There's no order to my thoughts today. First thing that comes to my mind is that I'm sick of the US election. I can't imagine what it must be like in the States, with all the political ads. Here, it's just in the news and special reports. But then, it's also on facebook, in the comments and shared tidbits from friends. I haven't expressed myself very much publicly. A little, but not much. I have expressed myself concerning overseas voting by encouraging everyone to request their ballots and then to send them in. All that, and when I figured my ballot was a bit late in coming I called the Philadelphia Board of Elections to inquire and then to ask they send me another one. It arrived, but the address was nearly illegible and not to international standards, so I'm surprised it did arrive. I've been corresponding by email with the assistant commissioner with my Congressman's office and the founders of a group of overseas voters that worked hard to get people registered and get their ballot requests and then their ballots in. So, I just got more frustrated when I checked the PA voters services site to check the status of my ballot (had it been received?) and was notified that I am not registered! I am so! The board of elections people had no trouble identifying me, my address, or other information and never once suggested that I wasn't actually registered! So, imagine a voter who checked the site and was informed he or she was not registered. Why send in the ballot, then? Another person on the "Pennsylvanians Abroad" group on facebook has just reported being in the same confusion and frustration as me. I'm a militant voter, so I have made the phone calls, have corresponded with the board of elections, have alerted my Congressman, but many voters might just take the website's word for it and give up.
This week, you can't have ignored Superstorm Sandy! Wow! That's getting wide coverage here, too. There's been a mention here and there about Haiti being hit hard and it's a shame that so much time is being spent on the US damage. I don't know if there's been much mention in the States of the damage elsewhere. For us, this puts a real damper on our vacation plans. I had reserved a house belonging to the mother-in-law of a friend (http://ellenlebelle.blogspot.fr/2010/10/what-wonderful-weekend-thank-you-anita.html) for two weeks in August. The kids were trying to arrange their vacations to come; B&T were coming up for a weekend; J&T were planning to come.... Well, Anita has written that we should come up with a plan B. The news she has been able to glean is that the house, miraculously, is okay. However, the island's infrastructure is so damaged that they are estimating it will take many months to restore services. In the mean time her mother-in-law may just give up and sell.
Paul and I took a week-long break. We've already been home a week! We went to Avignon to see T, a friend of Paul's from the Pierwige before my time, probably 1969. She's been living in Avignon for a long, long time and has just retired. She's a physical therapist, but her real specialty is the Feldenkrais method and she has developed techniques for dancers and musicians. We'd been to see her a couple of years ago. This time we had dinner with her twice. The second one was at her parents'. They live in the same converted mansion, downstairs. They are delightful and dinner was pleasant. They miss living in Los Angeles, though.
T was busy on Thursday, so Paul and I went for a drive. I took a look at a map and saw that one of my facebook friends (really the friend of a friend) was nearby, so we set that as our destination. Then Paul saw the sign for Ménerbes and wanted to go there because when he was a teenager, in the mid-60s, he had spent three summers with his aunt and uncle's helping to clear the land and rebuild the hillside terrace walls just outside the village. We found the house. The hillside is covered with trees. The village is well restored and much cleaner and richer than Paul remembered it of course. There used to be just one café tabac and now there are several restaurants. We had lunch -- excellent. But everything shuts down by mid-November. There's no doctor; the pharmacy is closed, no butcher or baker.
Goult, the village near my facebook friend's, is just across the main road from Ménerbes, on the facing hill. It's a bigger village. The streets are wider, so there is more light. There is a very nice little tour of the town you can do on your own; there are little posts with tourist information along the way. They've restored the old flour mill and there's a panel explaining the restoration and the functioning of the mill. My friend had been out when I announced the possibility of our passage and our timing was off, so next time we'll plan better.
Paul wanted to go to Apt. Based on his memory, this was where we could get some good fruits confits (candied fruit). It was the big town where his aunt used to go to market. It is still a big town. There is a candied fruit processing plant just outside the town, but the main street only had a couple of shops with the specialty. It was time to return to Avignon and dinner with T and her parents.
The next morning we went to Montpellier for an afternoon and evening with the Bs, our former neighbors in Nogent. The twin girls are big girls now, going on 5, and the boy is a big boy for 7. Their house is finished and is very big and pleasant. M and R are, as ever, wonderful. R has taken up music seriously and has performed in a local club! They both have heavy teaching schedules this semester and are very, very busy. We spent the night at the Holiday Inn in the town center and it is a beautifully restored old hotel.
Saturday, we were off to Six-Fours, to the Lebelles, there. Pierre and Paul spent quite a lot of time looking at their old family films that have been transferred to a DVD. We brought back a big box of slides that Paul is now in the process of scanning into his computer. The big job is trying to sort them out -- where, when, who...
Here are some shots from our trip: