Tag Archives: south of france

Transhumance (Happy Sheep Heading to the Mountains)


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16 years ago I bought a poster of La Transhumance, but I didn’t really know what it was.  I just knew that I liked sheep.  This past weekend we had the opportunity to accompany our daughter’s scout troop to witness La Transhumance of a herd of sheep leaving Vendres and heading up to the Pyrénées mountains.  As we were all having breakfast together, and before heading out for a long hike to find the sheep, we collectively wondered how to say TRANSHUMANCE in  English.  Duh… it’s the same word.

The day was lovely!  We started out having breakfast as a group, then made our way down toward the path up which the sheep would arrive with their shepherd (that’s this guy’s only job, I love that!).  It took about an hour and a half one-way, but check out the video to see what came next.  It was well worth the time spent walking, and plus we got to check out the ruins of an ancient Roman bath along the way.

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Coming home for lunch, and living life in a different way


I’ve been meaning to write more, but we’re still figuring out our new life here in France, and all of this marketing, cooking, and eating takes up a lot of time!  For the last week I have been wanting to write about something that is so foreign to most American families, and something that was unknown to us for the 14 years we lived as a family in St. Louis.  It’s something as simple as getting the family together for a main meal lunch, homemade with love, (almost) every single day of the week (except for the occasional lunch out on weekends, of course!).

As I’ve written before, the kids come home for lunch almost every day.  We pick them up from school at 11:45, and return them there at 1:45. We have started having them stay at school for lunch one day a week so that they can socialize with friends, and we can have one whole day just to do what we want… and most of the time that means working without interruption.  However,  yesterday  the kids stayed at school, and we went out for sushi and to see the new Woody Allen movie (in English!).  They enjoyed eating freshly made paëlla and tomme noire cheese for the first time, and we enjoyed a day together.

It’s lovely to share the midday meal as a family, and to hear about what everyone did during the morning hours, but that’s only one part of the pleasure of spending a few hours at home in the middle of the day.  Very often, when we arrive at home with the kids,  after bringing the freshly purchased baguette to the table, they’ll go and lie down on their beds or on the sofa and read a book while we’re finishing up making lunch.  This down time seems to do wonders for them.  By the time we sit down to have lunch, it’s usually about 12:30, and everyone is all smiles.  We’ve usually finished eating by about 1:15, which still leaves them about twenty minutes to play.  That’s what they do, they play.  We don’t have them work on homework to try and get ahead, or multi-task in any way.  They play, and they’re happy.

Now if I were back in the US reading this, wondering if I’d ever be able to move my family to France and make a drastic life change… I would wonder how it’s possible to find time to shop, cook, pick up the kids, and have a two hour family time every day at noon, while still trying to earn a living.  I would assume that the person who had written this was independently wealthy, and didn’t have to work.  Let me assure you that this is not the case with us, not at all.  We happen to be very fortunate to be able to work from home, but it wasn’t always this way.  Until the end of May 2013, we ran the rat race every single day.

It has taken a lot of planning and hard work to get to where we are, and there’s still a lot of hard work involved on a daily basis and we’re having to really focus on working as a team to make it work, but this is a choice that we consciously have made in order to improve our quality of life.  We are living simply, and finding such liberation in the absence of stress.  Well, not a complete absence of stress… I’ve just noticed the time and realized I have to go and pick up the kids for lunch, and I don’t want to be late!  I welcome your comments, reaction, and comments.  À bientôt!

Our apartment in France, here’s what a typical South of France apartment looks like


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Thanks to one of my French teacher friends back in St. Louis, I’ve finally made a video showing our apartment in Béziers!  She is soon going to be beginning a chapter on different kinds of places to live in France, so she asked me to help out and make her class more interesting.  I decided to share this video on Skype, and also on my blog.

