National Holiday?

Yesterday was Halloween in France, but that’s not the national holiday that had everyone NOT working. Today is All Saints Day (which is, of course, where Halloween has it’s origin). Can you believe All Saints Day is a national holiday? You can add this one to your international holiday list. And it’s big–festivals everywhere. In the South, any holiday means bulls run in the street (Abrivado). I wonder if they run the bulls at Christmas, too?

Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention that no one told me that today is a national holiday?

People stopping by unexpectedly is normal. (Remind you of living in the South U.S., Laura?), but I wasn’t expecting a steady stream of people yesterday. And in France, when people come to your home, you don’t just offer a coke or cup of coffee. No, you provide an aperitif, which includes a drink and a salty snack. And it seems they have a habit of showing up (unexpectedly) at mealtimes, or they stay so long it runs into mealtimes, and then you feed them. And if you read my blog, you’ll learn that a French meal is always at least 5 courses. I’m not exaggerating. When I”m alone during the day, I can eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but this is not acceptable, at least in our house, at other times. Normally, even “quick” meals consist of: aperitif, entre, plate, fromage (cheese), and dessert. (See previous blog on French food.) I’m convinced there is no such thing as a quick meal in France, unless you go to McDonalds or the French equivalent of McDonalds: Quik. Yes, that’s what it’s called–Quik.

And so, let me conclude by saying that I had a minor melt-down yesterday evening. An unexpected holiday is nothing to have a melt-down over. It was the proverbial straw…. After several weeks (let’s say months) of the stress of getting my residency documents, getting attacked by a dog (I”m still taking antibiotics for that one), trying to open a French banque account and buy a cell phone, and numerous other daily life stresses of being a “foreigner,” I just lost it. I mean, why didn’t someone do the small courtesy of telling the American it’s a holiday in France? You would think my husband would have thought to mention it? (And yes, Marion, French husbands are no different than American husbands.)

I’ve discovered that one of the greatest stresses of living abroad, for me, is that feeling of “lostness,” never knowing what comes next.

Next year I’ll be expecting All Saints Day.

Domaine de Bel Air

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

In April, I had the opportunity to be at a soirée for the start of the wine season at Domain de Bel Air, the home, vineyard, and winery of Didier and Isabelle Michel. The winery opened for the season with an all-day affair, attracting locals and tourists to taste the first wines of the harvest. Continue reading

Food in France

Some random facts about food in the South of France, or at least here in Provence:

Framage (cheese) comes at the end of every meal. And there is an abundance and variety of cheese in France.

There is also a variety of grapes, and so I have no idea what type of grape jelly I am eating on my peanut butter sandwiches.

They have peanut butter here, but it’s hard to find. I’ve found only Skippy (chunky) in a small jar.

The order of the meal is very important.

An aperitif comes first; and an aperitif does not only refer to the beverage. It refers to what we Americans call an appetizer. Usually some kind of pork and bread. Always salty, not sweet.

The entree is next. And this is not the main meal as we refer to it in the States. It’s usually a salad or vegetable.

Next, The Plate (here’s what we call the entree).

Duck and other wild game and sea food, fresh, is plentiful here. Duck is as common as beef.

We eat Sea Salt (from the Mediterranean, I assume), and naturally, it is manufactured (or processed) locally.

Dessert is after The Plate; and cheese comes last, AFTER dessert.

They eat way to much bread here and drink way too much wine. I don’t know how they stay thin. I think I’m going to gain 20 pounds and stay drunk all day.

Artist in Nimes

Jean Claude Portal is a modern day artist with a passion for ancient art. Bach and Michel Ange (Michelangelo) are his muses. And like all true blue-blooded Frenchman, the corrida (bullfighting) is “art” in the arena.

In his studio in Nimes, France, Jean Claude earns a living as an artist, creating old world themes for new homes and renovations. From table tops to counter tops; lavs to entryways; ornamental decor, sculptures, carvings, etchings in marble and stone; Jean Claude’s art is tastefully, modernly, old.

Last weekend, at my request, he gave me and some friends a tour of his studio and presented his work. It was like stepping back in time and a rare opportunity to visit the work space of a baroque sculptor.

I knew Jean Claude as a musician with a passion for Bach and an infatuation with Gypsy rhythms. He and my Frenchman play gypsy guitar together a few times every week, entertaining in restaurants, and local soirees. But during a casual conversation I learned that he earns his living as an artist, like his mother before him. I asked to see his studio. He said yes; and so Saturday, before we all gathered in a local pub to hear he and my frenchman strum and thump out some more gypsy music, we stopped by JC Portal Marbrier.

His work, all with an old world feel, varies from astrological and unusual etchings in marble to elaborate and traditional carvings in granite. A deeply religious man, his passion for the Christ is evident in many of his personal works, which include scenes from the Crucifixion and Virgin Mother and Christ Child.

Among the tools, marble, granite and works in progress, his two other passions are subtly represented: in his office, a guitar, and hanging from the wall in a back room, the head of a fighting bull.

Kate, I told him about you, my art professor friend; I asked if I could present him and his work to you when you visit. He said, bien sur, of course.