Saturday, November 29, 2008

Small World by Chris Beck

This morning, we were surprised by the door bell. We didn't have any packages coming, so didn't know why someone had rang up. I (Chris) went down the stairs to check it out and was met by a man from the gas company.

The man asked me if I was "Anglais" (which is the first thing French people ask us...which means are we English). I said no, American, and the guy lit up at the sound of that. He asked me where, and I told him NYC. In slightly broken English, although still pretty good, he said "I live for 2 months in NYC! I live in Boston for 2 years. It was nice, but not as nice as NYC. I loved it!"

He then started to tell me, in both French and English simultaneously about how he marveled at the buildings the first time he saw Manhattan and that it was so interesting that the city was different in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. I said that I felt the same way, and had marveled in the same fashion myself at the tall skylines (and the tall price of food, although I didn't say this). Like every French person who has been to New York, he had a brother or cousin who owned a restaurant (I guess in Boston) and had been there to help with that. I told him we had lived near Yankee stadium, and his eyes looked joyful.

Then came the awkward moment where he, like all French people, asked how we liked Marseille. I said that we enjoyed being here and that we found the city to be very similar to NYC. At first, he looked disappointed, I guess he either wanted to defend his city to me or commiserate in his hatred of a "lesser" city than New York, but he then pensively agreed that the "melange" of people here was very similar to NYC and that the people in NYC were very "Mediterranean" in their passions, tastes, and tempers. He himself would have fit in well in NYC, he had the look of a Little Italy or Lower Eastside slum... er... landlord, wearing a white track suit for some sports team, a beaming toothy grin, and slicked back dark hair above eyes that clearly showed his emotions.

He then proceeded to tell me where his latest journeys had taken him. "Dubai!" He beamed proudly, "Dubai est comme NYC, mais with newer buildings, tres beautiful, very comfortable." I showed my admiration for how well traveled he was, trying to get my brain to focus on one of the two languages he was using. I showed that I knew where Dubai was and knew about the new building projects (although one shouldn't fool around on the beaches there, as two recent British tourists found out), something that he probably did not expect from an American. Then he produced a card from his pocket, "Mon ami, he travail, works, for the Sultan . If you want, you go to Dubai, I will appelle my friend and you will have a great time!" He wrote his cell number on the paper. "You call, when you go to Dubai, I will let my friend know!" At that, he said his Bonne Journee, and walked out smiling (incidentally, he thought Kat, as my wife, was French just by looking at her, and began to speak French to her very quickly when he saw her).

Overall, I would say this is the typical attitude of the French people we meet towards Americans. The idea that Americans are "odious" in some way is relatively mythical, and more people here in Provence enjoy talking about whatever knowledge they have about America. This is especially true since we come from New York City, a place where nearly all of these people have been or want to go, but at least they know about it and typically want to display this. Another question immediately asked when the word "Americain" or 'Etas-Unis' (United States) crosses my lips is "So, how do you feel about Barrack Obama winning?" After I answer, they are MORE than happy to let me know how THEY feel about Barrack Obama winning, and it is probably no surprise that the French are typically "Very happy" with the outcome.

I once got in a very heated (at least on his end) discussion with a cab driver of Algerian descent about Obama, racism (in France and America), and the pitfalls Obama would face (he was not optimistic). This was the day of the election, and the man felt that an African-American president in the U.S. was as unlikely as an Algerian or Muslim president of France. He is probably pleasantly surprised now, at least as pleasantly as the perpetually pessimistic French can be surprised...


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Marseille

We had a lovely Thanksgiving today. The weather was warmer and quite sunny.

Chris & I started a tradition last year of eating duck for Thanksgiving instead of turkey. We went to 3 different butchers here, and could not find a whole duck. We were so disappointed. Today we went to the grocery, thinking we would just have to buy a few duck breasts to cook, and to our surprise, they had whole duck! We bought a few other things and came home to clean up the apartment.

Generally, we wake up on Thanksgiving, start cooking and watch the parade. Since we didn't have the parade to watch here, and Jaclyn (our new friend from the expat meetup who is also from NY) didn't get off work until later in the day, we decided to not eat until after 5pm.

