Tuesday, January 31, 2012

La neige! (snow!)

We awoke Tuesday morning to a fresh dusting of snow...the rooftops and terraces were white, but the streets were just wet.  Through the day the snow turned to rain and life got quite wet and sloppy.  Outside of Aix in the countryside to the north, the snow was a bit deeper...wreaking havoc on traffic and the french southerners who aren't accustomed to snow.

the view out of our kitchen window early Tuesday morning
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Monday, January 30, 2012

A firehose of French...

Mondays are full of french!  oh wait...everyday is full of french! (except Sunday when Josie and I stay home and speak english)

I have so much homework!!  I have more homework than Josie!  I have more homework than I can finish tonight!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Habitudes dominicales

What do you typically do on Sunday?

Well, so far in France, Sundays have been our down day...read, study, relax, eat, drink tea...

Today we went our for an afternoon stroll to take photos and found some open shoe stores....and the sun peaked out for a few photos...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pouffer and Poudlard!

Another Circuit around the city with AVF's wonderful tour guide Christian...we learned where the cinemas are, toured the public library, visited several churches, and many other things...stores, markets, patisseries, etc. etc.
View of the rue Cardinale where the Hotel Cardinale is located...great two-star hotel if you ever visit Aix.  Reasonable price, well situated, small and very nice.

More shopping!  We are having Ruth, George and Carl over for an Indian feast, so we needed to get groceries!  Spices at the market and lots of veggies.  Then we tried a new grocery store which was supposed to be wonderful and cheap, and it was cheap, but not so wonderful and really long lines.

We made it home at 5:15 with groceries and our guests were arriving at 6:30!!  Aaaa!  In the end, fantastic food and a wonderful time!

Highlights...learned a new french verb...Pouffer = to burst out laughing.  Ha hahahahahah!  and, why did I learn this new word...because I was looking the following word...(which isn't in the dictionary!)...

In the french version of Harry Potter, Hogwarts is called Poudlard!  Which appears to be a word created just to mean Hogwarts.  Kind of makes you pouffe, doesn't it?!  Hee.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday and feng shui

Feeling better today, so...here's quick summary of what happened...
 - coffee with Ruth from Colorado at their new apartment avec pain chocolat (chocolate croissant).  
 - lunch from Pizza Capri...quatre fromage...the best pizza stand in Aix and a wonderful cheap quick lunch.

Visited a 2nd-hand store looking for another lamp...Occadecco.  Didn't find a lamp, but did find an amazing selection of used books for only 1 euro each including Dom Juan for my class and Harry Potter in french!  and, best of all...a teapot!  We are so excited.  We've bought some yummy loose tea here and are looking forward to brewing it properly.

Josie and I decided that we really needed to rearrange our apartment.  Josie has informed me that we didn't really rearrange with feng shui in mind, but we certainly improved it by consolidating...here are some shots of our new and improved arrangement...
The Hobbit Hole...aka Josie's bedroom (the only bedroom)

Our sunny fruit and flower-filled kitchen

The rest of the apartment...c'est tout!

Feng shui or not, it feels better now!

We attended a reception with the french newcomers group (AVF) that I joined.  It wasn't exactly what we expected, but it was a good opportunity to practice our french, which is woefully inadequate!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Histoire de l'Art and gastro-bug con'd

My art history class will cover sculpture through the ages.  So, in order to get ready to discuss sculpture in french we needed to learn all of the body parts in french.  We went through Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing of man and identified...elbow, wrist, ankle, calf, etc. etc.  (there is a point to my telling you this).

After class I raced to meet up with the introductory tour of the north part of the city of Aix hosted by the Aix new-comer's group.  The tour was conducted mostly in french but the wonderful guide, Christian, would translate to english when I was really lost.

One of the fun things he showed us was the narrowest street in Aix...Esquicho Coude, which translates to something like squeeze your elbows!  Coude = elbow.

