Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Thursday, April 28, 2011

After a long day of work, I sometimes look through pictures of some of the mini-breaks C & I have taken (in an attempt to remind myself of some of the benefits of my job). Tonight, I went through our pictures from our trip to St Emilion last week-end. It was such a lovely day, full of sun, champagne and relaxation.
Earlier that day, C had sent an email to his mother to tell her where we were at. We were just heading out of town when his mom replied, saying that his grandfather's brother owned a vineyard not far from St Emilion, and included the address and the phone number.

C tried to call while I looked up the address - they were only a few kilometers away! No answered the phone, but I thought it was still worth a try, and after a few wrong turns, we pulled into the yard:
The people out front looked at us a bit suspiciously at first, but once C explained who we were, they invited us in and gave us a tour of the place. They had an absolutely beautiful home, filled with all kinds of antiques and artifacts that would be right at home in any self-respecting French château. All over-looking rolling fields of vines:There was also this beautiful, old covered patio. Apparently many-a-family member has gotten married here - too bad they're not closer to that side of the family, right?As it happens, they make a limited-quantity of wine per year, available to family and friends only. (They have a HUGE family). They sell at cost-value, making just enough to maintain the buildings and the land. We got this bottle from 2006 St Emilion for 7.50€ - how crazy is that? Plus the bottles have the family name on them, which I think is just so darn cool. I'm hoping we can buy a few more cases for the wedding!

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Monday, April 25, 2011


I posted this on Twitter last night (well, as much as you can post in 140 characters), but thought it might be worth posting it here too.

C says there has been a drastic jump lately in the number of foreigners getting robbed around the Abesses/Sacré Coeur area. There is one group of five young men who usually corner a foreign couple and make them empty their pockets and give them their ATM card pin code. The others just plain old pickpocket tourists. But the end result is that foreigners are now filing by the dozens into the police stations of the 18th arrondissement.

At least two of these stories have a happy ending though. Undercover policemen caught one of the offenders red-handed in front of Sacré Coeur and they found the wallet of an American woman (among others) in his pocket. She hadn't yet filed a report anywhere, so C tried calling the American Embassy to see if she was registered there. She wasn't, so he put the wallet aside just in case she decided to file a report in the next day or two (the other option is to send it off for evidence, but then you can't get it back).

He was telling me the story over dinner last night, and I said "Do you remember her name? We should look her up on Facebook". A few clicks later, and there she was! I sent her a message and she replied back a few minutes later saying that it was her, and that she had just been to a different police station to pick up her (empty) purse. Case closed!

The funny thing is that while hunting through the garbages of Sacré Coeur for her own purse, she came across the purse of someone else and also found and returned it yesterday through Facebook. Talk about good karma coming back around to help!

(Now if karma would only heal my sore throat in time for my next work trip....)

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Friday, April 22, 2011


Last week while we were in the South, we took a day trip to Foix. I'll post more about that later, but for now, I wanted to post about a really cool natural site we visited called "La rivière souterraine de Labouiche", or the Underground River of Labouiche.

It's the longest navigable underground river in Europe, and has been open to the public since 1938 (thanks to the adventurous men who spent 30 years exploring and mapping it). The tour takes you through 1.5km of the river, which is located about 60m underground. Since it had just opened for the season, we were the only ones there and ended up getting a private tour. The guides don't have paddles at all - they use the two steel cables you see on the left in the picture above to pull the boats along. The trip lasts about 75 minutes, and they take you past all sorts of waterfalls and rock formations. Our guide was very informative and shared a lot of information about the history of the area, and the geology of the site.
My favorite part though was all of the illuminated stalactites and stalagmites. There's a French mnemonic device that says "Les stalactites tombent et les stalagmites montent". Since the verb Tomber (to fall) starts with a T and the verb Monter (to climb or get up on) starts with an M, it's an easy way for French children to remember which is which. I'm not sure where I learned it, but it's always stuck with me. Funnily enough, C had never heard it before! If you're ever in the area, it's worth a visit, especially on a hot day. The cost is 9.10€ for adults and 7.10€ for children. According to our guide though, the afternoon visits are usually packed, so they recommend arriving first thing in the morning in order to avoid the crowds.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

The one bad thing about C's proposal was the timing, ie. It took place the day we left before the US. I was all "Dude! Couldn't you have proposed a few days earlier?? Now we are going to lose a month of planning!"

And then we got back to France, and found out that both of us had to be there to turn in the marriage dossier....which is fine, except the only two work days I am home in April, C works from 9-6.


Another month lost.

Which means that everything is basically on hold until May because we can't plan anything until we know the official date. And for someone who is a major planner like me, it is pure torture. Every time I come home, that damn wedding to-do list is staring at me, taunting me. Like "Ha ha, look at all this stuff there is to do and you can't do any of it!"

