Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Very Full Month

View of Najac from the VVF
A week after my last post, I fell. We almost had to replace the mailbox, which is in the lower part of our gate, but Paul managed to pound it back into shape. I more or less plunged into it as I tripped on a flagstone! My glasses flew off after cutting my eyebrow; One of the lenses got scratched and had to be replaced and my brow needed 6 stitches. I sprained my wrist, but that was not officially diagnosed until 2 weeks later when I was wondering why it was feeling worse instead of better. I had scratched up knees and a big bruise that is still a bit tender.
I couldn't knit! Hand knitting was out because it does require a bit of wrist flexibility and machine knitting was out because pushing the carriage with my right hand hurt and even when I used my left, there are manipulations that require using my right.
Just before that, however, I won an ebay auction for a Brother 950 machine and a compatible ribber! In order to save a bit, I had it delivered to C's house and they brought it down in their car in mid-August. I have now set up the machine (just yesterday, in fact) and will work a bit on it if the room doesn't get too hot. We're expecting the temperature to get up to 37°C today. That's 98.6°F!
At the end of July, C flew into Paris with Au. She spent one night with us and then went off to a friend's birthday party and went straight back to England from there. Au stayed two weeks with us -- first time visit all on her own!
The next day, it was back to the airport to pick up K & S, on their way from Italy to Israel. We didn't really get to spend much time with them -- a shame, but the weekend plans were set: a day at
Start of the festivities at Disneyland
Disneyland Paris with the Parisian cousins, uncle and aunts, to start off. She also spent a night with the Parisian cousins and went to the aquarium with them. S. came home with us after that and spent the next night, here, with Au.  We did some high culture, too: the Musée d'Orsay and the Studio Blue Sky art exhibit; animated film art from the first pencil sketches to the finished product -- very interesting and there's some really beautiful artwork. Paul took her to the top of the Arc de Triomphe one day when I had a meeting in Paris. The second week, we stayed more at home and she helped me knit. By this time I had a brace on my wrist to prevent awkward movements. She was the motor, pushing the carriage back and forth and I was the manipulator, creating the cables. She knit herself a scarf and the two of us collaborated for the cardigan and hat. We also watched some of the Olympics. It's a shame the gymnastics were on so late, here in France. She loves gymnastics and swimming. We had a nice picnic lunch with A in the Parc Floral and Au had a nice day out - aunt and niece - in Paris. We also had a visit to see the
A full moon over Ginals
On the second Friday of her stay, we left for Najac. We arrived at E & G's in Ginals fairly early in the afternoon for a nice visit with them before heading to the hotel in Najac. They then joined us at the hotel, later, for dinner. It's become a tradition. The menu at the hotel Le Belle Rive is somewhat of a tradition, too; it doesn't change. It's still a very nice, friendly, inexpensive hotel, and it has a swimming pool and a tennis court.
Saturday, we visited Najac. First, we got the little treasure hunt booklet from the tourist office for A and then set off. We covered the whole town from the market place to the church at the other end -- down hill, up hill, down hill, up hill...., a visit to the potter for the stages of pottery making, investigating the bakery for the story of "fouace", finding the architectural elements of midieval buildings....  We did not go all the way up to the fortress. (You can read about last year's visit.) We had lunch on the way back to the tourist office and then, after Au collected her treasure, we went back to E's to wait for the rest of the Northampton family to arrive! The kittens (also mentioned in last year's posts) have grown and are very friendly. They still follow E and G around everywhere if it's close to meal time, but are very independent, otherwise. The wet, wet spring has given way to an extremely dry summer and the vegetable garden has suffered a bit, but there are still plenty of tomatoes.
The family arrived and after a short hello, we accompanied them to the VVF (Village Vacance Familiales) for their check-in, which took more than an hour. They were sent to the very last bungalow down the very steep hill. All the activities are at the top.
We had a picnic lunch at the bungalow on Sunday. It's very near the viewpoint -- a spectacular view of Najac and the setting off point for some hikes to Najac and to the St. Blaise bridge. If you believe the hiking times posted, it would take about as much time to hike over to Najac as to go up the hill to the parking lot to get the car to drive there. Same for the bridge! We stayed in Najac while we waited for the Parisian family to arrive. They had a bit of a mishap on arrival. They had parked the car temporarily while they went off to find the "gite" they had rented. Going back to the car to drive it up to the gite, it wouldn't start. It was parked at such an angle that the gas wasn't making it to the engine. What is nice about family vacations is that we were there. The gite owner lent L a couple of 5-liter recipients and Paul drove him to the gas station for more gas. In the mean time, G unloaded the car and dragged everything up the steep hill to the gite, which is right across from the church. I stayed with the kids so she could absent herself to do this. It took quite a few trips! On filling up, however, the car still wouldn't start. The gite owner got out his car and towed L's car to a flatter position, where is finally started. When he went back to the gas station to fill up, he didn't need to put in much gas. It wasn't empty when this happened, just parked at a really bad angle! The British family was already at E and G's (all my in-law children's names begin with G!) for our big family barbecue dinner, so we set off with the Parisians as soon as we could. All the Lebelle cousins together! Lots of fun with the kittens and just the freedom to run around. The evening ended with a beautiful sunset and a full moon.
St. Blaise bridge, 13th century
The next day, we picnicked at the St. Blaise bridge. Paul and I walked over from the hotel, a little over a mile along the river. We got there very early and staked out a table. I sat on the riverbank and tried to draw the bridge. There were canoe-ers out for the day; a couple of them stopped to jump into the river from the bridge. They really had to know where it was deep enough, because the river is not at all deep these days. The British family arrived. Ch sat in the same spot I had occupied and in just a few minutes had a much more reasonable drawing! We started our picnic and A arrived. She had left Paris on Saturday and spent the night a few hours from us. This made it a big family vacation. We had all our kids and grandkids more or less with us. In fact, on Monday, L & G invited us all to their gite for a full family barbecue. On Thursday, we all, minus one, visited Cordes-sur-Ciel and Albi (last year's visit). Friday, another full family barbecue lunch before A set off for Paris.  Saturday, L and G, et al, went off to the beach for the second week of their vacation and we went with the British family to St.-Cirq-Lapopie and PechMerle in the afternoon. We didn't visit the cave this year, we stayed outside with the little one while the others visited. Sunday, another picnic at the bungalow and later in the day we went to E and G's to say good-bye. We left Najac early on Monday morning.
As usual, no family pics in the blog. I've sent the links to family members.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Again, and again, and again