We’ve only been living here for two weeks at this point in time, so everything’s not quite perfect, but we don’t have to be perfect to be happy!!  I hope you enjoy this tour of “chez nous”, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have!  I remember when we were getting ready to move to France, I loved looking at International House Hunters, so here’s my version 😉

 

An unexpected surprise at Les Halles


What a wonderful weekend in spite of the thunderstorms that took over Saturday afternoon.  I have to tell you about our trip to Les Halles on Saturday morning.  “Les Halles” is an indoor market that’s open every day, even on Sunday.  You can purchase practically anything you want there:  fruit, vegetables, olive oil, meat, poultry, HORSE meat, fresh eggs, pastries, and the list goes on and on.  We’ve been to Les Halles many times in the past, but on this particular Saturday, it was getting close to noon.  We were there with the kids, and all of our stomachs started to rumble at about the same time, so it’s no surprise that we all scoped out “La Gargote des Halles” at the same time.  We hadn’t planned to eat out, in fact we were shopping to have “de quoi manger” at home.  It was time for a compromise:  l’apéritif!!   And why not, it was the weekend after all!  

The plan was to just have a little snack of chorizo.  Needless to say, we wanted a glass of wine to go with that.  Then we ended up ordering an assiette de cochonailles (a plate of charcuteries),  a bit more chorizo, a plate of homemade fries, some fried pimentos like they eat in Spain, and another glass of wine for each of us and a Coke for the kids to split.  It was so much fun with the bustling atmosphere and friends meeting up left and right, and it was also very inexpensive.  By that I mean 40€ for the four of us.  Now here’s the most interesting part, and something we’re planning to do very soon.   You can go shopping at Les Halles and pick up whatever it is you’d like for lunch, whether that be meat, fish, seafood like mussels, etc.  You bring it to La Gargote des Halles, and for 2€50 they cook it for you!  If you want some of their to die for homemade fries to go with your meal, it’s just 3€50 extra.  Oh, and a tempting glass of really good local wine will cost you less than 2€ a glass.  Definitely worth a trip to Les Halles de Béziers.  This may become a weekend tradition chez les Crespin.  I don’t believe there’s one out of the four of us who would complain about that.

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It’s been a long journey, but now we’re almost there!


It’s been a lot harder to keep up with blogging this month than I thought it would be.  Working in Montpellier for five weeks, about 70-80 hours a week, and with only three days off doesn’t sound very French!  I love it here though, and I’m really happy to have the experience.  All of the people I work with are fantastic, and the students are great as well.  I didn’t know I’d be the only anglophone working here, but that’s also been good for me.

François and the kids are in Béziers, and have been there for a few weeks.  I’ll join them once and for all on August 1, but in the meantime our container has arrived in Marseilles!  It should be in Béziers on Thursday, so now we’re just looking for some people to help us unload it.  It’s a bit of a challenge, and since I’m not there to help it makes it a little difficult for François, but somehow it will all come together 🙂

That’s it for the little update, back to work!  After August 1, I’ll post more frequently and keep everyone up to date on our new life in Béziers.  I’m so excited to have our things and start unpacking boxes.  It’s been a long road, but now we’re almost there!

We may have found an apartment in Béziers!


I’ll begin the  official 10 day countdown tomorrow, but for today, it’s worth noting that I’m leaving for France in 11 days!  I’ll be there for about a week before heading down to Montpellier to start my summer job with Oxbridge Académie de France.  François and the kids will follow, but not for a few weeks.  They’re staying here to tie up some loose ends and to deal with the shipment of our container.

Originally I thought the container would take months to arrive in Béziers, but now they’re convincing me that it will be there in 30-35 days (!)  and they need an address for delivery.  We were planning to take the month of August to look for an apartment, but now it looks as though we’d better have one by August 1 when our container arrives.  This may seem a bit stressful, but it’s not!  It’s really very exciting, and this is when I realize (once again) how very fortunate we are to have family who are happy to help.

My sister-in-law in Béziers has found an apartment for us, and it seems like it will be the perfect place.  What’s really nice about it is that the owner’s are friends of friends, and they’re willing to reduce the rent by €50 and not charge us a deposit.  That’s great news, and the apartment is in a nice and safe part of town.  It’s right across the street from the university and médiathèque, and it’s only a 12 minute walk from the school where our kids will go.