I'm telling you guys, getting married on a desert island is starting to sound like a pretty good idea right about now...


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As I'm sure you all have realized, I made it back from Tunisia safe and sound. The colleague who was with me was pretty worried about going, but I was feeling okay with it - and rightly so. Things may heat up again when they have their big vote in July, but for now, it was business as usual.

Everyone we met said "Please, tell the tourists to come!" So Go, Tourists, Go! The flights are cheap and the hotels are empty. Our hotel was just across the road from the beach and cost 25€ per night for a room with a sea view - and that price also included breakfast and dinner!
And look, you can get all the citrus fruits your little heart desires:

My customers were also glad to hear of my pending nuptials. They've always thought it was bizarre that a single woman would travel with a married man to another country. They said "Can you cook? It is important for a wife to cook. We have a saying in Arabic that says The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. And of course now you must stop traveling after you are married, to take care of your husband."

That reminded me of an article I read in one of the big Tunisian newspapers. They have such a flowery, roundabout way of writing. It's interesting, but also tiring. Anyways, this article was part of a bigger series talking about honey. It talked about how tradition says that the newlywed couple should find a bowl of dried fruits soaked in honey hanging over their bed. They are then supposed to share these sweet fruits during the first weeks of their married life, with the hope that the honey will "sharpen their desire, stimulate their sensuality and sweeten their life together". And then the empty bowl was meant to show that everything had gone well and that they had been able to successfully "seduce" one another.

I wonder if this is where the term "honeymoon" comes from? It is called literally a "moon of honey" in French, as well as in several other languages, and given that this tradition is supposed to last several weeks, it could be a plausible explanation....

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

These happy times have been twinged with bits of sadness. News of the passing of parents of fellow bloggers and co-workers alike. Miscarried babies. Children with incurable cancers. All of this has had my dad on my mind lately. He would've turned 60 a few weeks ago. Instead he is frozen in time at the age of 49.

I think he must have been on my brother's mind a lot lately too. My straight-laced brother just told me he was going to get a tattoo with the date of his passing. It surprised me, but somehow the idea of having a permanent trace of him just seems right. Maybe I will do it myself someday.

Sometimes I think of him not being at our wedding and my heart breaks all over again. I think it's part of the reason I've never seen myself having a traditional church wedding - I just can't imagine him not being there to walk me down the aisle.

While we were home, my mother pulled out their wedding rings. She said she'd meant to offer me hers, but it was too late since I had already purchased my own. But then there was my dad's ring, nestled in a little box. It'd been so long since I'd seen it that I'd almost forgotten what it looked like. I looked it at, and then I looked at C. Somehow we had the same idea at the same time, and I asked him "Elle te plaît ?". He said "Oui", and then tried it on.

I should mention that during the month we were there, we visited jewelry store after jewelry store, trying to find him a wedding band. Not only does he have a weird, in-between ring size, but he was being as picky about the ring as he is about most other things in life. We'd finally settled on one, and placed an order for it. Once it arrived, it, like all the other rings, was just a tad too big. We both liked it, but were disappointed it didn't fit right.

So you can imagine my surprise when he tried on my dad's ring and it fit him perfectly. It was like Goldilocks and the three bears - not too big, not too small, but just right. The only one out of all the rings we tried on. What are the odds?

He told me he loved it and that if it was okay with my mom and my brother, he'd like to wear it. Seeing it on his hand actually moved me to tears, and once again, I felt so incredibly grateful to be with a man who just plan understands me, and the importance my father held in my life. So now that ring is tucked away in a safe place with my wedding band, waiting for the big day.

But then there was the issue of what to do with the original band. I wanted to return it - but C wanted to keep it and start a new tradition. He likes the idea of the engagement ring showing just that - your engagement to someone. So he decided he was going to wear it until the wedding. I protested a bit at first, saying "ça se fait pas!!", but to be honest, he gets hit on so much at work that I don't mind all of those ladies thinking he's married. Which is how it ended up that both of us are now wearing rings.

Unconventional? Maybe. But it works for us.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

My attempt at the "Rant of the Week"

I took the puddle jumper from Paris to Bordeaux today. As it was a late morning flight, it was fairly empty, and with no one around me, I was looking forward to 50 minutes of peace and quiet. Until a mom carrying a small child plopped right down behind me just before they closed the plane doors.

Let me preface this by saying that I know a lot of you readers have children, so this isn't against kids in general. I know flying solo with one or more children is not an easy task by any means. But I still take issue with what happened on this flight. I was sitting in the window seat, and the mom was sitting in the seat directly behind me, with her child on her lap. Now you all know that there isn't much leg room for a normal adult on a national flight. Add a child in there and there's really no space left.

