Friday, September 29, 2006

Gradually Approaching the Millau Viaduct

The light of autumn...

...the Millau viaduct...

...what more is there to say?

(Photos courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau -- click to enlarge)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Hundred Posts! To Many More!

(Click on photo to enlarge)

I don't know where I'm going, but I know where I've been... Rodez, Millau, Montpellier, the end of the earth, the school supply department of the local supermarket, farms, Toulouse, elegant restaurants, my own back yard, work, rooves, shops, the Aubrac plateau...

For my 100th post, I want to say thank you to all of the expat bloggers (see sidebar) and French Daily Photo bloggers (also see sidebar) who click by and take a look at my little corner of the French countryside.

Also thanks to my husband Thierry who travels all around the Aveyron countryside and provides some of the photos for my blog.

And I've decided to give my blog a new name for the 100th post. La France Profonde is where I am; "an American in Aveyron" is who I am.

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sheer Isolation

(click on photo for full view)

Although I write about life in rural France, the truth is I am not that isolated. I live in a village of over a thousand inhabitants; I go to work in a dynamic medium-sized town. Some Aveyronnais, however, live and work in sheer isolation. Could you do it?

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bread-baking Time

The weather in Aveyron has turned grim and damp, so all over the département, villagers are firing up their old stone bread ovens to bake a few weeks' supply of pain de campagne.

Did you believe me? Actually, the truth is not quite as romantic. Aveyron does boast many stone bread ovens, or fours à pain, some "communal"-- belonging to a whole village or hamlet. Others, like this one in an old farmhouse, belong to individual properties. Most French people don't bake in these ovens anymore, but some are still in use.

I am personally looking forward to baking some bread this fall and winter with a much more modern contraption: la machine à pain:

Difficult to find in France ten years ago, bread machines are now sold in many hypermarchés and specialty shops. I wonder if the French know that the concept originated outside their borders?

(First photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

School Supply Madness, suite et fin

My daughter has a friend who had a terrible first day of school. Having carefully purchased the dozens of items on her liste de fournitures scolaires, she suddenly realized she had bought cahiers à petits carreaux (notice the patch of small squares at the top of the notebook above) rather than the required wide-lined notebooks. A catastrophe.

My previous post on school supply madness in France brought in a number of comments, but I'm not finished with this issue yet. Yes, I did survive the six trips to buy notebooks and pens, although I'm not so sure about our pocketbook. I read that the average cost of going back to school for a middle school student, including PE clothes but not books, is around 200 euros, or a little over 250 dollars. And what is this money spent on?

A lot of it goes to notebooks and binders -- cahiers et classeurs. Angela told me of a new system in her son's high school in Southern France which sounds wonderful:

"...last year the school encouraged the students to buy a bloc notes pad. The lessons were done on the pad and the sheets then transferred into the relevant classeurs at home. It really works and no excruciatingly heavy bags."

Unfortunately, that system hasn't been adopted here yet. Every class -- and the students have up to 12 -- requires its own notebook or binder. That may sound simple enough, but the choice of model is overwhelming. Don't forget, you can't just go pick up ten notebooks. Each teacher gives his or her own requirements, so you have to make sure to:

- choose the correct size -- 24 x 32 cm, 21 x 29.7 cm, 17 X 22cm...

-choose the right type of lines, the cahier à petits carreaux apparently being there just to fool people like my daughter's friend as teachers usually don't ask for them...

-select the appropriate number of pages -- 96, 140, 198. This has been a sticking point a few times as stores do run out of certain models.

-sometimes, choose the type of binding, but this is fortunately rare

So you can see that the margin for error is large, as is the budget. You also have to buy protège-cahiers, or notebook covers, which are notoriously out of stock in our area. One year my older daughter started talking about driving to Albi (over an hour away) where she had "heard they had transparent 24 X 32 notebook covers." I did not entertain the idea.

Finally, this post wouldn't be complete without a description of the epitome of the French school supply system: le cahier de brouillon, or the scratch paper notebook. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but it really does exist. It guarantees there will be no sloppy work on feuilles volantes -- literally "flying sheets of paper." We couldn't have that, could we? So all "scratch paper" work is done in a little notebook, that can thankfully be used for all classes.

I must admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the scratch paper notebook. And it's one of the cheapest things on the list.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Do you want to go to Millau?

The construction of the Millau viaduct has put Aveyron's second-largest city on the map in a big way, and certainly must be attracting more English-speaking tourists and residents, as this Millau real estate agency indicates.

The San Jose Mercury has just published a three-part series about the city and its viaduct, and if you're interested in the area, you might want to take a look at the articles.

"A bridge to France's hidden charms" deals with the viaduct and the surrounding tourist sites and villages; "Millau Viaduct" gives a few statistics about the bridge, and "If You Go" gives advice and links for potential tourists.

If you miss out on these articles -- they may be taken off line soon -- take a trip down the A75 freeway, complete with photos not only of the viaduct but also of the freeway rest stops, thanks to the France section of Abelard.

Interestingly, one of the above San Jose Mercury articles finished with a quotation from a Belgian businessman who spends his holidays in the Millau area:

"'We returned because of the beauty of the area,'' he says. ``And because the area isn't overcrowded by noisy people.' Take that, Provence."

One of the original premises of this blog was that Aveyron could become the next Provence. Time will tell, but if it happens, the Millau viaduct will certainly be a factor.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

School Supply Madness, Part One

I'm certain that somewhere in France this week, a parent is having a nervous breakdown over school supplies. French teachers demand uniformity in the type of notebooks, binders and paper students use, and the resulting school supply lists are notoriously daunting.

My youngest daughter has just started 8th grade. Her list -- handed out at the end of 7th grade -- contained 46 different items. We attempted to buy them all on one shopping trip, but gave up, exhausted, after purchasing about 29. So this meant another trip back to finish up --at another supermarket, of course, because the first one lacked plenty of key items.

My eldest just started high school and faced a different system. The school doesn't send out a list in June; on the first day of class each teacher announces what the students will need . The problem is, with 10 different subjects and teachers, the "first day of class" lasts all week. And generally, the message to the students is clear: you need this for yesterday. So every evening this week, we have gone on a school supply run. We've made a total of five so far, and our enthusiasm is definitely diminishing.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Write Stuff for Expats

I was recently asked to write a story about wine for a new expat website, blueVicar . I don't really have time to work on stories now as I'm trying to get more business writing jobs, but the site's concept is clearly of interest if you would like to try your hand at writing stories that go beyond a simple blog post.

blueVicar is for people with stories to tell about life abroad…and for those who like to read them.

Living far from our home lands, we love to hear the experiences and perceptions other people have while living here. Their stories remind us of things that have happened to us; things that were funny, poignant, scary, or just plain memorable. We live more fully knowing what others have seen; the world becomes a little richer when we pay attention to details that we might otherwise have missed.

blueVicar is a forum for people who live abroad to tell their stories. Those stories are posted on and then anyone, anywhere can read them."

Another interesting aspect of blueVicar is that your work will be edited by a professional, and that is worth gold for incipient writers. So take a look at blueVicar. Their first call for submissions is for stories about wine -- and I'm sure some of you have a few tales to tell!