Friday, August 31, 2012

Cycling the Canal du Midi--The Serial, Part Two

It says a lot about the Canal du Midi that I kept on trying, kept on stoking the fire, kept on wanting so much to  have a long day of peaceful cycling with my family.

{reason enough}

To continue...
Last Wednesday P-Daddy got all the bikes prepared. He disassembled the Middlest's, took off the cute, cerise colored basket and the Littlest's seat from mine, greased and oiled gears and changed out pedals, all ready to leave at a decent hour for a great day of cycling.

We left early on Thursday morning, stopping outside Beziers to ride up the canal. There are so many kilometers of it that you can stop anywhere along the way and start riding. We figured it would be best to start, double back, and end up closer to home. We found a little opening down a dirt road just outside of Beziers and began the unloading and reassembling process. We were off in ten minutes flat, easy-peasy.

We cycled happily and relaxed, the Littlest bouncing in his seat behind me on the orange marked roots of the big, shady plane trees as he sang, 'school's out for summer!'. We laughed and rang our bells and had a happy old time of it all.

When we reached Colombiers, a cute little town along the canal, we had to stop to cross the bridge. We had a moment's rest, drink of water, and decided it wasn't time yet to stop off for a nice cafe lunch like we'd planned. We could continue on a bit further to Capestang, have lunch and then turn back for home.
As we took off down a wide spot with big luncheon cruising boats parked alongside, it happened. Phhffft.
Ma Fille's tire made the dreaded sound. 'Something's wrong with my tire, Daddy.' And so it began.

We pulled over and set about getting comfortable while P-Daddy worked his patch magic on a phhfft tube. But. Somehow in all the unloading and reassembling process, we (maybe it was me, I'm not sure) left behind the little wrench that was required to remove the tire from the wheel.

You know how you have that initial burst of frenzied thought? How your mind starts zipping and oofing and being annoyed and frantic in turn? Or is that just me?

During this frantic burst, we crossed through the options.
1) go into the town and try to find a replacement tool
2) but then there's the French and so it would have to be me and I don't know anything about tools
3) do we just eat lunch and call it a day
4) no it's too early for that, no one will serve us lunch at 11:30, it's France
5) sit and wait for half an hour?
6) P-Daddy should ride like the wind back to the car and get the little abandoned tool, return to us, fix it and then we'd be on our way.

Yes, that was it!
Off he went in search of the magic tool.

{showing his 'meatballs'}

And in the meantime, we all got comfortable. There's something to be said for all those plane trees. Merci beaucoup Napoleon. Fantastic idea.
We waited. And waited. And smelled roast potatoes wafting from the bobbing big boats tied up, full of diners settling into the lunch portion of their tour and lunch along the Canal du Midi.

{still smiling, but hungry}
There's also something to be said for mobile phones. I clutched mine, ringer turned up to high, waiting to hear from P-Daddy with an ETA. When he did call, it wasn't as I expected, to say that yes, he had the tool and was now pedaling happily and quickly along his way back to us. No, it wasn't.

{magic of mobile phones, was this the moment?}
He called to say that while doing his fast and furious pedaling back to the car he saw a short-cut through a field and so took it, naturally, and in doing so, he absolutely did cut down on the travel time.
Unfortunately, he also blew out both his tires. Riddled with thorns from all the brambles that were silently growing in the short-cut field, they were toast. The next day, he picked out over 100 thorns from his two bike tires.

He drove around to a couple of shops from what I can gather, I'm not really sure. (It was a black moment for me and I basically tuned everything but 'we're done for the day' out.)
And then, because of course it was lunchtime by now and all the tool shops were closed, he drove back to us.

All along the canal where we sat and waited for all this short-cut thorn gathering, driving and fruitless searching to take place, people cycled. Families with kids in bouncy trailers, on tandem bikes, with training wheels and dogs and professional looking sorts in tight, padded shorts. They paraded past. Showing off their expert, fully buoyant tires.Waving and smiling, ringing their bells, calling out 'bonjour' as they passed.

When P-Daddy got back, he hugged me and said how sorry he was and happy birthday anyway and what could we do to fix it. So, as any normal person would do, we went to lunch. And shared a demi-pichet of pink wine. Along with a fat, yellow mushroom and cheese omelet, big burgers, pasta and ham, and a seafood salad.

