• Follow real france on WordPress.com
  • Archives

  • Auvers sur Oise

  • antibes

  • Paris

  • chantilly

rage against the machine (and the jerks who drive them)

IMG_20140630_155933093_HDR

jackass on loud motorcycle

I have a terrible confession.   I entertain dark thoughts.   Violent fantasies.

It usually happens when I’m sitting on my balcony and one of those motorcycles with the cranked up mufflers comes thundering down the hill at 9 million decibels.   I imagine that, with perfect timing, I pour a bucket of water down, drenching the motorcyclist and the street.   It makes me feel good, no great, to see the shocked driver spin out of control.

The daydream continues as the driver, with the motorcycle on top of him skids out, violently ricocheting between the parked cars and buildings lining the narrow street.   He is smashed.   Bloody.   Most probably dead.   I am now a murderer and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

On one hand, the guilt is a heavy burden.  But something had to be done.   Not just for me, but for all of mankind.   Well, at least whoever falls in the audio range of the bike, which I’m fairly certain includes Northern Italy and Switzerland.  But murder…Can I live with that?

Now that I’m confessing, I might as well also cop to the fact that the other day I heard a skid and a crash followed by anguished yelps.   I ran to the balcony to see what happened and saw it was a downed motorcycle and driver.   I did a happy dance before calling emergency services.

Before you label me a terrible person (which I probably am), you have no idea how obnoxious and annoying they are until you’ve lived in a fairly popular French village.   Mere de Dieu!

I can block out a lot of noises, but that particular din pierces through everything.   It’s like a jackhammer to the head.  I don’t know what the decibel level is, but I do know it’s the worst form of noise pollution, probably qualifies as torture and offenders should be prosecuted.   No tortured.   No, executed.   No, tortured AND executed.

I mean seriously, only a dangerously insane person wants to make THAT much noise.   Who else would want to inflict that kind of suffering on innocent people who are just trying to have a thought, conversation or watch a movie?   Clearly they must be  card-carrying sociopats.   Either that or they’re recklessly overcompensating for something.   Some shame or deficiency.   Small ears, perhaps? A high squeaky voice? A complete lack of physical presence?  Whatever,  they’re a danger.

Worse, these mother effing a-holes, use their size to muscle their way through pedestrian zones and quaint ancient villages.   It’s disturbing the peace at the very least.  And illegal.   I guess the French legal system deals with loud vehicles in pedestrian zones the same way America’s deals with assault weapons (which are also very loud, I’m told).

Lets not forget that the insufferable noise itself poses a threat, and not just to eardrums   I’ve come precariously close to injury when the sound exploded through my windows, shattering my focus, which left me unable to maintain my balance during a yoga pose.

IMG_20140913_185645921_HDRI read somewhere that there are some enthusiasts who argue that the horrific noise they inflict on humanity makes their lives safer from accidents because the noise forces other drivers to notice them.   To them I say, bull hickey!   You chose to ride that infernal machine.  Don’t inflict your goddamn choice on the rest of us.   Drive defensively, wear a helmet and put a cork in your goddamn exhaust pipe, you goddamn self centered sociopath with small ears and a squeaky voice and zero physical presence!

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.   I’ve seen people shake their fists and middle fingers at them as they roar past. Some people grow red with rage when discussing them. Some peoples’ blood pressure rises precipitously at their mere mention.   We hate them with a white hot passion.

Someday, we’ll all rise up against them.   In the meantime, I’ll be sitting on my balcony.   Watching. Waiting. Dreaming.

lake annecy: another beautiful place I won’t be spending my honeymoon.

pont d'amours annecy

I’ve never been one of those women who dreams of getting married and imagining the wonderful wedding she’ll have.  Now, the honeymoon is an entirely different matter.   That, I’ve been thinking about for decades.

In considering my honeymoon, I’ve always had several prerequisites. Never chose a country where a large percentage of the women are inordinately beautiful (which lets out Brazil and Nordic countries).    Don’t go to a place so spectacular you’ll want to push him off you because he’s blocking your view.   It should be lovely, romantic, soothing and mildly interesting (but not so interesting that it distracts one from the task at hand). And it has to be somewhere that we both have never been for that shared air of excitement and discovery.   That’s where it gets tricky.