Today, I also joined the AAGP, which is a local anglophone group that does lots of activities (I have to be careful with the acronym...AAPG = American Association of Petroleum Geologists!), and I got a library card! A library card in France!  How cool is that?  The library is FABULOUS!

 I bought a lamp today!  We are illuminated!  I found one for only 15 euros at Bricorama (what a name for a shop!).

Then succumbed again to the gastro-bug...down for the count.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gastro Bug!

In our first class the instructor mentioned that the secretary was out sick with a gastro-intestinal maladie, and to please stay home if anyone contracted it.  The gastro bug has been in the news and is sweeping its way through the south of France.

After six hours of french class today I was feeling a bit woozy...thinking it was just brain mush from trying to comprehend so much new french in one day.  But, alas, it was the gastro-bug!  I soldiered on through dinner and dishes, but have succumbed to being horizontal quite early.

A wee bit about my classes...phonetics, french language and theater!  A very full Wednesday, but what fun!  My teachers are all fantastic.  I recognize that my french is woefully inadequate, but will catch up fast, I'm certain.  All of my classes are entirely in French...no English allowed...pas de tout!

In theater we'll be reading Dom Juan (yes, in french it's spelled Dom, not Don) by Moliere.  Today we learned the history of the Don Juan myth and started on a biography of Moliere.  My teacher is very entertaining and amazingly animated.  She makes it remarkably easy to understand her lecture (given that I am a novice french speaker, this is a fantastic accomplishment!).

The only wee bummer is that many of my classes will be in the annex building which is actually part of the economics school and it's in this terrible building that's in dire need of some upkeep.  It's a bit grim.  Such a disappointment after seeing the photos of the gorgeous historic building where the school was located until October.
This is the hallway where some of my classes are in the school of economics...it's just a wee bit run-down, and kind of lacking in the character compared to the old building.

Soon...I will write more about my classmates and other teachers...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Group 3 CC?

I got my official placement in my french class today.  Level three has three groups...A, B and CC.  CC, not C. Why?  I am in level 3 CC.  Is CC a french code for something like "troublemakers"?

I met my teacher today.  She's wonderful!

Most of my class is comprised of college-age American girls.  But, most of them didn't understand the teacher and left about half way through the class (long story...but I have to giggle a bit).  The four of us that were left (a Brazilian girl, a Korean girl, another American girl, and me...the grandma of the group) got a tour of the classrooms, the correct schedule and actually know where to go tomorrow.  Some of our classes will be in the university building where the economics school is, which is located a couple of buildings down the street from where the main school is (if you're interested...it's at 11 Cours Gambetta, yes, in the same building as the Avis car rental office).

When I signed up for this school, it was located in the old part of the city in a beautiful old building.  I have to admit I'm just a wee bit disappointed that it's moved to a new building in a different part of town...kind of lost the charm of the old site.  But, the facilities are probably nicer, since they're more modern.

Josie made it through her second day and had the rest of her classes today including math.  The math class here doesn't follow the same curriculum as her class in the US, so we're doing some math tutoring tonight, but she'll be fine.  I need to review my calculus!  Tonight, she walked straight home from the bus and was home just before 6pm.  That's a long day!

I met my friend Caroline for a drink this evening and smell like I smoked a pack of cigarettes because the people that sat right next to us were chain smoking...that's something I'm going to have a hard time getting used to here.  People smoke a lot.

Caroline introduced me to a new drink...Kir.  It's white wine with elderberry liqueur.  Tasty!

Signing off from group 3CC!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Josie's first day of school...

Josie survived her first day of school and even had a good day despite a bit of a bumpy start...
We missed the 7:20 am bus by seconds...the bus was parked in a different place than the last time we took it, and we stood around (like gaping tourists wondering where it was) for a few minutes before I found it... just as it pulled away. Josie was feeling a bit stressed and the next bus would make us late, so we took a taxi. Ack! 15 euros later, we arrived at IBS very early, but it was all good. And, the result is that Josie decided that the school bus is the way to go, and I concur!

