Friday, December 31, 2010

No grand réveillon for this gal

"Le réveillon du 31" is all well and good, but I just can't be bothered with it

Is it my American side creeping back, is it age, or is it general party poopiness?

There must be some reason that this year, I am spending the much-made-of réveillon du St. Sylvestre at home more or less alone.

Sure, there will be my husband, a foie gras, a few stray scallops, and some glasses to wash in the morning. But this is a far cry from our French New Year's Eve parties of old.

To be honest, le réveillon has been weighing on me for the past five years or so.

It is a pain to plan.

It is expensive at a time when plenty of euros have just gone out the window for Christmas.

It is food-heavy at a time when most of France has already been feeding heavily.

And it's all over so horrifyingly late! I think the earliest we have ever gotten to sleep after a French New Year's Eve party was 3am. The latest was 6am -- and oops, I hosted that one.

As I write this, I'm sure many of my expat readers are anxiously awaiting the big night, and perhaps putting finishing touches on a fancy apéritif platter or checking that the Champagne is chilling nicely.

I truly wish you the best! But this year, I'm quite content with my cook-a-little, geek-a-little, sip-a-little, stay-at-home réveillon.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On. Vacation. Happy. Holidays.

Rodez's little Champs-Elysées, decked out for Christmas 2007


I know many people work through the 24th of December, and even on the 25th.

But as a teacher, I have been sorely spoiled -- and working until 6pm this evening has made things seem, somehow, un-Christmasy to me.

I'm sure that will change tomorrow as I rush into gear to prepare a Christmas Eve meal...or as all four of us leave in a panic to approach an airport in a warmer climate.

One thing is sure: our Christmas will be atypical.

We are flying off on Christmas morning for a surprise European destination; the trip is the girls' -- and the family's -- main Christmas present.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate. For the moment, things are looking quite good, even if Aveyron is under an "alerte orange" for snow tomorrow.

To be continued, after the facts.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Curious Christmas Coming

The world from my window this evening

'Tis the season -- and a lot of comments are floating around about being in a Christmas panic.

It's interesting for me to note how I have simplified Christmas over the years. Of course, when the girls were little it was necessarily something of a production. I was working a lot less too, and usually had at least their full two weeks of vacances scolaires off -- and sometimes even more.

Now that I work more, and in fact have a full-time contract, I have more constraints. This year, for example, I have class until the evening of December 23rd. I was feeling sorry for myself about this fact until I thought about all of the people who must work on the 24th and, of course, on the 25th.

This year our family celebration will be very simple: our traditional meal of boudin blanc -- nothing could be easier to cook -- and just a few presents.

Early Christmas Day, I will be coming into a new (for me) form of contact with some of those "people who work on the 25th" because we will be flying away on a short trip very early on Christmas morning.

The destination is a secret for now as it is part of the girls' Christmas gift -- not that they are avid readers of my blog!

I think it will be most interesting to be travelling on Christmas-- one of those things one should maybe do once in a lifetime.

Have you ever travelled on Christmas Day -- plane, trains, hotels, the whole bit?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Five Random France Profonde Photos

(Rodez by night; driving down la rue St. Cyrice)

La France Profonde has represented two main endeavors for me: writing and taking photos. Both have waned lately, partly because the number of photos that have piled up in my France Profonde file has become overwhelming.

I do have a Flickr account where some of my photos go, but have never kept up with that faithfully.

As I revive this blog, I hope to get back to posting more photos, perhaps in a random way like today.
(Escargot -- Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

My husband is a crack photographer, and should be getting even crackier given the number of cameras and pieces of photo equipment he has been buying lately. The above photo, besides the nice snail lines, gives a fuzzy view of our deck and front yard.

(La Foire Expo de Rodez, September 2009)

It seems like every weekend there is something going on in Rodez, and unfortunately we don't get to that many of the events. Last year we did go to the major "Foire Expo" -- a big event that is only held every 10 years or some such.

