December 2001 Newsletter

Dear friends,

At the time I wrote the last newsletter in October, we were awaiting the arrival of Bert and Alison Bridgewater, friends of long standing in Ottawa. Bert was attending a meeting in Toulouse and they were adding a week to their trip to pop over and spend a few days with us. We enjoyed a great week, catching up on gossip, walking up the mountain, eating, tasting wine, and visiting places of interest.

There was quite a bit to do in the garden at this time, including the digging of a shallow trench for pipe to carry water from the well area for watering other parts of the garden. Laying this became necessary when we had the city water connected to the house. We had to wait until some rains came, as the ground was too hard to dig after 5 months of sunshine and no rain.

On 28th October we went with several friends to the Chestnut festival at La Garde Freinet, a neighbouring village which specialises in chestnuts. There was a general street market plus chestnuts everywhere, being roasted in the street, and various products made from them. It was very agreeeable to wander around meeting people and chatting, and tasting wine while munching the nuts and tasting the various offerings. We even met a Canadian from Montreal who was visiting - he heard me speaking about Canada, so we had a good chat with him and his host, a French eye surgeon!

In early November we set off for Toulon to the Grand Var shopping centre, where a new IKEA store had recently been opened. We found the store without too much difficulty (surprise!) and got most of what we wanted. then a quick trip to Toys R Us and we were done. Instead of looking for a restaurant in the shopping centre we decided to go home, stopping off to buy some smoked salmon on the way. When we got home we partook of the salmon and a bottle of Sancerre sitting out on the terrace.

An important activity recently has been the finishing off of the kitchen. We have two big cupboards which are fitted with lovely solid doors of chestnut but which had been stained dark, and they needed to be light to fit in with the new decor. We took them off to Cogolin where the Foire aux Brocantes oerated a stripping service and had the stain stripped off. Then it was a case of rubbing them down, applying two coats of the "liming" wax (ceruse en Francais), which was VERY time consuming, and then finishing with two coats of polyurethane varnish. Originally they had been fitted with locks and keys (like every other cupboard in the kitchen!), so these were discarded and replaced with magnetic catches and knobs, much more practical! We also broke down and bought a microwave and a bracket to support it on the wall, so as not to lose counter space. So now, after three years, the kitchen is done, it still is a traditional Provencal kitchen but more convenient and much lighter.

Alan has been busy since the summer helping various friends who have bought computers and want to get on the Internet. Fortunately, the courses that were supposed to put on by the Club Informatique Plantourien have been postponed until the new year for various reasons, so he did not have to give his Internet course this fall. Some of the friends are computer neophytes and have a steep learning curve, others have used computers before, and just need the Internet settings done.

On Nov 11th we attended the annual General meeting of VIAC which took place at St Raphael. It was blowing a gale and raining red mud (from the Sahara probably). After the meeting there was the usual aperitif followed by a good meal and the mud turned to deluges of rain which cleaned the cars down nicely. On Nov 16th we went with a group of friends to the Chateau de Berne for a Belle Epoch evening with dinner, dancing and entertainment. It was in aid of Multiple Sclerosis and there was a good turnout. The entertainment was good (Cancan dancing by students at the Draguignan Dancing school, african drumming, singing, etc.) but the dinner was disappointing. Still, a good evening in total even if Beryl had to drive 50 km home over the mountains afterwards! Sunday 18th Nov saw the annual Taradeau wine festival which we attended with friends and about 500 other people. An excellent meal of charcuterie, daube of sanglier (wild boar), cheese and tart, washed down by an inexhaustible supply of red and rose wine. The entertainment was also good even if we missed some of the ventriloquist's chat (in French).

A couple of days later four of the ladies set off for Nice for a spot of Christmas shopping and had a nice day, even though Marks & Spencer was practically devoid of anything to sell (they are shutting down at the end of the year and seemed to have missed a good opportunity to make a lot of sales before doing so). The following week Beryl went off on her own to Antibes to an English shop there where various delicacies such as mincemeat, suet, tea and other typical English items are sold. She stocked up successfully and returned home in good time - 170 km round trip.

In just over two weeks we will be expecting the arrival of Caroline, Francesco, Anna and Julia who will be with us over Christmas, so a lot of getting ready for that occasion has been going on. We have lots of plans for their visit and just hope that the weather will cooperate.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Love from Alan and Beryl