Josie's school is the International Bilingual School of Provence (IBS...http://www.ibsofprovence.com/) and is just outside of a small village south of Aix called Luynes (pronounced...loo-ee-n).  Josie is in year "premiere", which  is the year before the year you graduate.  The numbers in high school go backwards from our numbering in the US, and the last year is called "terminale".  She's continuing in the IB Diploma programme (that's why we chose this school), and there are about 60 kids in her class.  About 40 are boarding students.  And, all but two (Josie and Lindsey from Alaska) are from outside the US.  Josie said that she hears many different languages being spoken and that it's kind of crazy!  Her classes are all in english (except french of course), and many of her professeurs are British (one german, one australian).

There was another new student starting today at IBS...a young boy from Colorado! His parents (Ruth and George) and I had a great time talking and sharing experiences. They are high school teachers from Golden, CO taking a sabbatical and travelling around the world with their 12-year old son for a year!  They have landed in Aix kind of accidentally (their volunteer plans in Tanzania didn't work out) and don't have a place to live yet.  Bravely, they have rented a car and kindly offered to give me a ride to the giant-super store Carrefour, where I was headed to attempt to purchase a lamp or two for our dim apartment.  The drivers here are crazy.  Truly.  You have to be extremely aggressive to get anywhere in the traffic.

No luck with the lamp at Carrefour (I bought some super cheap battery-powered lights that didn't work and a really cheap flourescent shop light thingy that does work, but doesn't look so great), but I had a great time using my new french dictionary on my ipod to translate hair conditioner bottles! :-) LOL!  Fun in France! I really like how the new products I bought today smell! (I'm not usually into that kind of thing, but I just washed my hair and it smells so good!).

I learned today, from my iPod french dictionary, that Marseille has been famous for soap-making since the 1300s...hence the brand name soap Marseillais, and the scent Marseille on our laundry soap.  And, that you can buy a large block of "savon de marseille"...which I then found in the laundry aisle!!  But, what does one do with a 5-inch square block of soap?  Well...thanks to google, I now know that this soap is made from olive oil and is known for being very gentle to one's skin (here's a link  if you're interested...http://savondemarseille.com/).

I met Josie at the school bus this afternoon...I knew I was in the right place because I was confronted by a pack of teenagers, smoking cigarettes and speaking english.  Josie was not smoking, but was right behind them with a couple of other girls.  She was famished because the school lunch today was in honor of the chinese new year, and did not have an obvious vegetarian option.  So, we stopped at her now favorite Crepe a Go-Go so she could get her favorite Nutella crepe, then headed out to buy more school supplies.   yay!  That meant we got to go to Papeterie Michel...my now favorite store where I have been spending too much money.  I love french stationary stores!

Josie said school was great, busy, long, and not as hard as she expected. She's ahead in biology and geography, and she said art is going to be her hardest class.  Her art teacher has very high expectations....thus another $100 of supplies!  But, what better place to explore art more deeply than in Cezanne's hometown??  
Studying in our dim apartment.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Recensement...the French census!

We arrived just in time for the french census in our region! The census-taker wasn't sure what to do with us and had to come back with her supervisor to determine if we needed to fill out the forms. I guess since we'll be here six months, they decided that we do need to fill them out. Of course, they are all in french, so she left me her phone number so I could call her with questions. But,thanks to google translate was enough and I think I'm done! She'll be back tomorrow night to pick them up.

The really funny thing is that the light at the top of the our building's stairs is out so it is pitch dark at the entrance to our apartment. We have gotten accustomed to either carrying a headlamp or using our cell phone to illuminate our way. But the poor census worker wasn't as prepared and we scared the pants off of both of us one night in the dark!