I didn't realize it at the time, but it was the last event we went to on the Place du Foirail, which is now being transformed in order to make room for le Musée Soulages and other attractions. I wish I had taken photos of the destruction of the old exhibition halls, but Thierry and I have vowed to bring you some pics of the ongoing construction of the museum, which is scheduled to open in 2013.

(Irises in our front yard)

I tend to blog about Rodez because that is where I work, and I hold an enduring fascination for the city. But we don't live in Rodez; we live in a bedroom community called Gages. I never have much to say about it because since our daughters left the local primary schools, we don't feel that connected to the community, and it is not the most scenic village in the area.

That said, I spend most of my weekends at home, and it is nice to get away from "the city."

(A random blog award)

I truly did choose these photos in a random fashion, by flipping around my photo files with my eyes closed. This blog award picture came up, and reminded me of the days when I actually got behind in responding to blog awards, memes and so forth.

Remember being "tagged" for memes? Does that still take place in the blogosphere?

Those were fun times, but I don't really want to get into those activities anymore. Just this space, a few faithful friends and readers to comment on and comment to, one post a week...that seems like plenty for me for now.

Bon dimanche!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Various goings-on 1: Trip to Brussels

Since deciding to revive this blog, I have realized I have a lot of catching up to do.

In fact, one of the reasons I have found this platform less relevant lately is that my life increasingly revolves around goings-on that aren't centered on the pastoral world of La France Profonde.
For example, the most exciting event of the school year so far has been my participation in a conference in Brussels about Erasmus internships. I was a conference speaker and everything, and ended up writing and editing, along with a team of three other Erasmus program coordinators from all over Europe, a "Joint European Commission Paper" about the future of the Erasmus internship program.

But that is probably of little interest to you, so back to "my trip to Brussels." Since I had gone there for work, it was only by the luck of plane schedules that I got an evening to go out to eat. I splurged at a famous old restaurant, founded in 1928, La Taverne du Passage:

The next morning, I had not even two hours to explore the city, and spent much of that time doing some intense chocolate shopping:

I had only been to Brussels once, on yet an even more perfunctory trip, and it left me with a very nice impression.

I had forgotten how drop-dead gorgeous La Grand-Place is; I didn't have good photography conditions, but it still left me stunned:

Also, outside of the modern Euro-bureau areas, the city seems to have plenty of funky, old-fashioned nooks and crannies that cry out for further exploration:

It's frustrating to go to a European capital -- THE European capital, in fact -- and have only a few hours to check it out. So I may be back in the near or not-so-near future.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Social Media Malaise, or I Miss Blogging

Last night I was staring blankly at my various Twitter streams on Hootsuite, wondering where to get a conversation started and feeling guilty that I wasn't following up on all of the fabulous, pertinent, relevant, useful bits of information and cool websites that Über Teachers were spitting out.

I flipped over to Facebook, liked a few remarks so I liked them, but wasn't really sure what to do there.

The social media evening had started out with grand expectations; I had been planning on "settling into some quality online time." You can even see the proof of that intention here.

But I quickly became listless and hopelessly unproductive. Let's face it: I'm suddenly feeling tired of hanging out with the same old social networks. You can even see proof of that sentiment here.

So I decided to take a trip back in time to the blogosphere of my past. Google Reader had been a scary place for me for the past few months, a guilt-inducing reminder of all the blogs I'm not reading and, especially, that I'm not writing.

But my visit there wasn't so daunting. I noticed that a lot of my best blogging buddies were slowing down their blogging pace too. They may have even been staring blankly at Hootsuite as I stared blankly at Google Reader.

I didn't stare blankly for very long. I left some comments, even though I almost felt like an intruder doing so. I signed up for comment subscriptions, something I had previously written off as a waste of time.

The hour got late, but by the end of the evening I felt like I had actually "engaged" again in a way I don't do on Facebook or Twitter.