{Littlest's Fanta in a Jack Daniels glass, made me laugh}
We watched as the happy blonde family we'd seen cycle by earlier from our perch on the big rocks along the canal, finished their lunch and loaded up their two boys, one in the trailer, one on a tandem bike behind his mother, and continued on their merry cycling way. Flaunting their success. Full, bouncy tires carrying them on to an after lunch spin under the plane trees, dinging bells and chirping, bonjour, bonjour!

This happy blonde family would not be beaten.
Friday morning saw P-Daddy and the Middlest at Decathlon, (their idea of heaven) buying magic tubes; boxes and boxes of them. 'Indestructible!!', said the Middlest. 'That means they can't go flat, Mommy!', in translation.

P-Daddy spent the entire afternoon putting those self-fixing tubes into every bike tire we own.
Now it was personal. We were going to beat the Canal du Midi.

And so it went, cheers of 'here we come,Canal du Midi!!', a packed lunch and a reservation for an hour on a small electric boat and we were off early Saturday morning. Indestructible!

Starting again in Colombiers, we managed to cycle an hour plus some out before turning back to end up again in Colombiers where we'd booked the electric boat. This was the highlight for the Littlest.

{doo, dee, dooooo!
We loaded up and broke into our picnic basket of ham and butter on baguette sandwiches, chips and homemade zucchini bread as we peacefully, and very slowly, putt-putted along the water of the canal.

{my ship's captain, any day}

We rode for the perfect amount of time, had a wonderful lunch and enjoyed seeing the view from the water too. Not a flat tire in sight.
And we watched all the cyclists, legs pumping, wind in their hair, bouncing on the orange marked roots of the plane trees, ringing their bells and singing out, 'bonjour!' as we glided past, waving and smiling and responding in kind. Bonjour, bonjour!

(If you would like more details about the logistics of cycling the Canal du Midi or renting boats or where we ate, I'll be happy to share that information. Just send me a note. I've found it difficult to search for good, detailed information regarding itineraries for cycling with families so plan on writing a practical post in the future.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cycling the Canal du Midi---The Serial, Part One

I watched a show once I think. It wasn’t Rick Stein, but something like it, where a family went on a cycling holiday along the Canal du Midi.

This was way back in Texas, before the Littlest was even an inkling, the Middlest was just a small sprout of an idea and Ma Fille was the Only. A lifetime ago. 

But I saw this thing and needless to say, I’ve been harboring a burning desire to do it myself, cycle the beautiful, shaded canal, all peaceful cool trails, green-gray water and sheltering canopy of plane trees. Even with the boost in kid numbers.  

Since we (luckily and thankfully) live so close to the famous canal, we figured it would be best to tackle this particular dream in chunks rather than the full-on cycling, camping shebang (also due to kid numbers). 

It was my birthday wish. The way I wanted to spend my personal odometer clicking from 40 to 41. The Canal du Midi à vélo. And it matched right up with my birthday present of a brand-new bike. Thanks P-Daddy!

Let me back up just a bit though.

Last year, we headed out on our maiden voyage to the Canal du Midi with my good friend Ms Butt Bumper and her Littlest equivalent. It was beautiful and I took some photos and wrote a post about it. You may remember. Do you?

Well. What I neglected to tell you last year was that along the way P-Daddy got a flat tire on his bike that he tried and tried to repair with patches which required the removal of the tire and then the defunct and offending tube which lay there like a limp noodle, hissing air, the guts of the tire exposed. It wasn’t pretty. Or convenient. Or conducive to a truly relaxing cycle along the Canal du Midi. 

He was totally cool about it, as he typically is, and patched and pumped and tried again, but the dang thing just kept going kaput. 

This is the trait that endears me most to P-Daddy; this coolness under pressure, this Zen attitude that makes Sara call him Crush. And thank goodness for it, too.

So we stopped for lunch and called it a day. Back to the car and reloading the bikes with a reasonable hour and a half long ride under our belts. Not bad for our first attempt. 

However, what I also neglected to tell you back then was that on the drive home, it began to rain. And then cars began to pass us, slowing down and the people inside doing that pointing thing towards the back left of the car that you just know isn’t going to end well, that’s going to leave you stopped, fixing something, while they zoom on, leaving you in a world of hurt.
They're long gone, speeding off to their destination. Laughing.

They’re not pointing to say, 'man, that's a cool bike' or ‘wow, you’re a really good driver’.
They’re pointing for only one reason. A flat tire.  
And so, not only did we have a flat bike tire that day. We had a flat car tire too. 

