Monday, December 20, 2010

guest post by Rod Fracassi

Hello faithful reader's of Jen's blog. I am Jen's husband, the first guest poster to the blog, and the person who never thought that my wife would actually pack up the kids and move to France for a year.
I came to visit my family for the holidays. I have been here about a week, my luggage not quite as long, but we will discuss that later.
Let me first thank my extended family for making packing for my trip such a challenge. The drivers at Con-way have my sympathy for trying to cube out a trailer with unaccommodating freight. I would also like to know Santa's secret for hauling gifts all over the world, but then again Santa doesn't have to go through customs and airport security.
Ok, about the trip over here. A computer glitch, a cargo door that wouldn't close, switching planes, and a frozen conveyor belt caused a five hour delay before leaving Detroit. Not an issue unless you have a connection and you have been waiting 3 months to see your family. Of course I missed my connection in Amsterdam to Bordeaux. I finally got re-routed through a City I never heard of in the South of France. To put it in terms that us Americans can understand, I was trying to get from Detroit to Chicago, and in order to accomplish that they had to first route me through Cincinnati. Doesn't make much sense to me either.
Seven hours behind schedule, I arrived in Bordeaux.
At this point let me ask how many times should you watch the baggage carousal go around before you accept the fact that your luggage is not there? Well, when they turned off the carousal and I was pretty much alone, I realized that my second bag was not going to arrive. I relied on my Italian rather than my French to get someone to assist. And for those of you who know me, I do not speak Italian or French, but apparently I used the right hand gestures and tone to get what I needed.
Fortunately my wife showed up to calm the situation, and soon we were on our way home with the understanding that the bag would be delivered in Charzais the next day, which would have been Wednesday. Despite daily assurances that the bag was in route (and I was told don't leave the house unless you might miss the delivery service - worse than the cable service that promises to be there between 10 - 3) the bag arrived on Saturday afternoon. The bag was fully intact, including all of the gifts entrusted to me from family and friends.
So now that the travel portion of the post is behind me, let me tell everyone what an absolute joy it is for me to see my family and share in some of their experiences.
My first day here, Wednesday, was spent hanging out and enjoying playing with my kids. My wife and I went to the grocery store and took a nice walk around town. On Thursday I helped get the kids to school, then my wife and I did a little Christmas shopping and ran some errands. Funny that 4 months ago, I would have dreaded being hauled from store to store, but on that cold Thursday in December, nothing was more enjoyable than spending the day running errands with my wife.
Friday was an amazing day. After we got the kids to school, Jen and I went to La Rochelle. It was a bright sunny day that made the ocean side resort town just seem to sparkle. We went to a restaurant for lunch and each ordered a pot full of mussels. They were awesome. Then we did some more shopping, yes I think my wife realized how much I have missed her and completely took advantage of me. We ended up at the local market where I bought a dozen oysters practically right off the boat. Next to the oyster guy was a florist with Christmas trees for sale. I would like to say that I negotiated the guy down from from 75 euros, but the reality was it was all in the translation. Their 1's look like 7's and when Jen said he said 15, I thought she said 50. Nonetheless, 10 minutes later when were back in the car with a $15 tree crammed in back and a bag of oysters. A very good afternoon.

That evening, we went over to the neighbors for aperitifs, or hors d'oeuvres. The neighbors were very nice. They have 2 kids, a girl in Ellie's class and a younger son. They do not speak English, but the kids played nicely and the adults ate and drank, which I can do in any language. One of the topics of conversation that night was my lost luggage. Jen did a good job describing my ordeal and telling them that we were still awaiting my lost bag.
Saturday morning we woke up to a few inches of snow. The yard really looked beautiful, so Jen went out and took some pictures of the house. It really made it feel like Christmas.
Later in the morning, we went to the market. When I brought my family to France back in September we went to the market, but let me tell you that Jen and her Mom now have the market down to a science. Within 30 minutes we had 4 bags full of meat, cheeese, produce and of course ... wine. However, regardless of how efficient they have become with their market purchases, they are still women, so we were at the market for a couple of more hours. The town was having their Christmas market with several additional vendors there selling their wares. Snow turned to rain, so we got through it relatively quickly. When we got home from the market we started getting lunch ready when someone knocked on the front door. It was my luggage! The funny part about it however was that it was the neighbor Tony holding my bag. Apparently, the delivery service came when we were at the market. They were preparing a note that they were taking the luggage to the post office, where I could have recovered it on Monday. Tony saw them in our driveway and convinced them to leave the luggage with him. I was so excited to get my luggage that I didn't care that the delivery company left it with someone that they had no reason to believe even knew me, or actually lived next door to us. By the way, Tony is my new best friend.

