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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We’re ba-a-a-a-a-ck

After a three-year, Lidl-free sojourn to the wilds of south Florida, the lovely missus and I are back in the southwest of France. But I think I’m going to have to tweak the title of this little blog as we’ve moved from Leguevin to Pibrac, home of the Theatre Musicale de Pibrac, which is the home to SPS Panto. Newmans of Leguevin/Pibrac? of Lego-Brac? of Leg-Pi?

I apologize to my readers for the prolonged absence without any sort of ‘good bye’ column, but I just didn’t have the heart to do it. I think I was hoping that we would perhaps return some day and I could resume writing on the little things that make life interesting for a curious and sometimes clueless American in France.

And, obviously, that day has arrived.

So, in the coming days – work permitting – I’ll get back to chronicling our adventures back on the European side of the Pond. What’s different? What’s the same? What’s better or worse?

Of course, we’ll have updates about our favorite grocery store.

A bientot!


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The Last Road-trip: Nerac – Home of an Henri IV Chateau

Hello gentle readers. After another 3-month gap, I’m back with the story of my last road-trip in France.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon (he says, winking at the obvious reference) in the wonderful month of October. The last month before the six-month-long Toulouse grey season begins. The lovely missus and I hadn’t traveled much during the summer or early fall because we were prepping for our return back to the US (where she already was on this particular day). I wanted/needed to get out of the house and away from pre-packing activities. Someone – I don’t know whom – said that Nerac, in Aquitaine, was a pretty place and home to the remains of a chateau that, in its better days, was home to Henri IV, the Good King.

And so, on the aforementioned beautiful Sunday afternoon, I made the short (90 minutes) drive up the autoroute to Nerac. Perhaps the drive should’ve lasted longer. You see, when I arrived, the chateau was closed for another hour+, due to a private tour. Oh well, it gave me time to explore a bit of the pretty town.

Looking across the River Baise to the other side of town.

Looking across the River Baise to the other side of town.

L to R: Chateau, dyers, cathedral.

L to R: Chateau, dyers, cathedral.

Green River aka River Baise.

Green River aka River Baise.

Little dockside bistro and more.

Little dockside bistro and more.

Cousin Itt - house version.

Cousin Itt – house version.

When I returned after my little stroll, the museum was open. The woman behind the counter gave me a laminated, English-language guide to the place and off I went. During my reading, I learned the heritage of the street (rue d’Albret) where we lived in LegoLand. Turns out the Henri’s mom was Jeanne d’Albret. Jeanne, born Catholic, converted to Calvinism in the 1550s when she and her hubby were co-rulers of Navarre. This made her the highest ranking Protestant in France. Henri, also baptized Catholic, later converted to Protestantism as well.

Henri IV.

Henri IV.

West wing - the only wing left.

West wing – the only wing left.

This pretty much all there is to see.

This pretty much all there is to see.

It was a short visit. The chateau, Henri’s principal residence from 1577-1582, was pretty much destroyed during the French Revolution. Only the wing remains.

And then it was time to return home. The last road-trip was done. Sigh.

For more photos of the chateau and town, click here.

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Th-th-that’s (Nearly) All Folks

Hello. It’s been a while (3+ months) since the last entry. There’s a reason for that: we moved…back to the US.

Our 8-1/2 year stay in France started out in 2006 as a 3-year gig, but it kept being extended as one of our sons asked us to stay a little longer so he could finish high school and then as the lovely missus received a local contract (i.e., working on a French contract, not as a ‘seconded’ US employee working in FR).

But as I told anyone who asked, “We wouldn’t still be here if we didn’t like it.”

Sure, we had our misadventures and our complaints, but who doesn’t, regardless of where they live?

Still, I guess we knew that we would always – at some point – return to the US. But because we enjoyed ourselves where we were, we never put a plan in action to go back. It was always more a case of, “Well, when we need to go back, we will.”

Then, the lovely missus received a promotion that meant we would be returning to the US – specifically, to Miami. (Note: Out with the French language, in with the Spanish.) Administrative details took time to clear up and whilst we thought initially that we would be returning in the summer, we didn’t actually leave until December. (Note Deux: The weather in Miami in December – and January – is a lot better than it is in Toulouse…and many other places.)

Before closing up, I’ll have a couple of more wrap-up entries on Henry IV’s chateau (or what’s left of it) and memories shared by family members who visited. And then I’ll try to provide a grand round-up and look back on our stay.

For now, I’ll end with this tidbit: There’s a survey you can take on Facebook asking how many of the American states one has visited. Without taking the survey, I made a list in my head of the states I had visited. When I was done, I thought, “OK, well I wonder how many countries I’ve visited.”  Again, running the numbers in my head, it came to a tie: 26 states, 26 countries.

Not bad considering that before moving to France, I had never visited another country (besides Canada, which was only 30 miles/50 km from my hometown).

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Journees du Patrimoine – Gers Edition – Part Deux

OK, so ‘the next day’ turned out to be ‘next Saturday.’  I said in Part Une of this entry that I would write the follow-up the following day. What can I say? I tried but, um, stuff happens.

Anyhoo, without further delay, here are the two chateaus that we – the lovely missus and I – visited on the second day of the 2014 Journees du Patrimoine weekend, Gers style.

The first stop was the charming, privately-owned Chateau de Bazian:

Not too shabby.

Not too shabby.

Perhaps a little shabby. It's a Harry Homeowner project.

Perhaps a little shabby. It’s a Harry Homeowner project.

looking out toward the Back 40.

The wall overlooking the Back 40.

Then it was off to the town of Preignan, just a few klicks north of Auch, the capital of the Gers. After a stop at a vide grenier – a community-wide yard sale – to get directions (who says a man won’t stop and ask for directions?), we found our way to Chateau de la Testere.

This was a place where the further away you were, the better it looked. From the highway, it looked swell. Up close, not so much.

Not so bad.

Not so bad.

Spooky, cobwebby interior.

Spooky, cobwebby interior.

And that was all the time we had.

Click on the link to see more photos of Chateau de Bazian.

Click on the link for a couple of more photos of Chateau de la Testere.

Back next time with a story and photos of a chateau of Henri IV.

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