A flat tire on the zippy, speedy, crowded A9, which required a stop off at the nearest ‘aire’ for poor, cool, calm and collected P-Daddy to repair. After, of course, removing all the bikes from the bike rack, emptying out the pieces of Middlest bike that was disassembled in order to fit it inside and finding the buried baby tire and tools needed to jack up the car and remove the offending, kapooped tire and replace it.
All under a burst of spring rain, thunder and lightning included.

You may think it’s crazy that we ever wanted to do it again. And that would be a sparkling insight into my psyche.

I’ll tell you about Thursday’s trip on Friday. Uh, hum. And Saturday’s too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Starting Again

Well, hello there. It's me.
And I'm slowly making my way back into my blog habit.

Mom once told me that anything you do for 13 days straight becomes a  habit. Unfortunately, that explains the evening cocktail.

Which makes me wonder if the same is true in reverse.
If you don't do something, say write blog posts, go jogging, wake up early, you lose the itch for it.
And it becomes difficult to start again. Must. Start. Again.

So start again is just what I've done today.

I woke up early. Check.
I went for a jog. Check. (nevermind that it was coming a Texas-sized thunderstorm and I was quickly drenched)
I am sitting here typing out the words for this post. Check.

While around the house things are half back to post-vacances normal; P-Daddy has gone back to the office, that's a start.

The boys are watching Shrek (recently discovered by the Littlest) and Ma Fille has a friend over and they're tucked away in her bedroom, speaking French at rapid speed and painting fingernails.
School doesn't start until next week so this is the last gasp of what all of a sudden feels like a really, long summer.
It's sure nice to have your fill of something though, isn't it? 

Do any of you find it hard to start again?
The habit in reverse that whispers in your ear, 'hey, where have you been?'

Friday, August 17, 2012

Les Vacances Françaises

{vacances sign in my village}
In true, French fashion, my happy, little blog is taking a week off.

It's August, after all.
Everyone's doing it.

Next week we celebrate two birthdays Chez Larson; one for the Littlest and one for yours truly.

P-Daddy's taking the week off too and we are going to try some more road trips (hope, hope), do some cycling along the Canal du Midi, spend more lazy days poolside and generally enjoy the last days of summer.

{there'll be some of this}
We're going to profiter and reposer bien. Just like proper Frenchies.

{and a bit more of this}

I'll be back when I'm 41 to tell you all about it.

{at the boulangerie; bakers need to sleep in sometimes}
Until then....
Bonne Vacances!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

French Road Trip

We woke early yesterday and piled in the car to seek French treasure at the Foire aux Antiquits in Barjac. This is the summer season for the biggest and best flea markets and brocantes down here in the south with Barjac and l'Isle sur la Sorgue taking top billing for fabulous finds.

We agreed on a budget and a few things we'd like to have and set out, deciding to take the long, scenic way up into the foothills of the Cevennes mountains to reach our destination. The only thing was, the winding and climbing along the scenic route didn't agree with the Littlest.
He announced, "I'm going to throw up!" as we zipped around yet another roundabout and P-Daddy lead-footed the gas, shifting like a Grand Prix driver to tackle another hill.

As in previous times, like when I got my diesel confused with my gasoline, my dogged determination of mind over matter made me reply to this straight forward warning with, 'No you're not. You'll be fine.'

Until he wasn't. And the big kids started howling and we were all in a real, fine mess.

P-Daddy whipped the car off the road and up another hill so we could survey the damages. And there were damages.

The Littlest's shorts, shirt and sandals sustained the most. His sad face a message that this time none of my mind over matter mattered at all.

We emptied everyone out and stripped him down. Of course I didn't have a change of clothes. No wipes or paper towels either. Not even a scrap of tissue could we find to dab away at the replay of his breakfast.

I used his shirt, folded over and soiled, wiping off the seats and making things bearable until we could get to a grocery store to buy the necessary supplies; bleach wipes, baby wipes, new clothes.

The Littlest sat there in nothing but his Buzz Lightyear underwear, damp seat belt stretched across his little tummy, smile and happiness restored. It was probably cooler that way.

Our first reaction was to turn back, cut our losses and head home. But after buying a brand new pair of shorts and a t-shirt, wiping down everything yucky, and dousing soiled sandals and clothes in bottled water, we thought we were tough enough to continue on. We still had a picnic to eat. And vintage glass seltzer bottles to buy. Heck, it was only 10 am.

