Tuesday, February 22, 2011

La vie d’un célibataire (life without a partner)

Add to Google Reader or HomepageHow do you make a 400 sq. ft. apartment seem too big? Live there alone.

Ellen is attending L’Institut de Français (www.institutdefrancais.com) where she enrolled in a French immersion course in Villefranche sur mer. It is a one-month course that focuses on practical, oral French. L’Institut de Français is one of the premier/the premier French language school(s) in France. Villefranche sur mer is located just east of Nice – between Nice and Monaco on the Mediterranean coast. She has already completed two weeks at the Institut.

She has a beautiful view from her apartment though she doesn’t get to spend much time appreciating the view. The school opens for breakfast at 8:30 and then the students spend the next nine hours working on improving their French. With two weeks under her belt and two weeks to go, it is already obvious to me that it is having a positive impact on her ability to speak French. This past weekend, for example, Phil, Margaret and I went to visit her and when rain ruined all of our Sunday plans, Ellen worked on her homework (devoirs). We offered to help her but she wanted to get it right and to understand why, so she worked alone. (Meanwhile, Margaret, Phil and I tried to improve our French by correcting each other on subjunctive verbs, pronouns, etc. Not a day at the Carnivale in Nice nor the Lemon Festival in Menton, but we still had fun.)

I have visited Ellen on each weekend that she has been at the school. The first weekend, the Institut offered a walking tour of Villefranche sur mer. On Sunday, Ellen and I went to Nice. (The bus service between Nice and Monaco costs only one euro so it was easy and inexpensive to enjoy the city of Nice – we haven’t yet been to Monaco.)

This past weekend, we went to two villages on a tour again organized by the Institut. In St. Paul, we went to the modern art museum at which there are many Miro and Giacometti sculptures as well as many paintings. 

We saw a chapel that was designed by Matisse. The tour continued to the village of Tourettes sur Loup (towers on the Loup river) which is a medieval village located between Nice and Grasse. Tourettes sur Loup is known for its tanneries which I learned is the reason that Grasse became the center of the perfume industry. Apparently, in the early days, tanned leather was sought after but its products smelled bad. Working with people from Grasse, they found a way of adding a scent that was less offensive – thus creating the perfume industry in France.

Ellen’s apartment may have a beautiful view but it has not been updated and thus there is no wifi and the kitchen is wanting in terms of preparing foods. Ellen has a stove top with four elements and a microwave (no oven). When I arrived to make dinner, I had to change my ideas of what to prepare as I rely on casseroles and dishes that require oven time…

I am continually gratified that we chose to live in Vaison la Romaine. The Mediterranean coast is gorgeous but it is crowded with people who want to live with a view. Too many hills (and stairways up the hills!) and too many people. I like the calm and easy flow of life here. Secondly, I have been surprised at the number of people in our village who know that Ellen is away and are routing for her. It is a rare day that someone doesn’t ask how she is doing (and how I am getting along without her). It seems that they all know that she has a lot to say and they want to hear it from her – rather than through her interpreter.

Bonne chance, Ellen! (Good luck, Ellen.) We are all routing for you.


  1. You're really getting to know the Mediterranean coast. I enjoy seeing pictures of the places you've visited, so you have to get to Monaco before Ellen finishes her schooling.

  2. Mark,
    I think you are giving Rick Steves a real run for his money. Plus there is a real element of a romance novel here. This was a good substitute for that narrative I requested be added to the photo gallery slide show.

  3. Good luck to Ellen with her French lessons! I am so happy we bought in Sablet. We came very close to buying a house on/in the wall of Tourettes Sur Loup. I had the same feelings about too many people. I know we made the right decision.

  4. Mark, I agree. You made a great choice to live in Vaison la Romaine. It is the people who make the place. However, you have a great view too! The Dentelles are gorgeous as are the rolling countryside and vineyards around Vaison. Ellen, bonne chance et meilleurs voeux!

  5. Hi Mark and Ellen! We are staying in Valbonne (near Mougins)for a couple of months. We lived here for a year nine years ago. You're right - very crowded but we are seeing old friends so lots of fun. I envy Ellen - I would love to go to the Institut. If you have another weekend in Villefranche, make a detour and come by for a visit! Would love to see you.

  6. Salut Mark et Ellen! Glad to hear that the French immersion is going well. I miss Vaison terribly but can't wait to see you, even if only for a couple of hours, in a few weeks. Love to you both. And I agree with Tish - your view from the apartment is tres fantastique!

  7. Ellen corrected my spelling when she read the blog. We are "rooting" for her, not routing as I had written it. Rooting or routing, we all wish her much success.