Here are our forms...yes, it took a glass of wine and the laptop to complete them!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

French movie theaters and un verre de vin rose

We tried to see a movie tonight, but it sold out. At the cinema here....when you go to buy your ticket, you have to get in line for the specific room or salle that your movie is playing in. Then there is an electronic sign above the queue that states how many spaces are still available. Next time, we will try to reserve our seats on line...I think we can do that. But we still don't even know how much the tickets cost.

We did figure out that when the cinema advertisement says VO is means the movie is in the original language, and when it says VF that means the movie is in french. I don't think I'm ready for an entire movie in french...well, at least I'm not ready to actually understand it. I'll be thrilled if I can watch a movie in french by the time we leave and at least get the gist of what's happening.

So, instead of seeing a movie we went to Cafe Verdun, which is just a short block from our apartment, and had a glass of wine. Josie had her first (tres petite) glass of wine out...a wee tiny glass of a local provencal rose. She will be seventeen in a month! wow. I love that you can have this tiny (10cl) glass of wine for only two euro and it's delicious and relaxed. The only bummer is that when you sit outside, most other people are smoking. Ack.

Our funny faux pas of the evening (there is at least one per day!)...when we arrived at the cafe, we didn't know if we could just sit down or if we had to ask to be seated. So I decided to err on the safe side and ask to be seated, so we went inside and asked (in french) for a table for two outside. He pointed to one (which was occupied by the two young women next to it's purses) and we eventually evacuated the purses and sat down. Shortly after we sat down, two dinner menus arrive and then a woman showed up with this giant piece of wood that she plunked down onto the table that turned the table from a round little cocktail table into a larger square wooden table!! Of course we felt quite conspicuous being the only people on the patio with a giant slab of wood in front of us. I realized quickly that they thought we wanted dinner and told the woman that we only wanted drinks (in french). She looked surprised and dashed off to talk to the waiter. He then came over to us and explained (in english!) that when you come inside and ask for a table it means you want dinner. Oh well...we are learning! I explained that we are new in town...I'm sure he rolled his eyes inside and he took away our giant slab of wood and we ordered our wine (in french) and all was well.

Slice of life in Aix...

Spending a lot of time just wandering around Aix this week. Learning our way through the maze of tiny streets...here is a typical Aixois street near the art school.

Today is another market Saturday....nearly everyday is a market day in Aix! We discovered another market today that also has seafood, and we found the flower market as well. And, today we also adventured beyond just purchasing produce and bought fresh pasta, cheese and chocolate...and paid dearly for it! All delicious and all very expensive! Pointing, nodding, smiling and tasting was great fun, and my french is still pretty terrible and the result was paying about 10 euros for the cheese, 9 for the pasta and 5 for the chocolate! wow! As my french improves, so will my shopping!
if you look closely, you'll see our tres chere pasta, cheese and chocolate...as well as chicory, mache, lychees (mamonchinos!!), some other greens that I think might be dandelion, cauliflower, artichokes, tomatoes, clementines, ginger, garlic, lemon, red pepper, carrots, leeks zucchini, and green leafies. We are going to eat well this week!

Heading back into our apartment we are greeted by this spectacular marble ball at the bottom of the main staircase. It's a bit out of place, but makes us both smile...

rue Marius Reinaud...our street. Our apartment entrance is just before the green awning on the left. I can't afford to buy a single sock on sale at the store with the green awning!
Our apartment is on the 5th floor american styles, or le 4me etage en France...in the attic of our 18th century building.

One of Josie's favorite things about our apartment is the electric key that opens the main gate and the main door. You hold a little black key fob thingy up to an electronic key pad and the gate buzzes and opens, then you do the same thing inside to open the door. Very exciting!

Friday, January 20, 2012

How old is Josie??

I had my french placement exam today. I haven't studied and really wasn't too fussed about doing well, because it's just a placement exam. But, it's really hard to not get just a we bit hyped and stressed about taking a 24 page written exam, plus an oral exam!

The morning session was the written portion which included four pages of listening and comprehension (which I completely failed...I didn't understand any of the conversations! really.) as well as about 20 pages of other written testing (did much better on this portion except for the more advanced verb conjugations).