Back on the road, we climbed and turned and stopped whenever he said he felt sick. I certainly learned that lesson. He was fine from then on, thankfully, and the subsequent quick stops never came to anything other than a  roadside wee.

It took us 30 minutes to get through Saint Ambroix, the small village just outside of our destination of Barjac. It was the perfect storm. One main street through the village, yearly village fête  celebrations and weekly market day--the French summer traffic trifecta.

We. Must. Buy. Old. Stuff.
On we went.

When we arrived in Barjac, it was midi. Lunchtime. And hot as all get out.

The vendors were enjoying lunch under any patch of shade they could find. Sitting at their antique tables, drinking wine and eating big salads of melon and cured ham, pizzas, chicken legs and sausages.

They weren't interested in helping us find old stuff on their lunch hour. So we found our own spot of shade and had our picnic of sandwiches, chips, watermelon, yogurt and sugary crusted waffles in a nearby playground. That was the highlight of the Barjac festival of antiques for us.

{Barjac, France}

We found nothing. We bought nothing. Our hearts just weren't into looking at old stuff in the baking heat of a southern French August day. And so we took some photos, bought some water and headed home.

Until...P-Daddy discovered that our homeward route was taking us conveniently close to the mothership of Côtes du Rhône wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. What would it add to zip by there and buy some wine?

Only 30 minutes, really? Well, we have no choice do we?

And so we drove across the Rhone, windows down, warm air humming and cicadas scratching while all three children lay splayed across each other in the backseat, mouths open in that exhausted summer sleep only kids can fall into, into the village of Châteuneuf-du-Pape.


We took some more pictures, tasted some red wine and in ten minutes flat, spent the entire amount of our vintage budget on two cases before we were back on the road, headed south on the A9 for home.

Hot, sticky, sweaty and exhausted. A road trip. Priorities highlighted.

Wine, yes. Old stuff, not so much.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August in the South of France

As you know, Sara, G-Ton and Fifty spent the weekend here Chez Larson. You can read about how it was Sara's perfect Saturday and get a pretty good idea of the happy vibe we enjoyed.

There's not much to add except to share a few photos as well as a memorable quote or two.

Sara: 'I'm the project manager.'
G-Ton: 'I am zee project.'

 P-Daddy: 'You have to climb the hill to free-wheel.' (said in Texas drawl à la Wooderson)

Fifty: 'I am zee locksmith of love, non?'

Littlest: 'C'est toi qui le petit rigolo Gwegoweee!'

Want to help me with the captions?

I love the one of the Littlest floating away backwards from G-Ton.
Any ideas what he was thinking?

And what could be going through Clementine and Fifty's little doggie heads here?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Les Estivales---Montpellier's Summer Party

{P-Daddy's taste of red}
Every Friday night during the summer, the leafy plane-treed Esplanade Charles de Gaulle of Montpellier turns into one big summer party--Les Estivales. One-hundred and eighty vignerons from all over the region come with their shades of red, pink and white, proudly pouring out 10cl portions and happy to talk about their passion. For five euro, you get a glass and three tickets; one for each pour. Or you can buy bottles and even cases your favorites to take home and enjoy.

There's live music, food vendors and market stalls with jewelry, hats, paper-cut star lanterns, scarves and dresses. The children run and play along the grassy area behind rows of picnic tables set up across from the Musée Fabre.

{the juice lady, just look at her smile}

It is a wonderful night out, to people watch and enjoy the coolness of the summer evening beneath the shade of the plane trees. This year they even have a 'Tex-Mex' food stand that calls grilled red peppers salsa and chicken brochettes fajitas. Oh, how I wish I could have a stall and show them the real thing.

{i had to snap this one of these French dads}

If you are going with children, get there a bit earlier than the 6:30 start so you can snag a table along the champs, by 7:00 those seats are prime real estate, and then enjoy an al fresco dinner before getting an ice cream and playing in the Dr Suess playground that no child can resist.

{slushies and ice cream by the fountain}

The younger crowd (just listen to me, how old am I???) arrive later and the festival takes on a different vibe. If you're young and free, take your time getting there and pique-nique on the grass, enjoying the music and happy, loose feel of summer's best festival, Les Estivales.

{people watching under the plane trees}

Sara and G-Ton are coming this weekend and we're going to sneak away while the boys watch the kids tonight.

Off to Les Estivales, we go, but we won't likely be at the playground.
Do you think we'll have any fun at all?

