Monthly Archives: February 2008

In Love with Petit Bateau

More on the cellar tomorrow, but first I just have to take a moment to profess my love for Petit Bateau baby clothes…

Our friends Martial (who we’ve asked to be Clem’s godfather, incidentally) and Isabelle presented Clémentine with lots of lovely presents shortly after she was born, including her lovely soft dou-dou that as you can see below has already become a big favorite.

However, my favorite of their presents are the two Petit Bateau onesies they gave her. Like all Petit Bateau products, the cotton is impossibly soft and is just the perfect weight

The one she is modeling below says “Ma Petite Cherie” and makes her feel very French and feminine, which is important when one has very little hair on top of one’s head. The other one has many cute French phrases written pink on a white background, but she peed all over it as I was posing her for her photo shoot.

Anyway, check out the Petit Bateau website, which already has me drooling. Just click here;

And their US website;

They have recently added adult clothing and underwear as well, which the French women I know are snapping up. Anything Petit Bateau makes them feel very nostalgic as they all began life in Petit Bateau onesies like Clémentine.

Now Here’s Where the Muscles Come In

The first thing to do was dig, dig, dig as there wasn’t as much ceiling height in the cellar as we would have liked. This was a laborious process, not only was the ground hard and rocky, but all of the stuff that was dug up had to be hauled up to street level via those two wooden planks in plastic bins. Very heavy, sweaty work.

So I guess it was no surprise that the stonemasons stopped after digging about half a foot, protesting they couldn’t go any further because of rock. Quitting when you become fed up isn’t something to be ashamed of over here, on the contrary it’s a French perogative. At this point my workhorse of a husband picked up a pick and a shovel and began to dig and pick-axe himself, shaming the masons into grudgingly picking up their shovels again and digging a full foot alongside him in a matter of hours.

Here’s what it looked like by the end of that day – still a cellar, but with lots more head room to come down and have a comfortable tasting.

And of course Franck broke out the wine at the end of the day, so the masons would come back the next time we needed them. For anyone doing any renos here in Burgundy, take note of this essential practice.

And tomorrow will bring the next installment, when my husband and his mysterious helper perform magic and transform concrete planters into a tasting table….

Progress in Beaune Cellar

Over the past month while I have been busy having a baby, Franck has certainly not been resting on his laurels. There has been phenomenal progress made in the cellar in Beaune, which as you can remember looked like this when we bought it along with the apartment which has since become Le Relais du Vieux Beaune.

It had been unused for as long as anyone could remember so was very dark, dirty and full of cobwebs.

Nothing had been done to bring out the good aspects, like the amazing stone pillar and the double vaulted ceiling. Tommorrow I’ll post the first batch of the amazing transformation photos. Must fly now – Clem is hungry!

Prepare to be amazed!

In Praise of Tears – Part III

Just to preface the third and final installment of “In Praise of Tears” I have to state for the record that Franck now thinks he can get away with anything due to my effusive blog yesterday.

This morning I had gotten Charlotte and Camille dressed, coiffed, and equipped for school, given Clémentine her bottle and put her to sleep and I was finally ready for one of my favorite moments in the day, my long hot shower.

Franck, who had been lingering over breakfast, had the audacity to say he wanted to shave first before I steamed up the mirror. When I protested rather hotly he fixed me with a cheeky look.

Tais-toi femme! If you are forgetting how wonderful I am you should go and read your blog from yesterday. I can do no wrong.”

Mon Dieu. I’ve created a latin lover / monster hybrid.


In Praise of Tears – Part III

I asked Franck the other day if as a child he wore his heart on his sleeve, like Charlotte does. He said he was exactly like her, living completely emotionally in the moment. Although he no longer cries at the drop of a hat, he didn’t and still doesn’t see any point of being any other way.

