Sunday, January 31, 2010

WE did it!

As I mentioned several times over the last month, I don't know what possessed me to do NaBloPoMo this January. There was a theme -- "best" -- which I thought might be fun to write about, but I don't think I ever even used the word.

But I did carry on. My conclusions are:

1.) It is probably good for anyone who wants to keep blogging to do NaBloPoMo once a year. It does get a certain momentum going, even if post quality can suffer.

2.) I don't think I would ever want to make La France Profonde a daily blog, but after a 31-day string of posts, getting back to posting twice a week seems feasible, if not straight out easy.

3. NaBloPoMo is best done with a few others. Of course one can find myriad "others" by going to the official site, but I was lucky enough to have two contacts just fall into place: longtime blogging (and now Facebook) buddy tut-tut from Inside the Shell, and Claudine from Good Things, whom I had run into in comments columns. Both of these ladies commented on every single post of mine, no matter how lame, and I did the same...not that THEY wrote any lame posts, of course!

The "best" thing about NaBloPoMo in my book is finishing it! Cheers!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Amsterdam Five: Day Three

Monday December 28th was the most glorious of our days in Amsterdam weatherwise. It was sunny from dawn on, and with no biting wind.

Of course the sun rises late up there -- well past 9am at the time we were in the city -- so we had a hard time getting a move on in the morning -- I'm an early riser and found myself sleeping in until 9:15 through the whole trip. I don't think all four of us got moving until past 11, but Thierry went out earlier to take some photos in our "neighborhood," including the one above.

Well, now you know our main destination for the day. After a nice walk through neighborhoods we hadn't seen yet, a snack of waffles, and a short stroll through Vondelpark, we got to the Van Gogh museum... and almost decided to put off our visit until the next day. The lines appeared dreadfully long, and we feared a crowd inside.

We decided to see how the line was moving and, surprisingly, got in after only a 20-minute wait. And I'm not so sure where all of the people ended up going, because the exhibit halls were hardly packed:

Some of the crowd was in the gift shop, where my husband was tempted by these volumes, which represented the exhibition that was on at the time about Van Gogh's letters. Fortunately, I convinced my spouse that the 6-volume set would be a bit heavy in our suitcases.

After a leisurely visit in the museum, which I had already seen once but didn't remember that well, we walked around the Hoofstraat area, where many of Amsterdam's luxury shops are located.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant that I would highly recommend: the Ristorante Saturnino. It's clearly a popular joint, and the waiters started all contacts by speaking Italian, which was a fun touch. Prices were reasonable, the atmosphere was jolly, and the upscale pasta and pizza absolutely delicious.

I'm starting to regret not taking pictures of our food...

(All photos except #2 courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Now you're nowhere to be found

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down...

(From For a dancer by Jackson Browne; painting Chose sans nom by Pierre Soulages)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I must have thought you'd always be around

I'm spending the evening cyber-managing communication about the death of a very close high school friend. This is not the post I wanted to write tonight.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 79

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Off to Paris

I'm off to Paris for work today, which means getting up at 4:30 am and getting home at 10pm -- providing there are no plane delays! So this will be my semblance of a post for today...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Random Image 1

As I started to tackle my last week of January's NaBloPoMo, I was totally lacking in inspiration. Then an idea popped into my head -- an idea that quickly became a concept, to paraphrase Woody Allen.

Like a lot of bloggers, I have accumulated endless files of photos that I had planned to use in some future post. I got the idea that it might be fun to pick a "random image" and write about it. So I closed my eyes and did my best to mouse my way to whatever photo came up.

I think I have already posted this pic at some point, but it was probably in my now-defunct cooking blog.

I had bought some bread in Rodez and was struck, rather negatively I must admit, by the advertising on the packaging. Was nothing sacred, not even French bread?

It was the first time I had seen this exact form of corporate communication. And I think that, at least in Aveyron, it was the last.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Amsterdam Four: A Night at the Ballet

I usually don't embed YouTube videos on La France Profonde, but the version of the ballet Coppelia that we saw our second night in Amsterdam was so bubbly and colorful that I'm providing a view, in case anyone wants to chase winter blues away.

