Around The World 2

I am contuing posting some of my favorite photos for those of you who come here to get their “Paris Fix” but am also posting my diary from our Around the World Trip. We got the idea for this trip when we decided to go see the Australian Tennis Open. From there we wanted to go to Texas to be in time for the arrival of my newest grandchild. A look at the prices to do this were shocking and we found the One World Alliance of American Airlines to fit our needs although you forget about the cost of hotels and rental cars when you first start planning all of this.

I love this photo with the two men talking in front of the fountain. It’s just so French.

This is one of my favorite shots of the Eiffel Tower. It was right after a rainstorm and there was a big puddle in the right location to get a reflection. I wish I had had a wide angle lens with me so I could have gotten the entire tower, but I still like this one. It wasn’t even enhanced, color-wise, in photoshop.

January 5th

After a great night’s sleep, we were up at 7:30. We discovered that the Rose Bowl was on this morning so we spent some time in our room to watch it. Finally, we set off after watching UT beat USC! We took the metro down to the harbor with some more huge amount of walking to get to the metro train. Once on the train, they are great but many seem to be in the middle of (or bottom of) huge shopping complexes. We bought an octupus card to use on all city travel. We even used it on the ferry that we took across the harbor to Hong Kong Island which was a short five minute ride. I wanted to see Hollywood Road which has antiques up and down each side and an escalator that goes way up a hill that is a thirty minute ride. It turned out to be a series of escalators, not one long one, and it only went up, not down, but was fun. We ate a very late lunch-our inrernal clocks were still off-a big hamburger at an English bar- and then walked around in an area called SoHo and into some small, funky streets. I saw several things I liked but end up buying nothing. At the end of Hollywood Road was an interesting temple-Man Mo-full of many different statues with the temple filled with a thick cloud of incense smoke from incense sticks, both in front of the statues and what looked like possible containers of ashes of those who had passed on. Oranges were offered as well. People would buy a handful of incense sticks, light them in front of a god and leave one burning in sand. There were also rings of incense burning with tags attached, which I imagined were prayers. It was a very active temple. None of the gods were buddhas that I could tell and some were dressed. Another incredibly long walk underground to our metro train to return to our hotel.
After a rest, I walked to the nearby Ladies Market full of mostly junk, bought some pillow covers-got back with one I didn’t want as the guy who sold them switched them for some reason. I hope he made an honest mistake but I doubt it.
January 6th
This morning after an egg sandwich sort of thing at a “French” cafe in the food court, we took the metro across the bay to Hong Kong Island again, then after a long walk finally found the bus terminal. There was a really long bridge across lanes of traffic. I guess it is the easiest way to handle pedestrians. Bus number 6 took us across the island playing commercials on a TV on board passing a beautiful bay and some impressive homes and high rises to Stanley market. We finally found some postcards there-very few places have them so I guess it must be a western practice. The market was large and packed but mostly with tourist junk. There was a totally different ambience from yesterday. Some little school girls stopped us and asked us some questions while they taped it about how we liked Hon Kong. I assume it was a school project. They were cute and pretty much unable to understand our English. We took the bus back. I had a sandwich in the huge metro station, then back to the hotel for a jet lagged nap. On the spur of the moment we decided to go to a woman’s tennis exhibition. The metro was packed. We had to wait for three trains before we managed to squish into one. We missed two matches by the time we arrived. There is only one court and it was outside. It is rather chilly here, which is nice weather to play tennis in but not to sit and watch. At least it didn’t rain.
Maurice is really missing his French diet. There is little bread, we’ve had no wine and haven’t seen any cheese unless it was thinly sliced on a sandwich. Maurice doesn’t like chinese food anyway so he will probably be thin by the time we get to Australia. We don’t like the smells on the streets very much-very shrimpy/fishy and the things they are frying up in the little sidewalk places don’t appeal to me, probably because I have no idea what is being cooked. After reading an article in the Hong Kong paper that they found cat meat in some of the brochettes sold in Shanghai (and a sudden disappearance of local street cats) I’ve decided not to have meat. They mixed it with lamb so it tasted like lamb. Probably some dog meat as well.