The kid started kicking my seat and causing a general ruckus as we were heading down the runway. After five straight minutes of kicking, and the mom doing absolutely nothing to stop it, I turned around and said "Excuse me, but your child is kicking my seat". She replied "So what?", to which I said "I'd like it to stop, it's really bothering me".

The kicking and pushing continued. None of this is the kid's fault - confined to such a tight space, he didn't really have anywhere else to go. And his mom had brought nothing with to occupy him, so he was finding his own amusement. Seeing as she had no one in the two seats next to her, I turned around again and asked if she could move one seat over. She said "No, you're the one that's bothered, you move". I said "I'm not the one causing the problem, so I shouldn't have to move. If you were sitting in the middle, you wouldn't be bothering anyone". That apparently didn't please her, because she called me a b*tch and said there was no way she was moving.

At that point, a flight attendant was walking by, so I stopped him and said "Excuse me sir, but I have a small problem. I keep getting kicked by the child behind me. " He looked at the woman, and then looked at me, and said "Why don't you just move to the middle seat?" I said again "Because 1) I paid for a window seat and 2) I'm not the one bothering someone". He said "Madame, surely you understand that we can't ask a mother and a child to move?" I replied "I'm not asking them to move rows, I'm just asking her to put her child in the seat next to her, and then he can kick all he wants". The flight attendant replied that he couldn't do that and told me I could either move myself or put up with it.

And you know what? That just really ticked me off. I'm just trying to be tranquil on my flight, and I'm the one that has to move? I understand that you can't control what small children do, or how they react - but you can control your own actions, and I thought that mom was being pretty b*tchy herself. If she had just apologized for her child, or made even the slightest attempt at stopping him from doing it again, I would have understood. But none of that happened. Instead she just told him to ignore the mean lady and keep on doing what he was doing.

The flight attendant eventually came back and told me there was another window seat up front, so I finally decided to move seats. Good thing I did too, because right after, the kid started crying and basically screamed for the remainder of the flight.

(And yes, I do realize that writing this has probably increased the likelihood of me being the lady with the screaming kid on the plane one day. But still. Other people's kids, right?)

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Is she or isn't she?

First of all, I have to say that you guys cracked me up with your comments yesterday, and I definitely needed that after a long work week. Secondly, I have to say that I was almost thinking about not doing a April Fool's Day prank this year. After what I wrote two years ago and then last year, I wasn't quite sure what there was left to write about. Now on to the post...

For those of you who were asking for photographic evidence, I give you the temporary ring C proposed with. I "forgot" to post a photo of it on purpose, just to throw you guys off. Cuz I'm sneaky like that.And here's the ring I designed for myself and had made in the US. It has a fourth band of diamonds that will go across the top after the wedding:And here's the two of us at the engagement party my co-workers threw for us on St Patrick's day (hence the festive headband):
And here's the champagne the flight crew gave to us:And lastly, here is a poor C in CDG, completely exhausted after lugging my dress (People, I have a dress!!) and the accessories that go with it across the Atlantic. I'm telling you guys, it was a b*tch to get that thing back here. Never again!Is that enough proof for y'all??

So yes, I am happy to announce that we really are engaged and C really did propose during my surprise boat trip. But it was the night before we went to the US, and then we had to come home and pack for our flight, so I didn't really have time to announce it to many people. Plus I wanted to tell my family first. And then once we were over there, things were so darn hectic that I didn't have time to write a proper post about it. And then I realized April Fool's Day was quickly approaching and that this would make a good story to double-cross y'all.

So voila, you have the truth! Now hopefully we really do live happily ever after... :)

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Friday, April 1, 2011

And they lived happily ever after

Even though I am mega uber busy, I still had time to eek out a post for y'all. You guys remember my Valentine's Day surprise? Well, I might have left a teensy, weensy part out:

So let's see, where were we? Oh, that's right, stopped at the bottom of the Eiffel tower so I could take a few pictures. As I was taking them, C started tugging on my coat. I was all "Dude, look at this view! I need to take a million pictures!", until C finally said "SAM!" with a note of urgency in his voice.
At which point I finally turned around and saw him down on bended knee. He did not waste any time, going straight to the point by saying "Veux-tu m'epouser?" After a moment of shock in which time seemed to stand still, I said a big fat OUI. How could I say Non to the man who went to extreme lengths to combine three of the things I love most? It was almost a surreal feeling - there I was, on a boat in the middle of the Seine, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, getting proposed to. That sh*t only happens in movies!

We sat there with ridiculous grins on our faces for a few minutes, but since you're not really supposed to stop moving on the Seine, it was soon time to fire up the boat again. But not before C busted out the bottle of Champagne and the macarons he had snuck onto the boat:
Looking back at my pictures now, I have to smile at this view - what a perfect image for our life to come:And then we really did make our way back to Bastille, all the while watching the sunset over Paris: