Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is life really a bitch without big chocolate chips?

I am a very positive person. I honestly am.

I hope you, my faithful readers of La France Profonde, have remarked that I rarely use this blog to vent about the themes expats living in France love to whine about: strikes, administrative formalities, mothers-in-law...
But I do have a complaint today. And it's not about France. It's about expat bloggers bemoaning the unavailability of certain food items here.

I recently read a post (which I won't link to because it never even crossed my mind to be that negative) whine about how the chocolate chips in France are -- get this -- too small!

I know, I'm sounding old and I'm feeling old. But I was a student in France at a time when there was not a chocolate chip to be found, other than in one or two shops in Paris. And really, why should there have been?
My fellow students and I did miss cookies, which we seemed to think were a food group, so to make them we bought French cooking chocolate and hacked it up -- quite a task.

By the time I moved to France in 1990, chocolate chips, or les pépites de chocolat, were widely available in almost all major supermarkets. Sure, they're a little small...

(Photo courtesy of the excellent French cooking blog Goumandises)

...but they've never stopped me, nor my daughters, from making a mean chocolate chip cookie.

I can't help but feel that some homesick bloggers need to put things in their proper perspective from time to time.

Get a grip. Relativisez. At least you can buy chocolate chips!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 19

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Plea for Postcards

I'm taking a break from blogging about France this weekend in hopes that I can get some of you involved in a project that will not take much time, but will mean a lot to someone who needs all the support he can get.

One of my friends from my home town has organized an online campaign, Postcard as Diamond, to send postcards to a very sick little boy.

The 8-year-old child is a member of my friend's extended family and is suffering from terminal leukemia. He has taken to collecting postcards from around the world as a way to spend time and, I suppose, as a short-term goal.

If you would like to help brighten this boy's day by sending him one or more postcards, write to me at the email address indicated on my profile and I will send you his address, or just leave a message and I'll find your email address through your profile.

And as my friend made clear, feel free to duplicate this post or his original post on your own blog as you see fit.

(The above photo was created by my friend and does not represent the boy in question.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Albi, always and forever

The same experience can represent such different things for different people.

During my day in Albi with Loulou, she and I took part in exactly the same activities. We barely left each other's sides, chatting away as you can imagine two expat bloggers, from the same state to boot, would do.

Yet Loulou was experiencing a day of discovery: she had heard a lot about Albi but had never been there.

I, on the other hand, was feeling the sharp pull of nostalgia as I wandered through the beautiful city that had been my first French home.

My first French first French first French first French (and American!) child:

(A few hours before going into induced labor at the now-defunct Clinique Escudié)

Despite the withering heat that wilted me in late spring and summer, I loved Albi and assumed we would make our lives there. But professional changes for my husband led us to leave all too quickly. I lived in Albi for only two years -- but every time I go back it feels like home.

When we moved to Aveyron after a three-year stint in the Touraine region, one of our thoughts was how wonderful it would be to live "so close" to Albi. And upon arriving in the Rodez area, we contacted old Albigeois friends and spent some Saturdays and Sundays in La Ville Rouge.

But Albi was an hour and a half away from where were living, and is still well over an hour's drive despite road improvements. So we get there once in a while, usually to show visitors around, and we have no more regular contact with anyone in the town.

And Albi has changed, generally for the better. The beautiful covered market, which used to be lovely on the outside, but cold and primitive inside, has gotten a nice facelift...

...and especially a fabulous interior redesign:

There are also any number of new, attractive restaurants crying out to be tested, from this Parisian-style bistro in the basement of the covered market... the Restaurant Stéphane Laurens where Loulou and I enjoyed a delicious and reasonably-priced lunch in a classy setting:

But of course many parts of Albi never change a bit -- and had better not do!

The St. Salvy cloisters, accessible by three tiny passageways in the center of town:

The maze of pedestrian streets where I used to get lost even when I lived there:

And the way I still feel I belong there, despite my adjustment to and love for the airy, varied Aveyron department.

Now my eldest daughter, the one who was about to get out from under that awful pink T-shirt I was wearing in the photo above, is thinking of going to college in Albi.

Now that would give me a real reason to go back often.

Will life come full circle that way? I don't want to unduly influence her, but I know I'm game.

Albi, always and forever...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And I'd like to thank...

I was named "Washington State Debate Coach of the Year" in 1989.

And that was the last time I received an award of any sort.

Yes indeed: although I've participated in my fair share of memes, I've never been honored by having a blogging award bestowed on me! So thank you, Nicole, for listing La France Profonde on your list of ten blogs you love.

Now of course the little picture is cute, but what means the most to me is what Nicole wrote about LFP:
"A beautiful blog about Betty's life in a rural part of France. Her writing and photos are amazing."
And now for the hard part -- I'm supposed to award TEN other bloggers with the same!

I'm afraid I'll have to get to that later, when I catch up with everything blog-related this summer in Olympia.

Until then, merci Nicole!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Train Tripping

I think in another life, one where I couldn't have turned into a blogging geek, I might have become a train geek. A really fun part of my day trip to Albi a week ago was simply taking the train there from Rodez.

The Rodez-Albi-Toulouse line is part of the ter regional network, and some of its trains are pretty spiffy:

But somehow I generally don't get put on those models. I took to the rails last week in this:

Suffice to say I'm glad I didn't spring for the above first class compartment.

I imagine trains like this one have a few technical problems, and before leaving Rodez, I got a glimpse of what must be a sort of train ambulance -- SECO-RAIL!

Actually, my second-class car was pleasant enough, although I suspect the SNCF will be rethinking their color scheme when they get around to replacing this set of older regional trains:

The mustard-yellow seats do get a little hard on the eyes, which is why I like to catch bits of the smaller gares along the way:

This weekend I'm off for another little trip: to the Ariège department to see friends. It will be a family car trip though, so don't worry -- I won't bore you with more railway shots.

Bon weekend de Pentecôte!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008

(No Longer a) Mystery Meeting

I am sure this mystery will quickly be solved.

But who knows where.....

and whom?

PS written the next morning: A few faithful readers figured this out quickly, so don't bother guessing!

Yes, I was lucky enough to spend Friday sightseeing, chatting and sharing great food with the delightful Loulou of Chez Loulou.

Function of Time was supposed to be a part of this gathering, and we're sad she was called back to the States by her job. But as the French would say, ce n'est que chose remise...

Loulou has already posted two photos from our outing -- I have so many I don't know where to begin -- and I haven't even finished with blogging about Paris.

Anyway, over the next few weeks, expect some more posts about places other than Aveyron. I have breathed in quite a bit of fresh air lately.

In the meantime, I've been scooped on the details. "Read all about it!"