Chris cooked a duck with cherry sauce, he also made the pumpkin pie (with the can of Libby's pumpkin that I wrote about in an earlier blog post) with homemade whipped cream. I cooked a French food called "aligot". It's basically mashed potatoes with lots of butter, creme fraiche, garlic, and tons of cheese. I don't even want to think about the fat grams in it! Jaclyn brought a fresh baguette. The meal was delicious, and I'm still feeling so stuffed!

We had a great time. It was nice having Jaclyn here with us. Oreo came out of hiding and entertained us by chaising a string around.

Just wanted to say HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of you reading this back in the states! We are very thankful to be on this French adventure!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My 28th Birthday Celebration in France

I turned 28 today, and it was a pleasure celebrating my bday here in Marseille. It was also our 11th anniversary together, so that made it even more special.

Chris cooked me baked french toast this morning, which was amazing. He had added raisins, walnuts, creme de cassis, and sparkling wine to it to make it Kir french toast. So yummy!

We went to the Centre Bourse for lunch. There is a cafe there that is always packed and we thought it would be nice to eat there. We both had salads. Mine was lettuce topped with smoked salmon, pineapple, grapefruit, sheep's cheese, onion, tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi, apple, and green beans. It sounds strange, but it was a wonderful combination. Chris' was slightly different with baked chevre (goat's cheese) and less fruit.

After lunch, we shopped around the mall for a while, then went to the Xmas holiday market out on on the port. We enjoyed looking at the booths and we bought a few things...strawberry pate and jasmine tea.

I went into a few shops looking for clothes, but didn't find anything. Lots of things were quite expensive and I'm a the point where I will look at a sweater and think "Can I make this myself?" If the answer is yes, I don't buy it.

Chris treated me to a tres manufique dinner (if only I could put accent marks on here so the French looks correct). He bought frozen Canadian lobsters (yes, the lobster here is from Canada which is very strange), and cooked them along with steak (rare...just the way I love it!), and stuffed scallops. We had a lovely champagne that we purchased at the Savim last weekend.

For dessert, he cooked lava cake! He said the recipe was very simple, but the taste was far from simple. It was SO GOOD! I had some before dinner, as well as after. :)

What a wonderful day!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lovely Sunset

This is a view of an amazing sunset Thursday night from our balcony. I wanted to post this today in memory of my Grandma, as she would have loved this.

In Memory of Helen Compton

I just wanted to post a little note about the passing of my wonderful Grandma, Helen Compton. She peacefully left this world on Sunday at the age of 87.
Love you Grandma!
This picture was taken last year on Xmas Eve.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Video of Chris

Chris & I made this video when we visited Le Pharo last month. I just now got it to upload to YouTube for all of you to view. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Views from our apartment

We had a magnificent sunset on Thursday night. Right before le mistral (winds) came in. Thursday night it was incredibly windy here. I actually had a hard time sleeping with the winds being so loud.

Things settled down Friday, but Friday night the winds kicked up again. Today they were gusting at 25 to 50 mph. People had their laundry up to dry and I don't know how they kept their clothes pinned to the lines in this wind!

Here are pictures of the sunset. These were taken from our balcony just off our kitchen.

Taste of France

Our friends, Nell & Dylan, invited us to an event called Savim Automne today at the local convention center. It was only 7 euros to get in, they give you a wine glass to keep, and you can taste all you wanted! They had not only wonderful French wines and champagne, but also froi gras, honey, bread, cheeses, caviar, calissons (little cookies that are well known here in Provence), and so much more. We were there from 2pm to almost 8pm.

I was very surprised by how many people spoke English to us. That made it easier for Dylan and I, but Nell and Chris spoke French to many of the exhibitors. The people were so nice. We met a guy from Arles who invited us to dinner sometime!

Nell stopped twice for raw oysters and scallops. We had a couple as well, and they were interesting. I liked the raw scallops best. For those who have never eaten raw oysters before, you are suppose to just swallow them whole. It's not for everybody, and personally, I would prefer to chew and taste my seafood...but it's an experience.

We came home with bags of goodies from the day...creme de marron (chestnut cream), wines, champagne, cheeses, bread, lavendar cookies, duck cassolet, and even lobster bisque that Chris says tastes like the soup they use to have at Calabash (for those of you who know what that means).

