Monday, March 29, 2010

One Person’s Trash…..

Like every Monday, today's story was originally written in 2009, during my first year here in Aix en Provence. However, the photo was taken yesterday. I still continue my exploits!

Yesterday, while walking down my little street, I came upon a shopping cart. Yep, the metal basket on wheels found at the grocery store or next to a homeless person sleeping in the park.  I have to say, I was really excited to find it and actually walked around it a few times, trying to figure out how I might be able to get it up the stairs and where I would store it in my apartment.

In fact, a shopping cart all my own is practically like having a car. With my very own shopping cart I could haul all my treasures around without breaking my back. I could ride it down the street just for fun in the middle of the night when no one is looking. I could move from one apartment to the other without having to beg friends for their cars.

However, I stopped, got myself in check, and decided I really didn’t need to finish my first year in a new town wandering around with a shopping cart!  Delana, get a grip!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Le Marché aux Fleurs

I love Saturday mornings in Aix. The streets are alive with people and all of our markets are bustling. I never tire of the markets. The explosion of colors and smells and people draws me at least once each week and Saturday is my favorite.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

St. Victoire

When I first saw La Montagne Sainte Victoire, I was mildly disappointed, I have to say. I was expecting a monumental, snow peaked sort of thing. A pillar of cold fire that would make me feel small and little frightened. Instead I found a sturdy, reliable, limestone mound of everything-you-want-it-to-be-when-you-need-it. 
Paul Cezanne painted this mountain more than 60 times. I'm beginning to understand why. This mountain has a base like my rear end…wide and far reaching. It’s solidly planted (I, however, am not) and it's sort of raw and utilitarian. It has a completely different persona depending upon your vantage point. From the south it solitarily rises up from the planes like an eruption and takes you by surprise. From the north, near the village of Vauvenargues, it has the appearance of foothills and it seems to wrap itself around you. There it gives me the sense of being nestled in…comfortable.

Monday, March 22, 2010

French Expressionists

This past week, 82-year-old Simone Veil was inducted into the Academie Française. This amazing woman is a holocaust survivor, champion of women's rights here in France and across Europe, and only the 6th women to become a member of this prestigious institution. She joins the likes of Alexandre Dumas, Louis Pasteur, Voltaire and Victor Hugo on the list of those who have worn the green robes. This Monday memory is in honor of her induction....even though I'm absolutely sure she'd be mortified if she knew it.

The French language is for me, one of the most beautiful in the world. It is fluid and melodic and these qualities… this euphony…is considered one of its most important characteristics.  The French share my enthusiasm for their mother tongue. They are proud of it…proud enough to actually have an official body, called the Academie Française, whose job it is to stand as sentinel against any perceived pollution of the language. These 40 people, who are appointed for life (thus they hold the title “les immortels”) make decisions on grammar and usage, which words will be permitted into the official language, what English words will not be allowed and what should replace them. They direct the compilation of the official dictionary and have been doing so since 1635. (In recent history, they’ve only allowed regular, or simple, verbs that are all conjugated exactly the same way which is great news for imbeciles like me!)) And luckily for me they are only safeguarding the written language because there is much more to it than that.

One of the funniest things I’ve observed when watching and listening to French speakers is their use of sounds, facial expressions and body movements. Of course, people of all nationalities use them. But here in France, these seem more vigorous and distinct.  Of course writing down what they sound like is impossible and their exact meaning is even more difficult to discern which is probably the reason “les immortels” have avoided the issue entirely! But les gestes français are considered important enough to be taught in French language classes and explained in detail on numerous internet sites

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And while we're on the subject of dating

alluringlady-4 Pictures, Images and PhotosIt took me almost a year after my ex-pectorant left me to realize it was time to get back in the game.  At the same time that I was scared as hell to start dating again, I was anxious to see what the world of singledom was like....26 years later. It took me about 5 minutes to realize it is not a simple thing to meet nice, interesting, intelligent men. Do they even exist and where the hell do you find them?

So, I decided to take the bull by the horns so to speak....bite the bullet, take the plunge... and I signed up for It was amazingly simple to begin...I had a friend take some photos, I whipped up a profile complete with my expectations and aspirations, entered my zip code and waited for the fun to begin.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Date

Same time....last year.

I have been told by many people, who have learned the French language, that the very best way to learn is to find a French boyfriend.  Now, I’m really not in the market for a boyfriend, French or otherwise, but when my French teacher actually made the suggestion I thought I’d at least better think about it. I’m on a mission, after all, and learning tools are always important. So when the fabulous dancer asked me out, I decided to explore this method a little further.

I’m not new to dating exactly, so I wasn’t really nervous about the date. How hard can this be, after all? Imagine the beautiful language being spoken in your ear. Envision the exquisite flowers and the mouthwatering chocolate that will most surely be lavished upon you. Picture an evening with a French painter who restores 17th century furniture, composes music and adores jazz. Hey, I’ve seen all the movies! And this is my kind of guy. I could actually have a French romance. How cool is that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What a Day!

There have been hundreds of times in my life when I've said, "What a day!". Or "I've  had a big day today".  Or "man, I'm pooped...I did a lot today". But yesterday takes the cake.