Bon weekend!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getting Lost in Arles & Beetroot Granita

One of the most unexpected and best things about writing this blog has been making connections, building friendships, finding meaning and inspiration in the hilarious, brilliant and poignant words of someone living a similar life far from home.

Such is the case with Heather, a writer with a stunningly piercing and sometimes melancholy (my favorite) voice that lets you dream, beckons you to follow along with she, the adorable Ben, and the intriguing, talented Remi, to delve deeper into a life less ordinary.
We connected through a series of posts, she with my feelings of homesickness and I with her haunting tale of a deserted Provencal village.
As soon as we started commenting and emailing, I knew we would be friends. She wrote, 'We have to meet!' and I whole-heartedly agreed. We set about the task of finding time for me to get away with Clementine for the day.
Finally, last week, with the big kids in tennis camp, P-Daddy working from home and the Littlest busy doing summery, Littlest things, Clementine and I hopped in the car and headed off to find Heather in Arles.

{Heather and the doggies, smiling}

It was fantastic. We couldn't stop talking, hands fluttering, laughing, words tumbling over each other, giddy with all the things we wanted to know and share.

And Clementine and Ben! You can't imagine how deep in love my little gurley fell. She tumbled, gnawed, whined and played until she wore him right out. He was so patient with her puppy self until she pushed him just that bit too far. It was hot. He was tired. His ears and neck were soaked from all of her love licks. It was exhausting. And then, he gave her the signal, a tiny, but deep grrrrrrrrr, telling her to back off and give him a rest, for the LOVE! And she did. Tucking her tail, with downcast eyes and a heavy heart, she schlumped off, collapsing in a golden heap on the floor, harrumph!

But she just couldn't stand it and so, after a few minutes of pouting, up she got. She slowly made a turn of the living room, passing by Ben along the way, gauging his mood and letting out a pathetic whimper you've as she neared him.

Heather and I stifled our laughter. Three turns, pained whimper each time, before he threw her a bone and started to play gently again.

That poor Ben! I have never seen a sweeter dog. It's the nature of the golden to be loving, kind and patient. It's  why Clementine lets the Littlest lay all over her, eats kibble from the Middlest's hands and sneaks into Ma Fille's bedroom when no one is looking.

{the adorable Ben, pure sweetness}
After a lunch of pissaladiére, a delicious salad with AOC olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a glass of Cairanne, the perfect crisp whiteness for such a hot day, we headed out for a tinkle (Clementine) and some ice cream.

Heather took me to her local ice cream shop where they make unusual sorbets, like basil, beetroot, cucumber and ginger. She chose cucumber and beetroot and I went for the caramel with salty butter because I'd been craving it lately but hadn't wanted to indulge in buying a pint. One scoop would fix me right up. And it did. It was delicious, but also a bit too sweet for such a hot day, leaving me thinking that Heather had the right idea ordering such clean, refreshing sorbets.

She offered a taste of hers and the cucumber was delicious, like refreshing cucumber water.

The beetroot, however,  was amazing. My one taste left me wanting more. I love beets, always have, even back when I was a little girl I would eat them in canned form. And so this taste of cold, natural sweetness, refreshing and bright, turned into one of my little food obsessions. 

Just like with some of the other things I've fixated on and had to make myself, this beet sorbet thing planted itself firmly in my brain. What was there to do but try my hand at it? I had a vacuum-sealed packet of cooked beets in my fridge and so I set to work. I messed up the water amount but the flavor still sparkled so I decided to scrape it with a fork in snocone fashion and call it a granita.

My boys loved it. Surprisingly, the Littlest couldn't get enough of it and is the one who finished off the lion's share, preferring it to any other snack. I guess it's in his genes.

{Littlest eating beet granita}
If you like beets, give it a try. If you think you don't, try it anyway. P-Daddy even secretly enjoyed it although he would never admit how much. I caught him sneaking bites and letting the rouge brightness melt on his tongue.

{beetroot granita}
Beetroot Granita

2 large, orange-sized cooked beets
1/2 cup granulated sugar, no more than this, they're sweet enough already
1 cup water
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
generous squeeze of fresh lemon, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.
When you're satisfied with the flavor, pour into a shallow glass dish and place in the freezer to set. I churned mine in the ice cream maker for a bit beforehand but I don't think it mattered. You can add this step or skip it, as you wish.

Check on it every hour or so and scrape with a fork to keep it from hardening into ice.
When completely frozen, scrape again and serve in small cups. It would make an interesting starter alongside salmon or caviar and would also be a great palette cleanser between main and dessert courses.