Earlier in the day, I saw a poster for a soccer game in town. It was a quarter finals game of the French Cup. Our local team was playing and hosting the game, so me and Joey went Saturday night. Yes, I don't speak French but took the car to the local stadium, parked and bought tickets without incident. I think any guy would know how to get to a big game regardless of the country. It was pouring rain, and just above freezing. There were still snow piles from when they had scrapped the snow off the field earlier. The game was a blast. Fontenay was playing LeMans. Fontenay was up 1-0 at half, and LeMans was down a guy due to a red card when a LeMans striker took out the Fontenay goalie. I know that my wife wants my kids to learn through immersion, but I hope that Joey didn't understand the things that were said by the crowd when the LeMans player was being escorted off the field. By the tone and hand gestures, I was guessing that the things being said probably would have made the home crowd at a U of M hockey game blush.

Sunday, we decorated the tree. Jen had bought red bulbs, my mom had sent christmas decorations for the kids (which arrived with my luggage on Saturday) and we bought lights at the store on Saturday. The kids had a blast. There was no way that they would be willing to go without a tree. I am glad it all worked out. Ellie especially enjoyed it.

Sunday night we went into town to participate in the christmas market activities. We rode the carousal and went on the horse drawn carriage ride. We were about to try out the ice skating rink when I realized that the rink had no ice. Kids were skating on a piece of fiberglass. I convinced Joey not to try it. I was afraid that he would try to show off, do a hockey stop and go flying.

On Monday, my wife took me for a run. Apparently, you can best see the sights outside of town by running as opposed to driving. My wife's friend Cindy did not bring her running stuff during her visit over Thanksgiving, so Jen was in the mood for a run, and I was the beneficiary. Thanks Cindy! We went on about a 5 mile run. Jen indicated that it didn't seem so long since there were so many interesting things to see along the route. We did see two nice Chateaux and had a conversation with a local farmer, but it still seemed like a 5 mile run to me.

In the afternoon, I took the kids to the neighborhood pool. I was able to deal with the admission process with no problem, but could not figure out the lockers. Now before anyone starts thinking about making fun of me, they were not normal lockers. They were cylinders that you filled and then spun closed. Then you had to insert money at a centralized kiosk, insert the locker number and then a 4 digit code. Ok, it doesn't sound that complicated now that I am writing about it, but when you are there and the directions are in French, it is a little overwhelming.

Well, I am not sure when this will be posted, I am sure my wife will edit it a ton, but according to my watch it is 5:00, (technically it says 11:00, but I can do the math) which means that it is time for an aperitif. So I am going to cut some bread, sausage and cheese and pour myself a little scotch and start enjoying my evening.

****Note from Jen: I did not edit or change anything. This is all Rod. But just to be clear, Cindy DID bring her running clothes. We just ran out of time for a long run. I did not make Cindy run while I drove the car behind her! I drove her past the nearby chateaux.


  1. Jen, I fully understand the great restraint you demonstrated in NOT editing or changing any of Rod's musings ---- I know when receiving an email from Rod that might only be a simple, "Hello", I've had to edit for context, message structure and spelling challenges.

    Rod, it would seem that you are not experiencing the level of frustration that perhaps an extended stay in France might manifest - Does that mean you are no longer planning to work through associated "anger-management" issues through a visit to the Shooting Range upon your return?

    Here's hoping all of you have a very Merry Christmas, with a safe, prosperous and Happy New Year!

  2. Cindy (with no running shoes)Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    Ha Ha! I know where you ate the muscles!!! I think Jen will take all visitors to La Rochelle for the muscles! I would come back just for those muscles, but as Megan and I said just this morning visiting and being with your family made the trip one so enjoyable that we can never duplicate.

  3. Family
    A new best friend

    Merry Christmas Rod, sounds like a awesome trip!

  4. Rod, what a fabulous post! I love all the detail, I feel like I'm there with you guys. Although you'll be missed this holiday, I'm so happy you are all together. See you soon!