Thursday, February 12, 2009

Close to heaven

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On va au cinema?

We have had the good fortune of meeting a number of English-speaking people through our French classes. It is amazing how people got here but the common theme seems to be that after visiting the region, they fell in love with the area and decided to come back and live here permanently in retirement (or earlier). Some love the mountains and the opportunities they offer, many love the weather (though it has been ‘très humide’ and untypical that there would be so much rain. The river is rising again…) and there are a few who love to be in the Rhone valley surrounded by so many good wines… So, in addition to sharing a love for the area, we have met others who enjoy movies, others who enjoy food, etc. On Sunday night, we put the two together and went to have dinner at the home of an English couple and other guests and then watch the BAFTA awards (Ellen explained that the “British Academy of Film and Television Awards” have a program similar to the Oscars or the Golden Globes – and we got to see it.)

We have not seen all of the entries in the BAFTA competition, but we have started to go to the cinema more regularly. Two weeks ago, our local theatre – it is only one street away from our apartment – participated in a France-wide “Festival Telerama” which included French and English language films. These were the films that the magazine “Telerama” had chosen as the best of the year. The films that we saw were mainly the French language films as we had seen two of the three English language films. We did fairly well with the French language films – sometimes the dialects or the idioms were a bit hard to understand, but generally, we did okay – another one of those indicators that our language skills are improving… Just prior to the BAFTA, we went to see “Slumdog Millionaire” – which also happened also to be the film for the Neighborhood Movie group discussion last week (we couldn’t stay awake until 4:00 AM to participate… though it was a great film.)

B&B – better & better

At one of the films, I got to introduce Ellen to our neighbor and B&B operator, Lina Blanchard. We sat with her during the movie but she left immediately afterwards. A few days later, she invited us to “apero” at her home and we got to learn a little more about Vaison, the Vaucluse (our county) and her. In addition to which, she makes the BEST tapenade I have ever tasted! I was hoping she would tell me where she purchased it but when she said that she made it, I asked for the recipe (hoping that she would give me some that she had made. Instead, she said that it was easy and she would show me how to do it.

One of the films in the “Festival Telerama” was a documentary about the end of small farms in France. Lina, who had also seen “La Vie Moderne,” grew up on a farm close to here and talked about the changes and how hard it is to make a living with a small farm plot. It is a theme of the book From Here, You Can’t See Paris by Michael Sanders that Bruce and Judy had sent to me to read. Whether we were talking about films or farming or food, we had a delightful evening with Lina and her sister. – and as soon as I get 300 grams of olives, anchovies, capers, garlic and a lemon, I will get to try to make olive tapenade with Lina providing the recipe.

Living “green”

Our building has hallway lighting that runs on timers. About every eight feet and outside everyone’s door, there is a light switch on a timer. When we leave the apartment, we have about two minutes to get out of the building before the lights go out. Of course, if we stop to visit with our neighbor or to play hopscotch in the hall, we can turn the lights on for an additional two minutes.

The hallway lights are just one example of energy saving. Almost every toilet contains two buttons for flushing. Push the smaller button and you get a small amount of water to clear the bowl. The larger button is for more water… (I wonder if there was a convention or a research project the results of which have created the standards for litres/flush.)

I had already noted in a prior posting that when you go to the market, you must bring your own bags with which to carry your groceries because the clerk is not going to say “paper or plastic?” In fact, the clerks at the large grocery stores sit at their machines and move items past the scanner and to a tray from which the purchaser fills his/her own grocery bags. And, while at the supermarket/large store, you can take a shopping cart only after leaving a deposit of one euro in the coin slot. This encourages shoppers to return the carts to where they belong in order to get one’s money back. Shoppers who arrive at the store by car don’t have to move carts to the cart corral before parking…

We have rented a variety of cars but ALL of them have been diesel and manual transmissions. The Europeans seem to have either better diesel fuel or better diesel engines because the exhaust doesn’t stink as it seems to in the US. And, of course, for the most part, the vehicles are about half the size (and weight) of American cars. There is one model of car that is so small, I am sure that the people who buy it simply attach a grass cutting blade when they need to trim the lawn.

1 comment:

  1. Your entry reminded me of some things we encountered on our travels...the first 2 button toilet I had ever seen was in Australia. They of course have a severe drought problem (you have seen the awful news of the fires near Melbourne), and they are very water conscious. All toilets have the 2 buttons (we saw some in China, but not everywhere), and all the hotels had showers only. Also, in many places you had to put your key card in a slot to make the electricity work, so if we both left the room we basically didn't have the air conditioning on. I always take my own bags to the grocery here, but while we were in China the government issued an edict banning any plastic bags at groceries, and rrequiring everyone to bring their own, or pay for a re-usable bag at checkout.
    We have a grocery store here, Aldi, owned by a German company, and they require you to put a quarter in the cart stand to get a cart, then when you return the cart you get the quarter back.
    When you return I think you will see some changes here...the attitudes about material things are changing and it will be interesting to see if it lasts. All the stores here, grocery and hardware and others, have bags to buy, but I am still in the minority in using my own bags. Of course in China the government can just say "It will be thus" and it happens, and in the US it doesn't work that way...
    as always, enjoyed the observations...jane