What Is That?

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Zelie asks in excitement.  “That is the ocean,” we say. “Woo! OOo!  Woo! Ooo!” she replies.

We delivered beef in Bordeaux today and made a little side trip.  The kids are on vacation, so it seemed a good time to steal a moment to go somewhere we’ve never been before.  In Zelie’s case, the ocean.  Born and raised in vines, cows, ducks and crops, she’s never seen the ocean.  She ran around like a four-year-old on a beach.

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Lucy has been to the beach many times in many countries.

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Spoiled child.  Yet still, I optimistically believe that we will all play in the sand and not really go in the water.

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“No mom, I’m getting my feet wet” means: “I’m going in and you can’t stop me.”

Water temperature and swimming attire are never an issue.

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The beach was sleepy and lovely.  It reminded me of the beach town where I grew up.  Dedicated surfers working their skill despite the wind and cold.  No one around except the dude with the metal detector and four visitors like us sticking our feet in the water.  A not so busy snack stand selling everything except fish and chips: duck and chips, burger and chips, beef and chips, chicken and chips, steak and chips plus variations on previous meaty bits and chips.

The beach houses were impressive.  They don’t make beach houses like this in Southern California.

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You could access the beach using a staircase.  Most were being worked on.  We finally found one after a long walk.  … conveniently the only working staircase was right next to the snack shack.

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We didn’t do much.  I watched the kids play with the beach.  I was reminded how loud being at the beach can be.

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Another beach house.  They have beach apartments that look a bit familiar, but these houses really stood out for me.

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Zelie made a very, very long track.  Looking beyond, I could just see Tijuana.

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As we walked down the beach, I came across a casualty of play.  A broken green soldier man abandoned on the beach.  Curious where his bottom half might be.  But he seems strong and still ready to fight.

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For lunch we polished off our non-fish and chip dish when I noticed that the shop across the way sold other interesting things.  Paninis, Americains and Chichis!  With chips, no doubt!

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The beach, today, was a lovely treat.

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Chariots A Fire

Mastering the French shopping cart is not for the weak minded. After sticking in your Euro to rent a chariot that is immediately refundable when you bring the thing back (a method that eliminates trolly litter in a car park), you are in control … or so you think. Each wheel moves independently. In America, the two back wheels are fixed while the front two are there for steering. The second you take hold of these French beasts, your inner geek screams “vector math” as do geeks within a two meter radius. “Don’t you know vector maths?” they’ll crow. Watching the chariots maneuver their way around e.leclerc (pronounce that sultry starting with a breathy ‘eh’) it’s like taking part in 2009 Nascar Sprint Cup championship mixed with driving in New York in the twenties. The chariots are on fire. They’re everywhere. Do we pass on the right? The left? What, you want to get to the yogurt? No one knows what’s going on. After a bit of sweat and groceries in hand (mmm a special on fois gras!), heading back to your car uphill is no laughing matter. Some push the car sideways with a half smoked fag out of the mouth. Others struggle to align the cart so that with a steady forceful push it arrives perfectly to the car. Some forget the cart entirely. Using the little hand held/rolly basket inside, dodging vehement chariots then carrying the stuff to the car thus shopping more frequently. Me? I park in direct line with the front door of the shop. Simple, easy, no stress. I pop on my sunnies (that’s sunglasses to the Americans) in the light-up-your-cigarette exit compartment and away I go. Up, Up UP to my car then returning to collect my Euro.

