Mmmm…Mimosa Overload 😊

Usually, the only good thing I ever think about February is that it is a very short month! But this year, not only do we get the extra day (leap year) but also this February has been filled with many things that I love…including a great trip to France for a lot of the month. And as for the mimosa…well, oh boy!

We only had a couple of days at home before we set off to France and they were mainly filled with mundane stuff like final preparations, making lists, sorting out my phone so I don’t get charged ridiculous amounts in roaming charges etc. We set off on Saturday, on the train to Manchester airport keeping our fingers firmly crossed, as it was a strike day for some of the train companies. However, our journey went well and we met up with our son and family at a pub near the airport for an early meal together which was a nice bonus. Afterwards Matthew dropped us off at our hotel where we spent a very comfortable (if expensive and very short) night before walking across to the terminal early the next morning. As I have said on many occasions before, I really hate Manchester airport. It is too busy for me and I find the staff there very rude at times…especially going through security. Although it was only 5am and, yes it was busy, we got through the checks etc without too much bother and were soon on the plane and off to Nice. We arrived to blue skies and sunshine … just as we had hoped. This time we had an extra treat on arrival, as our friend from our Auvergnat days, Bernadette, was waiting for us and we were taken along to St Aygulf in her van. It was lovely to see her and to catch up with all her news from the Auvergne and from her trip to the south coast where she had spent a few days meeting up with her friends and taking in the sights. Bernadette always sleeps in her van, a practice we have always found a bit dodgy as she never uses recognised sites, choosing instead to pull off along the route instead. However, she has done this for years and is very well equipped…and amazingly resilient! As we had suspected, she refused our offer of a meal or a place to stay and after inspecting (and approving) the flat, she set off to start the long drive north back to the Auvergne. It had been great to see her again though, even if only for a very short time. It being a Sunday, after she had gone, we hurried off to do a bit of emergency shopping before the local supermarket closed, so that we could eat that day! Sometimes these differences between British shop hours and the French ones still catch us out!

The next day, after Geoff had sorted out Sylvie car and taken her for a quick spin (with her lid down of course) along the coast, we set about doing some serious shopping to try and restock the cupboards and fridge a bit. It is always a bit of a shock this first hypermarket visit, both for the cost and just how long it takes us to buy things! We are almost back to when we first lived in France when it comes to looking at whole aisles full of ham and cheeses galore! After an hour Geoff begins to glaze over! To make matters even worse this time we were thinking of buying a new fridge freezer this visit, as our old one was coming to the end of its days, and so I didn’t really want to buy too much stuff in case I had to empty it and had nowhere to put stuff. It all took a lot more thought than usual, this shopping trip…but oh boy, was it great to be back in the land of French cheese and food again!!

The next few days were mainly about Mimosa…after all, this was the main reason that we were making this early trip. I was delighted to find that indeed it does really grow everywhere around here. Even a walk round the block meant that we saw several trees dripping with yellow blossom …and oh, the scent was heavenly. We did go for a couple of drives to mimosa hotspots too, firstly to Mandelieu and also to Tanneron during the first week we were there and especially at Tanneron (one of THE places to go and see the mimosa locally) I was totally blown away by the sight and the scent. Some of the hillsides were literally bright yellow…it was fantastic! Later in the trip we drove down to Bormes les Mimosas which was a lovely village to revisit, but didn’t really live up to its name in my view as, although there are fabulous gardens there, there were not so many mimosa trees. However, on that day as we drove home via the Route de Mimosa along the coast, there were more beautiful trees laden with flowers to see. I have to say that I was almost (almost!) becoming immune to the mimosa trees by the time we set off home again, but I was absolutely thrilled to have had the opportunity to see it at its best. There were many Fetes de Mimosa and Corsos (parades) in the surrounding area but we decided not to bother with them as neither of us are that keen on big crowds these days. For the same reason, we decided not to go to Menton for the Fete de Citrons or Nice Carnival whilst we were here, both of which attract huge numbers of people and both of which have become very expensive, as you have to pay to sit in stands now to watch the parades. We were content to view the real stuff in the natural world

As some of you who have read my blogs for many years will know, when we lived in France full time, I became a great fan of the French TV soap opera which is Plus Belle la vie. I learnt a lot of my spoken French from watching it for many years with French subtitles (for the deaf) so that I could easily follow the plots! I was distraught, along with many others, when the series was axed a couple of years ago. Now though, to my joy, it has been resurrected and is back on the screens again every evening. As always it took me a few episodes to re-acquaint myself with the old characters and discover who all the new faces were, but come on…it is a soap after all, so it wasn’t that hard to catch up with the storylines! Happiness returned to my evening viewing once again. Youpi!

We soon got back into French life once again and started going to the markets – which were very much smaller than we were used to, so they didn’t take long to get around much to Geoff’s delight! I was delighted to be hailed by my prune lady on the St Aygulf market, who almost had my bag of prunes weighed out before I got there! We also enjoyed the delights of the Thai lady’s cooking on a couple of occasions as I was trying hard not to fill up the freezer on this visit, and so we did less cooking in the flat. We also enjoyed walking around the coast line at the end of our street and collecting rocks for me to paint and for Geoff to put out on his morning dog walks sans dog! We did go down to the beach a few times for a walk along the shore and, yes, we did get our feet at least in the sea…but it was freezing so not much else went in this time! The weather was pretty nice, lots of blue skies and sunshine but the temperatures were not great and the sea was definitely just for looking at this trip!

