I get Banksy. And Elena Ferrante. And Daft Punk. And George Sand.
When I started this blog, I
wanted needed to write about my observations of French life, the things I had been chronicling in regular emails to my parents since moving here. I started the blog when they died, like so many long-married couples, within weeks of each other. I never intended to sell anything, and I still don’t, other than our AirBnB apartments in the center of town. Hence, I kept the spotlight on France. I don’t show myself or, especially, my family and friends. They might not mind one story or photo but they might mind another, and it’s a line I don’t want to cross. I want to share the humanity of our lives without destroying their privacy. They aren’t online influencers, nor am I. We’re just quiet people, leading quiet lives. To be an open book on the Internet, it’s best to remain an enigma. Unless one is a Kardashian.
That said, I have met in person a number of readers who have passed through our beautiful region. It’s always a delight, because they are so enthusiastic about France. I am amazed at how so many people online are truly wonderful people. No, I must correct that: having traveled around the world and having lived in four countries, I can say unequivocally that the vast majority of people are truly wonderful people. It is not amazing at all that people who read about food, history, antiques and travel would be agreeable. Readers have shared such funny and heartfelt stories of their own in the comments. They have generously offered advice. And support.
The past week, we have enjoyed the company of Oliver and Lina Gee of the Earful Tower podcast. They are even cuter in person than they sound on the air. I found their podcast from another wonderful blog, French Girl in Seattle. A virtuous circle of francophile references.We watched them do a live video tour of la Cité, and I was impressed by the amount of research Oliver had done. They are brimming with curiosity and enthusiasm about France. I enjoy it much more than the folks who complain about French quirks, which often aren’t quirks at all. They are either individuals being individual or the storyteller is the one really at fault. When our plumber doesn’t completely tighten something, we see it as a quirk of our plumber (and the Carnivore just goes around tightening everything after the plumber is done) and not of French plumbers. I can’t speak to French red tape, because I haven’t encountered any. My carte de séjour was a breeze, so was the driver’s license, so was enrolling our kid in school. Everyone we have encountered in bureaucracy has been very professional and efficient, except one time.When we first bought our house here, we opened a bank account at the post office and set up automatic payments for utilities, etc. We were still living in Belgium at the time. We came back to prepare plans for the renovation (all the contractors were very professional, by the way, no tales of woe to share there), and discovered we had no water. We contacted the water utility and learned it was shut off for lack of payment. We ended up at the post office, where we found out the clerk had a question about something and was afraid to call us long-distance and also claimed he didn’t know our address. If anybody knows addresses it’s the post office. Anyway, the money we had deposited was blocked during this saga, no bills had been paid and the post office (more precisely the clerk who took care of banking in the village post office) hadn’t informed us of anything. We promptly took our money to a different bank (which the post office claimed was impossible, they couldn’t possibly accommodate a withdrawal over €400, but they managed. Again, I don’t consider this a French thing but an inept clerk thing–he undoubtedly wanted to hide his screw-up from his supervisors).Anyway, back to Oliver and Lina. I will write about each of them individually (Lina designs her own line of shoes!), but in the meantime, get yourself over to the Earful Tower or to iTunes or Stitcher or Spotify or however you get your podcasts and sign up. They usually are based in Paris, but since they got married this summer (so cute!) they are traveling on a little red scooter (so cute!) in a heart-shaped route around France (so cute!). Carcassonne is the bottom point of the heart, exactly on the line that divides France between east and west.The Earful Tower is full of stories about French culture, history and language. I love it and usually listen to each episode twice, because they are packed with details.