Monthly Archives: November 2009

Authentic France Travel Tip# 51: Travel With Euro Coins

This suggestion came from Franck, who is currently struggling with a bit of jetlag and a lot of heavy duty digestive work from all of those delicious raclettes, choucroutes, etc. he has been enjoying.

He reminded me how handy it is to have about five euros in one euro, two euros, and fifty centimes coins in your pocket when you arrive in France.

First of all, so many things that are often free at home i.e. luggage carts require coins in France.

Also, and far more distressingly to new arrivals to the country, many of the public toilets in airports and train stations cost fifty centimes to one euro to use. This can be a nasty surprise when you really have to go.

It is always nice to have some coinage in your pocket to be ready for such eventualities, and if you have any left over you can treat yourself to a lovely espresso.

One generally can’t get coins from your local bank (they only deal in exchanging bills), but think about hitting up any friend or relative that has been travelling in Europe recently. I’ll bet they have a pile of euro coins in a dusty bowl in their bedroom.

Then you will have an exciting new world of French toilets at your feet!

Un Travail Bien Fait

Franck arrived in Burgundy and at La Maison des Chaumes yesterday.

As with all of our other French vacation rental renovations, we had planned (on paper) to be finished with weeks to spare.

So of course, we finished about….ahhhhhhh…..5 seconds or so before speeding off to the Lyon airport to fly back to Canada.

However, like a belated Birthday gift, it is always a thrill to return to the properties and actually take a moment to soak in the end result of months (years in the case of La Maison des Chaumes) of hard work and effort.

Franck took some photos before settling in, so the house looks just like it would when new guests arrive. However, keep in mind that it WAS 11:00 pm when these were taken – the house is usually a LOT brighter.

Just for the record, Franck DID get a much better sleep than me when he was flying and has informed me he feels like a new man and isn’t quite sure how I haven’t collapsed from exhaustion yet. He also told me that he is going to his parents’ house for dinner tonight and eating a raclette, one of my favorite things in the Whole World.

Needless to say, I’m feeling a conflicting mix of pleasure at living vicariously through him and nauseating jealousy.

Here is the eating area in our newly renovated kitchen, with my beloved vintage “Air France” poster on the wall.

Franck must have laid on the floor for this one. Check out my Villeroy & Bosch apron sink. I still lurve it, although not as much as the photographer stretched out on the Portuguese tiles.

Eating area again, with the girls artwork to chew by. I also love my weighted ceramic farmhouse ceiling light. Like the sink, that was a splurge.

And here’s the very expensive hole we cut int the wall between the living room and the kitchen! Even though several large hairy French tradesmen tried to dissuade me, I remained adamant about doing it. Let me just take a moment to remind everyone how I WAS RIGHT. It’s what makes the whole place flow and work.

I also love our country pine coffee table and side tables that we picked up at local brocantes. I never expected to decorate this house with touches of red, but it just called out for it. The muse, French feng shui, call it what you will, but le rouge spoke to me.

More photos coming up soon…

Bienvenue en France, Franck (et la flu)!

In about an hour Franck will be boarding an airplane like this to fly himself and potentially the flu virus to France. Although he still hasn’t come down with any symptoms I cannot – from the sheer amount of sick and spewing children in our house this week – see how he could bypass it.

Franck did make several pilgrimages to Lourdes in his formative years, so maybe this explains his virus-repelling powers.

One thing is for sure; he will DEFINITELY be getting a better night’s sleep than me.

Départ Imminent

The above is a close-up of a huge ancient globe that you can see in the Beaune library. I love how Vancouver Island is shown as attached to the continent, and just called “Nootka“. Do go and have a look at it when you are in Beaune.


Franck is leaving for his three weeks in Burgundy tomorrow. These ideas always seem so good on paper, n’estce pas?

He goes back to Burgundy for three weeks and does the necessary repairs, maintenance, and managing of our vacation rentals as well as squeezing in a few visits with friends and family. I hold down the fort here with the help of my friends and family. Fantastique.

Time for a Reality Check.

As of today, we have two girls out of three home with H1N1. I can’t in all fairness ask anyone to come and help with childcare as we are essentially in quarantine. I am still a bit shaken by my own trip to the ER this weekend. In all likelihood Franck and I harbouring the flu virus after being barfed, sneezed, and coughed on for going on two weeks now. I slept a grand total of 45 minutes last night.

And yet as of this morning we are still very much planning on Franck going. It seems impossible right now, but we could all be feeling better in a few days, right?

Besides, I’ve ordered myself the Complete Series of “Sex and The City” to watch in the evenings once I get the bevy to bed. I cannot tell you how much that little thing is keeping me going.

I always try to remind myself and others to look beyond the surface of things. In this case, our Trans-Atlantic lifestyle is not feeling very glamorous at the moment!

Authentic France Travel Tip #50: Bring Your Plug Adaptors

As I have had electrical issues on the brain during the past few days, I figured today’s Authentic France Travel Tip should be about power converters and plug adaptors.

Yes, I have a weird mind. Franck has informed me of this fact on several occasions.

Many guests ask the question “Do I need to bring power converters with me to France, and if so, what kind?”

Now being the accommodating vacation rental owner that I am at the beginning of every rental season I buy 2 -3 plug adaptors (not the same as power converters, plug adaptors allow you to plug a foreign electrical cord into French wall socket) for each of our properties.

These inevitably disappear over the course of the season though, not because our guests are thieving scoundrels, but because like me they are often caught up in a last-minute packing frenzy and forget that that plug adaptor at the end of their laptop cord doesn’t belong to them.