This outing was especially fun for a number of reasons. The girls had scoped out the idea of going to some sort of concert or other cultural show a few days before leaving, but since the whole trip was planned on the fly, I really wasn't sure we'd be able to see something so high quality on such short notice (as in buying tickets at the door.)

There were two performances of Coppelia on Sunday the 27th, and I found out by phone that the matinee was sold out, but that there were still tickets for the evening show. As I explained yesterday, we rushed to the theater to buy tickets in the morning, but they advised us to come back as students could get 10 euro seats at the box office right before the show.

I am always a little stressed out about showing up at events with no tickets, but this scheme was such a savings (we ended up getting great seats for four at an extremely affordable price.)

The Amsterdam muziektheater is lovely, quite modern, and extremely comfortable. Besides the production itself, there was a lot I liked about the experience. The three short acts were punctuated with fairly long intermissions, and a large choice of very nice food and drink was available during them -- once again, at non-prohibitive prices.

I don't know if this is more of a big-city thing, or a Dutch thing, or a ballet thing, but I found the longer intermissions with a chance to nibble on nice food and enjoy the ambiance very pleasant.

Also the show's starting time was right for me -- 7:15 pm. This may also allow for the longer intermissions that were provided.

All in all, it was a grand evening, and we were snug back in our hotel by 11pm.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Amsterdam Three: Day Two

I'm finally back to my Amsterdam series, and only on Day Two of our trip! It's been a long time since I've put together multi-photo posts, and it takes a while. But here are a few selections from our second day.

We started off Sunday Dec. 27th with a beautiful but brisk walk to The Amsterdam Music Theater in hope of buying tickets for a ballet that evening. We were advised to come back and buy at the door before the show, as student prices are only ten euros under this system.

We didn't go for nothing, though, because it is an intriguing building both inside:

and outside:

(First three photos courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Our main sightseeing activity, that afternoon, was going to the Foam photo museum. Before visiting the exhibits, we warmed up with delicious and reasonably-priced soups and sandwiches in the restaurant café:

From what I gather, this photography museum shows temporary exhibits only, and the main one going on was photos by Alexander Rodchenko. It gave an intriguing look at life in the Soviet Union during the 20s and 30s.

The Foam museum is in a larg former home along the Keizersgracht, and we all enjoyed the archicture of the building as well as the exhibit and the atmosphere:

Dinner was Indonesian, although we didn't go in for a large, expensive meal. Caught in a rainstorm at about 5:30pm, we ran into this restaurant and were lucky enough to get in. I didn't write down what we ate, but we all had one-bowl dishes that look very much like the one in their Internet advertisement photo: a great deal at just under 10 euros per person.

There is actually more to tell about this day as it included an evening out...but I can save that for another NaBloPoMo post!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A night at the opera

I've always heard a lot about Mozart's The Magic Flute, and of course know the Queen of the Night's famous aria from the second act. But although I enjoy opera, and would like to enjoy it more through knowing more about it -- isn't that the only way?

I had never actually seen a production of La Flûte Enchantée, so I was attracted by the colorful posters all over Rodez for the production by l'Opéra Eclaté, and decided to buy a ticket at the door.

Although the show was far from sold out, I was quite impressed by the number of people willing to go to the Rodez Amphithéâtre to see an opera during the week.

The necessarily pared-down staging didn't make for an all-out spectacle, but the musical quality was quite strong, and I am happy to say I indulged in a "night at the opera" in my home town.

Out and about and oops

It's not that I exactly forgot to post yesterday, I just forgot that the day's schedule wouldn't allow me to do so in the evening -- and it didn't even cross my mind in the morning.

Yesterday I got home from a cultural outing (photo and explanation to come...) past midnight, so even if I had mustered up the energy to write something yesterday, officially it would have been today already.

So, tant pis. I will chime this evening to make up for the "lost post."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 78

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NaBloPoMo -- over halfway through

I hate to say it right out loud, and I am saying it out loud as I write, but NaBloPoMo has been a bit on the hellish side.

I have never had any desire for La France Profonde to become a DAILY blog, and find it a little frustrating that the (very) few good posts I have written this month get quickly covered up by slop like what I'm typing tonight.