Yesterday Vreni and I hit the slopes by 9:30 am. It was a beautiful, clear day and we didn’t want to waste a minute. It was our first day skiing and aside from a half a day in Chamonix last year, I haven’t skied in a long time. Now that I live in the south, I haven't got anything useful for ski vacation but I didn't need to worry. I had to  rent a pair of ski boots but aside from that, every thing I had on and all my equipment was borrowed from my friends Doreen and Vreni. Truly, the only thing I had on that was my own was my underwear.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Monday Memories..

Lately, I’ve been a little confused about who gets to live on the first floor of the apartments in Aix en Provence because I certainly have not met one of them! Everybody I know seems to live at the top of the building and in the old part of the city, I have yet to meet an elevator. To enter an apartment here in Aix, you generally go through some massive, ancient, beautiful door that opens directly from the street. The door may be delicately carved with fruits or flowers, it may be embellished with geometric designs, or it may be just strong and utilitarian, but in all cases, the doors feel like a door should. Just pushing open one of these heavy antiques causes me to feel a sort of tingling anticipation of the beauty that must surely await me on the other side. 

Then I enter into what looks like...a hellhole. Always! Every time I pass through on of these portals, I am sure I've made a serious mistake and I want to turn and run. Paint peeling off the ceiling, cracks in the walls and the tile, dirt on the floor, possibly a little graffiti thrown in for good measure, and complete and total darkness. I feel like a rat will run over my toes at any moment! It doesn't matter how beautiful the apartment is that awaits me, the entries seem to always look the same. That is, after I've located the light switch so I can actually see.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Frog's Eyes and Cows

It's snowing today. In fact, the roads are now closed to anyone without chains on their tires. The radio just announced that there have been more than 100 accidents on the road during the last two hours and all schools are closed. We have a set of chains in the trunk, but Vreni and I have no plans to go anywhere. We have plenty of great wine, several delicious chunks of local cheese and stacks of wood for the fireplace. What could possibly be the problem?

Thursday night, after driving across Switzerland from her house in Reinach, we landed in Arosa, a winter dream. We haven't had a truly clear day so I'm not able to see the tops of the mountains but what I can see is incredible. There is something about loads of snow and the mountains that actually makes me feel warm! 

Yesterday we hiked through the Alps for most of the day. The interesting thing about this area is hikers have as much priority as skiiers and anything you can see on skiis, you can see on foot. The hike up was a little rough. It takes a couple of days to get used to the altitude but Vreni was kind to me and didn't try to kick my butt. Around noon we descended into a valley dotted with a few chalets, a hotel and our destination, a small fromagerie (cheese shop/factory) called Sennerei Maran.

There are many small dairy farmers in the mountains surrounding Arosa. Between all of them, they own around 400 cows that together produce more than 400,000 kilos of milk each season. Vreni tells me the cows here have priority and wander free all summer. It's not unusual to find them helping themselves to your garden and of course, leaving behind the remnants of their lunch. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Hills Are Alive...

I’m going to Switzerland  today. I want to get a little skiing in before the snow melts off the Alps.

That was SO MUCH FUN TO SAY! How did I do? Perhaps I should say it like this….”My Blackberry showed a few free days this week, so I rearranged the rest of my schedule and now have some time blocked off and can work in my annual spring ski trip to the Alps”

Or maybe, “I’m frightfully tired of Cotes du Rhone and Camembert, it’s time for a little fondue and beer and men in tight ski pants.”

I’ll keep practicing.

The fact is, my Swiss friend Vreni invited me to stay with her for 10 days and do a little skiing or shopping or whatever strikes our fancy. I met Vreni in my language class last semester and in spite of a minor communication problem (namely, she speaks German, I speak English, we attempt French together and she’s way, way, way ahead of me), we seem to be kindred spirits. I’m excited for some “girl time”.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lesson 1-Have a Friend Who Cooks

Monday reminiscing...same time last year.

I actually had no idea what month it was until I just checked the calendar this morning. That's a little scary and a little wonderful all at the same time. I seem to amble about my days in some sort of permanent vacation that I know has to stop soon.

Every morning the voices of the teenagers at the school begin to swell underneath my window at about 7:15.The rise and fall of their voices and then the eventual din of their morning chats wakes me up like one of those slow alarm clocks that gets louder and louder the longer you ignore it. I don't mind this alarm clock. But I never treat it as the perfect rooster that it is. Instead I listen, smile, make some sort of noise of contentment at their complete happiness at being alive (even though I'm sure through all their teenage angst they're not aware that's what it is), roll over, wait for the swell to return to the sea, and then promptly go back to sleep. Until I hear the rapid click, click, click of the heels of the woman upstairs. I hear the urgency of her walk as she gets ready to go to work and the doors open and shut as she leaves her apartment and ultimately, the building. I purr again because those are not my overworked heels preparing for a day at the office. Again, I roll over and I go to that place of half sleep where dreams are vivid and memorable and one sometimes has a little control over the outcome. And I manage to stay there until some such hour that half the day is gone and every disciplined thing I've planned to do today has once again become something I can just as easily do tomorrow.