I don't like writing about current events, except when they affect me or my family. None of us were in Nice the other day, so we are all safe and sound. Some family members live in Orlando, but none were out dancing that horrible night. Friends live in Brussels, and luckily, none were injured in the rampage there. Going back to last year, dear friends of ours lost a family member in the Charlie Hebdo attack. Friends of other family members lost their only child at the Bataclan in November; her fiancé, also an only child, also died. A café I go to when I'm near Nation was hit by a suicide bomber in that November 13 attack and luckily he was his only dead victim, but the café did have to close for renovation and I've been back a couple of times. Life goes on, but one does remember that this happened here.

We've gone from the ISIS directed attacks to the ISIS inspired ones. How on earth can the police, military, and intelligence services discover the nut cases that will be inspired to such acts? It's been hard enough to keep track of the fanatics who are known for their affiliation, but the ones who are feeling rejected and in trolling the Internet find the recipe for fame and taking a bunch of victims with them are impossible to find before their switch goes on.

When I should be writing about the very nice visit we had from our nephew, just graduated and off to start his career as a trauma ICU nurse, I'm stuck on the state of the world, in general, and the state of France, in particular. I won't even venture into the state of the United States.

Let me get to that visit. E packed in a lot in a single week: a couple of days roaming Paris, a few days roaming Rome, and a few days with his buddy from high school exchange days in Lyon, before coming back to us for a Fête Nat. early dinner with cousins, including the little cousins. L drove him into Paris when they left our house so he could try to catch the fireworks from Montmartre, but by the time he got there, there were already too many people, he couldn't see anything, and then he started getting text messages asking if he was OK, which tuned him in to the news that there was something going on, so he came back a little earlier than expected. It did put a damper on the end of an otherwise good vacation.