But I will persevere -- we are more than halfway through!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Trouvez La France Profonde

I've probably already blogged about how, along with the insane decision to participate in NaBloPoMo during one of my high-work-level, low-energy-level months, I also signed up for a type of collaborative online class called images4education.

One of our "tasks" has been to post a view from our window to Flickr. By chance, by choice, or because I posted mine late, my photo was selected for this mosaic that was sent out to the whole group.

Can you find the view from my window?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

To A Taste of Garlic -- merci beaucoup!

The screenshot for the review of my blog on "A Taste of Garlic"

This morning, I was thrilled to discover through a Google alert that Keith Eckstein had published a review of La France Profonde.

I'd recently become aware of a his most delightful blog where he reviews other blogs related to France: A Taste of Garlic. I think I first got onto his blogging concept when I learned that he had reviewed Living the Life in Saint Aignan, written by my longtime blogging buddy Ken Broadhurst.

If you're looking for France-related blogs, A Taste of Garlic is a gold mine. But read the review of La France Profonde first...

Merci Keith!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Amsterdam Two: Day One

(Near our hotel in Amsterdam)

This week has been so wild that I am only now getting back to writing about our trip to Amsterdam.

Excuse me if I go into a little micro-detail here, but I've decided to do these posts partly for my family. Rather than writing a long email rundown about our trip, I thought it might be fun to write here and include photos.

First, below you can see our hotel. I would highly recommend the Hotel Mercure Arthur Frommer provided you can get a deal where you pay about 25% of the normal room price, as we did:

(Our hotel, clearly NOT on a very busy street!)

The price my travel agent found for us for three nights (two rooms a night) with breakfast included seemed highly reasonable, but I didn't know just what a great deal we were getting.

Imagine my surprise when we arrived and I saw that the posted price for one double room for one night was practically 300 euros, and breakfast 16 euros per person!

My knees were going a little weak until I remembered that we had prepaid our hotel, and I had papers to show for it. Each room had cost us about 80 euros a night, breakfast included. I had never bought a prepaid hotel package and may well look into this possibility again. It sure allowed us to have nice accomodations for a reasonable price.

This hotel has the advantage of being on a very quiet, residential street, yet only about a ten-minute walk in any direction from many of Amsterdam's major attractions. It is located on Noorderstraat, just south of the Prinsengracht canal.

Although it had been a tad bit challenging to leave Aveyron at 3:00 am to catch our early flight out of Toulouse, we were in Amsterdam by noon and that meant having a full first day.

As I like to do when I first get to a city, we spent our first day just walking around and getting our bearings. We were surrounded by beautiful views:

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau, who deeply regretted not taking his mega-Pentax with him...)

I had been to Amsterdam just once before, in 1994, and didn't remember much; nor had I done much research before this trip. So I didn't really know what to expect in the restaurant department. Overall, we were pleased by the quality and reasonable prices of food and drink in the city.

I didn't do any food blogging as such, so no photos of our meals...but I will tell you where we had them. Our first evening's dinner was in the Castillo Tapas Bar and Steakhouse on the Reguliersdwarsstraat, which has plenty of reasonably-priced restaurants.

We all enjoyed being able to eat early, and on our first evening, we got back to the hotel just a little past 7pm! We all wanted to make up for the previous short night and to be able to hit the town running on the next day, Sunday, December 27th, which we figured would be pretty calm....

Friday, January 15, 2010

Not to be confused with...

...Le Dîner des Cons , incidentally playing, and already sold out, at the Rodez Amphithéâtre on Feb. 23.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What a week!

This week has been crazy. The weather has wreaked havoc on driving conditions, our bunny died, I have had several evening meetings. Basically, I'm feeling behind on everything.

And here I am doing NaBloPoMo PLUS I have signed up, rather insanely I must admit, for a 6-week EVO class called Images4Education that started Monday.

I don't even know what EVO stands for, but the class platform is on Ning -- I hardly understand what that is either, but I'm starting to navigate the Ning thing...