Or, simply enjoy like we did as a deliciously refreshing dessert or afternoon snack, poolside.

You could be cheeky and booze it up with a splash of vodka too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Things French Say--The Olympics

We are big Olympics fans Chez Larson and this year it's more fun because a) they're in our (relative) time zone and b) the big kids are loving every minute right along with us. We've been sitting on the terrace every night with the doors to the living room thrown open and the television moved to the side so we can watch from the coolness of the outdoors as the swimmers and now the runners inspire and thrill us with their incredible strength, drive and speed.
I get all teary-eyed at any back story and cheer more and more for that Brit or Aussie and especially fellow American and when we win gold and I hear the refrain of 'the twilight's last gleaming' I cry again. This doesn't come as any surprise to you, I'm sure. Not sobs, mind you. Just a little damp-eyed tug and distortion of the facial features and the kids say, 'Oh, Mommy. You're crying again!'

{American Women's Swim Team: source}

What is is about the Olympics that makes us feel so passionate and proud? It's not just the Americans that get me. I cheer and cry for all of them. When the French stand up there all stoic, mouthing bits of Le Marseillaise with its triumphant ending, I get all sniffly too. I've always loved their national anthem.

{Gold Medalist Camille Muffat: google}
Ma Fille, who is a real fish every summer, has been switched on by the Olympic swimmers and has been swimming laps non-stop since. She keeps asking what it takes to be in the Olympics and if we really think she  can do it. We say, like Dorie, just keep swimming.

And swim she does. Fifty laps of our little pool every day. And more. But the problem is that our pool is quite small and one lap is probably less than a quarter of 50 meters. She's done the math and has realized that if she's going to really get good she needs a bigger pool. Luckily, there's a public outdoor pool with lanes in nearby Castelnau-Le-Lez that we've started going to for her to swim her laps.

I should give you some Olympic style back story here and so I will. I looked online to check the  hours and rules of the pool the other day. The usual European rules of public pools applied: no swimming trunks for boys and men, only speedos, and swimming cap obligatoire. There was a section for comments about the pool and it was lengthy; each comment reviling the woman at the front desk, who was anything from unhelpful to not the right person to be in front of people. Now this is something, thought I. The French are complaining about the Mme this much? How awful must she be?!

We rode our bikes over to the pool, the reviews of the lady on my mind. Who knew what she would think of me and my butchering of her language? It's simple though. I only had to ask one or two questions, smile and be on my way.

When we got there we 'bonjour'ed like you're supposed to, smiles all around. I asked for the proper pass, she smiled and answered, she asked if I'd been there before, I said no, so she kindly explained the rules (there are always rules) and took my money. As we were in the middle of this transaction, a man I'll call the Walrus came out, big, round belly hanging over his tiny, triangle of swimsuit, asking for help because his goggles fell down the drain or something. He had an enormous white moustache that hung so far over his mouth I thought he might lift it with his fingers to speak. I couldn't imagine how he could eat. It would take some serious wax or a clip of some kind to hold it out of the way.

As he shuffled away, helpful teenage staffer following, Surly Madame looked at me and said something about him needing to wear a swim cap over his mouth while he swims. I looked shocked, wondering if I'd misunderstood, and she shrugged, half-laughed and said, "Je rigole. C'est humour francaise!'
See. She's lovely.

We went back yesterday for more laps and to test our luck with the Surly Madame. This time she asked if we were British. I answered this usual question with my usual answer, 'Non, nous sommes americains.'
Here came a heap of Surly, right outta left field and all about the Olympics, thinly veiled and smoothly enacted in an effortless stream of French.

{French relay team: LA Times}
'Oh, you are doing very well in the Olympics, all of the medals, all the wonderful swimmers. You have 60 medals and we only have 25!'. ,
'Yes', I said, adept at the game myself these days, 'but the French team did so well in the men's relay, it was fantastic! They were incredible!'
Lob to me. 'But the Americans are everywhere! So strong at everything!'
'Yes, but we are a big country, with a lot of people. It is different'.
The final blow, the essence of it all, the crux of the matter and the thing that a real French person said to me, 'The Americans are too strong. There are too many! You are everywhere! It Is Not Fair!!! Ce N'est Pas Juste!!!'  

There's just nothing to say to that is there? I smiled, as I do, and nodded and gracefully bowed out, beaten at the game.  One point, France.
Ma Fille and I went into the changing room, quietly giggling about how unfair it is that our country is bigger.