Friday, August 22, 2008

Bugs, Bugs, Everywhere

I now know the downside of living in a French house: bugs. There are bugs everywhere in here! The reason for this is that there are no screens in French windows. Hardware stores do not even sell rolls of screen should one want to protect themselves from the pests that freely enter their house.

There are insects of all kinds in our house: moths, house flies, spiders, dandy long-legs, the occasional cricket, and many insects that I cannot identify. I do have two cats that should be helping me with the infestation, but they are unreliable. In the beginning they made half-hearted attempts at squashing bugs, but now they could now care less. That leaves us to do the dirty work. During one weekend, we killed over fifty flies in our house! I am not sure whether I spent more time killing, or washing the smeared guts off windows and walls.

Lately there has been a mysterious insect biting/stinging us during the evenings, leaving large welts on my arms. I just shudder at the thought of what is crawling into bed with me.

Thankfully, there are not many mosquitoes in Pau. We have only seen two to date, and they are scaled-down versions of those found in most of Canada. Unfortunately, one of two was in our bedroom while we were trying to sleep. It buzzed in our ears all night long, conveniently hiding when we got frustrated enough to turn on the lights to try and locate it. I felt as though I was camping, and had failed to jump in the tent and zip the door fast enough to avoid letting in mosquitoes.

As we approach the end of summer, I suspect my insect killing days will be coming to an end for this year. I will miss the long, warm evenings, but I certainly won’t miss the deluge of insects in my house!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ghost Town

August is vacation time in France. It is fully expected that employees will take off several weeks this month. The national attitude is that every French citizen has a right to time-off. They believe so strongly in this that many businesses close for several weeks during the month of August. Restaurants close, wine shops, offices, chocolate shops, little grocery stores. I even saw a pharmacy that was closed for vacation. We were at the local market last Saturday, and half the vendors were closed for ‘les vacances’, leading to unusually long queues at the vendors who chose to stay open. There is no apology for being closed, nor a suggestion for an alternate retailer, just a posted sign stating the weeks that they are closed.

During these holidays, many French flock to the coast, leaving the interior towns and cities eerily quiet. Meanwhile, the beaches and seaside towns are packed. Those who choose not to go to the beach stick around home and enjoy quality time with friends and family. We have seen and met neighbours that we have never laid eyes on before. All over town, families consisting of at least three generations go for strolls and bike rides.

To the outsider, that is me, this August behaviour is unusual, but surely a healthy break. It will soon come to an end though, as the most important work month in the French calendar is just around the corner. September is called la rentrée, or the entrance. It is when everyone heads back to work and school with a clear head for a super productive month. At least Gilles will soon have someone to sit with in the cafeteria!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

TPB Encounters

Gilles was so thrilled with his two Trailer Park Boys encounters while we were in Canada. First, we met Mr Lahey and Randy at the Ottawa airport. Mr Lahey serenaded me with the song 'April in Paris', and Gilles had a chat with the two of them. Then, we visited Bubbles' Mansion while in Halifax. No run-ins with the actors there, but we did get to see a lot of the memorabilia from the show.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Beach Food

Why does food taste so good when cooked over a fire? The food being cooked will likely contain ash, char, and sand (if the fire is on the beach), yet this somehow enhances the flavour. We had lobster twice while home on vacation. The first feast was cooked over a fire on a beach at Campobello Island; the second was cooked over a burner at the LeBlanc home. For both events, the lobster was steamed in salt water from the sea, and the cooking times would not have varied. Yet those who had lobster on both occasions commented on how good the Campobello lobster was. Was that batch of lobster of better quality, or was it the raging flames that made all the difference?

Lobster was not the only thing we cooked over a beach fire. We also feasted on scallops (cooked on a stick & in a pan), smores, hot dogs, and a whole pig. Yes, we tried our best at roasting a whole pig on a spit while in Cape Breton. It was a fun-filled, three-day event, led by one of our family chefs, Shaun, who when armed with a sharp boning knife can tackle any animal. On day one, the pig was purchased, deboned, and shaped for roasting. On day two, a roasting apparatus was constructed using various objects from my father-in-law’s pack-rat’s dream of a garage. That day, the pig was also placed in brine for seasoning. On day three, game day, Team Swine started early by prepping a fire on the beach. The pig made its appearance several hours later when the coals were nice and hot. What came next was not as easy. Credit definitely has to go out to all the guys who were constantly improvising to come up with solutions to the challenges that that pig kept throwing at us. Such challenges included a pig that did not spin along with the rod, a fire that was too hot, then too cool, then while reheating the fire the pig caught on fire, and so on. But it was certainly not all work without play. Our large group enjoyed horseshoes, live entertainment, swimming, snacking, and making a pig-shaped sand castle. But, after nine hours and a pig that was still only at 130°F, the rising tides forced us off the beach. The pig was finished at home in the oven and on the BBQ. Everyone patiently stuck around, and the finished product was well worth the wait. Shaun, I can’t wait for the next South Pondville Beach Pig Roast!