Friday, March 26, 2010

yoga in my village!

Just yesterday I found out that there are yoga classes in my village. Maybe I should explain why this was such a huge surprise. My village is small, not very lively and the kind of place where they even turn out the streetlights at 10:30pm. There is one café, one bakery, a couple of other shops and that's it. I happened to go to the town hall for another reason and then I asked if there were any exercise classes or activities in town. I was told that there are three yoga classes per week and that the cost is 53 euros for three months of classes (once/week) or 150 euros for the whole year. What a deal! I was invited to go to the first class for free, which I did last night. I went to a community hall and I took a class with 12 other people. It was a different style than I am used to - very relaxed and slow moving as opposed to my vinyasa flow classes - but it was a good class all the same. Since we will likely be here for the next three months, I think I'll sign up!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


At first I was wondering why people were complaining about driving through chicken nests in the street and then I realized nid-de-poule means pothole!

Friday, March 19, 2010

sundays in France

It's when we go out on Sundays that the difference between France and North America really strikes me. Sundays are still days of rest here, where everything (or pretty much) is closed - even in Paris! The streets are empty, the stores and restaurants are locked up, and every place feels like a ghost town. It reminds me of how things were when I was growing up in Vancouver, but for me there is also something a little sad about seeing the empty streets. So what do most French people do on Sunday? Most still go home to mama and papa for a big midday meal which lasts until 3 or 4pm. Unless kids live really far away from the family, it is expected that they will spend the day with their parents. After 4pm, the families emerge from their houses en masse and go for a gentle family stroll in the countryside or the city. Sometimes you can see four generations enjoying their walk together! For those who don't have family close by, there are a few restaurants that are open, as well as all the cinemas, so a meal and a film are a possibility. There are also the occasional flea markets and garage sales to check out, in addition to special festivals (cidre, apple, cheese, potato - you name it!). Generally speaking, though, it's a quiet and somewhat sleepy day, meant to be spent with family: a time to gear up for the week ahead.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

a new house (almost)

Last weekend, Jean-Marc and I drove around the countryside to search out potential villages to live in. While the apartment we are currently in is quite comfortable and affordable, it's far away from both our places of work; Jean-Marc's work is 25kms away and mine is 30kms away, making for a lot of driving every day. Our current village is also not very inspiring and charming, and I'm craving the beauty of France in my everyday life. We ended up in some villages along the Loire and found a house in Savennières, a lovely village that is known for its white wine. The location is ideal - only 5kms from Jean-Marc's work and 15kms from mine - and there is even a train stop with trains that get to Angers in 8 minutes. The house had a "for rent" sign posted on the door, so we called the landlord right away to see if we could have a look. He asked us to come by on Monday evening, so we headed there after work on Monday. The 200+ year old house was huge: three floors, three bedrooms, plus a big attic with windows. The living room had tomette bricks on the floor, as did the attic. There were exposed beams and the windows had all been replaced with double panes. The drawbacks were the (rather) ugly carpet on the stairs and in the bedrooms, the kitchen, which included only a sink in a huge room (no cupboards, no counters... nothing!), the unattractive woodburning stove standing *in front* of the fireplace with a metal pipe going up the fireplace, and the electric heating (which can be very pricey in France). There was also no garden, just a back terrace-courtyard, and we were really hoping to have our own vegetable garden.

We were quite tempted, despite the ugly elements and drawbacks, and I could easily see the potential in the place, but I could see that it would take some money to get things the way we would like them (the kitchen, for example!). When we got home we had a peek at Jean-Marc's rental agreement and found out that he has to give three months' notice, making it difficult to move right away. We could do it, but we'd have to pay two rents for a few months! Oh well. It was good to see that affordable houses in charming places that are close to our work exist. I suppose we will have to decide when we want to move and then give our notice without having anything else lined up. A leap of faith type of move.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

ce n'est pas terrible!

In addition to writing about my favourite things, I have decided to write about French expressions that I find interesting or unusual. My first installation is ce n'est pas terrible. As an English speaker you might think that this means "it's not bad/terrible" (ie. it's good), but actually it means "it's awful!" At first I took this expression at face value but I soon realized that it means the opposite of what it seems and now I'm using as a part of my regular language. Likewise, c'est terrible can mean "it's great!" My dictionary tells me that this usage dates back to 1664, when terrible changed from its original negative meaning to its alternative positive one. And here I thought it was some recent slang expression! Of course if you want to use this expression and sound like a native, you will need to drop the ne and just say c'est pas terrible, ça!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

château flipping

There is an anglophone network, with regional websites throughout France, called Anglo Info. Every now and again I check it out to look at the classified ads where I can find things that people are selling or giving away. This week I saw an ad placed by a young Irish family who is selling up shop to move back home. I thought I'd go take a look to see what was on offer and when I arrived I realized that they, in fact, lived in a château. They purchased it a couple of years ago and totally renovated it, making it into a bed and breakfast. The interior of the house was gorgeous and they truly did a wonderful job. After finishing the house and running it as a business, they decided that France wasn't for them and that they missed Ireland too much, so they sold it in January and are now selling most of the interior fixtures and furnishings. I have no idea how they afforded to buy and renovate this house, but I can imagine that they turned quite a nice profit in the end. I had a look around and seriously contemplated purchasing a number of things, but in the end I just bought their old TV for my farmhouse (we have a dvd player already with a number of dvds but were lacking a TV to be able to use them). I don't think that I would enjoy living in such a large château year-round but it sure was a nice place to dream for a little bit!