That's about it. I'm spending more of my online time with machine knitting groups. Knitting, whether hand or by machine, has been a good way to divert my attention from the news channels and facebook rants. (Others cook.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Two months in a nutshell

I've been feeling a bit guilty about not writing. Every two weeks a calendar alert tells me it's time to write a post and I do something else. I bet that after the last post, in May, I was thinking that I'd wait until we got back from England when I'd have something more interesting to say.
Westminster from the London Eye
It's true, the trip to England was wonderful. I'll be putting up the pictures for family to see and will send them the link. C. had asked us to come for a longer visit than usual this time. The purpose was to keep A. company during the school holiday. We were asked to come early, in the middle of the preceding week -- mystery. The mystery was lifted on my birthday, when C. announced we were going to the Laurent Voulzy/Alain Souchon concert in London on that Thursday. My birthday was in February and all I had to do was wait. As soon as she got home from work, we set out by train to London and got to the concert hall early enough to have a light dinner at one of the many fast food places in the neighborhood. We made the good choice of Lebanese.
Those who really know me know that I've been a fan of both Voulzy and Souchon for years, probably more of Voulzy than Souchon. They have collaborated since the beginning of their successful careers: Voulzy composing the music for both and Souchon writing the lyrics. Occasionally, they have each gone solo, but most of their hits are the fruit of their collaboration. They manage to maintain their uniqueness; the music Voulzy writes for Souchon is not the same as for himself and the same holds for Souchon's lyrics. I'm not really too familiar with the joint album that came out in 2014 and was a tiny bit apprehensive about that being the concert content, but no, there were some takes from that album, but the rest of the concert was the hits we could all sing along to. The house was not quite full and we were able to slide over to seats with a better view. And we sang. There were lots of parent/child pairings at this concert and they comments between songs were specific to the London audience of French expats. It was a perfect birthday present! This clip is from the concert in Geneva; it happens to be a song Souchon wrote on his own.
We then went camping for the weekend. Well, WE didn't go camping; we stayed at the pub next door to the campground. The rest of the family stayed at their new (used) trailer (or caravan, if you are British). The campground is like a little city; I don't know how many lots there are -- lots. It's on an old quarry site with several lakes for boating and fishing and swans and geese. Geese! Thousands of geese! It's great for the kids, as the speed limit is 10mph, so they can scoot and bike and walk more freely than around home. There's a very large playground with areas set off for the little ones. There's a café with a good Sunday roast and there's a little fish & chips take out place. There's a swimming pool and more. It's not far from "French school", the Saturday morning activity for them, so they can go on Friday, spend the night and not have to get up so early to go there, and they can have lunch at the caravan. If the weather is nice, they can spend the weekend, or if it's not nice, then just go home.
I had arranged to see one of my old high school mates who came to Paris last summer for the reunion. We met her at the National Space Center in Leicester. It was good to see her and I hope we manage to keep it up. The Space Center was a bit disappointing. A. is in year 2. That's 2nd grade in the US and CE1 in France. The center is organized by theme, but it was very difficult to figure out what age the exhibits were aimed at. We felt the whole thing was rather disorganized. The planetarium show was really just a film -- could have been shown on a regular screen rather than having us crane our necks in the planetarium. I was happy to see my friend; A. was happy to be out with us.
On Thursday, we took her to London. This was planned, and it turned out that she had a research project on William the Conqueror, so we made a point to go to the Tower of London, originally built under his reign. The adventure started with taking the train to London and then the tube to Tower Hill. Getting out at Tower Hill, the first thing to see is the remnant of the Roman wall, then on to the Tower of London, where we took a picture of the Tower Bridge before going in. We visited the crown jewels and then had lunch. We had our tickets for the London Eye, so we went on to that. The weather was cold and cloudy, but at least it didn't rain that day. We got some nice photos from the Eye.
We came home and did our regular things. I knit a sweater for myself on the knitting machine I restored last year. I also finished off some socks for the girls, by hand. There was a get together of ex-KDS staff. It wasn't a big to-do, but was just a very pleasant evening among friends who, for the most part, haven't seen one another since they left the company.
Chagall at the Carrières de Lumières, photo from the website
Last week we went on what has become our annual visit to Six-Fours, passing through Avignon to see a friend and then a stop at Les-Baux-de-Provence to see the show at the Carrières de Lumière. It's Chagall this year. The music accompanying each segment of the show tells a story. It's a good show and I recommend it. I also recommend getting there early (opens at 9:30) in order to park in the lot at the entrance. Also, be sure to take a sweater; the temperature inside is 15°C. You can take pictures, but no flash. This was our third show. We then meandered down to Six-Fours for our family visit and relaxation. It's always a good visit and we really should go down more often.