Here is a view of the street right by our hotel. Lots of shopping and selling going on there.

The view from our hotel room. Hong Kong is a very crowded city-rather like NYC but with a Chinese population.

Here are the little girls that interviewed us. They also taped the interview so maybe their teacher will tell them what we were saying.

Around The World-Beginning and Hong Kong

I have been posting about Paris and Provence since the beginning of January but, in fact, they were from a “book” I wrote a couple of years ago. Actually, Maurice and I have been on a around the world trip. I am going to continue to post photos from France and my postings about living here but am also going to post my journal on our trip.

Here is one of my favorite photos taken in Place des Vosges, one of the most beautiful squares in Paris.

The Venus di Milo is always surrounded by tourists madly taking photos. I have been trying to get a photo with her in the digital screen as well as the sculpture itself.

Jan. 3rd, 2006

The Beginning

We drove to the CDG airport shortly after lunch and there was fog which got gradually thicker as we neared the airport. I was wondering if would affect our take off time and, sure enough, we were over an hour late taking off. I turned to Maurice as we sat in the plane waiting for the back-log of planes to take off and said, “I’m tired of flying already.” We will have many planes to board before we finally returned to Paris.
It was an eleven hour flight to Hong Kong, our first destination, and also January 4th. I really like the airport, all huge and shiny clean. We took the train to Kowloon and then a taxi to our hotel as we had been advised by Maurice’s daughter who has to fly to Hong Kong on business. We probably would not have stayed in such a nice place had it not been for a Christmas present to upgrade us to the Langham Place Hotel. The hotel is in the center of a huge shopping complex that we could see from our room on the 32nd floor. The complex also had a food court which we made use of several times when we just wanted a simple meal. We were able to check right into our room-it and the whole hotel had a wonderful aroma of some sort of flower, ginger, I think. I turned on the TV and there was the Citrus Bowl from the States which we watched for a while but we have no idea who won as we fell asleep for a couple of hours. After a bath for me and a shower for me in the beautiful marble bathroom, we set out walking through some wonderfully funky streets with many signs stretched out over-head which would light up the area once it turned dark into something as bright as Las Vegas. None of the shops had doors or even fronts, but were all open air with most of the wares spilling out onto the sidewalk. I guess it is never cold enough here to worry about more than some occasional rain. Temple Street, a popular shopping street, was pedestrian and just starting to get set up as we walked along at 3 PM. We stopped at a McDonalds as we were both feeling hungry and all of the shops we passed looked a little risky to try the food. I had a really good Korean Beef Flat Bread sandwich which was very fresh and tasty. We made our way down to the harbor-lots of fog and hard to see much across the water on Kong Kong Island. A walk along the Walk of Stars along the water where there are stars of various Chinese movie stars, the only two I knew being Bruce Lee and Jimmy Chang. A long walk underground led us to the very clean and efficient metro which brought us back to our hotel. We had a drink in the hotel bar, went to the food court for a light dinner and struggled to stay awake past 9 PM as we had major jet lag as we didn’t want to awaken at 3 AM.

A monk with a digital camera. It just seems strange to me to see them using new technology and acting like tourists.

7-11’s are everywhere in the world. We also saw Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway stores, and many more.

Brooms for sale!

The Hong Kong streets all lit up.