I used to save places for my honeymoon.   For years I avoided Provence, Venice, the Amalfi coast, Greece, Prague, Croatia and Lake Como just in case.   But then I got into my 30’s and realized that if Mr. Right didn’t come along and I missed out on all these places, I’d be really pissed off at him.   So I just started going.

Lake Annecy in the Savoie Alps of France has been on my list for as long as I can remember.   It’s by all accounts, beautiful, romantic, charming and magical.

So when I discover that Annecy is a mere 40 km from Geneva, easily reachable by public transport and the round trip airfare from Nice to Geneva is only 50E,I feel a little conflicted.   If I go to Lac d’Annecy, will it be like I’ve totally given up on having a real honeymoon?  After all, I don’t have many places left. …what if I meet someone and….Ehhh, who am I kidding?  Book it!

My hotel, Hotel des Alpes, is not the place I’d choose for my honeymoon   But it’s clean, well located and the price is right (less than 70E a night).   It’s not like I’ll be spending a ton of time in my room.

So here I am in Annecy and it’s everything I dreamed it would be (except the hotel).  Tiny cobbled pedestrian streets.   Flower lined canals and bridges.   A crystal blue lake.  The Alps as a backdrop.  An abundance of restaurants, bars and cafes as well as traitteurs to pick up a picnic by the lake.

Definitely it’s romantic.  People are making out everywhere.   I haven’t seen so much tongue since…well, the VMA’s.    It’s so beautiful, I almost don’t mind that I’m alone, my tongue is in my own mouth and there will be no consummating on this trip.

Yep, this place would have been perfect for a honeymoon.   As I look over the Pont d’Amours, I’m a little wistful that I’ve eliminated yet another gorgeous place as a honeymoon possibility.

But I tell myself not to worry. Sure, my actual honeymoon options are running low.   But what the hell, at the rate I’m going, the only place I’ll be fit for on my “real” honeymoon will be an old age home.   Maybe there’s a nice one in Bali.

Pictures of Lake Annecy:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

what I did during my winter depression

I know what you’re thinking…how dare I be depressed in the South of France?    But honestly, winter depression is like my annual birthday stiff neck; it’s a tradition I can take with me anywhere.    Then there’s the little fact that I never got around to getting a French prescription for Prozac and have been anti-depressant-free for months, but that’s a whole other post.

The point is, while I did spend a good deal of time lying in the fetal position, weeping and watching “Real Housewives” reruns (thus exacerbating my self-loathing, but at least not to Kardashian levels) I did manage to unfurl myself on occassion, and go some places and try new things.   I just didn’t have the energy to write much about them.   The fog of woe dimmed both my experiences and consequently, my memories of them.

Now that I’m starting to feel better, I’ve gone back over my photos, my research and the scant notes I scribbled at the time to reconstruct the experiences in order to provide the following brief travelogue.

AIGUES-MORTES

aigues morte

IMG_8853

Facts:   An ancient fortified village on the coastal salt marches in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.  The foundation of Aigues-Mortes was said be built in 102BC, but the first known mention of the place was in the 10th century AD.   Was a safe haven to protestants in the 1600’s.   Today it’s a charming walled village with boutique hotels, shops and many cafes and restaurants.

My notes:   This place would be really romantic if I was with somebody who loved me.   Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

PONT DU GARD

pont du gard 1

Facts:  A Roman Aqueduct in the Languedoc Roussillon region.   Built approximately 2000 years ago to transport water to the Roman city of Nimes from a lake about 25 kilometers north.  The UNESCO World Heritage Foundation calls it a feat of engineering and artistic genius.

My notes:  Okay..so this thing is thousands of years older than me and it looks sooooo much better than I do.

UZES

uzes

uzes square

Facts:  Uzes was what they call an admistrative village back when the Pont du Gard was being built.  10 minutes from the Pont du Gard, it’s charming with tiny medieval streets and a beautiful square.   As an added attraction, the Haribo factory and museum is nearby.

My notes:   See that homeless person by the bakery?   That’ll be me in a couple of years.

VIENNA

vienna xmas market

Vienna

IMG_9548

Vienna is a beautiful city in Austria, filled with amazing art, architecture, history, palaces and pastry.   I went for the Christmas markets.   Nobody does Christmas markets better than people with harsh Germanic accents.