The afternoon session was an oral exam with a teacher. I did okay telling the examiner about myself and about Josie....well...except...I said that Josie was 60 years old instead of 16. The examiner said "soixante"??? Your daughter is "soixante"??? I said "oooh, oui"...yes, of course. She asked again..."soixante"??? She is "soixante"??? I laughed and smiled thinking she was complimenting me...saying like you're too young to have such a grown daughter. Finally, she turned her notebook around and said "Gigi...soixante"...and wrote....6....0... "OH!" I said "seize! she's 16!! 16!!". We both got a great laugh out of it.

My french school is called the Institut d'Etudes Fracaises pour l'Etudiants Etranger (IEFEE - http://www.iefee.univ-cezanne.fr/) and is now located on the Boulevard Gambetta in the same building as the Avis rental car place...not really so lovely as its old location. To get there, I have a ~10 minute walk from our apartment through the Passage a Gard, down to the end of the Cours Mirabeau and up the rue d'Italie.

Today, Josie and I met for lunch and had pizza from Pizza Capri in the Place Richelme where we discovered yet another farmer's market! And, we learned tonight that there is a flower market in that square on Saturdays!!

Then, we went to the english bookstore where we had tea and explored the selection of books in english. It's a lovely bookstore and has a 2nd-hand section upstairs. I'm sure it will become a refuge when we need a bit of english in our busy french lives. Also, we learned that they can order anything we need and they have great tea too!

Speaking of tea we found two more tea stores and bought some delicious sleepytime-ish herbal tea....in addition to our staple black and green teas. I am really enjoying living in an urban area where all of this delicious food and drink is so easily accessible!!! Did I mention how good the olive oil is!?!

Josie got a tour around Aix with some teenage girls this evenings...crepes and the english bookstore again. Then one of her friends came over for dinner.

Another fun and full day in France!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Buses, shopping carts and school supplies

Another exciting day in Provence !
I still cannot text with my mobile phone despite the fact that supposedly my contract has unlimited texting. Today, Orange (the mobile phone company) convinced me to pay more money because supposedly I couldn't text because for this first partial month (Jan16-27) I do NOT actually have unlimited text like they told me and I had used up the miniscule amount of credit I had with my long phone conversation with my bank. But...alas...after paying more money, I still can't text. I will go back again tomorrow. (They really don't know what the problem is.)

We successfully navigated the bus system and got off at the proper stop and had a nice walk to IBS (Josie's school), where we met with Mr. Trevor Tricker, the IB Diploma Director. Josie will start school on Monday. IBS is a very busy little school with high energy, and yet a very relaxed sort of atmosphere. I know that sounds like a dichotomy, but it fits. Josie got her schedule for Monday and we got a tour of the school. Interesting...most of the classrooms are in modular pod-like buildings because they are still waiting for their building permit to start building the new classroom building...it was explained to us that this is typical for "the south". Anyone read Peter Mayle's books??

After visiting the school, we successfully made it to Carrefour the giant massive super-sized Walmart type store (wow!!). Did I mention that it was huge? Seriously...a store that puts Super-Walmart to shame.

and best of all...they have shopping cart escalators...

We went to Carrefour to purchase Josie's school supplies...a massive pile of notebooks, paper, etc.. You would have really been entertained watching us with the French school supply list trying to figure out what the heck the difference is between double and single paper (still don't quite get that one...but they require that she have some of both???) and the sizes (A1,2,3,4) and lg vs. sm squares. Pretty hilarious. I think it took us about two hours (okay...maybe not quite) of hanging out in the papiterie aisle of Carrefour and we still didn't get everything. Home again on the bus...what an adventure!

Next time maybe we will try one of the self-scanners that you carry with you and scan all your purchases yourself as you go!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Errands and jet lag...

Two days of running errands...somewhat successfully...neither of us could sleep Sunday night. I think I finally fell asleep at about 3am...so...