We had such a great time. There will be another event in April, and the four of us will be there!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

Our lunch of pumpkin and chestnut soup, eggplant and shallot sandwhiches with goat cheese (Chris cooked these) on fresh baguette, and a glass of Beaujolais wine.
Today is Beaujolais Day here in France. It is the first day to get this year's Beaujolais wines in the stores. The expat meetup was having a tasting tonight, but we decided not to go. So we were pleasantly surpirsed to find our local grocery had tastings and a few bottles of the newest Beaujolais wines.

Beaujolais is a red wine that comes from the Beaujolais region of France. It is made of Gamay grapes and is fermented for only a few weeks before being released on the 3rd Thursday of November.

We purchased a bottle of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais and both had a glass with lunch. The wine is a beautiful red color...not like other red wines. More of a clear, bright red. It is very smooth and clean tasting. The 3 we tried at the store didn't even compare to this one. It has a nice grape flavor and tastes so new. The cork is so new too compared to other corks you find in wine bottles that have sat over time.

What an experience to taste a wine that was just only made a few weeks ago!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Parc Borely Pictures

Here is the first set of uploaded pics of Parc Borely. I'll post the others soon.

Technology has arrived


Our landlady and the France telecom guys were here this morning to open a line (which means assign a phone number to our apartment). Cornelia (our landlady) received the cable box and the internet/phone box just today, which was a pleasant suprise. She told us that once we had everything set up, it would probably be another 10 days to 3 weeks before everything would be up and running. However, when we plugged things in, we were online immediately!!! She was shocked, and we were estatic. We are still waiting for the cable TV to start working, but we now have internet and phone.

Cornelia bought us a phone, and we are charging it. We will be able to use it starting tomorrow. We will be able to call people in the states, so we are happy about that!

I have to admit, being offline for these past few weeks wasn't bad. I did miss out on some news, but it was actually nice not being tied down by technology. Sometimes it's very nice to be able to unplug and focus on other things. Now that we have internet, I haven't spoken to Chris in hours.

Just kidding. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Food Pictures

Here are a few photos to savor...

November 15th

Today was the first sunny day without clouds we have had in WEEKS! I just couldn't stand to be in doors, so Chris suggested that we go to a large park here in Marseille called Parc Borely. Fannie had told me it was a nice place to visit. We took the metro to the Rond du Pont stop (where the big soccer stadium is located). Then we took a bus to the park. We have decided that buses are our least favorite way to get around. It wasn't a matter of it being packed this time, but the young soccer hooligans riding it were making us uneasy.

We were happy to get off at the stop, but then we were not sure how to get into the park. There was a large wall and no signs to enter. We saw a man with two young children walking one way, and figured it would be wise to follow them. They did lead us right to the small, unmarked entrance. We walked in and we found ourselves in a good sized playground. We crossed through and found a map of the place. We had the choice of going to the sea, to the hippodrome (where they have horse racing), to the botanical gardens, or just around the main area of the park. I wanted to go to the sea, of course, so we headed that way.

The park was filled with people, which was no surprise being that it was Saturday afternoon. There were people lining up around the hippodrome to get a glimpse of the upcoming horse race for free. People were biking, rollerblading, and even in these strange peddle carts everywhere. The peddle carts were of all shapes and sizes...some for only kids, some for families, and others for only adults. We decided that we will do that next time and it will be a great way for Chris and I to do something fairly close to biking (since he doesn't know how to ride a bike). As we got closer to the beach, we saw a kayaking class taking place in a little inlet. We also plan to do that when it gets warmer! The Mediterranean is the best place to learn water sports since the water is so calm.
I was very happy to get to the beach. It was fairly cold out, but people were still swimming and laying in the sun. We walked out to one point and looked around for a bit, before getting scared off by a guy urinating into the sea beside us. He was not the only guy we saw urinating in public in the park...later there was a guy in the bushes doing the same. These guys are not bums either...they looked like regular people to lazy to find a WC somewhere.

We continued walking around the beach, watching the sailboats and people enjoying the day. Lots of people were playing soccer, some were flying kites, and others were just sitting in the sun. I took as many people pictures as I could (still getting braver about doing that sort of thing).

Chris & I sat for a while watching some mini sailboats come in from their lesson. They were kid sized boats. We also saw a group of wind surfers taking a class near the beach. In the Spring, Chris and I are going to do that too!
We walked back over to the park and wandered around. We found a group of ducks and roosters making noise by the water. We also found the smallest go-cart course ever! It was so sad and pathetic, especially since there was only one boy on it chasing roosters.

