Monthly Archives: August 2012

That Glamourous Expat Lifestyle (cough-cough!)

Just letting you know that the day-to-day glamour-factor (smirk!) of our adventures in French expat lifestyle might be a bit muted this week. Ah well — it can’t always be a life of wine and cheese and glorious scenery, eh?

As previously reported, boxes 1-100 were delivered 3 weeks ago and we are still wading through those. The last 50-plus items are arriving today — tonight actually. Thank heavens it is summer and there is still enough light outside for Mark and the driver to see as they load things into the garage and tick off the numbers on the list. It will probably be well after 9 PM before they are done because the driver is running so late. And Mark hasn’t even had the splendid dinner that I planned to make yet.

I just — literally just — wrangled the apartment back into shape whilst Mark was off with some of the menfolk doing a two day mountain hiking session. He got back tonight just after 6 PM looking sunburnt, ready to drop, and walking quite gingerly because he was aching all over.

And this is the day that the driver was late??? Not really good timing.

Had planned to do some new posting this week with photo essays. At this point, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.

Now where did I put that print out of the packing list. (sigh!)

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Encore Avec Le Coq!

You would imagine that if you made the transition from a wee-bump in the French road, a village containing perhaps 200 people, to a regional town complete with restaurants, shopping, and traffic that certain brain-grinding rural sounds would not follow you. Not necessarily!

The back garden where Le Coq lurks amongst his feathered friends

All throughout the day during our short period of residence in Engomer, I heard the rooster — known locally as Le Coq — crowing repeatedly no matter what the hour. He was definitely not just a morning sort of fellow, but he did crack the peace and quiet of the early hours from about 5 AM onward. Unless I had the double-glazed windows shut tight and I was in one of the back rooms of the large house that we temporarily lived in, his incessant crowing filled the air.

Into St. Girons we moved a month and a half ago — but somehow the sound followed us. Know why?

At the bottom of the garden, hidden discretely behind a curtain of green vine-draped fencing off in the distance of that photo above, one of the neighbours has a garden that backs directly onto ours. Not only do these town dwellers have another noisy rooster lurking there, they also have chickens which softly cluck,cluck, cluck all day and several truly large geese which flap and squawk rather loudly.

Ah well — I should have remembered that no place in France outside of the major metro areas is ever really that far from the rural way of life. Thus in our own lives — it’s encore avec le coq!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Boxes, HEAT, & A Bit Of This & That

A bit of personal and non-travel related commentary today. And no, I didn’t drop off the face of the planet and all is well in our world. But we’re still wading through the boxes that were delivered from Australia via ship to England and then delivery truck here to France.

When we were ‘back home’ in Australia on our 7 and 1/2 acre rural property, we had a studio space/storage area in a separate building from our cottage. And that studio space was bigger than this entire small apartment in France!

Let’s just say we are a little challenged space-wise right now. So a second culling of our possessions is under way. And the apartment is a &*^%$£! disaster zone as a result. We sold off 99.99% of our furniture, donated or sold hundreds of books and movies, pared down the clothes, and then stored the rest (including Mark’s rather massive collection of tools!) for 20 months. 21 months later, they have all arrived and in spite of what we thought was a serious purge back in Oz, we have too much stuff.

I have thinned out the books and music cds and movies (again!) and am donating them to a Cancer Support France group here in the South of France that helps English speaking expats who have relocated to France deal with cancer issues. It’s probably a god-send for them to have such a group since I can honestly tell you that if French is not your native language, being ill in a foreign country can occasionally be a very unsettling experience. So this felt like just the right place to send all of these lovely books and media items.

Our other ‘challenge’ for the last few weeks has been the intense heat and staggering humidity — and it isn’t just here. Huge swathes of France have been on alert due to the high temperatures that soared upward and then stayed there. The last time that this kind of heat arrived in France was in the 2003 heatwave when almost 15,000 people died in France alone. This a country where fans are the norm for coping with summer, air conditioning is a rarity, and along with the many other French businesses that close down for a month, a large number of medical practitioners go on holiday for the month of August.

We’ve also been making a concerted effort to drink huge amounts of water every day to avoid dehydration or heat-exhaustion. Just walking those few blocks to the Saturday market this past weekend (with a hat on and smeared in sun block) saw me returning home dripping wet and weak at the knees from the heat. I was weak and nauseous for the entire rest of the day along with some other rather unpleasant symptoms.