A House in Provence, Chapter 19

Our Yard and Bugs

There is so much that I want to do in the yard but can’t. First of all we have to wait for dirt to be brought in to fill in some low places. One of these areas is behind the pool where I want to do the majority of the planting with lots of bushes and trees, making it as lush as I can with plants that don’t need a lot of water. The area behind the pool is huge and in order not to have to work full time to keep the garden up, use less water and just generally make it look good, I have decided I need to put in some small walls here and there, maybe some trelleses, make some “walls” out of plants. That way there will be a large area we won’t see and can do the minimum with.
This being not only summer, but autumn, 2004, we just wait for the dirt. A man did come and dumped a huge pile of dirt and rocks across the road and told us he would be back in September to move it to our yard. The only problem is, we have to wait at least a year for all of the dirt to settle so I am afraid to try much of anything, not wanting my work to have to be done all over again if a bush or tree sinks a foot or so.
Maurice and I have been working in the area where we can which is below our house where we have been making steps out of dirt and rocks. One thing our property does not lack is rocks. They are everywhere in Provence. A lot of rocks were uncovered when our house was built and, to my surprise, we used them all up with our steps, the size I wanted anyway. I know they are under the dirt but I need some sort of tractor to get to them. There are some good sized rocks in the pile across the street and I have raided that. No one is living in the house below us and we have taken a wheel barrow down the steep road to get a few larger rocks. I don’t want to take a lot as they will probably need them for future landscaping and I feel like a thief when we do it. I’ve edged alot of paths with rocks and I am not sure where I will find my new supply.
I now notice all of the rock walls and edgings as we drive around our house into the country looking at how it has been done. Many walls have no cement or dirt, just the rocks themselves. I would love to watch how they are constructed.
I’ve noticed, also, that rocks from different areas, even those close by, are different colors. Our property has a lot of shale and some golden-white colored stones. Those delivered and dumped across the street come from Grambois, just a few miles down the road, and they are in shades of ochre and rust. I have found that shale easily falls apart and isn’t good to use if it is exposed to the air and rain. It chips all over the place.
Then there are bugs. I knew from my first experience on the property before we even started building that there would be many flies. Maurice and I had several big discussions, dare I say arguments, about flies, the source of which is the sheep farm up the road. He wants to leave the doors wide open for the fresh air which would be fine with me if the house didn’t become invaded by tons of flies. He thinks I want to live in a bubble, afraid to live as one with nature. That isn’t it at all. I really have a phobia about flies on my food and in my kitchen. He said, when he was brought up on a farm, they just accepted flies as a part of life and did fine. I finally did a google search on flies wondering if I was being a little paranoid and found that flies can carry over 15 diseases, some of them very serious such as typhoid. Once the air conditioning is needed doors have to stay closed so it isn’t as bad, but I am constantly killing flies in the house even so. I have had several French guests who left their windows open upstairs in the bedrooms and I walked into our kitchen to be greeted by a whole new group of flies to kill.
There aren’t as many mosquitoes, Provence being fairly dry, but there are those funny looking bugs that suck your blood, and also little flies shaped like little stealth bombers that lay their eggs under your skin, a yucky thing for me to contemplate.
Then there are the wasps. We didn’t see any of them in the Spring but they certainly arrived with the summer. At first I thought they were what I call “garbage bees” as they hang around garbage and, when eating outside, they come hovering about trying to pick up a piece of meat. I didn’t think they were that harmful, only very annoying, until Maurice’s son got bitten by one, followed by me. They only bite if you put your arm or leg on one. My, did it hurt, and I had a huge bump on my arm for about 5 days which itched and burned and woke me up in the middle of the night for several nights. We finally bought a bug zapper, one of those things that glow purple, but they only attract moths that I can see, the wasps being interested in food not light. Then we bought these little plastic covered bowls with a whole in the bottom. Filled with a beef broth, the wasps are attracted to the smell, go in the hole and then can’t get out. In an hour we trapped 7 of them. I would like to get rid of them at their source but, with our land being so large, I can’t track where they are going. I was told to be careful around my lavender plants as they often make nests near them in the ground. I have to go and cut off the flowers in September or so and will have to be vigilant to not get attacked.

French Immersion Class!

One Week of Total Immersion in French! July 10th through the 17th, 2006 near Toulouse.
$950 includes a shared double room in a big house, breakfast and morning classes. We’ll buy and prepare meals together, visit markets, artisans, etc.
Students are corrected on grammar and pronunciation all day long.
Small group of nine students-Reserve now!