I asked my sister-in-law to give me the not so good news about the condition of the apartment first.  Basically, there is a lot of painting to be done, and some of the windows don’t close very easily.  But now for the good news!  It’s HUGE!  The apartment measures 167 square meters, or 1800 square feet.  There are four large bedrooms, an office, living room, dining room, kitchen, three small balconies on the back side and one large one all across the front.  There’s only one “toilette”, and it’s separate from the bathroom, and that’s all fine with us.  There’s a nice size kitchen, but it doesn’t come equipped with a stove or refrigerator or any of that good stuff.  From what I hear, that’s very typical in French apartments, and it’s what we were expecting.  There are fireplaces in all of the rooms, and though I’m sure none of them are functioning, they’re still pretty.  There are 13 foot ceilings.  Yep, that’s right.  When you walk into the apartment, you enter a large (wide) and very long hallway, and you enter all of the rooms from either the left or the right of this hallway.  It’s big enough to furnish and serve as a sort of foyer.  The “toilette” is at one end, and the bathroom at the other.

To give an idea of what the place looks like, I’ll show a few pictures.  It’s obvious in the pictures that the place needs some sprucing up, but at the same time I can see it’s charm.

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Here’s a picture of one of the bedrooms.  This one is on the front, and the windows open up to a balcony and view of the university and library below.

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This is the big hallway that I mentioned earlier.

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This is the living room, the picture’s taken from the balcony.

It’s all very exciting, especially now that we can visualize our new home.  Having spent a lot of time in Béziers, and with the help of Google Earth, it’s easy to imagine exactly where the apartment is located.

“Whatever Will Be, Will Be”


Back in January I applied for a Program Dean position at Oxbridge Academy in Montpellier.  I wrote about it in a post:

Working @ Montpellier this Summer ?!?!?.

Then in March I got an interview, and was so nervous about it I could hardly stand it!  Since then I have been waiting, waiting, waiting.  Two days ago I was contacted for a second interview.  That will happen via Skype on Friday (in two days!).  Well I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, “Whatever will be, will be.”  I feel pretty good about the possibility of it though!  It can’t look half bad on a resumé to have worked for this organization, and I’m truly hoping to get the job to see what kind of opportunities it could offer me.  All of this change is so very exciting.  I know that there are people who don’t like change, and I understand that.  I don’t know how I turned out this way, but I thrive on this kind of challenge.  What an adventure!!

Annual Languedoc Festivals (that I’m putting on my calendar)


January-March:

Limoux:  Carnaval de Limoux

Approximately ten weeks of festival, this is one of the longest running carnivals in the world.  Masks, costumes, music, pranks, King Carnival burned at the stake,  swapping of roles, and it’s all done in the Occitan language.

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March:

Nîmes:  Féria de Primavera

This is the pre-Lenten carnaval , and the first of several annual féria in Nîmes.

April:

Sommiers:  Medieval festival

Street festival featuring costumed merchants and performers, markets and music.

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May: 

Pezenas:  Cavalcade

Annual festival, artisan craft market, medieval period-costume parade.

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Nîmes:  Feria de Pentecôte

The main focus is bullfighting in the Roman amphitheater.

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Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer:  Gypsy Festival & Pilgrimage

Traditional gypsy music,  traditional gypsy costumes, white horses of the Camargue, solemn procession of over 3,000, headed by the king of the Gypsies and the archbishop, weaves its way through the village streets, singing a repetitive chant until everyone reaches the sea.  Bullfighting, concerts, lots of food.

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June:

Beaucaire:  La Fête du Drac

Traditional festival in honor of the town’s dragon mascot.

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Pavalas:  The Maguelone Music Festival

The cathedral is home to a festival of ancient music.

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Montpellier:  Le Printemps des Comédiens

Theater and live performances,  proposing between 20 and 25 shows and drawing more than 40,000 paying spectators.

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Narbonne:  Festival National de Théâtre Amateur

Ten evenings of open air amateur theater.

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July:

Sète:  Fête de la Saint-Pierre

The town pays homage to St. Pierre, patron saint of fishermen.

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Montpellier:  Festival de Radio-France

Music festival focusing on opera, classical music, and jazz.  90% of the concerts are free.

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Beaucaire:  Medieval Fair

A week-long recreation of the medieval market and other celebrations.

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Avignon:  Festival d’Avignon

Theater festival that runs for three weeks.

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Carcassonne:  Dance, music, and theater festival

Opera, Dance, Theatre, Classical Music, French and international popular music, Modern music.  Many concerts are free.

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Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert:  Annual fête

Baroque organ and choral music is held in a medieval monastery.

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August:

Sète:  Water jousting

Originating in Sete centuries ago, this sport is now a passionate fixture of Languedoc traditional culture.  The most important tournaments take place on August 25, la Fête de Saint Louis.