And did I mention that I have been living in a sarong for most of the last 2 weeks? Other than unpacking and sorting, this has not been the most productive period I’ve had since arriving in St. Girons and it is all down to the nauseating heat which has left me, and tens of thousands of other people, feeling quite incapacitated.

I still have the last 2 slideshows to post from 2 weekends ago when the Autrefois was in St. Girons, but for now there may not be any new photo ops until I feel that it’s safe to walk around outside for more than half an hour without feeling like I am going to collapse. Don’t I wish for (and remember fondly!) the body-resiliency of my 20s and 30s — a physical state that I unfortunately no longer have.

Ah well — until the next time — stay cool wherever you are!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Autrefois Le Couserons: The Grand Parade Of Tractors in St. Girons, France

A sunny Saturday was perfect for the annual Autrefois Le Couserons celebration of rural and traditional life here in the Midi-Pyrenees of France.

The barricades went up early and people began lining the streets, sitting in fold-up chairs (including right beneath our front windows!) or standing anywhere that there was a small patch of available space that was not on the road itself.

Parade spectators at the Autrefois Le Couserons parade in St. Girons, France


Parade spectators sitting beneath our windows in St. Girons, France

For just over two hours, they paraded through St. Girons — tractors, carts, bands, singers, dancers, vintage firetrucks, you name it! And all of it went right beneath the windows of our apartment where we each stood, camera in hand, taking hundreds of pictures on that bright and clear day.

I am dividing the coverage of this event into several articles and slideshows so that it isn’t an overwhelming amount to look at each time.

Vintage tractor on parade at the Autrefois Le Couserons festival in St. Girons, France

Now for all of you ‘tractor geeks’ (Ooops! Tractor ‘enthusiasts’ was what I meant!) — Enjoy!

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The ‘Teaser’ Parade for Autrefois Le Couserons in St. Girons, France

The light was thinning as we left the house on Friday night. We hadn’t realised that there would be an opening night parade — a teaser — prior to the multi-hour Autrefois Le Couserons spectacle that was scheduled on Saturday morning. But we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time once again.

Three generations of a French family watch the small opening night parade for the Autrefois Le Couserons festival in St. Girons, France

Up and down the streets of St. Girons, people gathered in the windows overlooking the small parade and they followed it on foot in some cases. The night was fast approaching, the temperatures were thankfully dropping, and there was an air of excitement all along the route of the parade.

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Come back soon for another slideshow from the hundreds of photos that I took over the weekend.

Coming up next? Tractors and farm vehicles from all eras!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Autrefois Le Couserons: Extended Coverage On The Way!

Hundreds — seriously — I took almost 200 photos last night (in spite of the people and cyclists who stepped right in front of my proposed shot again and again!) and well over 600 today. So I have a lot to wade through! Those numbers don’t even take into account the several hundred photos that Mark took, too.

Musicians in traditional dress at the Autrefois Le Couserons festival in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France

It’s been a glorious two days of vintage vehicles, traditional music, and people in historical costume and we are all quite relieved that the weather stayed clear and bright. As the parades went through St. Girons on both days, people clustered high above the street in front of their windows to watch the spectacle pass by.

Watching from above as the Autrefois Le Couserons parade passes through St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France

I think I’ll create a couple of slide shows of the (turn down your volume if you don’t want to hear the music track on this link!) Autrefois Le Couserons festival here in St. Girons in the Midi-Pyrenees of France. This is an annual celebration of traditional rural life in the Couserons.

Shepherd on horseback with his dog tucked into his arms at the Autrefois Le Couserons parade in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France

We now live in such a fascinating place with layers of history and settlement over the centuries since its pre-Roman origins.

Stay tuned for more pictures from this activity-packed weekend!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Photo Of The Day: Jazz Mural-Poster in Normandy, France

Today’s lovely photo of the day is a change from the paper posters that I discover in our travels and frequently feature on this site. This is actually a mural made to look like a poster. It is painted on the wall of a building in Coutances in Normandy, France to inform people passing by of an annual jazz festival held under the trees in an apple orchard.


Jazz Under The Apple Trees mural on the wall of a building in Coutances, Normandy, France


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