Monday...slept through our alarm and woke up at 10am! Oops. Met with the owner of our apartment, Natacha, at noon to pay our rent. Then we successfully opened a french bank account so that we could then get SIM cards for our cell phones. Everything seemed to go very smoothly! We then bought bus passes and stocked our kitchen from the Monoprix. Thankfully there is a grocery store just about two blocks from our apartment.

Tuesday...the market! Bought some yummy fresh fruit and veggies and olive oil! C'est delicieux!

Then we headed off in the direction of the school where I will take french class. The school is just past an italian part of town and I promised Josie that we could get italian food for lunch...we didn't get pasta, but she did find tiramisu! I had an omelette fromage au nature avec pommes frites et salade. Josie ordered a cheese plate, but discovered that one of the cheeses was camembert and one was blue...not what she expected, but the tiramisu was a hit and served in a bowl shaped like Mt. St. Helens.

We finally found my school, the IEFEE (very confusing to find!), and Marie was very happy to see me and that I'd made it to Aix and found them. My exam will be on Friday to determine which level class I will be in and she explained where I needed to go to pay the rest of my school fees at the accounting office at the University. The directions looked very straightfoward on the map...but oh dear...and as with everything else, my french is good enough to ask questions, but not good enough to understand the answer. We finally found the building and the account office and actually paying took only 2 minutes, but the whole process took more than 2 hours!

Next...my cell phone would not allow me to send text messages. I can call out, receive calls and receive texts, but not send texts. So, back to the cell phone store where I managed to baffle the two tech support guys and the salesman. Finally we agreed that I should come back when they weren't so busy. They were hopeful that the problem would fix itself before I cam back. (Ha! we'll see...).

Tomorrow...an outing to buy school supplies for Josie and meet her school headmaster...and hopefully sleep tonight and awake earlier!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Soldes! Soldes! Soldes!

It's the winter sales in Aix and many of the shops were open specially on Sunday. The crowds were much quieter today and people strolled more calmly down the not quite so busy streets. We wandered aimlessly visiting stores that looked intriguing...noting which ones we want to go back to.

One such intriguing store was a candy shop! The displays were spectacular...beautiful! Free samples abound and we had fun translating the labels...

The streets are very narrow and most are pedestrian only. Cars are allowed on the road that forms a ring around Aix. We don't know where we were, but when we hit a road with cars, we found a new street to work our way back to the center.

Josie couldn't wait to have a crepe in France. The wall of Nutella drew her like a magnet...
After just two bites she said blissfully "Mom, your crepes are terrible". Thanks Josie! But, I'm okay with being terrible compared to the real thing. Nutella oozed out of every gap in the crepe and eventually a big blob landed on her coat. We decided that was a sign to wander back to our apartment, eat the crepe with a fork and knife and clean up her coat.

I had read that the doors of Aix were special...and I have been noticing some beautiful doors...ours included. In addition to the doors, there are interesting sites nearly everywhere you look...I won't get bored walking around here!

For dinner we decided to stay home and enjoy our little apartment. It was getting cold, dark, and cloudy out. Caroline had left us a frozen quiche (tarte 3 fromages), so I embarked on figuring out the oven and translating the cooking instructions from the box! A new challenge! The oven... Three knobs, no words, just pictures....can't be too difficult? wow...who knew you could have so many choices for how to turn on your oven? You can set it to cook a chicken, a roast, a pot, a cake, etc....but none of the little pictures looked like a quiche! Finally I chose what looked like a convection symbol and voila! In the cupboard I found the instructions for the oven...in English! Now, to read the box...hmmm...very small print and dim lighting...must use headlamp! French words I don't understand....how about Google translate. Picture this...Gigi in a chair with laptop in her lap wearing a headlamp and studying the box of a frozen food product...ha!

Dinner was a great success....
Notre premiere diner dans notre petit appartement

Alas...dinner was followed by an attack of time zone change and I couldn't sleep until 3am! Must get myself on French time!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Good Morning Provence!

