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?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spending the day in Crest

Jed and I were supposed to attend a Halloween party at the Tour de Crest with our friends, the Hurners, but the event sold out before we made it to the ticket counter so we just toured the tower on our own without a sugar rush to help us climb all of the stairs to the top.  
We passed through steep, narrow passageways to get to this view.  It was worth it!
It was a bit windy and cold, though.

After our photo session on the terrace, Nate, Jed, and Mary played hide and seek in one of the large rooms of the tower.  

Day 5 Nîmes

Jed poses with bullfighter Nimeno II in front of the two-thousand-year-old Arènes.

Jed listens to the audio guide at the Arènes.  He didn't want to leave when the adults in the crowd had had enough history.  The descriptions of the battles were gruesome, and he loves that sort of thing.  Enemies of the emperor being fed to wild animals IS pretty cool, I guess.

La Maison Carrée, a two-thousand-year-old Roman temple located next door to a pharmacy and a café.  We liked the 3D movie about the courageous citizens of Nîmes that we saw here.  I didn't know that 3D technology was so old!  Those Romans thought of everything!

More memorable than the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world was the photo shoot taking place in front of the amphitheater.  These beautiful people were clothed at first and then gradually took off more and more clothes until some were totally nude.  (Don't worry!  Jed averted his eyes as soon as the first articles of clothing came off!  He thought that this was SO embarrassing!)  After the photo shoot, we asked one of the subjects if they were making an ad, and they told us that they were graduating from pharmacy school that day, and that this is how they were celebrating the end of six years together.   

Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 4 Les gorges de l'Hérault

Itinerary:  la Grotte de Clamouse, lunch at a crêperie in Saint Jean de Fos (with a very strange waitress who was wearing a dress that barely covered her derrière), an interactive pottery museum, le Pont du Diable (the Devil's Bridge), and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert

My favorite day so far despite the pouring rain!

The entrance to the cave

Some of the stalagmites and stalactites in the cave are millions of years old.
The cave was discovered in 1945 by seven speleologists.  I learned this by helping Jed complete a questionnaire in order to win a prize.  

Nice photo just outside the cave despite the drizzle
The interactive pottery museum in Saint Jean de Fos just opened in July 2011.  After completing a scavenger hunt, "Jed" won a prize.

We visited the Pont du Diable (the Devil's Bridge) in the pouring rain.  The legend says that the people building this bridge made a deal with the devil in order to complete it.  They then tricked him, and he was not at all happy.  In order to keep him at bay, visitors throw rocks off of the bridge into the river below where he lives.  The only problem is that this is a popular kayaking site so throwing of rocks is actually prohibited now.  Since we were the only foolish people out on such a nasty day, I let Jed throw rocks anyway.   

 I'm so grateful that Dan shared some of the driving on our trip, especially on rainy days like this one!

I think that Jed is trying to dig up rocks to throw over the bridge.
Photos cannot do Saint Guilhem le Désert justice---at least, mine cannot!  I definitely want to return here one day when it is not raining and close to nightfall.

A World Heritage Site

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 3 Narbonne

Itinerary:  Narbonne, including the cathedral, the archbishop's palace, and the Horreum (an underground warehouse built by the Romans)  Ate cassoulet (white beans, duck leg, and sausage) for lunch.
We tried to see a couple of grottes near Carcassonne, but a traffic jam and detour prevented us from our goal.  After a u-turn, the car started smelling like something was burning so we pulled over for about 30 minutes to let it rest.  Dan then drove us back to the house.  I think that my clutch-riding driving style might have been the reason for the burning because the car was fine with someone else behind the wheel.

Jed enjoyed having a guy to hang out with.

The canal:  just minutes earlier, we saw it in action as the water lowered on one side and raised on the other to let a boat pass.

A Roman road in the center of town
Erin kept trying to get Jed excited by his surroundings by saying, "Look, Jed, this is older than Jesus!"  He was not impressed!

The archbishop's palace:  Jed was not having a good time!  In fact, I think that he said that this was the most boring day of his whole, entire life!  What a charmer!  He perked up considerably at the Horreum, though.  The maze of underground passageways was kind of spooky.

Narbonne Plage, about 15 or 20 minutes from downtown
We drove by yesterday just to see the ocean.  It was too cold to stay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 2 in Languedoc Roussillon

Itinerary:  the medieval village, Carcassonne where we visited the Museum of Torture
then, a quick drive-by of the beach at Narbonne just to say that we saw the Mediterranean
Someone needs a haircut!

La Cité in Carcassonne is a little too Disney World touristy for me, but there were some nice views from the ramparts.  

Outside the Torture Museum

Photos are not allowed inside the museum so this is the only opportunity that I had to torture my child.

Jed got a real dagger as a souvenir, and Erin quickly established dagger rules for the back seat of the car.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Road trip with Erin and Dan

Today's itinerary:
Mornas, Pont du Gard, Narbonne

Our wonderful travel companions, Erin and Dan Cleveland, at one of the gates to the old town in Mornas:  The beauty of a road trip without a specific itinerary is that you can stop when you see cool stuff like a fortress on top of a mountain like we did here.

