Monday, June 7, 2010

A movie, a picnic, a tour, and a party

Sorry for no post yesterday, I've been getting complaints.  You could say I was celebrating the Sabbath, but I was actually catching up with sleep due to jet lag and resting for the day.  On Saturday evening, Jill and I went into Aix to see a French movie called "La Tête en Friche."  Tête means "head" and friche means "land plowed but not sowed."  So the movie was about a sort-of simple gentleman, played by Gérard Depardieu, who meets an elderly woman, Gisèle Casadesus, and they become friends.  I won't give the whole story away, but it was a very powerful movie--I'm not ashamed to say I even shed a tear at one particularly moving moment.
It was interesting seeing a movie entirely in French without any subtitles.  I followed the story a lot better than I expected to, although I missed most of the jokes.  I find that watching movies in the language you're trying to learn is an excellent way to improve your comprehension, although make sure you don't put on English subtitles, because that defeats the purpose entirely.  A woman I met at the picnic told me it's good to put the subtitles in the language of the movie, that way one can match the dialogue with the text--oh, that reminds me, I haven't yet said anything about the picnic!

On Sunday, Jill brought me to a picnic event that was put on by an anglophone group based here in Aix.  At first glance, I was a little worried, because it seemed like a bunch of middle aged people and their kids, and I didn't know if I'd be able to have any fun.  Once I got a little bit of wine in me the conversation started flowing, and I met some really interesting people--one of whom is an author trying to get her book published right now.  We had a long conversation about writing, and her thoughts and experiences were very inspiring to me.  Her advice helped motivate me to start working on one of my goals--writing a novel.  I'm thinking that I'll try sending her some of my poetry to see what she thinks, and to get some advice from a more experienced writer than myself.  Hopefully she'll send me back a copy of her manuscript that she recently finished--I'd like to read it.

After the picnic, Jill and I went to a sort-of yard sale, where people brought out all of their old goods to sell.  I didn't really find anything that I wanted to buy (and I'm trying to be frugal because I went over budget a couple of days ago on books... but hey, I need to read!).  It was interesting walking around nonetheless, and seeing a side of Provence that is quintessential to the local culture.  It's also Jill's business, so she's sworn me to secrecy about some of the aspects of it, but here are some pictures of the event.

It was all held in a beautiful little town square, hence the statue and the church architecture.  There were some amazing antiques for sale--even I could appreciate them, and I'm far from a connoisseur.

Today at the liquoristerie I finished sweeping and mopping the stockroom floors before lunch.  I almost had a lunch date with the very pretty intern that works here, Laetitia, but it ended up not happening due to a miscommunication--oh well, one of these days.  After lunch, Laetitia gave a tour of the liquoristerie to some elderly folks.  I'm supposed to give a tour to an English-speaking group in about two weeks, so I followed the tour group, seeing how she handled it in order to get an idea of how I should conduct myself on my own.  I've got some studying to do about the distillation process so that I can explain it without sounding like a fool.  The tour she gave was in French, so I didn't understand everything, especially the technical concepts she talked about while showing the group the distilling equipment, but it was helpful to see how she conducted the whole thing nonetheless.

I learned afterward that the group of folks all had Alzheimer's, so they were an interesting bunch.  There was one older man who was particularly grouchy the whole time, and he refused to try any of the beverages--at the end of the tour, we're supposed to give all of the guests a taste of three different drinks: a wine, the absinthe, and finally an aperitif.  One of the women was particularly high-spirited.  She had fiery red hair, even at her age, with one chipped front tooth.  She walked with a slouch, and every time she'd try to talk to me or the other tour guides, the guides of the group would grab her by the arm, saying "venez ici, venez" meaning "come here, come" almost as if they were talking to an unruly child.  She was hilarious though.  When we were doing the tasting, she stood in front of the counter, chatting us all up and being a character.  She refused to sit down when the group leader tried to lead her away, saying, "Je reste ici!" meaning "I'm staying here!"  She kept on forgetting that she had a glass of wine in her hand as she was brandishing it around, almost spilling it on herself as she jovially joked with us all, being insolent to her group guide, then giving us sly winks out of the corner of her eye.  They all wanted her to try the wine, so they egged her on, chanting, "goutez, goutez" meaning "taste it" or "try it."  Remembering the glass in her hand, her eyes got wide looking at it, then she held the small cup to her lips, drinking some of it down as the rest of the group shouted, "tout, tout!" which I'm pretty sure is our equivalent to "chug, chug!"  She downed about half the glass, then her legs got wobbly and her eyes closed--everyone drew an anxious breath--but she opened her eyes, straightened her legs, and shot us another wink and smile.

After the tour, Leticia showed me around the distillery again, explaining the concepts in English that I missed previously.  She studied in London for a year, so her English is quite good, and we can communicate very well.  Even then, it's difficult translating the technical stuff about how the distillation process works, so that part was a bit labored, with both of us trying to understand that which neither of us really had a grasp on.  I taught her the good ol' American expression, "wing it" because that's what I'm going to have to do when the time comes for me to give a tour.

I got off work a little early because I was supposed to accompany Jill to a classy party that was held at this beautiful vineyard.  The owner of the house owns a popular hotel chain in France, called Accor.  His party hosted many chefs--the theme of the night being rising female culinary stars.  I tried some amazing Italian meats, delicious wines, phenomenal desserts, and extremely rich cheeses.  It's funny--I keep getting thrust into these foodie-cultural groups... maybe the Universe is telling me something...

Anyways, here are some pictures of the event.  I wish I had more, but my camera started dying towards the end, and a bunch of the pictures didn't turn out.  Here's what I got:


  1. Delicious! I like your writing, and wish I could have seen the dotty old woman giving her saucy winks.

    Cheers from 95073!

  2. Perhaps the "Universe" is telling you to use your writing talents as a food may not win the Pulitzer Prize that way, but, hey, you wouldn't go hungry.

  3. Love the red-haired woman story. Keep that "character" stuff up! And waaaaaah! Eating fancy pants Italian food during a summer evening in Provence! Oyg!

  4. I don't think I'd make a good food critic, though. I like everything, haha!