I think if you asked most other French people how they are able to express their emotions so freely, they would be puzzled. From what I can tell they simply don’t see the point in repressing anything. Contrary to many Anglo-Saxons, emotions for them are simply things to be lived, not managed. I, on the other hand, was brought up in a society where showing emotions was generally viewed as a sign of weakness. However, I completely disagree with this now, and have come to view the Latin way of letting the tears flow as a sign of emotional strength.

The stark contrast in the emotional nature of my two oldest girls is a perfect case in point. Camille had a completely different way of reacting to my parents’ departure than Charlotte. She remained stoutly dry-eyed, and when I told her it was OK to cry if she felt like it she leapt around in her bed like a jumping jack and replied, “Oh, I’m not sad.”

“You’re not going to miss Nana and Grandpa?” I asked.

“I will, but I just don’t think about it.” Yes folks, I’m here to tell you that denial can begin as early as six years old.

I know for a fact that Camille adores my parents every bit as much as Charlotte, and that she is going to miss them terribly, yet she has somehow inherited my tendency to stuff everything down inside. However, it comes out, whether we like it or not.

And sure enough, it did come out the day after my parents left. She broke down in hot, gushing tears several times for things like not finding her favorite stuffy, me “pulling her hair” as I brushed it, and the fact that her favorite cartoon was over. She was tired and cranky and preoccupied, classic signs of the emotional hangover I have come to know so well. Charlotte, on the other hand, having gotten the tears out of her system the night before woke up bright eyed and ready to take on the world.

Over the months to come I’m hoping that being in France will help me teach Camille (and me) to cry more, not for Charlotte to cry less.

Happy 40th Birthday to My French Guy

My wonderful French husband is 40 years old today. All through high school I despaired that I would never meet a nice guy who was smart, masculine, and didn’t talk about women like they were various models of sports cars. There are moments even now, eighteen years after we first met, when I can’t quite believe my luck that I found him.

There were also moments today when I couldn’t quite believe I am married to someone who is FORTY YEARS OLD, but as he says, he’s just like his beloved Burgundian wine in that he improves with age. Besides, as my Dad says (and he would know), it takes a pretty special man to be a father to three daughters. Joyeux Anniversaire Franck.

P.S. Have a look at Franck’s photo and then the photo of Clémentine below. The medical team in the OR all agreed she had a definite “aire de papa” when she was born and I think they were right on the money.

Totally Gratuitous Photo of Clémentine

Final Installment of “In Praise of Tears” tommorrow, and next week is all about the amazing progress Franck has made in the cellar in Beaune, with lots of photos. Now that I’m not longer pregnant I can go and look for myself (though maybe on second thought should wait until C-section incision closes entirely) without fearing I will turf myself ass over tea-kettle with unborn child down the steep stone stairs.

In Praise of Tears – Part II

But even though I didn’t join the wailing, I did break down and start to cry – thanks to Charlotte. It was a huge relief. In my experience there is nothing more physically stressful and exhausting than trying to stem back tears.

I think many of us adults believe that sadness is one of those scary things, like death and illness, that need to be “managed”. But the tears are there, regardless of whether you choke them back or let them spill. I have found that even though it is still hard work for me to let myself go, it is much better for me to have a cry.

I have learned the hard way that stuffing emotions down is the equivalent to an all fare paid ticket to the twisted sisters of anxiety and depression, whereas I feel so much better after a good sob. Purified. Cleansed. Definitely saner than before the tears were shed.

Where does this compulsion to manage sadness come from? I often wonder if it is not closely related to the misguided sentiment that leads to not taking children to funerals. I’ve taken my big girls to two funerals now here in France – great grandmother Mathilde’s and more recently La Mémé’s.

The Catholic funeral Mass is soothing in its predictability and symbolic use of candles and incense and holy water. The girls have their favorite parts, like when the grandchildren and great-grandchildren go up to put lit candles on the coffin, and they almost fall over themselves to run up to the front when it the time to take the little wand thingimy and shake a cross of holy water over the deceased’s coffin.