I miss blogging, and I think I will have to do something about that.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Alive and well in Olympia

I thought this long summer break would be a time of intense online activity, and a time to revive this blog.

It may well be -- but not yet.

I have here for a week and a half, and have been doing anything and everything but using my favorite social networking sites.

Facebook has been serving as communications central for getting together with friends here; I've issued a few tweets, but haven't felt much desire to follow Twitter; I figure I'm going to have to clear my Google Reader when it gets to 1000 unread posts.

Replacing all of this are emails to my family back in France, connecting to my work email platform to check up on how my students are doing on their foreign internships, and some online work on the syllabi for my classes next year.

Of course, plenty of offline stuff is going on: seeing my family and friends, outings to restaurants and shows, reading, watching movies and baseball games...

It's summer and I think I needed a break from all of my routines. But I'm not gone forever.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer as much as I am. I will be back in touch.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Homeward Bound

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Whether grey and gloomy, cool and misty, or warm and watery, Olympia is sounding awfully good to me right now...and I'll be there in little more than two days.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

While my conscience explodes: Bob Dylan in Carcassonne, June 28 2010

Before writing a review of Monday's Bob Dylan concert in Carcassonne, I first felt like I needed to write a whole prologue to the experience: my personal journey into the labyrinthical world of Dylan's music, why I had never seen him in concert before, my expectations for the show, and so forth.

But I've decided to dive into the concert itself while it is fresh in my mind -- not that I'll be forgetting it any time soon.

On face value, the Théâtre Jean Deschamps (Théâtre Antique) in Carcassonne would seem to be an extraordinary venue for a rock concert:

The medieval atmosphere combined with the drop-dead gorgeous weather boded well for a lively evening, but the setting didn't entirely hold its promises... we will see when I write about the audience.

I had been following the setlists of Bob's European dates closely, so I knew what to expect -- sort of.

One of the fascinating aspects of the Never-Ending Tour, on which Dylan has played well over 2,000 shows all over the world since the late 1980s, is that every show is different.

Sure, there have been common points in the 2010 European leg that started on May 29 in Athens. But if I compare that setlist with the one performed in Carcassonne, only 6 songs are the same.

Seeing the great variety of material Dylan does on tour makes me wish I could have taken a few weeks off to follow the show, as some fans do. But I had one concert only, and here is its playlist:

  1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
  2. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
  3. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
  4. Just Like a Woman
  5. The Levee's Gonna Break
  6. Tangled up in Blue
  7. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
  8. Love Sick
  9. Cold Irons Bound
  10. Mr. Tambourine Man
  11. Highway 61 Revisited
  12. Not Dark Yet
  13. Thunder on the Mountain
  14. Ballad of a Thin Man
Encore: 15. Like a Rolling Stone
16. Jolene
17. Blowing in the Wind

This was just dandy with me. All I was really sure of going in was that Ballad of a Thin Man and Like a Rolling Stone had been part of the end of every recent concert; I was looking forward to that. For the rest, I was flexible.

I was also prepared, as I had taken the time to get to know all of the "recent" material (as in from about the past 20 years) that he had been performing -- an effort that I would highly recommend to anyone who decides to see a Dylan concert in the future.

Dylan never ceases to surprise and amaze, and this concert was no exception. I knew all the songs, had checked out a few YouTube videos of previous dates, and, well, I know my Dylan fairly honorably. Yet all of this homework did not prepare me for the three main observations I drew from the show.

(Photo courtesy of Daphné Jouanneteau)

1. Forever young?

The concept of "for his age" ended up having absolutely no relevance to my evaluation of the concert.

This man not only rocks; he may be at the top of his form.
He cut a fine figure in his dark suit and white hat, and was clearly on stage to give an even finer concert. Assuring virtually non-stop vocals for nearly two hours while alternating between guitar, organ, and harmonica, his energy and showmanship were breathtaking.

Although Dylan didn't speak (directly) to the public except to introduce his band at the end, he certainly doesn't seem to be in a phase of erratic performances and diffidence.