Monday, May 9, 2016

How about "no news"?

I can't believe I haven't written anything is such a long, long time. We've been busy, but there's really no news.
For AARO there was the official wrap-up of the trip to DC. We held that meeting at Joe Allen's at Les Halles and combined it with a voter ballot request overview. Most of the attendees had already done their ballot requests and the ones who hadn't just wanted the URL's of Overseas Vote Foundation or the Federal Voter Assistance Program. If you are looking at the blog, I have had the link to F.V.A.P. on the right for 2 years already. I've had some pretty interesting meetings with people who want to do educational investment seminars for us Americans living overseas having limited choices of investments where we live because of US tax laws pertaining to PFICs (passive foreign investment companies -- local mutual funds, in other words, or even family businesses) and being kicked out of US investments by their US brokerages. We held a follow-up event with WITAM/WISEAM in April and are having an event with London & Capital next week -- full house, already.
John Richardson, a Canadian-American lawyer, passed through Paris for some meetings while he was in Europe in March, doing some citizenship seminars. He held an informal meeting at a café and gave an interesting perspective on citizenship-based-taxation -- instead of focusing on the individuals who live abroad and who are penalized because of the system, look at the countries whose residents are being taxed on in-country assets and income by this other country that is claiming a right merely through citizenship. It's taking money from the resident country's economy. It's an interesting point of view and some countries are catching on. Maybe even France. A commission has been set up and will be holding hearings, shortly.
The banking committee met -- at the same café. The Comptoir Voltaire is near one of the committee member's home and is his hangout, so this is where we like to meet. It was closed for some time after the November terrorist attacks as it is one of the places that was hit by a suicide bomber who only killed himself. The café needed extensive repair work and the injured needed healing, but it looks like the old crowd is back and the café is busy.
Family -- Dan came to visit. That was nice. We walked around the Marais the day he arrived, then he had a full day to himself, and on Wednesday, we did a walk around Montmartre with Paris Walks, had lunch with Anne, and then split in the afternoon. He spent the rest of the days exploring the city on his own and I think he did a lot and saw a lot. Paris Walks is like London Walks or New York Walks -- you just show up at the meeting place, usually a metro station, and find the guide and other tourists. Pay the guide and follow.
In April, we went down to the Tarn-et-Garonne to see Emma and Gabriel. And the kittens, who are now almost a year old and no longer kittens, except they love to play and they follow you wherever you go. It was a nice, calm few days. The gite is coming along slowly but surely. We went to the St. Antonin market on Sunday and got our fill of ham and sausages before coming home. I also picked up some tomato and cucumber plants. The tomato plants have survived but the cucumber did not.
Just last week, we spent a few days babysitting the Parisian grandchildren as their parents went to NYC for a wedding. They were with other friends and did not contact family -- sorry. The little ones were wonderful but at "just" 4 and "almost" 2, they are quite a handful and when the other grandparents came on Friday, we were very glad to see them. At the end of the month, we're going to England for about 10 days. We'll be distracting A. for the week of school holiday, but will not be totally responsible for her since both parents will be there in the evenings. We'll get her to ourselves for a couple of weeks at the beginning of August before the rest of the family come on their vacation.
I went to see "Word for Word" last week, the annual show put on for the benefit of the library. They are a San Francisco company and if you ever get a chance to see them, do. I go without having read the short stories in advance; I discover them. My friend, R, prefers having read the stories and seeing if the performance is as she imagined. I thought it was excellent, as usual.