Apparently the traffic into Aix is notoriously horrible. It took us about 1-1/2 hours to get from the village of Luynes (where Josie will go to school) to Aix...a distance of just a few kilometers! Traffic was completely stopped. Caroline said it's normal to be slow, but this was particularly bad. Once we arrived in Aix, there was the round and round to find a legal parking space. We got a nice tour of the neighborhood until we nabbed a spot close enough given that we had FIVE suitcases to wheel down the street. Our street is pedestrian only, so we couldn't drive up to our door to drop our stuff off.

Then came the stairs! Oh, first two automated locked doors to open the front two doors, then three long flights of stairs. Old building = high ceilings, so each flight is equivalent of two normal US flights. Then we get to our apartment door, which has no doorknob. The lights at the top of the main stairs are out, so it's pitch dark. Thankfully, Caroline brought a flashlight.
Once inside our door, we are faced with a flight of spiral stairs...not long, but tiny...miniscule. Our biggest suitcase nearly wouldn't fit. I had to bump it up ahead of me with each step.

Not sure what we would have done without Caroline! She visited the apartment the day before we arrived and stocked the fridge and pantry with some basics and a bottle a wine. Also, she made our bed, brought an extra blanket, and left dish soap, sponges, shower gel, etc.!

Our apartment is from the 18th century and the original tiles have been uncovered....beautiful, quaint, cozy, and tiny, but perfect for Josie and I. The location is perfect! Right in the middle of the shopping district off of the tree-lined Cours Mirabeau. We can't stand up in the bedroom...our little hobbit hole.
The next morning...Saturday...dawned clear and bright. Sunlight streaming in our kitchen window...

The Saturday market is just outside our window...
We spent the day Saturday just trying to get our bearings, finding internet, being challenged by French keyboards (!!), trying to get cell phones, and arguing with each other...part of the adjustment process! :) Josie fixed the internet in our apartment, so we are online now.

Dinner with Caroline and her family...we learned a wonderful new tradition for eating king cake that we have decided to adopt. The youngest person gets under the table and determines who gets each piece of cake, so the person under the table doesn't know who's getting the piece with the baby...just in case the baby pokes its head out while the cake is being cut.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Snafus, suitcases, and safe travels

Months of planning and one hour before we are supposed to leave I realized that our stuff won't fit in the suitcases we have planned to use. I panicked. Josie remained calm and later confessed that she had to restrain herself from laughing out loud at me. Not one of my better moments! I decided to throw all of the extra stuff into an extra suitcase resulting in absolutely chaotic packing. In my efforts to reduce our load to fit in two suitcases, I had extracted random things to leave behind at my mom's house. Now, I have no idea what I left and what I brought. I guess I'll find out in a few hours when we arrive at our apartment in Aix.

I must clarify...Josie was perfectly organized, packed and ready to leave with one check-in bag weighing in under 50 pounds and her two carry-ons. The problem was all mine!

The night before, I had tried to check-in for our flights on-line, but the website wouldn't allow me to check-in. On the drive to the airport Gary joked that maybe we didn't really have tickets. Oh dear...if I only knew how close he was to the truth! When we arrived at DIA, the gate agent at British Airways couldn't check us in either and couldn't figure out what the problem was. Eventually, several phone calls later, they discerned that our ticket had never been ticketed...it was booked and we had seats, but they had never charged my credit card!! We stood at the ticket counter for nearly an hour before they finally got it sorted out. The cause was that the time for our return flight was changed (by only 5 minutes) just after I booked the reservation, and the computer system got stuck. Because I didn't authorize the change, it never ticketed our ticket, but thankfully the system retained our booking and seats and the orginal price.

The wonderful result was that they were very apologetic and didn't charge me for the extra suitcase! A silver lining to our ticket snafu.

Having successfully flown across the Atlantic and transferred from Heathrow to Gatwick airports in London, we are safely on our way to Marseille!