He smiled repeatedly (and charmingly,) never slipped up, and made every song (with the possible exception of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," which was kind of tossed out) a show in itself.

The synergy with his excellent band was palpable, and the musical arrangements carefully crafted (unlike certain concerts decades back, ahem) while still leaving room for improvisation.

If you want further proof, take a look at this video of "Thunder on the Mountain" and "Ballad of a Thin Man."

2. Now everything's a little upside down...
Even if I knew and had grown to like the "recent" numbers that I thought I might hear, I was intrigued to find myself enjoying them as much, if not more, than the "oldies." The following songs were undoubtedly among the highlights of the evening:

The Levee's Gonna Break
(Modern Times, 2006)

Cold Irons Bound (Time Out of Mind, 1997)

Not Dark Yet (Time Out of Mind, 1997)

Thunder on the Mountain (Modern Times, 2006)

Jolene (Together Through Life, 2009)

The Levee's Gonna Break
and Thunder on the Mountain are unapologetic rock 'n' roll songs that work much better live than in their respectable studio versions -- as unapologetic rock 'n' roll songs should, I might add.

Jolene, performed at about twice the speed of the recording, kept the crowd on its feet and dancing during the encore.

Cold Irons Bound was one of Bobby's most impressive vocal performances of the evening, in my opinion topped only by Ballad of a Thin Man.

As far as slower numbers, Not Dark Yet moved me to tears. Interestingly, it was also one of the only songs in the main set to elicit an immediately enthusiastic reaction from the crowd.

It's not dark yet, but it's getting there...

(Photo courtesy of Daphné Jouanneteau)

3. Highways Revisited

I knew rule number one of Dylan concerts: don't expect to hear your favorite songs sounding like they did on the original albums, or on some old live CD (or LP) that you particularly cherish.

On Monday, I learned rule number two: expect to have your vision of certain songs changed forever.

In Carcassonne, Dylan slipped in a slightly eerie, processional version of "Mr. Tambourine Man," little-played in Europe 2010, and mixed in a bit of playful mockery of his 60s voice. It sure worked for me, and gave me a new take on a song I have grown weary of.

Just Like a Woman has never been one of my favorite Dylan tunes, but the current live performance is especially polished, and I ended up enjoying it more than personal favorites It's All Over Now, Baby Blue and Tangled Up in Blue.
The concert also made me acutely aware of the anthemic power of "Like a Rolling Stone." Of course I recognize its greatness, but I would easily put many Dylan songs on par with it.
Not so the lethargic Carcassonne audience, who after an hour and a half of treating the concert like a chamber music recital finally figured out they were at a rock concert when they heard "Once upon a time you dressed so fine..."

How does it know you've been sitting on your butts for 90 minutes rather than giving Bob Dylan his due?

(Photo courtesy of Daphné Jouanneteau)

To the Carcassonne Dylan audience: I wish you could stand inside my'd know what a drag it was to see you.
I was most distressed by the public's unresponsiveness at this show; my daughter finally had to tell me to get a grip because I was ruining the concert I had so looked forward to. She was right, of course, but I was living in fear that Bob might calmly leave the stage earlier than planned.

That didn't happen, and he even went in for a three-song encore, which hadn't been the case at every Europe 2010 show. I'm not sure Carcassonne deserved it.

Was it me, was it France, was it Carcassonne?

Apparently it was Carcassonne, as a contributor to the message board (re)assured me: You were unlucky. I went to all the French shows and this was definitely the dullest audience of all. You should have been in Bordeaux the day after, it was a different thing altogether, a young and very enthusiastic crowd and the show was really great.
Oh, perhaps I should have, but I was still delighted with the show overall.
The changing of the guards

One final word before I (finally) finish this lengthy post.

I was lucky enough to attend this concert with my 17-year-old daughter and a friend of hers, and they were appropriately awestruck. I certainly didn't have to drag them along either.

