A Basic Right

I have (too) often railed about the French bureaucratic morass that can make the simplest transaction an interminable nightmare, so it is only fair to report on the most positive development of my time here: I have received my social security number, my entry ticket to the national health insurance program. I am not a … Continue reading A Basic Right

Searching for Vincent

Finally managed to get my butt out of Maury for a few days, motion triggered by an invitation from my friends Mike and Martha to join them for a few days among the swells of St. Tropez. First stop, Arles, where I thought I’d catch a few photo exhibitions from the Rencontres and stalk the … Continue reading Searching for Vincent

An Interesting Sunday in Maury

I walked down to the kiosque for the annual Vide Grenier which translates as “empty attic.” It’s a village-wide garage sale that all the communes around here host from time to time. There were about forty venders who had taken the time to clean out their garages or attics and haul the stuff down to … Continue reading An Interesting Sunday in Maury

Harvest

Around here, the start of harvest is like opening day of the baseball season, full of anticipation and uncertainty. Is all the fruit truly ripe? Are the rookies ready? Will the old vines continue to produce? Do the veterans have another year in them? Will this year’s pickers work hard and well? Will the free … Continue reading Harvest

The Feast of St. John

The Bonfires of St. John, a Midsummer tradition particularly popular in Catalonia, dates back to pre-Christian summer solstice celebrations but has become associated with the birth date of St. John, June 24. Here in Northern Catalonia, we add the association with the Canigou flame, a symbol of Catalan identity, by simulating the bringing of fire … Continue reading The Feast of St. John

Pay to Play

Sometimes coping with The French Bureaucracy is a straightforward commercial transaction. I drove up to Montpellier yesterday for a medical exam and interview with the OFII, the national office of immigration and integration, a name that implies some effort will be made to help newcomers adapt to French society. I wouldn’t count on it. After … Continue reading Pay to Play

You Meet the Nicest People in a Bar

I was chewing on an immense magret from a steroidal duck and washing it down with Coop wine when an old friend from past visits came in and I immediately launched into my insurance saga. “This is wrong. I can help you.” He went to another table, talked with one of the men, and returned … Continue reading You Meet the Nicest People in a Bar