Never fear. These cheap little marvels can be picked up at any airport, hardware, or grocery store. It is always a good idea to have one or two with you when traveling in Europe.

Just for the record, a power converter is something quite different. It actually allows you to use foreign electrical equipment in France, even though the machine is made for, say, 115 volts whereas in France the voltage is 220 volts.

I have officially burnt out two hairdryers and one huge CD player with a power converter (the CD player episode was complete with smoke and flames), so I always warn guests to try power converters at their own risk.

Anyway, we keep French hairdryers, irons, and all that jazz at the properties so you hopefully don’t need a power converter at all, not even for your computer.

This is because all laptops made within the last 7 years (and if you are still limping along with a laptop that is more than 7 years old, you deserve a spot in the Smithsonian) have a power coverter integrated inside them, so it does all the work for you without you having to do a single thing – how clever.

So bring your plug adaptors and all your electrical things should work as they should. Isn’t it downright chouette when that happens!

More Than Bargained For

I knew that this year’s Halloween – as our first one back in North America after 5 years in France – would be pretty exciting for our family, but I hadn’t bargained on being taken by ambulance to the hospital.

It all started on Saturday afternoon as I was sitting on the couch in our living room threading a white ribbon around the collar of Charlotte’s Princess Lea costume in preparation for Trick or Treating. Completely out of the blue, my heart started pounding. This has happened to me a few times before, but it has always gone back to its normal rhythm within a few seconds.

Not this time. It was Halloween, after all.

After five minutes of walking around and still having my heart feel like it was beating out of my chest like Jim Carey when he spots Cameron Diaz in “The Mask” Franck and I decided to call for an ambulance.

I was sitting on the bench in the front hall when not one, but two ambulances arrived. The first thing I saw when the first one pulled up was the huge “ON STRIKE” sticker on the side.

“That’s reassuring,” I muttered.

But that wasn’t all…the paramedics rushed into the house with their defibrillators, stretcher, and oxygen tanks and looked quite surprised to find me relatively calm and collected sitting on the bench in the front hall, with my jacket and scarf on, all ready to go. The heart was still pounding though.

They walked me to the ambulance and although I was of course very, very scared I amazed myself by seeming very calm. They did a bunch of things all at once – ran a few ECGs, put in an IV, hooked me up to oxygen, and then when the paramedic asked how I was feeling and I answered, “Really scared actually. I have three children who need their mother,” he offered to put something to “take the edge off” in my IV.

I waffled for a moment, and then he said, “I’d take it if I were you.”

Twist my rubber arm. Yes. Hook me up please Scotty. But although the Valium certainly enhanced the ride to the hospital, it didn’t slow down my heart.

I was rushed into the Emergency ward where they ran a few more ECGs and the cardiologist tried twice to slow my heart down by pressing very hard on my carotid artery (which he informed me is not something one should try at home folks).

Didn’t work. My heart was still beating fast enough to actually shake the metal bed I was lying on.

The next step was to inject some kind of hard-core medicine into my IV to make my heart slow down. The nurses and the doctor warned me ahead of time that it would make me feel “truly awful” for a few seconds. The room filled with paramedics and nurses who apparently had never seen this particular medicine administered before.

On the count of 1-2-3 the cardiologist and two nurses injected it into my IV, to a riveted audience and one very scared person lying on the stretcher.

It did feel dreadful – kind of like a full-body lurch where you half pass out.

But as promised it was over very quickly and my heart reverted immediately back to its normal rhythm. They did another ECG which they all pronounced “beautiful” and then the cardiologist came to talk to Franck and I about what had just happened.

It was not a heart attack, nor a panic attack of any way, shape or form, he assured us. Rather, it was an electrical problem in the heart where the heart mistakes an echo for a beat and gets caught up in a loop beating in the wrong rhythm.

It is not dangerous, he said. It could and very likely will happen again, but now I knew what to do – come into the hospital and get it stopped. There are options if it becomes really problematic – long term medication or surgery – but for now he is going to run some further tests and then see how it plays out…

The main gist of the cardiologists speech was that I should NOT live in the fear of it happening again and should NOT do anything differently i.e. stop running, stop drinking coffee (crikey), traveling, etc. (though I didn’t drink coffee yesterday – which I realize is an anxiety driven attempt at exerting control over something over which I really have no control – and now have a MASSIVE caffeine-withdrawal headache as I write this).

This not living in fear thing though…it sounded completely logical at the time, but in reality it is easier said than done for me. I surprised myself at how calm I was throughout the whole thing, but yesterday felt drowned by the backlash of all that fear and emotion; I was exhausted and very spaced out.

Thankfully I am reading a great novel “At The King’s Command” by Susan Wiggs, who was a presenter at the Writer’s Conference I just attended in Surrey. Again, I was blown away at how comforting a good book can be when real life becomes too much.

Strangely, I also couldn’t wait to write about the incident. More for myself than for you, my cherished readers (merci for your indulgence). Not because it is particularly fun to relive it but because that is how I am wired – writing is how I get things OUT of my brain in order to obtain the distance I need to process them.

So I will remember our first Halloween back in Canada as being the scariest Halloween for me ever even though when I reflect back on the events I realize I have a lot to feel thankful for; top notch medical care, the fact that Franck was home with me when it happened, and the fact that my sister Suzanne swooped in and made sure my girls had a wonderful Halloween anyway.

So for the next little while I will be working very hard to “Keep Calm and Carry On” like the Brits during the Blitz in the face of my Halloween scare.