I did the math: this would be the equivalent of my being fascinated, in the 70s, with an artist over 50 years my senior who had started his or her career in the mid-1920s.

That would SO never have happened...but I was so much older then; they're younger than that now.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good-bye to a weird corner of Rodez

I must admit, and likely have admitted on this blog, that I'm one of those people who loves to stick her nose into derelict buildings, and who is quite fascinated by weird places like the one above.

If they're in the center of town, so much the better.

This little rundown yard right across from La Maison du Livre, Rodez's most popular bookstore, has intrigued me for years.

Are those rabbit cages in the back? Doors to an old W.C. on the left? Or were they?

Because yes, I am sad to say that this certainly hot piece of real estate is gone and being transformed into something...perhaps a clothes shop or a tea salon, both of which Rodez seems to abound in.

Why should I be sad? The place was an eyesore, and probably impossible to salvage. If I owned it or had inherited it, I certainly wouldn't have the energy to oversee the work necesarry to turn it into a charming town center house avec jardin.

I will miss pondering what it used to be, though.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 94

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Rodez really is a happening place!

Rodez was buzzing last week with plans, gossip and Facebook discussions about the "Apéro Géant des Aveyronnais" that was held Thursday evening in the town center's Jardin du Foirail.

I won't attempt to report on the whole story with its political ins and outs, nor will I tell about the event because I decided not to go!

This was all for a good cause: I wanted to have plenty of energy to attend some of the forty-odd events organized on Friday and Saturday by the Conservatoire de musique for the 24 Heures Chopin.

My daughters went to the Apéro Géant, though, and thought it was just peachy. And I ended up attending about 7 of the "24 hours of Chopin," and was impressed by the turn-out and the organization involved.

Both events were huge successes, despite Midi Libre's attempt to turn a DWI arrest that took place hours after the Apéro (which finished at midnight) into some sort of news.

I like the fact that both happenings drew a wide range of age groups. Sure, the Chopin concerts weren't overrun with teenagers, but I would say there were at least some young people at all of the venues I went to.

To conclude, I really hate it when people say "nothing goes on in Rodez." Sure, if you want to go to jazz clubs every weekend or a new modern art exhibit every month, Rodez may not provide what you are looking for. But I sure can't keep up with everything that happens in our little capital city.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 93

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Monday, May 31, 2010

NaBloPoMo: An inglorious conclusion

(Click on image to feel the pain of my abysmal evening, and no, this is not OUR declaration.)

My husband and I fill out our French taxes online and, normalement, we had until June the 10th to do so.

Then suddenly this afternoon, for a reason too confusing/personal/mundane/inane/all of the above, it became necessary for us to file online today -- as in this evening when I got home from work at nearly 7pm.

Consequently, I almost forgot to do this last NaBloPoMo post.

I will wax eloquently about my month of daily blogging at a later date...maybe June the 10th?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Of NaBloPoMo and feed readers

Only three days to go.

This is my third NaBloPoMo, and although I haven't necessarily engendered a lot of comments, I have enjoyed the theme: "Looking Up." It led me on a treasure hunt through my photos, and I found quite a few where I had pointed my camera lens upwards.

Another advantage of participating, for me, is that it does get me back in touch with my blog and the blogosphere. During the month, I installed a new feed reader: Feed Demon. It's a desktop application and gets a little buggy if you don't use it regularly, but I find it more intuitive than Google Reader.

Then, through @chrisrat, I got onto something really fun: Feedly. This little toy swallows up your RSS feeds and spits them out into something that looks more like an online magazine than a bunch of files.

So, to sum up this rather rambling post, NaBloPoMo always brings me some new discoveries, and this time around has been no exception.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Looking up in Paris 3

Same blue sky as yesterday's post, and the same great trip: April 2008 with my youngest daughter and two of her friends.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Looking up in Paris 2

Apartments near the Eiffel Tower...wouldn't that be a nice place to live?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Looking up in Paris 1

One of the great things about my current professional situation is that I get to fly up to Paris for meetings three or four times a year.