The entrance to the old town:  we felt like we were the only people left alive on the planet.  We saw one or two cats and a mail truck on our stroll.

On the steep climb to the fortress, we saw this church.  Unfortunately, the fortress was closed.

A WWI monument in the church cemetery  

Erin and Dan at the Pont du Gard, an aqueduct built by the Romans

Jed and Dan skip rocks on the river.  If Dan stands up, he will be taller than the bridge!

This olive tree was born in 908 in Spain and transplanted at the Pont du Gard in the 1980's.  It's just begging to be climbed, right?  That's what Jed thought!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Elle me dit by Mika

Most of the music that we hear on the radio and TV is American, but here is a really popular French song that we cannot get out of our heads.  The video stars the lovely French actress, Fanny Ardant. (the one in the red dress)  Jed can sing the chorus pretty well.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"La mort qui tue" or "Death that kills"

Our first week in France, we went to the tourism office, and Jed saw a brochure with these two lovely guys on the cover.  It was advertising a street festival for October 22nd, and so Jed began counting the days.  Finally, last night his dream came true.  We travelled about 30 minutes from Montélimar to the village of Grane with our friends, Dominique and Néo.  There, along with hundreds of other spectators,  we followed les Tambours de la Muerte through the streets while Lady Death tried to find a man in the crowd who pleased her.  She and her skeletal guards swooped in and out of the crowd grabbing men to dance.  When we arrived at the town square, Lady Death made her final selection and a grand marriage ceremony ensued.  It was all quite impressive and just a bit too scary for Jed. He liked watching it from a distance, but when the ferocious Lady Death and her guards got close to us, he made sure that he was completely hidden behind me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What I like about teaching

    I like teenagers.  They energize me and challenge me and make me laugh and make me think.  I enjoy their company and consider it a privilege to know them at such an exciting time in their lives.
   What I am missing the most in my new job this year is the opportunity to interact with students outside the classroom.  Since students do not join clubs or participate in team sports at their schools, there is no sense of school spirit.  School is a place to work and learn, and that's all.  Each class has delegates (whose role I do not yet understand), but other than that there is no chance for student leadership, as far as I can tell.
    Teachers do not have additional duties such as lunch or hall duty or study hall or detention so the only time that we see our students is in our classrooms, and when we are not teaching, we are not generally on campus.  
     Obviously, I am accustomed to WAY more interaction with my students.  At the Day School, I have advisees and a study hall, and I sponsor a club.  After school, Jed and I frequently stay for sporting events, and we go to all of the plays and band concerts.
    Spending that much time at school is exhausting, but it has its rewards and benefits.  First of all, I love seeing another side of my students that is not always obvious in the classroom.  Students who don't want to utter a word of French sometimes amaze me in lunchtime debates, and students who struggle academically are sometimes brilliant athletes.
    Showing an interest in the lives of my students usually pays off in the classroom as well.  If I am having a discipline problem with a student, and I take the time to show up at his/her soccer game, the problem does not always disappear, but it might become less frequent.
    Thursday afternoon was the first time since arriving at the collège that I felt like I was a part of a school community.  At 1:00, I went with the chorus to a senior center to take pictures of them singing for senior citizens' week.  Then, from 1:30-4:30 I helped write down finishing times in a school-wide cross country race.   Afterwards, the teachers met in the lounge to drink champagne in honor of our history colleague, Jean-Paul's retirement.  I arrived home exhausted but happy around 8:00 p.m.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cléon d'Andran

The view on the right side of the road just before entering the village where I work.

The view on the left side of the road.  I really cannot imagine a more beautiful drive.

Cléon d'Andran's website says that the village's population is 935.  It's a blink and you miss it kind of place, for sure.  I'm told that it has an excellent restaurant where you can have a fine meal for about 20 euros.  Any takers?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fencing class

Today was Jed's fourth fencing lesson.  He came home with a big bruise on his thigh last week so he said that he was a little bit scared when sparring (Is that the correct term?) today:  hence all of the retreating. 

Monday, October 17, 2011


The science fiction author Erik L'Homme came to our school today to talk to the students about his book, Phaenomen.  When asked why he sets his stories in the Drôme region when they are works of fantasy, he replied that he likes the idea of making this life extraordinary and magical.  I like that idea too.   

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Festival de la BD et Littérature Jeunesse à Bégude de Mazenc

Mary and Jed with a life-like statue.

After a sleepover that did not involve much actual sleeping for any of us, I took Jed and Nate along with our neighbors, Kylian and Matéo to a comic book and youth literature festival in a nearby village.  There were some pretty famous people there, but we didn't know any of them so we just browsed, played games in the tent outside, ate crêpes, and watched the magic show.  I bought one book, Burkina, rose du désert because it was written by the sister of one of my colleagues and because I think that I might be able to use it with my AP students next year. I also won a card game and a Danielle Steele novel translated into French.  (It looks like I have some trashy romance ahead of me this year after all!)  Carrie and Mary met us there so I had a nice visit with them, and I also saw five or six of my colleagues with their families.  I don't know how much longer these beautiful fall days will last, but we sure are enjoying them!

Jed and Nathan playing a giant Connect Four

Matéo and Kylian playing Quarto