A House in Provence, Chapter 18

French Whirlwinds

The time I had dreaded came. It was the 10 days we were to take care of Maurice’s grandchildren at our house in Provence. They are fraternal twins named Tom and Lola and are age 7. And, of course, they only speak French. Usually I do very well with children, especially if they speak English, but I wasn’t as sure with these two. When I am at their home in Paris they are forced to kiss me and say Bonjour and after that pretty much ignore me. When they were much younger they would hold my hand as we walked down the street and do their French chattering. They have grown up in a world of adults with constant attention and they travel a great deal and I was just one more face among many and not a very interesting one at that. At least that was my feeling. Sometimes when they had a friend at their house I would get more attention as the friend would want to practice a few English words with me. I was the token American.
So, I wasn’t expecting much. But from the start at their arrival at our house they seemed happy to see me, friendly and open, interested in everything. I’m not sure where this came from but they became, to me, normal kids more easy to handle. Of course, I often had to take them to Maurice for translation saying, “Tell me what they are trying to tell me,” but we rubbed along pretty well.
Many French don’t like the really sweet desserts Americans do so I wasn’t sure what to bake wondering if things would remain uneaten. I made a good old batch of American brownies thinking I would eat the darn things myself if no one was interested. At first Lola sort of turned her nose up at them because they weren’t dark chocolate and ate some French cookies instead. Tom dived right in after the first bite and ate three with a glass of milk. The next day I walked over and the whole pan was empty. I ended up having to make a dessert of some sort, usually brownies, every day. Well actually, I didn’t have to but it was something I could do that they enjoyed that didn’t involve my speaking French.
Luckily we have a pool and the two spent most of every day in it swimming, jumping and floating on rafts just like my American grandkids. A little neighbor boy came over one day and they had a ball. They kept getting cold though as a breeze was blowing and dressed and undressed four times, alternating going down to a little area under a tree where they are building a fort of some sort or, unable to resist the blue water, jumping back in the pool.
Lola undressed right in front of this little boy. I started trying to remember when I was made to undress in private, getting that puritanical side of me deeply ingrained. Lola was totally unselfconscious, used to being naked in front of Tom and they still often took baths together. I wondered when that would stop. I imagined sometime around the age of puberty. The little boy was an only child and I noticed that he did get a good look at Lola but she didn’t care. Maurice told me this is just how they raise their young. I’m sure this is where the topless swimming starts as well. I still remember being horrified when we caught my daughter at about age 5 or so playing “doctor” with a little neighbor boy. We were sure this would lead to some kind of perversion or something. It is just interesting seeing the differences in how children are raised and what is instilled in them.
I don’t know if it is because Tom and Lola travel so much or because their parents travel alot and they are either left with relatives or a baby sitter or with just one parent but they are very good at entertaining themselves. They never beg to watch TV although they will sit and watch cartoons or a movie if we turn on the TV. They never say, “We’re bored,” as I have heard my grandkids or my kids growing up whining. I remember saying it to my mother as well. In their home in Paris they would often escape for hours at a time to play in their rooms. Here in Provence they just keep busy every minute. I never have to find something for them to do. I had bought to huge boxes of Crayons for them to use and I have never seen such huge looks of surprise and pleasure as when I gave each of them one. They colored for hours. They had brought a few small toys and sometimes quietly played in their room upstairs.
