Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Luberon, Provence

In my 9/4 post I mentioned one of my favorite books, “The Magic of Provence,” by Yvone Lenard. After reading the book I wrote to her and in her kind response she recommended the place we’re now staying in the hilltop village of Ansouis.

The Luberon greeted us with a mistral, followed by gloriously clear skies. Here's just how free you are to explore the hilltop villages.

In a few days we’ll move on to Menton, close to the Italian border.

And now I'm going on a tour of the Chateau d'Ansous, at the top of the first picture, above.

- PJ

Monday, October 25, 2010

Turkey Butter

Butter! I’ve forgotten how good butter is in France (and Italy too).

Arrived Friday in Paris, as expected, to 37 degrees F, unexpected. I must learn that temps on the internet show the high -- not the average.

One story in Half Italian is from a day in the 1960s when I was 7 or 8 years old, sitting in the breakfast room at my grandmother’s house eating saltine crackers with butter. I looked up and asked my mother, “How come you don’t buy turkey butter all the time, like Grandma?” She and my grandmother were suddenly speechless. Turkey butter? Yes, I told them, you know, the kind my mother bought only when we had a turkey dinner, like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

This is how I learned the everyday stuff my mother put on our table was something called “margarine,” a product whose origins point (amazingly) to France. I often complained to my mother about margarine’s inferior taste to “turkey butter.” Each time, she’d cheerfully tell me she thought it tasted just the same, if not better. Then she’d hurry me off to get ready for school or some other distraction, before I could respond. One day I finally asked how she could even think the taste was close, let alone better, and she shot back, “It’s cheaper!

Margarine had consumer appeal even before there were concerns over saturated fats found in butter, because it was indeed cheaper than butter. Nowadays there are butter blends, which improve the taste, but I remember no such thing when I was growing up; there was just oily margarine, and TV commercials insisting that one brand tasted better than another. I swore that when I was an adult I’d buy only butter for my home.

In France, Americans are often noted for putting butter on already butter-rich croissants. I’m one of them, and I wickedly tease that’s because I was deprived of butter on a regular basis and raised on margarine, a product of French beginnings.

Here’s breakfast in Paris this morning; now, off to Provence.

P.S. My family was so amused by my choice of words that day at my grandmother’s that they still refer to real butter as “turkey butter.”

- PJ

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Off to France!

Finally, finally it's time to go. Time perseveres, little by little, but even with co-workers counting the time until departure this wait has felt long. We leave tomorrow, LA to NY to Paris. Some people prefer the "once up once down" benefit of non-stop flights but I find long flights uncomfortable and prefer a stop as close to halfway as possible. Breathe, stretch, unwind; relief for my body and my mind.

Arriving 11:30 Friday morning in Paris, nine hours later than Los Angeles time 2:30 AM which my internal clock will be feeling. I love and prefer the French countryside and the villages, yet I look forward to stepping out of DeGaulle airport to the familiar sound of honking auto horns, that Parisian characteristic that tells me I'm back, a reminder that France isn't going anywhere, the beloved land will always be there.

As I mentioned in the 10/3 posting, I intend to post a picture or two while on the trip so drop by here again if you're interested in seeing a pic of Provence.

- PJ

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Me: 1/8, Dallas: 1-3

Another agent's response, a rejection, arrived today. One down, seven to go. Sounds like football, but after all, it is the season. I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan, so I'm used to rejection. People ask why Dallas, when I'm a native southern Californian. Answer: I had a roommate from Dallas in the early 90s when Dallas won back-to-back super bowls and his enthusiasm was contagious. My coworkers sometimes manifest their rejection by hiding my Cowboys mini helmet.

My spirits want to wane. Instead, I'll focus on the pending 7 responses. And my departure for France, one week from today.

And my 'Boys.

- PJ

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another countdown: 0/8

All agent responses I’ve received to my queries for Half Italian have been polite, but the latest was remarkably so. It was, however, a rejection. That brings the number of queries without response to 8. Now I’m counting down, starting with 0 received to 8 expected. I expect to receive those 8 responses simply because I sent an SASE with each one and I’ve always received a response for every SASE. There’s always that first time, however.

At 8/8 or when enough time has passed that I believe there’ll be no more responses I’ll re-evaluate my next step.

How many will arrive before I leave for France?

- PJ

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Countdown to France: 0 clicks

Am I ready? Do I have all my prescriptions? I think so -- ear patches to prevent airsickness, anxiety medication for the flight, antibiotic in case of infection. Oh the worries, as I age; so few cares when I was younger. My traveling companion brings homemade physical contraptions to make the flights comfortable: foam rubber to soften the airplane seat, and a device to elevate his legs with cushioning for under his knees. Before leaving he meditates; I medicate. My anxiety is not induced by fear of flying or terrorism; claustrophobia is my nemesis.

One month from today I'll be in Menton; my last day there before returning to Paris, and then, Los Angeles.

For anyone out there reading this, if you're interested, drop by here again because during the trip I'll post a picture, maybe two.

- PJ