My time in the capital city is always limited, and most of it is spent in a windowless conference room. But I always try to make the most of the business trip by stopping off at a café before and after my meeting.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Back Pages 1

For Music Monday, for NaBloPoMo, for Bob Dylan's birthday -- and because I need something to write about today -- I have decided to go back over some of my music-oriented post for my now-defunct blog And So Forth.

It was a heady bloggy time, when I was writing three blogs and posting about subjects as diverse as politics, music, the media, Aveyron, wine and cooking.

It was November 18, 2007, and I wrote this tribute to one of my favorite Bob Dylan albums:

"I have been trying all day to listen straight through Blood on the Tracks without too many interruptions. It's 7:30 PM and I'm practically halfway into "Shelter from the Storm," so I think I'm finally going to make it.

If not, I think I can do without 'Buckets of Rain.' It's one of the two songs on the album that doesn't do it for me, along with 'Meet Me in the Morning.'

Those two songs aside, though, I don't think I will ever tire of this album. Sometimes I think it's Bob Dylan's best. And I have to disagree with Jon Landau when he wrote in 1975:

'Blood on the Tracks will only sound like a great album for a while. Like most of Dylan, it is impermanent.'

So why does it ring so true 32 years later?"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Theme Thursday: Pets


From left to right: Titine (2000-2008!), Cutie (I don't know, she was one in a series of second guinea pigs), and baby Blackboard (2005-2010.)


Bunny Boy, born in 2009, acquired in 2010...a sweet, quiet dwarf rabbit.

He's all the pet I need for the moment.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Looking up in Toulouse 3

The paintings that adorn the covered passageway on the Place du Capitole in Toulouse are, in my opinion, a good example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Halfway Lost in Google Image Search Land

The relevance, or irrelevance, of this photo to today's post will be explained below.

Maybe it's the fun NaBloPoMo theme of "looking up" that has buoyed my efforts, but so far daily blogging hasn't been a chore at all.

Today I wanted to do a simple post of about four words, such as "Halfway through NaBloPoMo." Okay, that's three words, but who's counting besides myself?

But I decided to look for a photo because, well, I've almost always posted with photos. Such was the error of my ways (she writes an hour later.) Go find a good photo to illustrate the notion of "halfway."

Yep, I liked that one, but it was copyrighted and I generally live by those rules.

Then I got lost in Google Image Search Land.

"Halfway house." I hadn't thought about the notion for awhile. It conjured up some vague image of my parents telling me about some child of friends' of theirs who had gotten "mixed up with drugs."

Halfway is the name of a bike model, or a style of bike, or some such. Not that I really care, but there were sure a lot of photos of it messing up the efficiency of my Google Image Search.

Halfway, Oregon. Yes, fellow Pacific Northwesterners, there is a Halfway, Oregon. Did you know that? I didn't. Apparently it got darn cold there in 1948-1949. I would have liked to use a photo of this town for my post, but the one I found was copyrighted too.

An old menu from a restaurant called The Halfway House. Cool! The restaurant was in Seattle. Even cooler! There's a post about it on a way cool site called I just had to take a break to bookmark it so I can never look at it again.

A Ramones album called Halfway to Sanity. I could surely use this photo, and did:

But it didn't really illustrate anything I wished to convey in this post, and the word "halfway" didn't come out very well visually.

So, I went with the Wikipedia Media Commons photo of "Snowdon Mountain Railway No.2 climbing towards Halfway Station..." because I'm halfway through NaBloPoMo, and still chugging along.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Looking up in Toulouse 2

As I was looking up over my cappuccino in this rather grand café on the Place du Capitole, a noisy and rude dispute was going on at the till. Something about the service being slow and a woman missing an appointment over it...the city police eventually showed up, but all was well by then.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking up in Toulouse...

...this very day. Not the greatest light, but a great outing.