The rose garden was at the end of the season, but there was a few blossoms left. The park at sunset was so nice, and it was so much fun just weaving around the paths heading back towards the beach. I wanted to stay and watch the sun go down, even though Chris was ready to head home and eat. We messed around a bit longer, checking out the grounds of the museum until the sun was going down over the Mediterranean. We walked over to a point where we could see a direct line to the sun on the sea and watch it set at 5:15pm. A woman walked over to us and said, in French, that it was a magnificent sunset, and that it was the first one she had seen here. It was beautiful and the colors were just gorgeous. Coucher de soleil means sleeping sun in French, which is the phrase they use to say “sunset”. Watching the sun go to sleep over the sea is one of my favorite things to do, and this was the first time actually seeing it clearly.
We left the park and went back to the bus stop. The bus was late, so we stood there trying to keep warm, and watching the cars go past. I made a little game of looking at the license plate numbers and seeing where people are from. If the plate has the number 13 at the end, they are from Marseille. If they are in the 90's, Paris. Other numbers, which were rare, were from other parts of France. We waited at least 20 minutes for the bus, and when it finally came, it was packed. We couldn't fit on! We gave up and decided to walk back to the metro station. It was about a 20 minute walk back. The stadium was filling up with people for a futbol (soccer) game. There were vending booths everywhere selling street meat, and ticket scalpers on the side of the sidewalk. We will have to go to at least one game while here in Marseille.

Our trip home was very fast, and we stopped by the grocery and Piccard to get a few things for dinner. We had a very American meal...hamburgers, french fries, and ice cream. We “Frenched” it up by putting the hamburgers on baguette with tomato and blue cheese. The ice cream was more like parfaits of chocolate and vanilla goodness.


Our piano playing neighbor downstairs apparently gives music lessons on Thurs and Fri mornings at 9am. So on those days, we are awakened by music (singing and piano). It's fine, but after not sleeping well at night thanks to Monsieur Oreo, it would be nice to sleep in.

Oreo enjoys staying up late and running like a mad cat through the apartment, bouncing onto the bed, and leaping from me to Chris. He also likes to claw at the front door, the cabinets in the kitchen, and meow constantly. I don't know why he does this, but it's quite annoying night after night after night. We are getting use to it and are getting better at ignoring him, Chris moreso than I. I guess he is preparing us for one day when we have a baby and are up throughout the night.

For the most part, Oreo has settled in here. He has become strangly fascinated with the front door, thinking he wants to go out in the hall and down the stairs. We let him venture out a bit last night, just to see what he would do. I rang the doorbell, and he ran back inside. I don't know why he wants to leave so badly. Missing New York perhaps?

I have set up chairs so he can look out the windows. He occasionally enjoys doing that, but for the most part, he likes sleeping in the chair (he was never fond of sleeping on furniture before, but now he loves it), and being where ever his parents are in the apartment. I don't let him out on the balcony, since I'm afraid he might jump on to one of the roofs on either side of us. There are just too many stray cats in this city, and Chris thinks that it's because people let their cats go out on balconies, and they roof hopped away. I doubt very much Oreo would leave, but I think he's fine inside.

He wasn't very happy last night with Nell and Dylan here, but he eventually came out and said Hello.

Oreo is not a fan of French TV. When I watch it, he acts funny, just as he does when we say French words to him.

We are very glad we brought him with us. It wouldn't be home without him! He's really been quite the trooper and I don't think any other cat would have fared as well as Oreo. He's really special.

November 14th

Tonight, Chris & I went to the Expat Meetup here in Marseille. I figured it would be a good opportunity to meet other English speaking people here in the area, since we still don't know a lot of people yet.

There were at least 50 people crammed into a cafe called L'heure du Marseille, off of Rue Ferrol. The owner of the cafe had graciously offered the space to the group. We were really amazed at the number of people who attended. We were AMAZED to meet another Hoosier in the group. She was from Kokomo, studying here with her Kenyan boyfriend. There were people from all over. We chatted with one girl from New York state (near Poughkeepsi), a girl from Wisconsin, a guy from DC, a woman from Vancouver, and another from Florida, and a woman from London.

