Monthly Archives: May 2010

Ma petite terrace en France sustains me!

We have been hit by a tsunami of things to do before we jet off for France on June 19th.

We are currently packing up everything here at our rental as we will be moving out before we leave (the owners of this truly fabulous house, Melanie & Jonathan and their family will be returning home from their year in Costa Rica soon), we are trying to finalize the designs for the house we will be building here in Victoria this Fall, the girls seem to have a track meet, performance, or field trip almost every day of the week and we are also trying to finalize a new rental for when we return from France in late July.

POP!

That was the sounds of my head detaching from my body.  

Yet, there are two things that sustain me (besides chocolate).

First, I can’t really call any of these things “problems” in the grand scheme of things. I am damn lucky to be where I am, doing what I am doing, so even if it is crazy that is – ultimately – OK. Secondly, I just close my eyes and dream about enjoying a lovely glass of Claire’s wine on our terrace at La Maison des Chaumes in the warm Burgundian sunshine….ahhhhhh….

See what I mean?  Instant sustenance. 

Joyeux Noel in the Spring

Just before Franck left on his BC Road Trip with Robert & Mireille (and All Hell Broke Loose) we rented the French movie “Joyeux Noel” from the library.  It is a movie I have been wanting to watch for many moons.  Not only have I always been intrigued by World War I and II and the people who lived through it (or the people who didn’t) but it stars the French actor Guillaume Canet.  Like Alan Rickman, this is a man I would happily watch change his socks.   

Truth be told, I would stare in rapture.  Anyway…enough fantasizing Laura…

Turned out I LOVED this movie not only because of Guillaume Canet (though that didn’t hurt) but because it gave me shivers down my spine and made me laugh and weep – sometimes at the same time.  

The story is about Christmas Eve on the front lines during World War One, where the Scottish, French, and German troops were all hunkered down in the trenches and then, through a series of mishaps, made a truce and got to know each other as people.  This was a fatal mistake for them as soliders, but essential for them as human beings.  I want to watch it again to relive moments like the sounds of bagpipes furling over the dead in No Man’s Land, and the German opera singer who starts moving Christmas trees so the enemy can see them while he sings.   

I also think I will watch it with my girls as there are few movies that bring home the ridiculousness and heartbreak of war as this one.  Watch it – cry, laugh and admire Guillaume Canet…and then let me know what you think.  And Merry Christmas, even though it is almost June.     

Cancellation Beaune Apartment July 19-30th

I just received a last-minute cancellation at Le Relais du Vieux Beaune from July 19-30th – any takers? The Euro hasn’t been this low in a long time…

Just email me (you can find my email address on our website www.graperentals.com – I think if I post it here I’ll be spammed to death!) if you have any questions or want to make a booking to enjoy la belle vie in Beaune this summer. 

A Bientot…

Love Emails Like This

“We are in La Maison de la Vieille Vigne and have had a wonderful first night. Absolutely no problems getting in and settled.

Went back to Nuit-St-George for a chicken from la charcuterie , some beans, potatoes and butter, and had a lovely late dinner cooked in the terrific kitchen, then a walk around the village. Magic

Internet works flawlessly, updated Facebook, no problems.

Now reading reading reading and planning.

Today I can’t wait for village baguette this morning as soon as it opens, Beaune market, and tasting. Better fit in some countryside walking too!

I won’t bore you with our daily diary, just wanted you to know that we are settled and fully expect to love it……………”

Vincent Ball – guest at La Maison de la Vieille Vigne

…Music to a vacation rental owners ears…

Beware France Telecom

This piece of advice applies equally to the short and long term visitor to France.   

When I try to explain to people who have not yet had contact with France Telecom (the most unpleasant form of baptism you could ever imagine) I always find myself frustrated.  Coming from North America, or even England, it is impossible to conceive just how frustrating and distressing this French institution can be to deal with.  For an objective glimpse, just have a peek at Lisa’s blog post today. 

We have unblocked phone and Internet lines at all of our vacation rentals, but the service and line reliability of France Telecom is so pathetic that we are now going to have to start putting a caveat on the “telephone and Internet included” part of our rental conditions that reads “subject to France Telecom”.  Lines stop functioning for no reason then start up again, months later, for reasons equally as mysterious. 

The main part of the problem is that in the interim you have wasted a good portion of your life though cardiac-arrest inducing visits to the France Telecom offices and phone calls where you get shunted around from department to department for hours while you are paying by the minute for the privilege of being on hold.  Then you inevitably get to the death knell – the recorded voice that says cheerfully after you have racked up a 300 Euro phone bill from being on hold for three hours “Nobody can help you right now.  Please call back later.” 

Click. 

The thing I try to explain about France Telecom is that there IS no concept of customer service – I actually think the majority of employees garner considerable job satisfaction from making as many people’s lives as miserable as possible.  And the laziness…mon dieu…the laziness… 

To me what sums up our dealings with France Telecom is a visit we made to the Beaune office a few years ago to have the billing address corrected for one of our gites.  Shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Ah, but you forget, we are dealing with France Telecom.  