We did have one bad weekend weatherwise, where it rained very heavily for two days. It was a bit strange for us to encounter this type of weather, as although we have had rain on occasions there, it is very rare for it to continue for so long. And unfortunately, it did result in us having a small “infiltration” of water from outside along the roof of our bathroom. Although it was nothing major, we were told we had to report it to the agency which manages our building (as it obviously is coming from outside) and also to our insurance company so we could have repairs done. As you can imagine, this being France, was not entirely straightforward and resulted in Geoff spending quite a bit of time talking to people on the phone and sending e mails back and forward. As the leak happened only days before we were due to leave, we have not yet discovered what the outcome of the proposed external inspection by the building agency has been, but we left it with both our insurance and theirs that we would pursue it all again when we next go back in April. What a palaver! And, yet again, it made us realise how lucky we are that Geoff a) has a French phone and b) speaks good French and can understand what people are saying, as they explain all the directions as to what to do next! How people who live in France and don’t learn the language, cope, we will never understand!

We did have a few eating out experiences of course. Wednesday lunch times are designated “eat out” days in our world now wherever we are! We ate a lovely lunch at St Maxime on our first Wednesday, sitting on the terrace in the sunshine. We had an interesting conversation with an English couple who were at the next table that day. They live in Les Issambres and had led quite an interesting life as the guy (Gary) is the manager of several well-known music acts in the UK and beyond including The Stranglers (everyone knows Golden Brown don’t they??) and bizarrely The Wurzles who are still doing gigs, even though they are in their eighties! It was a good lunch that one as we listened to his stories! We celebrated Valentines Day at our favourite Bistro d’Entre Potes where we ate very well as always. This of course was after I’d received some beautiful Valentines flowers and a card We also managed to have lunch in Frejus Port with our friends Mandy & Carolyn, which we all enjoyed very much. It is lovely that we are all still in touch after all these years We also celebrated Geoff’s birthday, but our plans for a nice celebratory lunch out on the day were thwarted by the fact that the new fridge freezer we had bought could only be delivered to the flat on that day. However, he did have a good birthday meal chez nous eating oysters (a present from Ethan and Hadley), Pad Thai from the Thai lady on the market and a bit of pear tart which doubled up as a makeshift birthday cake complete with candle, all followed by some special chocolates (a present from the little one) So all in all he had a very nice day. He had already used his gift from the kids – with their permission (a new pickleball paddle) when he played pickle on the previous day.

Whilst we were in St Aygulf, we were very interested in seeing via Facebook that back in the commune where we used to live (St Etienne sur Usson) a battle was raging over the proposed closure of a class at the local school there. Again, those of you who have followed my ramblings for many years, will remember that this little school is the one which was used in the celebrated film Etre et Avoir, twenty years ago and so is quite famous. Because the numbers of pupils will drop to 19 in September, the powers that be had decreed that the school should lose one of the two teachers and return to being a Classe Unique establishment. This has been met with horror by all the locals and by the maire of course…not to mention the poor remaining maitresse who would then be lumbered with all the teaching, plus all the admin and attendance at meetings etc. So a campaign was launched, along with a petition and the parents made a very clever video which went viral on Youtube! They managed to get TV news coverage, radio coverage and all the local maires and dignitaries to take on the education establishment…and in the space of a week the decision was reversed! It was great for us to watch all this drama unfolding and to play spot the faces of friends amongst all the crowds in front of the school and at the various meetings. Well done them …we were so proud to have once been part of that community

The visit to France this time went over very quickly and although we did enjoy it, we did not really do a lot. It was too cold to swim or sit on the beach but we did get to spend some time on our balcony as it is very sheltered and when the sun shone it did get warm enough there to sit for a while. I missed seeing all the boat traffic on the sea though…it was obviously not warm enough for the sailors either! I was really pleased to have seen the mimosa in flower though, but I don’t think we will do this early trip again. All too soon we found ourselves sorting out the flat ready for departure and after one last day of wandering around the port, and chatting to some of the locals we were ready to set off home again. We were amused, mind you, to see the looks of almost pity on the faces of those we spoke to, at the prospect of us returning to the UK…and of course the cold and rain they all associate with that place!! Our last night was spent in Nice as always, where we did get to see a bit of the installations for the carnival and where we ate at Port Olympia, after having watched the sunset from the Promenade Des Anglais. The restaurant we really like there was closed that night, so we ended up eating Vietnamese food in a strange little place. The food was delicious though Our flight back to Manchester went well the next morning and we got through the dreaded passport control queues without too much fuss really. Our train journey also went well…apart for the temperature drop which we noticed and the rain. Maybe those French friends had been right with their sad faces after all!

We have swiftly stepped back into our normal routines now that we are home again. I have suffered the eye clinic injections once again, have had a much-needed haircut, am back to my Op shop shifts, Geoff is back playing pickle and we were welcomed back to church on Sunday with open arms! Geoff has been on extended dog sitting duties over the last weekend as Hazel, Phil and the little one were away. The weather is depressing as always but it is nice to see all the spring flowers everywhere. Our local parks are full of crocus carpets and daffodils galore.

Oh, and btw…we lasted one day looking at the miserable weather and then booked our flights to return to St Aygulf in April! Time to start crossing off the days again then…

A bientot mes amis…

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