My notes:   This wurst is probably the closest thing to sex I’ll have for the rest of my life.

CAMARGUE

camargue

flamant rose camargue

Facts:  The Camargue is basically a huge wetlands in the South of France between Marseille and Montpelier.   It’s preserved, untamed and a little like the wild, wild west.    Due to the location, climate and salt deposits,  It’s home to a lot of rare species like white horses, a certain breed of black bull (Taurau, which is also a dining staple) and flamant rose (pink flamingos).

My notes:    Even the flamingos hate me.

ARLES

arles

arles

220px-Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_015Facts:   Technically Arles is a part of Provence, but it’s also considered the capital of the Camargue.   It served as a Roman Center and port for centuries, but is perhaps best known as the city where Van Gogh lived from 1888 – 1889.   In Arles he created over 300 works of art.   This is also where he cut off his ear and sent it to the prostitute he was in love with (as some legends have it).

My notes:  Nobody will ever love me enough to cut off their ear for me.

AVIGNON

palais des papes/cafe-Avignon

avignon bridge

Facts:   Built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Rhone, Avignon is a walled city in the Vaucluse department of Provence.   Its main claim to fame is its history as the home of the papacy during the short time in the 1300’s when they weren’t in Rome (the Palais des Papes).   Avignon is combination of medieval spendor, Provencal charm and all the modern ammenities a spoiled American could want.

My notes:   I’m pretty sure that bridge is a metaphor for my life.

LES BAUX AND ST REMY

IMG_0717

Facts:  Two charming villages in Les Alpilles, a small but dramatic Provencal mountain range.  Les Baux is perched atop a rocky spur and signs of habitation from 6,000BC have been unearthed here!   St. Remy lies on the flatlands just north of the Alpilles and was both Van Gogh’s home when he was institutionalized in 1889, as well as the birthplace of Nostradamus.

My notes:   GODDAMNSONOFABITCH I FORGOT TO BRING MY RECHARGER!.   FUCK ME!

VENICE

Venice

venice san marco

IMG_8349Facts:  Arguably one of the most romantic cities in the world.   A gulag of 118 islands separated by canals and connected by bridges and boats.   It’s like stepping back into the middle ages with remarkable architecture palaces many with a hint of eastern influence.   Venice was once a major trading port, but now it’s mostly a tourist trap.   A beautiful, picturesque tourist trap.

My notes:   I’ll probably catch some hideous pigeon related disease, die a slow wasting death and nobody will care.

GOURDON

Gourdon

view from gourdon
IMG_0316

Facts:  A tiny inland feudal village perched above the cliffs overlooking the Cote d’Azur.   Named one of the most beautiful villages in France.

My notes: If I were to drive off the edge of a cliff on my way back and die a fiery death mangled in that ravine, nobody would give a shit.  Except the car rental company.

VALBONNE

valbonne

Valbonne

Facts:   A village just a few kilometers inland from Antibes.   I guess you could say it’s an ancient suburb of France’s Silicon Valley, Sophia Antiopolis, which despite its antique moniker, is a tech center in France

My notes:   I’m archaic and uselss in the modern world.   I’m going to die alone and forgotten.

TOURETTES SUR LOUP

Tourrettes sur loup

Facts:   Another ancient hilltop village a few kilometers North of the Cote d’Azur.   Home to lots of small artisan shops and is often preferred to nearby, more heavily touristed St. Paul de Vence.

My notes:   Another place I can scratch off my bucket list.   I guess that means I took a significant step towards death today.

AN OSTEOPATH

IMG-20130311-00469

Facts:  An osteopath is a medical professional that deals with issues of alignment, musculature and joints.   Sadly, as I learned when I got there, osteopaths do not prescribe.

My notes:   These needles in my back are probably the closest thing I’ll have to sex for the rest of my life.

That’s about it.    Looking back, I’ve gotta say, this has been one of the best winter depressions I’ve ever had!

step it up, frenchie!

I know I moved here to slow down a bit and take the time to stop and smell the lavender so to speak, but perhaps transitioning from New York City to the South of France is just too abrupt.   Hell, transitioning from Barbados to the South of France is probably too abrupt.