Of course they got into tiffs being normal children. If they sat together in the back seat one or the other of them would start touching the other or put their foot in the other’s lap. I usually separated them and ended up sitting in the back myself just to prevent minor scrimages. Basically, they seemed like really good friends with each other not needing time alone like I did when growing up with my sister. I have noticed if Lola gets tired and, although she doesn’t say it, maybe a little bored, that she starts picking on Tom. At first I didn’t notice that Tom was doing the same thing. He was more sneaky about it. Maurice didn’t do anything when they started fighting. He has major explosions becoming a drill sargent when they are eating wanting them to sit still, eat all of their food, just being really picky at all that is going on around eating but when they hit or kick each other he doesn’t do anything saying that they can learn to handle it on their own. I can’t stand doing that. Lola pushed Tom down some steps and then hit him in spite of my many “arretes” so I finally had a meltdown and spanked her. She looked at me with her big blue eyes full of tears and I felt like an ogre but Maurice said that now she would respect me and mind me when I said no. I think spanking wouldn’t be necessary if she would just stop when I said so. She has a very strong will, that girl.
I don’t know if they packed their own clothing or not but Tom only came with the pair of shoes he was wearing, hightop red tennis shoes now back in fashion, as well as a few summer clothes. Lola came with four pairs of shoes, all in hues of pink, a pair of flip flops, some walking sandals, some tennis shoes and a pair of slippers for bedtime, and four pairs of pajamas as well. She had all sorts of cute clothes that she wore with flair, a different outfit each day, and bought a plastic zip up container with many clips and rubber rings for her hair. She requested a different style every morning and I did brades, two loose pony tails on each side-but low, as requested- right behind each ear, or half pony tails. She was growing her bangs out and it drove me nuts when she ate with pieces of food ending up in her hair so I was constantly pinning them back. Tom was easy with a wash and go hair style and he also had some cute clothes which he wore with what I saw as style.
They both ate very well. I notice that alot of American children seem to have eating problems refusing to eat this or that. I’ve been with families where the child wasn’t required to eat vegetables or meat and only had bread and butter for the meal followed by ice cream for dessert. Some meals become real battlegrounds with the parents begging the kids to eat. Tom and Lola aren’t big on vegetables but will eat tomatoes and most kinds of potatoes. Their mother gives them vegetable soup, pureed, often to get them to eat them. If they like what is served, such as fish or steak, they eat very well. Lola loves cheese and saucisson and always has some goat cheese at the end of meals. Tom doesn’t like the smell of cheese and seldom touches it. They love fruit and consume large amounts of peaches and apricots for dessert. Lola must have her peaches peeled but Tom doesn’t care. About 4 PM they want a tea and this is when they have something sweet, such as my brownies, with milk. Breakfast is usually toast or crepes with jam and they require bowls, not glasses, of milk to dip them in like I used to do with Oreos. Their toast has to be cut into three pieces too, as I found out the first morning. They also use Nutrella on their toast, something made of hazel nuts but tasting like chocolate. It tastes pretty good but it is a really strange consistency clinging to spoons, plates, hands and faces with a stubborness of industrial glue.
So, I felt like I was doing fairly well with Maurice’s grandchildren when I got the bad news. Maurice has to go to a funeral out of town and I would be left with Tom and Lola, by myself, for hours. One thing I always said to Maurice was that he could never leave me alone with them. I just can’t understand most of what they say and they sure don’t understand my bad French or English. That which I feared had come upon me. It was a long 6 hours but, at the end, exhausted though I was, I think we did fairly well together. First I let them help me bake some brownies. The only problem with this was that they got to lick the bowl, not me.