We didn't get a chance to mingle too much, and we left after only two hours because we had not had dinner yet (we know next time to eat before we go so we can stay longer). The small place was quite loud, so it was difficult to keep up conversation. Most of the people we met are studying here, but some have moved here due to marriage or business. We had a wonderful time and look forward to the next one!

We came back to our favorite pizza place, Le Verdi, across the street to get a pizza for dinner. Chris told the lady that we live across the street, and she knew exactly which apartment we were in. She said we had taken the place of one of her best customers, and asked if we would be good customers as well. Chris told of her yes, since we do love their pizza. I have to say, it's better than what we had in Little Italy!

There was two little old ladies dining in the pizza place, and one caught my eye immediately. She had caked on white powder all over her face, and a mole drawn on her cheek. She looked like an old belle dame of Paris. It was hilarious! I really wish I had a picture of her.

Our first dinner guests

November 13th, 2008

Chris & I invited Nell and Dylan over for dinner tonight, since they had helped us out so much. Nell is here on a Fullbright. Chris helped me clean up the apartment, which didn't take too long. I'm really enjoying cleaning a lot more than I use to. Washing dishes (we don't have a dishwasher here), doing laundry, even vacuuming is fun here.

This was the first time Nell and Dylan had been to our place. We had apperitifs out for starts...chicken wings in both Greek and Indian style (we bought these at the store), two different kinds of organic sheep herbs de Provence and the other spring onion, and of course baguette. We had a cheap demi sec brut with crème de cassis mixed in. Cassis are currents. Crème de cassis is a current liquor that can be mixed with sparking wine, white wine, or put on desserts. It is very thick, so one wouldn't drink it on it's own. By mixing it with the brut, we made our own Kir basically (Kir is the premade drink you can buy here). For the main course, Chris cooked pasta fagiole. For dessert, we cheated and bought a frozen fondant tarte. It was excellent! Like a brownie, only lighter and creamier. Nell brought over banana bread as well, so we had a little of it too.

We chatted through the evening and then they took a taxi home (apparently the metro doesn't run very late here). We are so use to being in New York, where you can easily get transportation no matter what time, day or night.

November 11th

Today is Armistice Day here in France, which marks the end of World War I. The French take the day off. The archives were closed yesterday and today, so Chris wasn't able to go into work.

We haven't done much today...slept in, ran to the English bookstore a couple blocks away to find it was closed for lunch, and now we are getting ready to heat up lunch and go to Nell's later to check the internet. She & Dylan have been so generous in letting us come over to check our email and the internet while we are waiting to get ours installed. If all goes well, we should have internet, phone, and cable next Tuesday (Nov 18th).

Yesterday, we woke up and went to the grocery to stock up for the next few days. There were a lot of people there doing the same. Chris found a magazine with 100 French recipes in it at the checkout aisle, so he purchased it. We came home and had lunch (ravioli and basil pesto).

In the afternoon, he went all the way to one of the archives just to find it was closed. They don't post the days they are closed, which is frustrating. It took him an hour round trip to travel there and back, for nothing.

He came home and decided to cook two recipes from his new cookbook. He baked a tarte auo lait de poule (milk pie). It was very creamy and similar to flan. For dinner, he cooked poulet au pot (chicken in a pot). He took a whole chicken, stuffed the inside with pieces of baguette, apricots, herbs de provence, and raisins. Then he cooked it in a big pot on the stove with whole turnips, onions, leeks, garlic, and carrots. The end result was a very juicy chicken that fell right off the bone, and vegetables that were cooked to perfection.

I am happy to announce that I finished my first hand-knitted sweater last night! I'm SO happy to have completed it. It fits well, but a little itchy since it has wool in it. I will know to not knit with wool in the future. I'm wearing it today regardless of the itchy quality, and it's very warm and cozy.

November 8th

Last night, Chris cooked a wonderful concoction for dessert. He cooked quince (coing in French), apples, red wine, sugar, and cinnamon all together on the stove. It was delicious! We are becoming addicted to quince...and unfortunately, they are almost out of season.