Image courtesy of Hallmark by the way. Click here if you want to buy a "What a Week sound button" -- whatever that is.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 77

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Good-bye Blacky

Until today, my daily life in France included a sweet little dwarf rabbit that roamed free in our house like a cat.

At the ripe bunny age of five and a half, Blacky slipped away from us today. I am philosophical about the loss of pets, but I will still miss the pitter-patter of his paws, his funny antics, and his general presence.

For the first time for almost 10 years, we are left with no pet. (We had a series of guinea pigs from 2000-2008, including one who lived for eight years!)

Anyway, tonight my husband cried. I cried. My youngest daughter cried.

Then a bit later, she said "Wouldn't you like to have a dog?"

Monday, January 11, 2010

Amsterdam 1

What Christmas present is suitable for teenage daughters who have, by their own admission, virtually everything?

A trip.

This year, rather than going overboard on packages (we still had a few), all four of us took off to the Dutch capital from December 26-29.

It was a crazy idea, in a way. Winter travel can be hell, and we had proof of that just a week and a half before our departure when a snowstorm shut down Paris airports and temporarily paralyzed the roads in our area. But I had checked out the weather report (read: plans were made at the last minute) and everything looked viable for the week between Christmas and New Year's. And it was.

Four full days, only three nights, but a rich experience for "the whole family" -- a family that had been separated for ten months during my youngest daughter's stay in the USA last year.

I have a lot to say about this trip, and am going to try to find the words this week to say it...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weekend = gone

Sorry, I don't even have time to make a blog of mine, much less a graph...

Saturday, January 09, 2010


The world from my window today

The French expression for "Brrrrrr...." is "gla-gla-gla." It's an utterance I've never adopted -- would you want to say "gla-gla-gla" if you were freezing, as we are right now in Aveyron?

I was just wondering how other non-native French speakers feel about "gla-gla-gla." For me it somehow doesn't cut it.

Brrrrr...I do like snow, but there is something ominous about this cold snap and its fine flakes that are already starting to form drifts. As I write, half of our deck is totally visible; the other half has accumulated all of the snow. There's a chilly wind factor going on here -- a definite sign that this is not your typical peaceful snowfall.

Last night the snow stopped around midnight and it wasn't snowing in the morning, but the sky had that dull grey look to it that cold (that was a typo, but it is so Freudian, I'm keeping it!) me there was more to come. I was right. We will see what tomorrow brings!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Alerte orange

Will my village look like this tomorrow morning...

...or like this?

With an "alerte orange" announced for a whole lot of French départements, I'm expecting plenty of snowy blogs this weekend. According to Météo France, the orange part of France below needs to be "very vigilant" about snow and black ice for at least the next 24 hours:

That's an awful lot of France, despite the tiny picture that I don't feel like resizing.

Say no more, say no more! If I'm lucky, I can blog about the snow all weekend!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

What was I thinking?

Six days into NaBloPoMo, and I almost forgot to post this evening.

What was I thinking when I signed up?

Being in the dead of winter, with my energy level at a corresponding low, this was no time to undertake unreasonably ambitious projects.

But I will hang in there, if only for her...and partners in NaBloPoMo crime.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sidebar statement

You know you're doing NaBloPoMo when you're reduced to writing a post about your blog sidebar. But I do have a few things to say on the matter, and that is what's going to get said this evening.

As part of whipping this blog back into shape, I have undertaken a major sidebar clean-up. Every blog that lay to the right of my posts got checked out, was deleted or kept, and sometimes recategorized. My main reason for deleting blogs was that they appeared to be inactive or, of course, shut down entirely. Some blogs fell into this category, but not as many as I thought.

Now I plan to start transferring links from my two defunct blogs, And So Forth and Cuisine Quotidienne. That may take some time, and in fact may well wait until February, when the NaBloPoMo marathon ends.

Oh yes, and the point of all this? It's that I'm never going back here again.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The lights come down in Rodez -- mais pas chez moi!

(Christmas lights on the Avenue Victor Hugo, Rodez)

This evening my eldest daughter announced to me, quite morosely, that the Christmas lights in Rodez were being taken down.

Mais bien sûr! The French are pretty quick about removing their holiday decorations, although perhaps not as swift as Americans or the British who, from what I've been reading, seem to feel that "everything must go" no later than January the 2nd.

