near the Office de Tourisme

At the nougat mural by the post office

Marché de Noël decorations

In front of city hall

We returned to the marché Sunday night with Mattéo and Kylian where we bought roasted chestnuts and watched a magician.


OK, ignore the adorable boys in the tree.  I am posting this photo because it shows the poster for the movie, Intouchables, which I saw on Saturday night with my friend, Dom.  It stars François Cluzet and Omar Sy(the beautiful man shown here).  Really a must-see!  I will buy it as soon as it becomes available.  

"A la suite d’un accident de parapente, Philippe, riche aristocrate, engage comme aide à domicile Driss, un jeune de banlieue tout juste sorti de prison… Bref, la personne la moins adaptée pour le job. Ensemble ils vont faire cohabiter Vivaldi et Earth Wind and Fire, le verbe et la vanne, lescostumes et les bas de survêtement… Deux univers vont se téléscoper, s’apprivoiser, pour donner naissance à une amitié aussi dingue, drôle et forte qu’inattendue, une relation unique qui fera des étincelles et qui les rendra… Intouchables." 

Faculty party

On Friday evening I drove back to Cléon d'Andran with a sweet potato casserole to attend the faculty party.  There were not many of us there.  Mostly women came.  In fact, the only men were one husband and Monsieur Galléa, the principal.  We all brought a dish to share, and I think that the school provided the adult beverages.  I had planned to be home by 9:00 at the latest, but that was before I knew that the apéritif reception would be turned into a girl dance party.  As the crowd dwindled, Brigitte turned up the music, turned down the lights, and we began to dance.  I haven't had that much fun since I've been here.  The women taught me a French line dance, and I taught them the Electric Slide.  I ended up getting back to the apartment at 11:30, exhausted.
Marianne, Aurelie

Brigitte, Caroline(my official mentor, but there are many people who help me)

Marie-Lise, Solène

Gift exchange

Dad arrives!

On Tuesday around 9:00 p.m. Jed and I went to the train station to pick up Sam.  I wish that I had thought to get out my camera sooner so that I could have videoed their reunion.  Jed ran down the platform when we saw the tallest man in France get off of the train in a long, blue coat.  He screamed, "Daddy!!!!,"and jumped into his arms.  It was adorable.  He then tried to carry all of Sam's belongings---his gigantic suitcase and his computer bag---at the same time.  Needless to say, that idea did not last long.  When we finally got everything up the five flights of stairs to our apartment, Jed plopped onto the sofa with Sam and did not let him out of his sight until he fell asleep around midnight.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tournoi des vétérans

Jed and I helped his fencing club,  Les Masques de Fer de Montélimar, at the Tournoi des Vétérans today from 10:30-2:30.  We worked the buvette selling sandwiches, quiche, pizza, beer, wine, coffee, and apple tartes.  Jed was mainly my drink man, but he took a few orders all by himself and frequently made change. He was not as interested in the tournament as I was, though, so when he wasn't working he was running around the building with another volunteer's children, Jules and Paul.
This is how the big guys fence!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Marché de Noël à Marsanne

The most famous marchés de Noël are in Alsace, notably in Strasbourg, but one can find them all over France in December.  Jed and I attended our first one today in the lovely village of Marsanne, which is not too far from where I work.  We did not get the full experience because I mistakenly thought that the market was all day today, and it opened at 5:00 p.m.  We arrived around 3:30 when the stands were still being set up near the city hall.  We still got a warm drink and bought some homemade cookies, and I tasted roasted chestnuts and escargot.  We went with our friends Dom, Néo, Eytan, and Olivier.  The Père Noël was scheduled to make a late-night visit, but we left around 5:00 because it was already getting pretty cold.

Part Deux
We returned to the market Sunday night to meet the Hurners and to see the Père Noël.

Lovely Mary and the music man.

The Pere Noël descends from a window high above the village on a cable.  

The Père Noël works the crowd.

The church in Marsanne---this photo and the next two were taken by Carrie.

Nate and Jed and the cute actor from the movie, Les Intouchables.

Beautiful photo of Santa's arrival!