Fuh-knee Rainy Day

Well it didn’t snow – here, but it did hail.

This morning we went to Spain for gas and on the way home we stopped off at E. Leclerc. This one, located in Urrugne, is a “hypermarche” – a supermarket as well as a bit of a mini-mall. It has a grocery, a nursery, a hair salon, some clothing stores, a cafeteria, a bookstore, shoe repair/key/liscence plate stand, a pharmacy and perfumerie. We bought some coffee and some hair color, went upstairs to the cafeteria for lunch with a promise to the kids of getting to ride on the “motorcycle” when we were through. When it came down to vehicle choice, though, the kids opted for the animals.Forward-thinking item: The government is trying to eliminate non-recyclable plastic bags by 2010. The first step is no longer allowing grocery stores dispense them. As we quickly learned, we need to bring our own bags with us when we shop; if you forget, or you don’t have any, they have three different kinds you can purchase at the check stand for .10 to .30: plain recyclable, sturdy recyclable and biodgradable – all sized large and with handles.

November 24th – time to roast a chicken

We made our first visit to the local butcher to purchase this lovely, vegeterian fed, free-range chicken. When I first saw it, it had its head, feet and insides fully intact. The butcher made it look the way it does now. Under the email direction of my dad, I roasted her up and we had a quick-to-fix melange of a Thanksgiving meal: Chicken, black cherry preserve, stuffing (made with fresh porc sausage and baguette), green beans, smashed potatoes, more baguette, and in place of the pumpkin pie, although nothing can really replace pumpkin pie, a black cherry gateau Basque.
It was just like any other day for the kids. Chicken! I like chicken.
It rained today and is raining hard now. There’s a rumor it may snow on Saturday. We bought provisions just in case we get snowed in – silly Californians.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Enjoy!

Spider Update

>Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted on Monday,
>November 14, 2005 at 18:47:21
>At 18:47 14/11/2005, you wrote:
>question: Hi, there is a spider who was happy and active outside our
>window. Now his/her web is in a state of disrepair and s/he is in
>the corner all the time whereas s/he used to come out at night. Is
>s/he hibernating? Dead? Thanks. I also have a picture I can send
>you if you would be willing to identify it for me.
Sure, send a picture if you like, I’ll have a go. At this time of
year, especially tonight as the first frosts strike, there are many
spiders who simply get to the end of their lives and die. Some do
hibernate, but mostly in the UK they die. So its bad news for your
little friend. However, she has most likely laid some eggs somewhere
so you can enjoy the company of her children next year.
The Virtual Ranger
The UK’s leading independent conservation and countryside management
At 22:36 15/11/2005, you wrote:
>Hello Mr Ranger:
>Thanks for your answer. Here is a picture of the spider. If it
>helps for identifying, I’m on the south west coast of France, just
>above Spain.
>Thank you.
Hello! Thanks for the picture. I was worried when I read that you
were in France – I don’t know much about French spiders! But luckily
for me, it’s an old favourite that occurs here in England too. Your
spider is Araneus diadematus, the common garden orb spider. A lovely creature to watch spin her web, and an endless source of fascination at the end of the summer when they get big and hang upside-down on their webs.

Best wishes

Update: 12/1/05 – Spider M.I.A.
Update: 12/28/05 – found her large, techni-color spider egg sac

Location – Take 1

We saw this ad in the paper and decided to call since we may be out of the Emen Ongi house mid-January.

We got the address from the owners. It is an apartment inside this traditional Basque-style house. It’s really lovely. The house has seven apartments in it, a yard with grass and gated parking. It is right on the main road into St Jean de Luz, close to town, a movie theatre, surf spot, a beach walk and park for the kids.

The train in Spain stays mainly in the brain

As of today we’ve been here for one month, settled in quickly; it already feels familiar. We began our language tutoring with Mme Capdeville, a lovely person who listens to our crumbly French and helps us fix it. She gives us good cultural information/insight, conversation, and large lists of verbs to memorize. She told us that gas is cheaper in Spain so, since we Iive like fifteen minutes from there, we decided to take a trip. We got gas, ate in a great, loud, little cafe (perfect for tired kids) and drove to the most beautiful city I think I’ve ever seen: San Sebastian. We weren’t able to walk around, as the kids fell asleep just as we drove in, but we’ll be making a trip back and hopefully I’ll get some pictures that convey the true splendour of the city more than the ones I snapped from the car.

I saw my first movie at The Rex, a QUIET movie theatre in St. Jean de Luz. It was the latest Woody Allen, which is coming out in your neck of the woods on Christmas Day, and wouldn’t be called a family film – you can click the link to the right to see the trailer. Our next endevour is to find a new place to live. We love this area so we need to find a new home before the spring arrives and the price of rentals hits the roof. Beatrice has a new hobby – bat watching. Every night when it begins getting dark, she says “Go find bats! Go find bats!” We point “them” out to her as they pass by the car.

Stuffed with fluff

Okay. It’s officially cold here. Tomorrow morning it’s supposed to be . I believe we’re at the same latitude as Eugene, Oregon and some part of Maine, so the coats, scarfs, hats etc. that we though were silly two weeks ago are keeping us warm and happy today. We bought the kids some puffy winter jackets yesterday which they are modeling above. Note the giant gash over Isaac’s right eye which I faciliated by trying to take his picture when he didn’t want me to. Coffee table, 1. Isaac, 0.