Even though they still have a lot of questions about the spirit / body conundrum (i.e. what does the spirit wear up in heaven? The same clothes you are buried in?) they are much less anxious about the concept of death having participated in the process. In my opinion, death and sadness and so many other natural parts of being alive are made ten times scarier when avoided.

Living in France, and above all, being married to a Frenchie have certainly helped me see the benefits of being less repressed about expressing my emotions. It would simply never occur to Franck, like many of his countrymen, to try to hide what he is feeling at any given time. In fact, I sometimes wonder if he is even capable of doing it. If Franck is happy, sad, pissed off, or melancholy, everyone knows it. Though I must say that there are times when I wish he could be a little bit less transparent, like when he gets into a fight with family members over dinner and everyone goes off to their separate corners for a good long pout for hours afterwards, which makes the Canadian part of me want to crawl under the table to avoid the overt conflict. However, this would be solely for my comfort, not his.

But my dear husband is not alone. Over here in France I witness fellow adults cry openly and unashamedly on a regular basis at dinner parties, school drop offs, and their children’s dance recitals. Why don’t I see this back home in Canada? Is it that North Americans society puts such an emphasis on a “gee whizz, everything’s great!” front that we’re scared that if the tears start to flow, it will open the floodgates for the other emotions that we need to stuff down in order to maintain a happy-go-lucky self-image?

To be continued…

In Praise of Tears – Part I

Last night my parents had to say good-bye to us all before embarking on the marathon trip back to Victoria. In my experience, last days suck. This holds true whether you are the one being left or the one doing the leaving. In both cases, you are in that weird limbo between here and there, and you are aware that every minute is ticking towards the imminent departure.

Nobody is more open about the distressing nature of these partings (which are, along with the layer of travel grime that settles over you during the 24 hour trip between Burgundy and Victoria, my least favorite aspect of our bi-country life) than my Charlotte.

Her difficulty with the good-byes that our lifestyle inflict on her has gained legendary status in our extended family. Charlotte usually starts grieving and getting weepy a good two to three days before departure day. By the time the final good-bye rolls around, she has worked herself up to a crescendo of impressive proportions. Pretty well everyone on the Canadian side of my family dreads her gnashing of teeth and wailing, in the same way Winston Churchill would probably not know what to do with himself or his stiff upper lip at a funeral in Palestine. Worse, Charlotte has a proven knack of setting off a chain reaction.

Once she lets loose, the rest of us become unable to suppress the water works that we have been struggling to keep just below the surface.

Last night was a prime example. As my Mom was giving them their final kiss good-night while my Dad was loitering on the front porch with suspiciously bright eyes, Charlotte clung on to her, her body wracked with heaving sobs. Every time my Mom tried to disentangle herself Charlotte would clutch onto her tighter and wail, “Don’t go Nana! Dooooooooonnn’t Gooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.

This of course had my mom in tears, and me too. The truth of it was that Charlotte was putting into words what my heart was crying out, but which I was too big to actually say.

To be continued…

The Real Reason I’m Staying Home

My parents have been taking over all of the school runs for Charlotte and Camille since I got out of the hospital a week ago. Apparently my fellow parents at Saint Coeur are starting to ask them when I am going to show my face again.

My answer is “Not Yet” and here are the reasons I give:

1) A nurse is still coming to the house every day to give me blood thinner shots (they are big on this here in France) and blood tests twice a week, so I have to hang around waiting for her until a week’s time when I will at last stop being a human pin cushion.

2) My incision is still springing the odd leak.

3) It’s too cold to take Clémentine outside.

4) I’m nesting.

However, the truth of it is that I’m actually really starting to feel the desire to join the land of the living. There’s just one problem which is the only real reason I am hibernating at home: the only thing I can wear around my puffy tummy is pyjama bottoms or, god forbid, one of my two grotty pairs of track pants.

Until the situation evolves I think it is better both for my dignity and the world at large for me to stay put.