Tom found a piece of tile left in our yard that wasn’t cleaned up after construction of our house and was very excited which got Lola excited too so I went out with them out into the yard and we became archeologists looking for pieces of tile and interesting rocks. I had found a couple of fossils in some hills nearby and showed them to the kids and then Lola found a similar one in our yard. I’ve always had an interest in rocks and fossils so we had a great time. Then I turned the hose on so they could wash their treasures, provided plastic sacks to keep them in and it was time for lunch. They did some swimming and then started getting a little restless so I did a horrible thing. I turned on the TV and let them watch cartoons for over an hour. I thought about teaching them a card game but thought it might to hard for me to explain and for them to understand. I survived-I need a T-shirt saying that.
The next morning we took them to a vide grenier, a sort of large flea market, that occur all over Provence in the summer. We found some junk, old toys that had been played with, and for less than 5 Euros they had something to play with that was new to them. Tom was especially impressed with the market loving looking through the junk.
Early one morning Maurice and I drove with the kids to a hill that can be seen from our house and from which, with binoculars, we can see our house nestled near our little village. At night from our back yard you can see headlights of cars as they go over the top of the hill and head down. We had gone once to locate the road and when we got out to walk to the top of a little hill I found some fossils, mostly the ones made by shells. It was intriguing, and a little creepy, to me to envision the entire valley covered with ocean water. There is only one place on this hill where I have found fossils and Tom and Lola had a ball finding their own. They both brought back big sacks of them. I’m not sure if they will be able to take them all with them in their suitcases, but maybe a few.
I found that housework multiplied when they came. Toys were all over the place, clothes left where they were removed to put on bathing suits and floors were crunchy with debris left over from snacks. I was sweeping the floor twice a day because I can’t stand to walk on a floor that is dirty but I gave up on our sliding glass door out to the pool. It is really heavy and hard to open and they had to put their hands on the glass to get it open. I love having clean windows especially when looking out at a view but it is hard work to keep them that way. I decided it wasn’t worth the energy of cleaning the door everyday and let it go until they left. I felt like all I did, besides referee fights, was cook and wash dishes. I couldn’t just open a can of ravioli like I used to with my kids for lunch. Grilled cheese sandwiches weren’t an option, so I was always making full meals like fish and rice or lasagna. The easiest thing I found to cook was spaghetti but I couldn’t fix that every day. They were too young to make their own meals and- this makes me mad- I was the one who ended up cooking all of the meals. Maurice did most of their breakfasts-big deal-but I was the designated cook the rest of the time.
Finally, the ten days were up and we drove the twins down to Cannes to stay with the next set of Grandparents. The house was tidy, the floor not sticky or crunchy, my windows were free of hand prints, I was cooking and cleaning less-peace reigned. But, you know what, I missed the little buggers. They had endeared themselves to me. I plan to have more activities available next summer as I’m sure we will be taking care of them again for a while in the summer. I also plan to find some new sources of fossils as that was so much fun for all of us. And, maybe, this time when I show up at their apartment in Paris I will get a more natural and loving welcome.