After lunch (leftover butternut squash soup and thawed macaroons), we went for a walk in the Cours Julien. We went to the Savonerie to buy soap. I bought a bar of lavender, and Chris bought a bar of pastis. We also purchased a ceramic cigale (cicada) for grandma. We went into a few other stores, a second-hand clothing store which was very expensive for the clothing they were selling, a natural store where I finally found some organic shampoo and body lotion, and a comic book store where Chris found a French Cthulhu comic book. The comic books here are hardbound, which is nice. The comic book store is combined with a cafe.

I went over to Fannie's apartment for tea and knitting. I met her boyfriend, Nico, and saw her son again, Gael. Gael just turned 2. He's ADORABLE!!! He knows the difference between English and French, but he prefers French. I couldn't get him to speak English to me. He kept bringing toys over to me and wanting me to look at things. Fannie had to translate so I knew what he was saying.

Nico, Fannie, and I had tea and chatted about American politics, work, and other things. Then Fannie helped me fix a few snags on the two sweaters I'm knitting. She's an amazing knitter! I'm really happy to have met her. She is only about a 5 minute walk from our place.

Chris & I went to the pizza place across the street and ordered a pizza to go for the first time. We had one with bacon (bacon here is not the same as we have in the US. It's more like little strips of ham.), gruyere cheese, chevre (goat cheese), and tomatoes. When you order pizza here, they always put a few olives on top. I'm not a big fan of the olives, but Chris loves them. The pizza was the best we have had so far! Very inexpensive too, and you can't beat the proximity.

Back home now and thinking about what to do the rest of the evening. We are staying home tomorrow so Chris can work. I'm going to work on my knitting, and hopefully our laundry will be dry so I can put it away. I have two racks filled with clothing that is drying here in the apartment. I hung some of it outside, but it didn't dry all the way. It's just so cold outside (50's) and only partially sunny through the day that the laundry doesn't dry quickly. I love having a washing machine, but I do miss American dryers.

Chris is playing with Oreo on the floor. We bought Oreo a fish on a string, and he loves it. He will bring us over to it so we move it around for him.

Oreo is getting more settled in the place. He keeps us up at night...meowing, running through the apartment, and trying to open cabinets.

It's SO COLD in here and we haven't turned on our heaters yet. I wanted to wait until it gets into the 50's, but I may break down before that. We really didn't bring enough warm clothes. He has started sleeping on a chair in the living room, which is not like him. He usually prefers the floor to furniture, but I think the floor is too cold for him since we don't have carpeting.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 6th

We had a very productive, yet fun, day today. It started off a bit stressful, since we got up late and barely got to the bank before they closed for lunch. We were unable to get our address changed on our checking account, but we did get some information from them that was helpful.

The weather this morning was gloomy, again, and rainy. This weather has been SO nasty.

After we finished at the bank, we went over to the Prado market. We bought some fruits and veggies, along with some tea, dried apricots, and the best walnuts I have ever had. The rain had finally turned to drizzle. We walked home from there, which wasn't a very long walk at all. We live in a great location, close to everything.

For lunch, we heated up the leftovers of our chicken cattatorie that Chris had made last night. We did a few things around the house before heading out again, this time to Mr. Brikolage...think the French version of Home Depot. We found a few items on our list of things we needed for the apartment, but overall, I was pretty disappointed with the store. I really miss being able to order anything we need through the internet and having it arrive at our doorstep.

We walked home, which was a pretty long walk, dropped off our stuff, and headed down to Monoprix to get a few more items. On our way to Monoprix, we bought some warm chestnuts. There is a guy who is in a stand that looks like a little train engine. He only sells warmed chestnuts, and they are quite good.

We were happy to find a few things at Monoprix that were unexpected, like yarn and measuring spoons!

For dinner, we were suppose to go to Nell's, use their internet and phone, and then all of us were to go out for pizza. When we got to Nell's, she said that they didn't feel up to going out tonight. So Chris used their phone to call his parents, and I just glanced at my emails. We left wondering what to do about dinner.

I had the idea of going over to the Cours Julien for dinner, since there are a lot of ethnic restaurants to explore. We headed down a random street where we saw a lot of people standing around. We came upon a Spanish restaurant that was empty, checked out the menu, and decided to give it a try. I have never had Spanish food, so I was looking forward to a new experience. At first, we were worried that they were closed since no one was in there eating (this was 8:30pm, when restaurants are usually starting to fill). They were open, so we had a seat and the waiter brought us menus. He said to us, in French, “I may be wrong, but you're not French are you?” Chris said no. The waiter asked if we were from England, and Chris said “almost”, and then told him we are American. The waiter (later we found out his name is Ange) started speaking English to us. He said he knew a little bit, but actually, his English was quite good.

