What it Something I Said?

Part 1.

One morning, a couple of Saturdays ago, the missus and I were lounging around reading the news when the doorbell rang. (Note: our ‘chime’ is the opening notes to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.) I go downstairs, open the door, and a young lady with a dog says, “Je suis désolé de vous déranger” – “I’m sorry to bother you.”

I reply: “De rien” – “It’s nothing”

To which she replies, “Oh, I’m so sorry to bother you.” In English. I had said two words. Three syllables: de ree-en.

So I continue speaking to her in English. She came to the door because a she saw a cat that had been hurt and was lying on the side of the road. She had already been to a neighbor of ours who told her that one of our cats looked like the one she described. Both of our cats were inside, but I got dressed and went to join her down on the road. Turns out she’s German and was there with her husband and their little girl. I brought one of our cat carriers, she put the cat in and then left to go to a vet. She brought the carrier back but didn’t ring the bell so I don’t know the cat’s prognosis.

Part 2.

Springtime arrived. Finally. To celebrate, I took a drive to the duty-free shopping mall/country of Andorra.

The Pyrenees still had snow on them at the upper elevations – anything above 2000m/6560ft. I was looking for some regional edition/limited edition cigars and Andorra has multiple cigar shops. At about the fourth shop that I went into – one I’d been to before and had good luck with – the lady behind the counter is with another customer. Being a good French resident I say “Bonjour” when I enter.

I go inside the walk-in humidor and look around. A few moments later, the lady comes in and says, “Good afternoon. How are you? Anything I can help you with?”

All in English

Now, I know that I’m not the best French-as-a-second-language speaker in the world, but c’mon! Two syllables! Bo-zhur.

It’s not like I said ‘Bahn-jewer’ or ‘Bo-joor.’

Regardless, I kept speaking in French and she kept speaking in English. If she didn’t have two cigars that I really wanted and at a good price, I would’ve left.

Adios y’all.

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Fifty Shades of Grey

Or…why the Leguevin baseball team is called the Duckies.


A story in a local free paper about the mighty Duckies.

Before we first moved to France, way back in ought-six, M’s British colleagues told how much we were going to enjoy the weather of Toulouse. “It’s so sunny,” they would enthuse. At the time, we didn’t realize that, for Brits, two days of sun per week is almost more than they can stand.

So, our first fall/winter here we were bummed out. “Where’d the sun go?” we wondered. For the next eight years, it was like the instructions on a shampoo bottle: lather, rinse, repeat. From November to April, it was the same thing.

Well, almost the same thing. You know how they say that Eskimos have more than a dozen words for snow, depending on the type of snow that’s falling? After waking up to yet another grey day, I went to meeting with my comms colleagues and I asked them, “Do Toulousains have multiple words for grey? You look up in the sky and it’s grey. Day after day. So are there different words for light-grey, dark-grey, grey with a hint of white, with a hint of black, with a patch of blue somehow visible, snow grey, rain grey, dark-turning-to-light grey?”

You can see that I’ve given this some thought. My colleagues assured me that Toulousains don’t have different words for all these variations. “It’s just a little cloudy,” they assured me. I also think they thought I was (am?) a bit nuts.

Anyway, this brings me back to the Leguevin Duckies baseball team. The team founder was an American expat who settled in the area and he must’ve thought the same as me about the weather. He told me that the first season the team played that it always seemed to rain. And who likes rain more than anyone? Ducks?

Editor’s Note: Today’s sky features a lovely light grey with bold streaks of white and patches of blue. Any suggestions on a name for it?

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It’s American Week at…Picard

If it works for one supermarket chain, why shouldn’t work for another?

I speak, of course, about American Week. That blessed occasion when all things American – and things that aren’t American but the French think should be – are on promotion.

This time, the store is Picard. I can’t recall a store like this in the US. They specialize in frozen foods – as in that’s pretty much all they sell. I’ve been in a couple of stores for ice cream and bagels (not at the same time) but I really can’t say I’m familiar with them.

Still…American Week is American Week. Let’s look at the goodies on offer.

Picard 1

The cover shot. I like how they do a literal translation of ‘Rainbow Cake’ into ‘Gateau arc-en-ciel’. But ‘Hello America’? What the heck does that mean?

Picard 2

Bagels and beer. What’s not to love? Note: The wording at the top is “My American Dream to Me!”

Picard 3

Nacho cheese balls and New York style hotdogs. Dinner is served!

Picard 4

Tex-Mex Pizza – No translation necessary.

Picard 5

As much as I love pulled pork, I’m disappointed in myself for not buying any. But I can live without the microwave fries and cheese sauce.

Picard 6

I like how they keep cupcakes, topped pretzel palooza and cookies & cream cheesecake, but they don’t say ‘unicorn’ instead of ‘licorne’.

And finally, we have:

Picard 7

Limited edition donuts plus granola cookies (ugh!) and caramel toffee popcorn.

Bon apetit y’all!

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The More Things Change…

After being gone from France for three years, it was inevitable that things would change.

The first thing we noticed was how much housing construction is going on. We’ve been told that the population of the Toulouse area has grown 10% per year since we’ve been gone. And those people gotta live somewhere. Every town – seemingly on every entrance road to those towns – has new single-family and town homes plus 2- or 3-story apartment buildings going up.

Next – and distinctly more frivolous – is the matter of pickup trucks. When we would make our annual pilgrimage back to the US, there were certain intersections where I’d see more pickups crossing than I’d see in a year back in France. Today, however, I see at least one pickup truck when I’m out on the roads or even taking a walk. But instead of the usual Ford F10s and Dodge Rams, we see Toyotas and Nissans. But we also see the Solar from Isuzu (I had no idea they were still in business), the Amarok (ooh, tough-sounding name) from Volkswagen (who knew they made pickups?), and the Dacia Duster. But the most shocking one was the Alaskan from…Renault. If I find out that Citroen or Peugeot offer a pickup, I’ll probably have a heart attack.