I’ve been here about a year and a half and I still marvel at how the French are basically oblivious to anyone behind them in a line.   They have no compunction about spending hours searching through their purses for their wallets, slowly counting out the exact price to the centime (even if it means cleaning out their purse at the same time), chatting endlessly with the cashier while a line resembling the apple store on the launch day of the latest iwhatever forms behind them.  I think it’s more pronounced in the South. They have no problem lingering to chat in doorways, sidewalks, intersections.   Where ever they can block the most traffic.   I sure don’t want to be behind these people at an emergency exit!

Today 20 or so people were held up by a woman trying to count out exact change (centime by centime) from her purse with her elbows because her nails were still drying.   That was before waiting a half hour for a woman with a very full cart who waited until after everything was rung up and bagged to begin searching for her carte du fidelite.   Then she waited until after she finally paid to commence a long conversation with the cashier.   I hate her almost as much as I hate Dick Cheney.

Oddly enough, the only time the French seem to be in a hurry is when they’re on the road and looming in your rear view mirror.   Maybe they’re trying to make up for the time lost lingering in doorways and holding up the line at the grocery/drug/hardware/bakery/butcher/shoe/clothing/home decor/etc store.

Granted, in a way, it’s kind of nice…they’re taking the time to interact with one another in real time/real life, not on some social media site.  They know everyone in their neighborhoods by name.  They bring each other baked goods and tomatoes from their gardens.   They have a glass of wine together and watch the world go by.   I think it’s part of what makes this part of the world so special and drew me to it in the first place.  It probably even makes for a more civilized society.

But jeezus h. christ, I’m going to kick some French ass if they don’t get the lead out so I can get home and check my facebook feed.

 

here’s to you mrs. robinson

When I meet a cute guy under thirty, my first thought is to check him out…for my nieces.   So when an attractive, very likable 24 year old American who  just moved to Antibes asks me out for a drink I figure he just wants the company and likes my sparkling personality.   So I go.   For my nieces.

He spent the past year or so at University in Paris and now works at a big tech company in Sophia Antipolis (the Silicon Valley of France). He’s smart, funny, open, interesting, interested, ambitious, and seems pretty worldly for a 24 year old American.

He passes the niece test with the only caveat being he might be a little young for the two of dating age (if he likes younger girls, he’ll have to wait for my niece Charlotte who is currently 11).   I begin to think it might be fun to have someone my emotional age to hang out with (as long as nobody mistakes me for his mother).

Then he goes and shatters my whole scenario.   He tells me he’s thinks I’m very attractive.   I preen a little, figuring he means it in an attractive in a well-preserved antique sort of way.   Then he tells me in so many words, that he’s ready willing and able if I am.

I’m floored.  My first words in response are:   Hammena hammena hammena… you’re kidding, right?

He isn’t.   As it begins to sink in, I’m torn between terror and doing the happy dance.

We discuss it a bit, and I can certainly see he has some valid points as to why this is the greatest idea ever, but still…I’m totally unprepared in every sense of the word (meaning I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks). I honestly wasn’t expecting to have sex again in my lifetime.  But now that he mentions it…

I need some time to stew on this (probably not a good idea at my age– wrinkles).

Here are some of the thoughts I’ve had so far:

  • Quick, do it NOW before his vision returns!
  • Quick, do it NOW before my ass falls.
  • What if I break my hip when we’re doing it?
  • Is there some kind of way we can do it without him seeing or touching my body, which would probably be disgusting to a 24 year old?Note to self:  look into that whole Mormons doing it through a sheet thing.
  • Hey, if he finds me attractive, maybe someone more age appropriate will.   Yeah, right.   Men my age all want 24 year olds.
  • He probably just wants to use me for my air conditioning.
  • What if he dumps me for an older woman?
  • This must be one of those guys on the French Riviera who scams old women out of their life savings I’ve heard about.   A Riviera grifter, as my friend Al calls it.
  • I could use the exercise.
  • I have a rule that I won’t get involved in a man who is younger than some of my bras.   I check my underwear drawer and I’m pleased to say we’re okay on that front.
  • Dude, how good must I look to have a 24 year old attracted to me?   Like Demi Moore good…only better because she’s had plastic surgery and I’m a 100% natural…okay, 98%, my hair color is fake.   More preening.
  • If I do it, does that make me a terrible aunt?
  • Good Lord, this is a bad Lifetime movie in the making. It would probably star Heather Locklear and Zac Efron.
  • Good Lord, this is a bad Comedy Central movie in the making.    It would probably star Betty White and Zach Galifianakis and involve a road trip.
  • Does this fall into the category of a sweet May-December affair or statutory rape?
  • If I don’t do it will it be just like the second helping of fried chicken I declined at the first grade class picnic, which I still regret to this day?
  • This seems like it could only happen in France.   (I know it’s not necessarily true, but bear with me here).   If I were not to take advantage of this unique opportunity wouldn’t I be missing out on some of the rich experience of being here?
  • This is kind of the equivalent of someone offering me an Hermes bag. I certainly never thought that owning one was within the realm of possibility.   I’m not sure what I’d do with one if I had it.  But hell, it’s a damn fine bag and I’d be a fool not to take it.  Right?   In fact now that I think about it, my life will be empty and meaningless without that bag.
  • What if despite our best intentions one or both of us falls in love with the other? And what if when he publically humiliates me by cheating with several younger women I fall off the deep end and wind up getting excessive plastic surgery and ODing on whippets and Red Bull?
  • It’s not like I haven’t been involved with younger men.   In fact,  I’ve been involved with a 24 year old before.   When I was 30.
  • I know it’s perfectly acceptable to be a cougar nowadays.   Even hot.  But it’s a fine line between being a cougar and being a dingo stealing someone’s baby.
  • I mentally play a bunch of math games, with questions like “Where will we be when he’s my age?” (answer:  he’ll be running a big successful company and traveling the world. I’ll probably be dead).

I can’t help remembering a similar storyline playing out in The Graduate (on the other hand, it could be more like American Pie, and I’m the pie).

I re-watch The Graduate, feeling mildly queasy when I inadvertently muse that the last time I saw it was probably before he was born.

I realize now that Mrs. Robinson and I have virtually nothing in common.   I feel much more like Benjamin in this scenario.   I’d never have the balls to try to seduce a man young enough to be my … nephew.   Nor am I some sexual predator brazenly luring young men into bed for my own personal satisfaction with no thought of the consequences.

But isn’t it something to aspire to?

 

the dark side of living in the south of france

Reading over past posts, it occurs to me that it may seem that I’m all content and blissful now that I’m living in the South of France.  I tend to talk about the wonderful food, the beautiful views, the charming villages.   That has got to stop!    I was raised to believe that the moment I appear to be happy, vengeful gods (and humans) will become envious and smite me.

So, in case any of those mean old dieties/people are reading my blog, here are a few things that make  it impossible for me to live free from the shadow of rage/helplessness/hopelessness/misery hanging over me and will prevent me from ever having a day of peace.

  • Waiting in lines.  French people will chat away with the cashier/postal worker/butcher/baker/candlestick maker with absolutely no concept of how many people are waiting behind them.   I’ve seen lines outside bakeries here that resembled apple stores on iPad2 launch day.
  • Lots of loud motorbikes.  Don’t know why, they’re louder here.   Why would anyone want to drive something that loud?   They should be banished.   I’m certain that the drivers of these audio monstrosities are compensating for something.   Maybe they have tiny voices or something.
  • So many people here have no grasp of the English language.   To be fair, I found the same problem in California.
  • The guy at the Marche Provencal who sells roses.   NO I DON”T WANT TO BUY YOUR DAMN ROSES!!!!!   IF I DO I’LL LET YOU KNOW.  STOP BUGGING ME!!!!
  • Speaking of being bugged, they have telemarketers over here too and they call every bit as often (about 5 calls a day).   The good news is, I just say “je ne comprends pas” and hang up.   I guess I could have done that in the US too.   Live and learn.
  • There’s dust here.   It’s like every time I dust, five minutes later, there’s new dust.
  • I just spent 10 Euro on a lightbulb only to discover the lamp doesn’t work.
  • I just spent 10 Euro on a lightbulb.
  • I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store.
  • my cat just threw up on the clean sheets.

a sure sign of assimalation. or something.

Today,  I spent 15 minutes trying to remember the English word for “courgette.”

To me, this can only mean one of two things:   Either I’m finally starting to think in French or I have alzheimer’s.

%d bloggers like this: