Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our French Anniversary

Sunday was the one-year anniversary of our arrival in France. We celebrated in a wonderful way: driving around beautiful Provence, shopping in a local outdoor market, visiting vineyards, and picnicking under the warm Provencal sun. Here's hoping our second year in la Belle France is as memorable as the first!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This is where we used to live

It’s a little overdue, but I figure it is time to add an entry about our recent trip to Calgary. Truth is, I have been putting it off because I was a little sad upon our return to France. Turns out it was much harder leaving Calgary this time than it was a year ago. For those who don’t know, we spent three days in Calgary earlier this month. Gilles had a conference in Houston, and we figured we could not pass on the opportunity of being so close to our old home, so I tagged along and we extended the trip from Houston to Calgary.

I knew our return trip to Calgary was going to be emotional, and I was right. The overwhelming feeling of returning ‘home’ hit me as soon as our plane started its descent over the city. I looked out the plane window toward downtown, and thought, “this is where we used to live”. We had great lives in Calgary, and it was hard to leave. I was starting to see that it was going to be hard to return too.

The thing about Calgary is it holds so many wonderful memories for us, and our visit became a 72-hour walk down memory lane. A little bit of nostalgia is one thing, but memories were jumping out at me everywhere we went. I looked at the river trails, and not only thought, “this is where we used to run”, but was reminded of training for half-marathons, running late at night, having great chats. While eating paninis at Mercato, I thought about all the times we went there during our condo renos, stocking up on the prepared salads and sandwiches while our kitchen was out of commission. I walked by the Petro-Canada in Kensington, and remembered the day we fuelled up there before a camping trip. It was a warm summer day, and I couldn’t wait to be in the mountains, going for a hike,…. That last memory made me realize how carried away I was getting. Who becomes nostalgic at the sight of a gas station?!

I would like to thank everyone for making themselves available for us in such short notice, and on a long weekend. We would have loved to spend more time with everyone, but even our short visits meant so much. We have so many wonderful friends in Calgary, and while there we slipped back into our relationships as though we had never left. It was a bit shocking, and a little unsettling. I think being reminded of such great commeraderie made me miss it even more.

But now, here we are, back in the land of wine and cheese. Do I want to hop on the first plane with all my belongings and move back to Calgary? No. Despite my feelings, I know that I am not ready to leave France yet. I am just starting to feel as though I have a good handle on life here, and there is so much more I want to do before leaving Europe. Hopefully once it is time to move back to Calgary, we’ll fit right back in again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bug Addendum

I was just getting used to the generally innocuous bugs in my house until I met the world’s largest HORNET! Apparently, it is called a european hornet, and while it may not be the world’s largest, it is pretty much the scariest thing I have ever seen. They are around 1.5 inches long, and look as though they would deliver one incredible sting (I would say deadly sting, but Wikipedia claims otherwise).

My terrifying encounter with this giant hornet came one night while talking to a friend on the phone while in bed. Gilles, my protector and chief bug-killer, was conveniently away. Suddenly, one flew into my room. I immediately hid under the duvet, shaking and talking to my friend in a hushed voice in case ‘he’ could hear me. After a few minutes of listening to it buzzing around my room and colliding into walls, I knew I had to muster up some nerves and kill the damn thing. So, armed with the latest copy of Elle, I set out on a hornet-hunt. Fortunately, this hornet’s enormous size makes him a little slower than the wasps/yellowjackets/hornets I am used to. So, I squashed this guy good, and despite my shaky legs I was rather proud of myself.

I decided not to close the windows, figuring the last visit was a rare occurrence. Nope! No sooner was I done washing hornet guts off my wall did another one fly in! After giving myself another pep talk, I killed hornet number two. Ironically, I later read that they are an endangered species, and one can be fined 1,000 euros for killing a european hornet in Germany. Oops. Good thing I don’t live in Germany!

I now sleep with my windows closed, but every now and then am awakened in a fright by the sound of the giant hornet’s buzz…all in my head, of course!

French Scents

It’s no secret that the French love perfume. Most of the world’s best perfumes are created in France by master perfumers, there are numerous perfume museums, and there are perfumes shops everywhere. When I am finished getting a waxing at my perfumerie/esthetician of choice, they always ask me if I want to be ‘perfumed’ before I leave. And when I say no, they look at me as though I am crazy; I can hear their appalled thought: “but how could you not want to be perfumed?!”

I am mostly used to living in a well-scented world, but the one aspect of it that continues to baffle me is the people who go for a run with perfume on. No, these people are not running after work, wearing lingering scent from their morning spray. I am talking about people out for a run first thing in the morning! Somehow, along with gearing up with shorts and sneakers, they think it necessary to put on perfume. I get my first whiff as we pass each other, and it lasts for quite a while in their trail. I continue along, sniffing in amazement. I can barely remember to put on perfume when going out for the day, but when going out for a run? Who does that??