Note – These pickups all have all thing in common: extended cabs. The beds are all short, but at least they can fit more people or stuff on the inside.

Speaking of cars, we still see plenty of auto ecole (driver ed) cars. Saw a few Army personnel carriers marked with auto ecole just as I did way back when. But my favorite auto ecole vehicles have to be the ones with racing stripes on the hood/bonnet. I imagine the instructor telling newbies: “Now don’t get any ideas.” And this past weekend I saw a station wagon with racing stripes – the irony was pretty ironic.

And still speaking of cars, one Sunday the lovely missus and I were headed to the Leguevin market and just outside of town there’s a patisserie (that has changed name and ownership since we left). At one end of the parking lot, there’s a small car wash (where you can also wash large cars) with two open air stalls. In one of them, there was a cyclist who was his…self. He must’ve went down a bunch of muddy paths, so there he was with the high-pressure wand hosing down his filthy Lycra suit. Considerate of him to not befoul his washing machine.

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Jack in the Box

Well, not quite.

The halftime entertainer, Justin Timberlake, of this past Sunday’s Supper Bowl did either a great job or a horrible one depending on which fan or troll you done read on the internets.

Regardless, when I think of JT, I can’t help but remember his collaboration with Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live on the viral video, “**** in a Box.” (I’ll let you do your own search to find it.)

Anyway, it you saw that skit and wondered, “Hey, where can I get one of those?”, well I have the answer for you.



If you can’t find it or the print is too small, here’s a close-up:

Blank in a Box (2)

Just a note: that’s the French word for rooster.

When the lovely missus saw this, she said, “You have to put that on the blog!”

Request granted.

Of course, this ad comes to us from our good friends at Lidl.

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You Want it When?

One of the things you can’t take with you when moving to France from the US is your car. (It doesn’t really pay to bring electronics either but at least you can get power converters if there’s something – say, a coffee maker – you can’t live without.)

That means you need to buy one shortly after you get here. (Note: rental cars ain’t cheap here.) Because one of us – and I’m not naming names – doesn’t drive a stick, we needed to look for an automatic, which greatly reduces your selection here.

After searching for a while (God bless the internet!), we found a dealership that had a few options to pick from. Because I had good luck with an Audi A4 last time here, I wanted to get another Audi. They had an A3, a slightly smaller version of the A4, but it had over 110,000 klicks and the price they wanted was too much in our opinion. So we test drove a 2015 VW Golf with less than half the mileage, er, kilometerage and liked it.

Note: the transmission was something called a ‘rob double embray,’ where apparently ‘rob’ stands for ‘robot’. When getting our insurance, our agent referred to this as a ‘semi-automatic’. Go figure.

Now, I wasn’t sure about this, but you can haggle with car dealers here. We got some euros knocked off and both parties were happy.

Here’s where things get a little different. Previously, we had bought our cars from individuals so we unsure of the process for dealers. We had had our rental for a while and the fees were adding up, so we wanted the car ASAP, as in like today, which was Tuesday. So when the salesman asked when we wanted the car, I said, “The sooner the better.” He started looking at his calendar – not a good sign. I interjected, “How about Thursday?” He frowned and said, “Pas possible.” So I respond, “Friday?” The frown lessens and he says, “Apres-midi?” (The afternoon?). “Sure. Let’s do it,” I say.

I then go to the bank on Wednesday morning to get a cashiers check. I give them the details and the receptionist says it’ll be ready in two days, which is Friday so I’m good.

Friday afternoon, the lovely missus and I get the check and then pick up the car. At closing, in a true French touch, the salesman brings us a bottle of champagne. One for the road, I suppose.

So, two questions:

  1. Why did it take three days for our car to get ready? They replaced the front tires, but still. When we got the paperwork from the salesman, there wasn’t anything different from what you’d get in the US.
  2. Two days to get a cashiers check? Ohhhhhh-Kaaaaay. Their computers know we have the money and they certainly have printers there. At least I was smart enough to go in advance to make the request.


Henry Ford would’ve approved. After all, he’s the man who allegedly said, “You can get your car in any color you want, just as long as it’s black.” In France, 90% of cars are black, white or gray (split the difference). It makes it a challenge sometimes when you’re trying to find your car in a parking lot or garage.

But our car is Pacifique Bleu. ‘Tis pretty. And it stands out in a parking lot.



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It’s Ba-a-a-a-a-ck! American Week at Lidl

It’s a sign from God. No sooner do we arrive back in France, when what do we receive in the mail? Longtime readers know: the Lidl circular featuring American Week!

Lidl 1

The cover – ‘Discover the taste of America’

We had some of your traditional favo(u)rites: peanuts, wraps and the American style snack box with mozzarella sticks, onion rings and chili cheese poppers.

Lidl 2

Seriously? ‘Potato Chips’ called ‘Crisps’? This is ‘America Week,’ not ‘British Week’. And what the hell are ‘Flips’?

And, of course, we have pizza and chicken strips and nuggets.

Lidl 3

At least they stuck with ‘frites,’ not ‘chips’. But c’mon: curry sauce with the nuggets and strips.

And, bien sur, everyone’s fave: hot dogs in a jar:

Lidl 4

You just know that the number of hot dogs and the number of buns don’t match.

And for the final highlights, we have faux Reese’s peanut butter cups, peanut butter and popcorn.

Lidl 5

Cokes I get, but teacakes?

There were also pancakes and brownies, cheesecakes and yogurt, milkshakes and bacon, and even more.

I figure the next American go-round will be 4-5 months. I’ll keep you posted.


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