A year of raspberries and sunshine in Provence

The fruit and vegetable man showed me a little box of raspberries and slipped it in with my shopping.

Un petit cadeau [a little gift],” he said with a quick smile – turning back to the till to finish tallying up.

It’s nothing special for Monsieur C to give away his raspberries.

But the first time he gave me raspberries I felt like he had picked me up and plonked me down into sunlight.

Bam. You, madam, are a customer. Welcome to the neighbourhood. Continue reading

50 shades of French bureaucracy – the follow-up

One of the least beautiful places in France: a Prefecture waiting room

“Non, non, the Immigration Overlord warned, eyes widening as I began to stack up folders of paperwork in front of her.

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap. One pile for each member of the family.

Non, non, non, non, non.”

Her palms flew up and her head shook from side to side as she took in the volume of work I was dumping on her desk.

Oh là ! What is all this? It’s for a carte de sejour renewal? But it’s too many papers!”

She prodded my impeccably collated, impossibly complicated application documents as if they were coated in anthrax.

This was not starting well. Continue reading

50 shades of French bureaucracy


It’s exactly one year since we left New Zealand on this big adventure.

Tomorrow we celebrate by heading to the local prefecture to see about extending our visitors’ visas.

Working through the bureaucracy will be an exercise in masochism.

France has seduced us with her wit, charm and good looks – and now that we’re gagging for more, the old madame is going to make us pay. Continue reading

Tears and pears in the French Alps

Madame, vous aller pleurer d’émotion.” [Madame, you are going to weep from emotion.]

The Monsieur paused for dramatic effect then presented a tiny cup of amour de poire, a delicate pear wine produced high up in the French Alps, a cork’s throw from the Italian border.

I knew it was a good idea to step into this curious little shop.

“You’ll get stuck in there,” Sabbatical Man had warned, eyeing the many signs at the door that suggested an eccentricity of proprietorship and eclecticism of wares that would make a quick browse impossible. Continue reading

My computer is torturing me


“No backups for 277 days.”

That’s what the laptop tells me today (although I am backing up – just not to the hard drive in New Zealand that my homesick laptop prefers).

Two hundred and seventy seven days!

Each day a new number that looks a lot closer to 365 than it did five minutes ago when the entire year stretched out before us.

Our year in France is evaporating – one bland, un-ignorable, inaccurate Apple warning at a time. Continue reading