We ordered some margueritas (some of the best we have ever had!) and Chris read the menu to me (it was in French, not Spanish). Ange brought us some apperitif food which consisted of sunflower seeds, some other seed I couldn't identify, something that was similar to corn nuts, and olives.

We decided to order tapas, main courses, and desserts since that was the special. For the tapas, we had mussles with safron sauce. They were AMAZING! We wanted to lick the plate (of course, we refrained). For our main course, we had paellas. Think rice, peas, shrimp (that still have their heads, feet, and tails on), calamari, mussels, chicken, and something similar to a tiny crab leg, mixed together, with a wonderful sauce of herbs and spices. It was delicious! It wasn't spicy at all, and was just so good.

While we were eating, Ange would come over and speak to us about different things. Chris would say things in French to him, and he would respond in English to us, so I understood ½ the conversation. We found out that Ange is from Madagascar and he is living here in France for 2 to 3 years. He told us about how beautiful and nice Madagascar is, and that he wants to return there someday. He said that in Madagascar, they speak French, Malagash (the native language), and some English. He actually knows 4 languages total, including Spanish. Very impressive!

We got to be pretty good friends with Ange by the end of the night (we were at the restaurant for almost 3 hours!). He told us we must come back again, and that Saturday nights they have kareoke. He brought us the list of songs and it was a mix of Spanish, French, English, and Italian. Chris is all set to go sing his heart out some Saturday night.

Ange has a bungelow on the beach in Madagascar, and he gave us his phone number and told us that anytime we wanted to visit Madagascar, we could stay at his bungelow for free. I wanted to tell him if he was ever in NY, to call us and he could stay with us, but we don't have NY phone numbers anymore nor do we have a place to live when we get back yet.

Dessert time came, and Chris had profiteroles and I had souffle de gran marinie. Profiteroles are a French dessert that are like little cream puffs with ice cream inside. Both desserts were manufique.

We chatted some more with Ange, and his coworker joined in for a little while. Then Ange surprised us with manzana, a liquor made from apples, on the house. It was very smooth and tasted just like green apple suckers.

While we ate and chatted, one man came in, had dinner, and left, but other than that, we were the only one's in the restaurant. We couldn't believe it...this place was SO good, and it didn't make sense that it wasn't packed with people. We will have to bring others there and tell people here in France about it. They should have a line of people waiting to get in!

There was a group of people that came in as we were paying the bill. One girl asked us, in English, where we are from, and we said New York. We said that we really love Marseille. She responded by saying “I prefer New York.” We asked her if she has been there and she said “No, I just prefer it to here.” We laughed and told her that she has to visit a place before she can say whether or not she prefers it. It was very funny.

left the restaurant so happy that we had stopped in. It was a great experience, and we look forward to going back. Ange said that when we do come back, to ask for him when we come in. We definitely will!

November 5th

Barrack Obama is now the President elect of the United States. We received a text message from Nell at 7AM telling us the news. She and Dylan stayed up all night to watch the results. IN actually voted Democrat, which is huge.

We are getting settled into our apartment. Oreo had a rough night, but we were able to get some sleep in our new bed. It was SO nice not sleeping on a sofa bed!

Went to the store to get a few groceries. I did laundry. The washing machine is so strange. It takes a long time to wash a load. Then we have to hang our laundry outside the balcony to dry. I got a little dizzy as I was hanging the laundry. Something about looking straight down and thinking about dropping things really bothered me.

The sun finally came out today. We went to the organic market at the Cours Julien. We bought some eggs, lavender honey, butternut squash, and some quince. We stopped by an Alsace store that consisted of sausage and gingerbread. We bought a sausage to go with some onions and baby potatoes that we found at a little fruit & veggie stand. Chris cooked up lunch and it was very good. He really missed his calling as a chef.

We are now watching TV...some nature documentary on fleas and ticks. It's absolutely disgusting!!!

Leaving the Citadine (November 4th)

Chris & I got up early to finish packing and get ready to move to our new place. We were very smart to have brought a few things over yesterday when we met Cornelia to get the keys. We could have moved in last night, but one last night with internet was too appealing.