We waited in line for about an hour and at about 11:30am a haughty France Telecom employee (who are also all civil servants, which is a massive part of the problem methinks) in a knit sweater listened begrudgingly to our request.  Franck outlined it in as few words as possible, as you would to a child.  The man heaved a large sigh, rolled his eyes and consulted his watch.  “I’m going on lunch in half an hour,” he said.  “And I really don’t want to be late.  You’ll have to come back later.”                    

I had a past guest who stayed at my gites who ending up buying a home of her own in Northern Burgundy .  I had warned her about France Telecom but I don’t think she entirely believed me.  Well, in her three years of French property ownership she was never able to set up a functioning phone or Internet line in her house.  She ended up selling and moving back to Canada; she sounded completely unhinged the last time I talked to her.  I often wonder just how many people France Telecom have sent to the insane asylum. 

So, if you are traveling to France and the phone or Internet lines are not working, have pity on your poor vacation rentals owners (us) who are trying their best to deal with the stonewalling of France Telecom on your behalf.  Secondly, if you are renting a place for a long term stay, rent a place already equipped with a phone and Internet line.  Sadly this doesn’t always guarantee you will have phone service (Lisa is the proof of that, much to my chagrin) but at least you are putting all the chances on your side.  And don’t – unless you want to waste years of your life – try to set up a phone line by yourself. 

There have been a lot of new Telecommunications companies arriving in France over the last five years.  Problem is that France Telecom still has a monopoly over all of the equipment and lines.  These companies simply rent line space from France Telecom.   If you have a problem with them France Telecom gets vengeful and takes even LONGER to fix it.  This is the juncture where my eyes start spinning in their sockets and I start tearing at my hair like a character out of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.  The Horror…THE HORROR!!!!! 

And you can’t really go postal on France Telecom employees either.  It is an urban french myth (one which I totally believe) that there is a secret “blackball” list and if a France Telecom employee puts your name down on it you can kiss au revoir the idea of every getting a functioning phone or Internet line again in your ENTIRE LIFE. 

So my advice is buy or rent a cell phone for the duration of your stay in France, and also to locate your nearest Internet cafes.  And if you DO have an encounter with France Telecom even after these precautions, serve yourself a nice glass (or two) of good French wine and remind yourself that they will Burn In Hell one day.  It is surprisingly comforting.

Frenchman in The Rockies

Franck is taking our French guests Robert and Mireille on a good old Canadian Road Trip through Beautiful BC while I hold down the fort at home (that screaming sound you can hear is me).

Us Canucks have a damned fine backyard.

Proof That People Really Were Shorter in 1789

Our recent guest at La Maison des Deux Clochers just sent me this photo of her husband Brian in front of the doorway to the kitchen.

Brian is, granted, very tall but he is far from being the only guest at La Maison des Deux Clochers who experienced a thorough bang on the head as a daily reminder that people really were much shorter in 1789.  This is the year the house was built – around the same time as the Bastille was being stormed and Revolutionary mobs were unleashed in the streets of Paris.    

The door (and the doorjam) are definitely items that date back to 1789 – if guests have a gander at the elaborate and massive hinges you can see how they are definitely not the kind purchased at your local Home Depot (or Bricorama in France).  They were forged and beaten by hand courtesy of the village ironmonger.

But this may be little consolation to Brian who has now moved onto the Rhone Valley to nurse his cranial bruises – hopefully with the help of a little wine.  Nobody said it was easy living inside a history lesson!

Where Did That Come From?

For the last two days, Clem has been saying “Ouip!” instead of “Oui!”. I have to admit, that “P” does sound pretty snazzy at the end of the word, but I’m still scratching my head as to where it comes from.

 There’s no “P” is the “Yes”, after all. It’s not logical like Camille’s favorite franglais word of “Mait” which is a clear combination of “mais” and “but.”

So…”Ouip”…maybe a combination of “Oui” and “Yup”? The mystery continues.

Glorious French Markets

Check out this article about Beaune and Dijon’s fabulous markets.

Another two of my favorites are Chagny and Louhans.

Only five more weeks until I will be there myself, market basket in hand…I think the handle may still be warm from Lisa’s what-is-that-great-looking-cheese-over-there market grip.  Burgundy will miss her and her family but we know it has a way of pulling people back again and again...

Avion Do-Do

 

Clementine’s language is really coming along – in both English and French.  Most of her sentences are a combination of both, i.e. “That is MY pousette!”, “I saute!” and “These chaussures are too grandes.”   

There is one sentence, however, that always comes out in French.  It is what Clementine says when she wants to join in the adult conversation (often) and feels she needs to say something particularly insightful and grown-up.  

In Clem’s mind, the phrase that fits the bill is “avion do-do“. 

This is the phrase I tried to hammer into her brain beofe we left for Hawaii.  I kept asking, (in French), “what do we do on an airplane Clem?”  And then I would answer for her, “do-do!” (sleep!).

Thus the phrase “avion do-do” was born, much to our family’s frequent edification.  

I hope is that she not only likes the sounds of the words themselves, but that she has also absorbed their meaning. 

In a little more than a month’s time we will be embarking with the bevy on the marathon trip from Victoria to Villers-la-Faye, and I want all the do-do‘ing in the avion that I can get from Clementine.