We’re obviously still in the honeymoon stage, but I’d like to mention how brilliantly efficient car registration is in France. The Sous Prefecture in nearby Bayonne is in a beautiful building with large windows, high ceilings, murals, and plentiful seating. From a “now serving” number machine in the waiting area we had three choices: Registration (carte grise), Driver’s license (Permis de conduire), Passport (Carte Identité). Rather than having one sequence of numbers for all services, the number was different depending on which process we chose. The machine spit out a slip of paper that, along with this number, indicated the estimated wait and how many people were ahead of us. We then waited for our numbers to appear on the large screen on the wall in center of the waiting area. Once our number came up and we met with the woman, we were registered, paid and were out of there in about 10 minutes. Take that DMV.

The Sous Prefecture

This is where we went today to register Junior and trade our Cali driver’s licenses for French ones. After searching for a while, we found it and it pretty much looked as it is pictured here: Closed and ominous. We’ll be going back on Wednesday to try again. Tomorrow is Toussaints, or All Saints Day, and everything is closed. People all over France (and Mexico?) will be visiting graveyards and remembering those who have passed on.

Update: California is one of the few states that doesn’t have an “even exchange policy” for licenses. We will have to take driving lessons and tests as if we were sixteen. Thankfully we have another month before we have to begin the process.

Our Bakery

This is the boulangerie we go to every morning. Sometimes Bryan goes, sometimes I go, sometimes one of us takes the kids or a kid. I’m getting less embarrassed about talking to the woman; she knows me now and I think my pronunciation is getting better. This place has the best bread. There are a couple of other bakeries in town, one specializes in those cakes below and one is the one we go to on Wednesdays when this one is closed. We are in the heart of Basque country and so many of the buildings have the Basque lettering you see down and to the right of the word “Patisserie”. (click on the picture to enlarge it) Also, you’ll notice that all the cars in the lot there have license plates ending in the number “64”. That’s our department and you can tell where a person is from by the last two numbers on the person’s plate. Our new car was bought in our department so now we have the low-pro glow.

Another interesting note: Here, instead of having your own garbage can, there are neighborhood dumpsters, never further than a block or so from your house. In the parking lot of this bakery and in other random places are the recycling centers where you drive up, and sort your own recycling. The collection of these are paid with tax money. Both great ideas.

Les Gateaux Basques

Les Gateaux Basques smell like a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate and have the consistency of a homemade cookie bar- kind of chewy and crunchy all at the same time. The family-owned shop in our town make two types: Creme, and Black Cherry. It is the perfect amount of sweet and salty – a combination cookie and cornbread – and you get a free sugar cookie when you buy a cake. After sampling both flavors, Black Cherry is the preferred Gateau Basque, by unanimous decision.

Creme – Before

Creme – After

Black Cherry – Before

Black Cherry – After

Our next mission

We are attempting to buy a car. The cheapest cars we can find are 80s and 90s Fiats – the one we like best is the one you see pictured above – The Fiat Panda. Ponder that for a moment. Panda. Compared with names like, NAVIGATOR, EXPEDITION, LAND CRUISER, “Panda” seems a little vulnerable…but cute. We have our practice sentences all written up: “We would like to buy this car.” “Will you take 1700 Euros?” “Do you like this car?” “How much is the tax for this car.” etc. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Brave Brothers

Today a fine man came to our house in a big green “Brave Fréres” truck and refilled the oil which powers our water heater. How he backed his oil truck through the very narrow L-shaped alley and down the winding hill to our house is beyond me, truly.

The weather went from overcast to sunny and then back and forth again and again, all the while staying a pleasant 70º (20º C). We went to the Lake of St. Pée where there’s a park on the lakeshore for kids; We collected acorns, watched swans. Later we went for a drive to Anglet and saw the sun set in the harbor.

The Condensed Version – 1 week

Well Good Morning.

We’re online as of this afternoon. I almost kissed the technician.

So far we…

1. survived 10 hour plane ride…kids slept the whole way (UNbleepingBELIEVABLE)
2. made our connecting flight from Dublin to Paris with 5 minutes to spare*
3. visited the emergency room in Chartres – I got some choice antibiotics and am feeling much better now, thank you.
4. made it to our new home, Emen Ongi in Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle
5. got online, a bank account, and Bryan’s luggage returned (they left it for him at the post office – wow)
6. are eating bread all day, everyday! Bread Bread Bread!

Kids have settled in nicely, both are sleeping, reluctantly, in twin beds. Bryan’s finishing up this issue of SLW. Megan just read The DaVinci Code in record time…(thanks MaryEllen!)

*note to all you international travelers: When flying into Dublin airport and connecting to another flight out of there, allow yourself PLENTY of time, as you have to go out and redo the whole process of going through customs, checking in, going thru security and then navigating back to a gate very near where you just came from. One hour layover is not enough time, especially if you have a lot of carry-on stuff with you (like 2 toddlers, a gigantic stroller, some laptops, blankets, lurtle and an ikea bear for example). My apologies to the travelers whose toes I ran over getting to the gate. Pardon.