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Orb Valley:  Festival de la Vallée de l’Orb

Takes place in various town squares throughout the Orb valley, this festival features lots of wine and folk music activities.

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Béziers:  La Féria

Five day féria focusing on bullfights, concerts, food.  Attracts over a million visitors annually.

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Narbonne:  Semaine Bavaroise

In alternating years, Narbonne honors twin town, Weilheim in Germany, by a week of celebrations of Bavarian food and folklore.

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September:

Pavalas:  Féria d’Automne

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Nîmes:  Féria des Vendanges

Basically a repeat of the Féria de Pentecôte that takes place in May.

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Le Grau/Port Camargue:

Traditional water tournaments and bull fights.

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October:

Aigues Mortes:  Annual fête

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Béziers:  Les Primeurs d’Oc

Premier wine festival in Languedoc.  Features wine, music, dance, and theater.

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November-December:

Pezenas:  Occitan Christmas

Montpellier Christmas Market

Béziers Christmas Market

Perpignan Christmas Market

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Carcassonne:  Marché au Gras

Christmas market with lots of artisanal crafts and regional food products (and FOIE GRAS!!!)

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I highly doubt that I’ll make it to all of these festivals and events, but they do look like fun.  I think I’ll opt most likely for the various markets, medieval festivals, Christmas festivities, and wine festivals.

What have I missed?  If you know of other worthwhile festivals/markets/events going on annually in the Languedoc, please tell me about them in the comments.  Maybe there’s a festival that you think is great somewhere else in France?  If so, I’d sure love to hear about it.

I Love Paris in the Springtime…


I’m so ready for spring to get here.  Yesterday it was snowing up a storm, so we may have to wait a little while before seeing some nice weather.  With the arrival of spring, the countdown to summer gets shorter and shorter every day.  I figured out that we only have about seven more full weeks of teaching left (not including holidays), and then we will quickly be getting our furniture ready to ship on the container.  It’s supposed to take 3-8 weeks to arrive in Béziers. My last day of work is in May, but François has to work until June 18.   I’ve been spending some time (when I can find it) looking at apartment websites, just to see what’s out there, how much the rent will be, what the conditions are, etc.  Of course, that’s a bit frustrating because as soon as I find something I love, I remember that it’s a little to early to start signing papers!  I really hope we will be able to find a spacious apartment in a nice area of town so that we can walk everywhere (bringing kids to school, grocery shopping, going to restaurants and cafés!).  On the other hand, there are some really cute “villas” for rent, and they’re more spacious, newer, have private gardens….  But they’re not right in town.  It sure would be nice to have an extra bedroom to have for when people come to visit.  I’ve got a feeling we’ll have quite a few visitors now that we’re going to live in France!!  It really is hard to stay focused on the tasks at hand though.  I’m so excited and ready for this adventure.  My husband is a bit antsy and nervous about the whole affair (especially about finding jobs), but I just know that it’s going to be great.  I have a very good feeling about it all.  

Let the French adventure begin!


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It’s kind of hard to believe that this is really going to happen for us.  All of last year we were getting our house on the market, thinking all the while that we would be moving to France during the summer (after the successful sale of our home, of course!).  By now we would have been settled down in the South of France, children would be learning lessons in a French school.  Things sure don’t work out the way we sometimes imagine, do they?

After the heartache of six failed contracts on our home, we now have a rather official looking “sold” sign in the front yard.  The closing won’t be until next week on the 19th, but at this point there’s really no turning back for either parties.  This is going to happen, and we need to find an apartment to live in for six months.  We have negotiated staying in the house until the end of November, giving us time to pack and find a place to live.

Everything now seems so official, and we both hope that we’re making the right decision.  It’s going to be very hard to leave the house where our children have grown and continue to grow up.  We have many, many memories after ten years in our little nest.  The truth is, we really love our house, our home.  I hope I won’t be too emotional on moving day.  After ten months of really being proactive about moving to France, now it seems rather surreal to me.

In many ways I consider us fortunate to not have sold our house in a rush during the summer.  Selling it now will give us the proper opportunity to enjoy our last 6-7 months here and to live through the different emotional stages of such a transition.  It will also give us a chance to save some money, and I’m sure we will be very glad we did!