The situation is different in our house. We have made a conscious decision to keep the Christmas tree and other holiday decorations up until...late January.

Of course this means having an artificial tree -- something that, as a Pacific Northwesterner, I was originally loath to do. But the desire to keep Christmas cheer in our home after la rentrée de janvier won out a few years back.

Since the whole family loves Christmas lighting, I think we were right in our choice. This year, I was struck by all the Facebook updates and tweets from friends who were sad, even "depressed," about taking down their Christmas decorations.

At least we have found our solution to that problem. By the time we finally pack ours away, we are actually pretty sick of them!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A different vision of La France Profonde

(Photo courtesy of Nick Terrett)

For years, I have subscribed to a Google alert, in English, for the term France Profonde. Often references have popped up that I have meant to blog about, but time goes by and I don't get to them.

But when I read here that the Wellesley, Massachusetts library was hosting a photo exhibit called La France Profonde, I decided I would definitely do a post. I even contacted the exhibitor, Nick Terrett, who sent me a few photos and links to his work.

Nick focuses on the Limousin region, which includes the departments of Corrèze, Creuse and the Haute Vienne. I know Corrèze well, and it has always seemed a little less profonde to me, France-wise, than Aveyron.

But Creuse is likely a better example of "deep France" than my area. Ranked 99th out of 100 in department population -- only Lozère, which neighbors Aveyron, has fewer residents -- it is indeed a pretty isolated place, and about as profonde as France gets:

(Photo courtesy of Nick Terrett)

Actually, the above shot appears to be in Corrèze, but you get the idea!

The article about Nick's exhibit states that "No region more clearly exemplifies La France Profonde than the Limousin.... Perhaps so, perhaps not. However, my purpose here is not to try to establish just where is the deepest, darkest corner of France, but simply to share Nick's photos and give his exhibit a little publicity.

Nick's photos of La France Profonde will be on display at the Wellesley Free Library, 530 Washington Street, Wellesley (MA) from Monday January 4th 2010 until Sunday January 31st 2010 during normal library hours.

Since you may not be making the trip, you can of course view Nick's photo album entitled La France Profonde online.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Four Years of La France Profonde

With all of the activity of Christmas and our trip to Amsterdam squeezed in between Christmas and New Year's, I didn't even think of taking the time to recognize a milestone: the 4th anniversary of the creation of La France Profonde.

Those were heady times. Sure, some of the contacts I made in that first year had already been blogging for a while. I remember being so impressed that SHE had been showering the blogosphere with her genius since 2004 (!) But many of you, I think, had started around the same time or were to start during 2006.

My initial objective for this blog was simply to write about Aveyron. I imagined a near-journalistic, factual approach to the subject, and at one time even started doing some historical research about the area. I saw blogging as a ""publish and be read" activity, and didn't even know that comments would be left, contacts would be made, and friendships would be built as a result of this space.

Along the line, I created two other blogs, Cuisine Quotidienne and And So Forth. The former enjoyed mild success, but I have lost my cooking drive for the moment, and think if I do get it back, I will post about cooking here.

If truth be told, time for my two other blogs likely got funneled into Facebook and Twitter, which have been rich additions to my online life.

Over the past few months, I have lacked inspiration for keeping up even this blog, but have decided it is an important part of my life -- thus the injection of some NaBloPoMo mojo for January 2010!

And yes, expect a few ramblings about blogging and the future direction of La France Profonde during my marathon of 31 posts...any suggestions are welcome!

Friday, January 01, 2010

The traditional Happy New Year post

First, let me wish you (any readers I have left) a grand 2010, full of good things in whatever size packages they come in!

Second, without making any huge proclamations about blogging New Year's Resolutions, I have taken the plunge of participating, for the second time, in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month.) Traditionally, NaBloPoMo is in November, but it is possible to sign up for any month.

What does one sign up for exactly? The commitment to posting once a day for the entire month.

Perhaps it was in the stars, but one of my best blogging buddies, who has also been a bit lacking in the blogging inspiration department, has signed up too.

Wish us luck!