Doing It Rodin Style

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Walking around Paris on my own with nowhere to be at any particular time enlightened me with unexpected imperturbability.  I moved out here to be in the country.  Two thousand five hundred scenic pieces of trees and sky.  Yet, I had no problems getting back to “go mode” in the city most people think of when you say you’re moving to France.   I spent about thirty minutes each evening by The Head, a large concrete head that is no doubt famous, which sits next to what was once thought by me to be Notre Dame.  It actually sits next to something that looks like Notre Dame like many other Notre Dame-like churches around Paris.  I realized later that Notre Dame itself is the Notre Damiest of them all.  I’m sure I’ll be enlightened as to its name in the imminent future.  By the church that isn’t Notre Dame, were two dudes playing jazz.  An upright bass player and a guitar man with an amp.  Those guys had a wonderful time playing or practicing their work while a gaggle of tired tourist sat in the park resting their feet as dusk falls.  The metro riders briskly walked past The Head to get to Châtelet, the metro stop with many options.  After listening to the jazzmen for a while, I’d pack up my book and pop on the iPod.  The musical selection of choice for walking around Paris is Philip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi.  It’s like living your own music video.  Nameless faces, in a rush to get somewhere important, couples giggling flirtatiously over drinks, traffic stopping and going and stopping and going.  An entire city there to entertain you as you walk from The Head to get a bite to eat.  After being in the country for six months where one can walk from home to park and see nothing more than an old mare and a barking dog, the city becomes more surreal than this city girl remembers.

But this isn’t what I really wanted to address.  What I saw in Paris was a lot of art.  A pain au chocolat cannot be thrown anywhere in Paris without hitting some art.  It’s everywhere.  No museum pass required.  I’m usually drawn to paintings over the rest, but after a visit to the garden at the Rodin museum (for a Euro!) I began to enjoy sculptures much more.  And that Rodin was pretty good at that stuff.  The curves, the positions, the sensuous movement emoting from a still object, the … hold on .. is that pigeon poop?  Was bird feces part of Rodin’s vision?  The guy works hard on this beautiful work and a bird poops on it.  And then it was everywhere.  No statue could be viewed by me without searching for the poop.  It became Where’s Waldo, the bird dung edition.   At last I found a statue untarnished by any foul movement.   Then, there it was, carrying on in the garden of Rodin as though no one could see them, but we could.  Sure not everyone acknowledged it.  Others may have looked passed it, but they were there, doing it and showed no compunction.   Naturally I took a photo, how could I not? Environmental players dancing on the art of yesteryear creating a momentary Farside Cartoon of today crossed my path and I had to shoot.

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One day, Three Kids and a Flight to the French Embassy

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I really wanted to fly in the night before, but as frequent flyer miles would have it, we JUST missed the time frame and were booked on a one day return to SFO and back. So many things to go wrong. We miss our plane. San Francisco fogs up and the flight is delayed. The Bart stops working. One of our three kids decides it’s a good time to poop in their pants. The points of failure are endless. I, of course, went through them repeatedly as I wait for my 3:30am alarm to ring. My three year old son does his usual pop in to say, “hello,” in the wee hours of the morning only this time we’re up and showering for our day’s adventure. The kids get ready, we get ready and double check the very long list of things to bring when you’re applying for a Long Stay Visa in France. We all got in the car on time and arrive at the airport no problem. Sweet! We’re running late, but the security line at this hour runs smoothly with all the done-this-before business travelers. Our flight is boarding already which saves us entertaining the children while simultaneously annoying said business travelers. Our flight leaves five minutes early. Are you kidding me? We land, hop on the Bart after super potty break. We actually might make our 10 o’clock appointment, unbelievable. After training the children to RUN REAL FAST through the subway exit thing before they get decapitated we surface and quickly locate the embassy. We’re early, huh. Hey look! Croissants and espresso, perfect! After our goodies were knocked back, we figure it’s time to show the French our personal documents and hand over our passports. The embassy lets us in provided we check our croissants at the door. In front of us are a pile of chairs with people who look like they’ve been waiting awhile. Brent sits in the pick me next chair and he’s up at the counter before I can fix Darth Vader’s broken arm for the sixth time today. Not even the building wide fire drill would distract the French from going through our plea to live in France for a few years. All five appointments were squished into twenty-five minutes. We were done before any of the children realized this was our final destination. Rather than wait for our six o’clock flight home, we opt for a fun ride on the Bart back to catch an afternoon flight. Another hitchless ride home that ends with pizza and beer on the table by four. Now we wait to hear back on where we live our lives for the next few years.