Archive for November, 2006

Eating out

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Last night, Bill and I managed to have a grown-up night-out. A brother-sister teenage babysitting duo volunteered to sit for us… at their home so mom and dad were home in case of a real emergency. The first restaurant we’d called to make reservations was closed because Saturday was a bank holiday. I was not giving up my night out… so Bill found a restaurant he’d remembered driving by. Or so we thought.

After dropping off Kaitlyn we headed up the mountain to our awaiting table. Up and up and up… past where Bill thought we were going… into a national forest… up and up and up… Finally we saw the sign for the hotel/restaurant we’d called. It wasn’t big or fancy, which around here means absolutely nothing. The small parking lot had about half a dozen cars in it – almost all pricey BMW’s. Bill said that was a good sign. But being so far up the mountain and apparently so far in the middle of nowhere, Bill was a bit worried that our French would really be put to the test.

Inside, the woman behind the desk smiled and led us into the dining room and said “sit wherever you want… but I have to warn you a loud party of ten will be sitting at that table.” I know for certain that is what she said because she did so with perfect English. It’s always kind of a let-down when we go out and someone speaks to us in English, because I kind of do want the chance to practice my French. But it’s always kind of a relief, too.

The décor was more reminiscent of a Cracker Barrel than of what I’d think of as a French restaurant. I guess it goes to show, cheesy country is cheesy country wherever you are. Teddy bears were everywhere you looked, including hanging off a lampshade and peering over Bill’s arm while we ate. Each table’s salt and pepper shakers were on a little piece of wood with fake fauna and an animal. Ours was a cow. Bill noticed the people behind us had a beaver guarding the seasonings.

I’d secretly been hoping for some scallops, but didn’t see any on the menu. (I have learned to recognize things I really like… and things I really hate) We settled in on a meal for two which we deciphered as some sort of beef fondue. I hadn’t quite had enough of a chance to figure out what were on the different salad choices, so after Bill ordered I went for the old stand-by “meme chose.” Same choice. Yea, I’m a chicken. But I was a happy chicken when I tasted the salad. Mind you, top to bottom it was all stuff I’d have been reluctant to eat at home. I’d have never in a million years imagined Bill would touch it. The lettuce looked like weeds, the cheese was a little strong (I still fear the cheese here), there were little chunks of bacon (apparently that’s what was listed as “lard”), crutons soaked in bacon grease, no real dressing except for the grease and maybe some vinegar, walnuts and black olives. Oh, and tomatoes. It was one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Bill ate even more of his than I ate of mine.

Then, the main course arrived. Yes, we’d guessed right that we had to do the cooking ourselves at the table. (kind of funny since one reason to go out was to not have to cook!) But it wasn’t done by plunging the meat into boiling oil, which had been my assumption. It was done by sticking the slices of beef onto the side of this big, sizzling hot bell contraption the waiter brought to the table. It was pretty good. There were three sauces to go with it and potatoes, broccoli and broiled tomatoes.


I was a bit disappointed the dessert choices did not include any chocolate. Three kinds of tarts. I picked pear. Bill ordered la meme chose. He didn’t mean to – he thought I’d ordered the berries. So we went out to dinner to a place we didn’t mean to go to and ended up eating the exact same things and cooking it ourselves! The only thing we didn’t have to do was the dishes!

Laundry melt-down

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

power in France: part deux


Thank goodness we decided to work on putting together shelves and putting away the final boxes while doing a little laundry this morning. Because we nearly burned down the house and very well might have if we’d done that laundry then left the house.

I was walking by the washer/dryer and thought I smelled something burning. But I seem to always think I’m smelling something burning and Bill says my nose is mistaken.

Apparently, my nose was right.

A little later, I walked by the washer and dryer and noticed the washer had stopped washing mid-cycle. My nose had been trying to tell me what was going on… the outlet we’d plugged both appliances into with the help of a thingie to turn a single-plug outlet into a double-plug outlet was melting. All this time I’ve been smelling the plastic and wires smouldering.

Now, one who comes from a country filled with gfci outlets and breakers that actually break when there is a problem and regulations for plugging in one’s dryer to begin with wouldn’t expect your outlet to just melt. The breaker never tripped. It’s as if when they built this house just two years ago, the owners simply could not imagine ever – ever – wanting to plug in more than just a dinky French washing machine there. Apparently, he figured that even when it is zero degrees celcius outside, that’s where you dry your clothes. (How do clothes dry outside when it is freezing?)

Engineer Bill pulled out the melted outlet. I don’t understand exactly what he said other than this: it wasn’t the right outlet for that spot.

He found another, unmelted, outlet in the garage and installed that. Now we can use the washer and dryer… just not at the same time.

power of France

Friday, November 10th, 2006

Tonight we learned that power in France is about more than plug converters and transformers.

Bill has been trying to set up the computer… and all that goes with it. I’m not even sure what “all that” really involves other than a tangle of cords and plugs and battery back up thingamagiggers. Nearly every time he plugs something in, all the power in the house goes out. Plug in… lights out… plug in… lights out. Now maybe to those who have called France home all their lives, this is totally normal. Expected even. For those of us who have called France home for a few weeks, it is frustrating. Annoying even.

The root of this evil in our maison seems to be traceable to one power strip that the electricity just doesn’t like. No, mabye Bill said it is one transformer. Yea, that’s it the transformer. So the expensive (I still don’t know what we paid and still don’t want to) transformer he bought in the United States yields our home power-less. Good if you’re talking about a super hero taking on an evil scientist. Bad if you’re talking about plugging ordinary items into a socket.

I’m not saying we should just chuck all of our American goods and rush out to Carrefour to buy French stuff. But I do think that messing around with transformers and the like to do something as routine as plug in an alarm clock isn’t really worth the hassle. For what I’m going to imagine is a small fraction of the cost of the transformer in the bedroom, we could have bought a clock that not only plugs directly into the wall but that you can actually set. For whatever reason, the clock we have juiced up with good ol’ American help cannot tell the time. I’m just going to go turn on my French coffee pot and brew a little java… er, cafe… and sit back and enjoy the candlelight.


Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Today I put out my Thanksgiving decorations. There’s the little turkey wearing a sign that says “eat beef.” The tin bucket thingie that says “give thanks” and, of course, the glass turkey candy dish. Kaitlyn and I made a turkey out of construction paper, which she painted. It is lovely.

I am not really sure why I felt such a burning desire to display my dinde doo-dads. (note: dinde is turkey in French. Something I wish I’d known the other day at… yes, Carrefour… when I kept seeing poultry labeled “dinde” but I was too afraid to buy it because there was no picture. Duh, like how many kinds of poultry are there other than chicken which I know is poulet, duck which I know is canard and TURKEY? DUH)

Anyway, I have now seasoned my home with a taste of Thanksgiving… a holiday I had to explain to my French teacher. Before I moved, someone pointed out my near obsession with being able to obtain Thanksgiving food here. (I even had read that there is a store in Paris where one can buy American food. The name? Thanksgiving, of course. A Google search shows it is true.) I explained it away, saying I just love the foods served at the traditional gorging. True enough. I do. I could eat them all the time. But that isn’t really why I have latched onto the holiday this year. Suddenly, I feel some need to really think about what it is that I am thankful for.

Ok. Let’s think about it.

My husband. He doesn’t always listen but he’s always, ALWAYS there for me.

My daughter. See above note about husband, it pretty much applies here.

My family.

My friends. I found out when I left North Carolina just how many friends I’d really made.

My French-English dictionary.