We checked out of the Citadine at 11am, and took a taxi to our new home. Chris spoke with the taxi driver about the US election. Our driver was afraid that if Obama wins, he will get assassinated. He said that the US wasn't ready for a black president. This man was part Algerian, and he said there is a lot of racial issues here in France. He worries that race will become more of an issue in the US if Obama is president. (Of course, I didn't know what they were saying, but Chris filled me in later).

I did not enjoy the ride over. Driving in Marseille is worse than New York. Yes, hard to imagine for those of you who have ever been in a car in New York City. The streets here are SO SMALL, and should be one way, but they are not. Plus, cars park halfway in the street and half way on the sidewalks...on single lane streets. We were flying through these tiny streets, and I just knew we would hit someone, or someone would hit us. Nothing like that happened, but it was scary nonetheless.

We arrived at our new apartment just in time to meet our mailman. He was very nice. We told him we were from New York and would be living on the 4th floor.

It only took us three trips to get our stuff upstairs. We were panting by the end of it! Someday, we will live in a building with an elevator. On the other hand, it's great exercise to have to climb to your home.

Our new apartment is LOVELY! The only downside is that we are suppose to shut the shutters when it rains to keep the paint nice on the windows (water proof paint anyone?). Of course, it rained again today, so we were only able to look out for a short while. Our view from the kitchen is of Notre Dame de la Guarde, and from our bedroom and bathroom, the mountains in the distance.

We do not have internet, but should have it in 2 to 3 weeks. On the TV, we get about 6 or so channels, all in French. Today we watched a strange movie that was dubbed in French called “Le Enfant Imaginere”.

I absolutely love our apartment! I finally feel like I'm in France! It's a bit strange using other people's things (silverware and kitchenware, sheets, etc.). I just think of it like living at a beach house for 8 months.

Oreo is settling in. I don't think he feels at home just yet, but he's having fun exploring all the nooks and crannys. We call him “cubby bubby” since he loves the cubbies in the closet.

There are a few things I don't think the French use...toasters/toaster ovens or chest of drawers.

Chris went to the local supermarche to pick up some litter for Oreo and dinner. He bought a salmon quiche that was good, but not too filling amazingly enough. We had to chase it down with some coffee and nutella (my new favorite thing!).

I got most of our things unpacked and put away. A few things are left to organize tomorrow.

Nell will call us tomorrow with the election results. Keeping our fingers crossed for Obama.

Tomorrow we are going to go to the organic market at the Cours Julien and get a few supplies for our new home. Hoping the weather clears up. I'm very sick of the gloom and rain.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rain Rain, Go Away...

Our beautiful sunny, warm days have been missing this week. In their place, rain, clouds, and le mistral (incredibly strong winds). Most of the week was only cloudy and cold and rain off and on. The past two days, le mistral has been hitting us hard, but it has been warmer. Today, it looked like a hurricane outside with the rain, wind, lightening and thunder.

Chris was speaking with a French guy at the archives, and he said that this weather is atypical for Marseille. I think it's hard to say anything is typical anymore when it comes to the weather thanks to global environmental changes. If Indiana can get hit by the aftermath of a hurricane from the Atlantic, anything is possible.

The weather report for this week is more of the same. Not going to be easy for us to to move all of our stuff if it's raining. Guess we will be opting for a taxi after all.

We were going to go for a walk this afternoon, right before this crazy storm hit. Yesterday, we got out for a walk around Le Panier and Euromed neighborhoods. Saw a few things of interest, but not very much. Uploading the pictures soon and will add them tomorrow.

It's completely dark outside and it's only 17:38 (5:38pm). Ugg, for daylight savings time. It's even darker in our little Citadine room, since a circuit blew yesterday. The light in the water closet, the lights in the kitchen (minus the one over the stove), and one of the wall sconces in the main room are out. Chris went down and told the guy at the front desk that we were without lights, and the guy asked him if he had flipped the circuit breaker...which we had. Chris came back up, hours passed, and still no one to take a look at it. Chris had to go down again and tell them that we were still without 1/2 our lights.

A guy came up here to replace the circuit, but he couldn't fix it. So we are just dealing with it since we will be out of here soon. There is suppose to be a repair guy coming tomorrow morning.