A House in Provence Chapter 17


It turns out that we have some pretty nice neighbors. Most of them I have met are French and our converstions are limited, at least on my part, as very few of them speak any English. This has inspired me to start making an effort to learn French again. Octave, a very sweet little man down the road, is always so curteous and friendly and we can only exchange the most cursory of sentences. He is retired from driving a truck and walks up and down roads around our neighborhood watering plants and checking swimming pools when the owners are out of town. He has done it for us a couple of times. He should be getting paid for doing this service but doesn’t accept money. We bought him back a bottle of Kaluha from Texas as a thank you. I’m not sure what he thought about it but he says he drinks it with sparkling water. I told him to add some milk and then he would have a White Russian.
Octave took Maurice up the hill on the other side of the small highway to meet an English couple and eventually I got to meet them as well. The husband is English, the wife Australian and they turned out to be a font of information having lived in the area for years. They had a fabulous old house that they had built on to with a yard all landscaped and lovely with a breathtaking view of the countryside including some nearby vineyards.
As we sat in their garden they told us of a horrible storm in a February a few years earlier when it rained, hailed, and snowed-18 inches overnight-all in one 24 hour period. There was also a collasal lightning strike that took out a power pole. From our yard they pointed out a bare area where an unlucky farmer had tried to burn weeds in a ditch on a hot summer day and the fire had gotten out of control consumming the trees on most of the surrounding hills. At the time the local fire fighters were all in Corsica fighting a huge fire there so men were brought in from the Loire Valley. They didn’t know the area well and got lost needing the help of the locals to do their work. Since then, a lot of work has been done to prevent the spread of fires as well as detailed maps should this happen again. This couple even had to be evacuated from their home, although no damage was done. I look around our property now and am glad the brush and trees are not close to our house.
I think we will meet alot more English and Americans through this couple as they tell us there is a great group that meets once a month. I’m sure that having a lot of friends easy to talk with will add to my enjoyment of the area. It was such a pleasure to have a meal with them and not to have to sit there mostly in silence while everyone else chatters on in French. I also hope to get lots of advice on plants for our yard. The English always seem to have such great gardens. I often watch gardening shows on a BBC television station that we get and love it. Of course, the plants can’t be the same here with the hot summers that we get.
There is a nice young couple above us who have turned out to be great. The man and Maurice have exchanged much useful information especially as we were both building our homes at the same time. We’ve been to their house for dinner and they’ve been to ours. They know a little English so can usually understand me when I say something in English and we all manage to have a good time together. They have a huge dog that they named Spike who has befriended us as well but he always jumps on us when he sees us which is difficult. He also left a souvenir of big paw prints in some unset cement in our driveway. Both of them work at a company an hour drive away from our village and I wonder how they stand it. It is not on a big four lane highway but a narrow two way road passing through several villages plugged with heavy traffic every morning and evening. Maurice thinks it will eventually get to them and they will sell their house. They recently had a baby boy and I enjoy seeing him and comparing him to my granddaughter born a week later in the States.
A house was being built below us when we were building ours. It was another young couple, the man French, the woman English. They had three young children. The house was almost completed but they never moved in. We have seen people coming to look at it and sometimes we see one of them at the house but we have never found out what happened. Maybe it turned out to be too much of a financial burden. Some have speculated that they are getting a divorce.
One day I was working out in the back yard when a man walked out onto the lower area of our property. He asked for permission to walk across it. It turned out the he and his wife were going to buy the house. He was Spanish, she was French and they both worked in Belgium. They bought the house as a vacation house where family can visit them in the summers and where they can retire one day.
The couple right across the street from us, the ones whose tree had a branch torn off by a truck coming to our place, have lived in their house for 30 years. They are normally very friendly, speak only French and have a huge yard with olive trees, fruit trees, and all sorts of vegetables growing. The woman is always telling Maurice about the weather and rain fall and if it is normal compared to other years. She should know. We’ve never been invited over but they always say hello. I have to say the yard looks a little trashy to me with lots of discarded items lying around and piles of various debris, like they never finish projects. I’m not the greatest housekeeper or yard worker, but I love seeing a clean yard. The couple above us cleaned out a lot of brush and weeds from their yard which was promptly thrown down their hill behind their house. They can’t see it but we can. It seems to be the custom here to make huge piles of woody debris and then let mother nature slowly take care of it. Later, they did burn it all which made me happy. Next year we will plant some fast growing trees to start obstructing various views and the bare hill behind their house will be one of them.
We invited Octave and his wife over for drinks one evening. I was in the house and suddenly saw someone walk by in the back yard. I don’t know why but most people here don’t come to the front door but go around the back. Anyway, it was Octave, his daughter and her husband and young son, but not his wife. If he ever said why she didn’t come, I didn’t catch it. We had a nice time and I enjoyed their company. A few days later we were walking down the road by Octave’s house and he invited us to see his backyard. It was very impressive with a great swimming pool with a cover that curved over the pool so you could swim in it and extend the time the pool could be used. He also had a well fed by a nearby spring which I looked at with envy, all sorts of trees, chickens used for eggs, and a vegetable plot. We sat and had drinks. His wife arrived and waved at us from the door and went inside. She never even came out to say hello. I thought this was strange and a little unfriendly. Maurice just said she was one of those people used to being by herself and was very isolated like one of those characters you read about in books. She isn’t even Provencal but Italian. She walks every day to a village about 5 miles away to play patunck with some ladies. We did invite them for dinner some time after that, but she turned us down. I’m trying not to take it personally. As I keep saying, it’s just different here.