Watching the Super Bowl . . . from France

As many of you may remember, we do not own a television here in France. Most of the time it isn’t a problem, there are so many other things to do than sit in front of the television that we don’t miss it at all. Until the Super Bowl comes around.

The search for a way to see the game starts about a week before game day. We need to find an online option as the game doesn’t air until 12:30 am Monday morning for us. At that time of the morning NOTHING is open — the one day of the year that we miss living in Nevada with open 24-hour options.

Last year we found the game aired on France’s W9 station with commentary in French. Sadly our French isn’t good enough to follow the play-by-play action. We enjoyed the game but missed a lot.

This year we looked for options with commentary in English. Alan found one option: log into a VPN, have it appear as if we are viewing from the UK, watch the game on BBC-1. At least it will be in English.

With the game switching to NBC we tried downloading their app, but sadly it doesn’t work in our area (or country, really). But NBC had a great list of how to watch the game from countries around the world, including which stations were broadcasting the game.

I did a Google search to find the BBC website and noticed just below the link an option that said watch tv from anywhere. So I clicked on it. A free site called FirstOneTV.net popped up. It took just minutes to get a free account and when I went to the “Watch TV Now” tab there was a very long list of countries to choose from. I scrolled down and saw that there were 81 stations available from the U.S. When the page opened, NBC was available so I selected it, after a 10-second ad it took me directly into NBC’s streaming content.

Other than one moment of having the screen freeze in the first quarter of the game, the rest of the game — all four hours of it — were viewed without incident.

Next year, we’ll just start with this as the option for viewing! Perhaps we’ll be able to catch some of the Winter Olympics this year as well, at least the opening ceremony!

 

 

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Premier Bain de l’Année 2017

It’s January 1, 2017 and my New Year resolution is to be far more consistent posting to our blog. So my first post of 2017 is its first micro-adventure:  the Premier Bain de l’Année (also called the Bain du Nouvel An), the first swim in the sea of the new year.  This is an annual event in Argelès-sur-Mer taking place at the central Plagd’Argelès-sur-Mer (Argelès beach) adjacent to the Esplanade Charles Trenet.

Premier Bain de l’Année poster 2017
Premier Bain de l’Année poster 2017

With the overcast morning’s air temperature at 11°C / 51°F and the Mediterranean Sea’s temperature at 14°C / 57°F, the swimmers and their supporters gathered at the beach as colorful traditional Catalan fishing boats (called “barques” in French or “llaguts” in Catalan) arrived to assist the event. At 10:00 a.m. the swimmers started to disrobe to their swimsuits while their supporters kept bags of dry clothes and towels for the swimmer’s return.

At 10:30 a.m. there was a series of whistle blasts and the swimmers ran to the water. Many swimmers looked festive wearing Santa Claus hats, outrageous wigs, and costumes.  One female swimmer wore a sparkling ballerina’s tutu.

No, I did not join the swimmers this year. The dogs and I offered our support and admiration from dry land. Perhaps next year . . . NOT.

The swimmers had a spectacular time. They swam, splashed, posed for photos, and there was a spontaneous group sing-along with two dozen hard-core swimmers long after most participants had returned to shore. There were swimmers of every size and age with all having tremendous fun. It was difficult to estimate the size of the event, but my guess is there was 50 to 75 swimmers with 200 supporters cheering them on from shore.

As the swimmers eventually became too chilled to continue, their supporters would meet them at the water’s edge with warm towels. There were free hot drinks and certificates of bravery waiting for the swimmers back at the Esplanade.

A fun, hometown event to start 2017.

Happy New Year!

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Celebrating Alan’s 3rd Year of Retirement

 

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January 7 marked the third anniversary of Alan’s retirement. It is hard to believe that it’s been that long already, time seems to fly right by. There are some people who believe that retirement will lead to boredom . . . we wonder how we ever had time for a job!

Being party animals (not) we are celebrated with a day of cuddles from the pups (at least until the fight breaks out between Sami and Lou over who gets Daddy’s lap) and a home-made lemon cake!

Happy Anniversary Husband . . . so glad we made this change!

BTW . . . has anyone else noticed that Lou looks a little devilish in all his photos?? He always seems to have something devious in mind!

Carcassonne – Tour de France 2014

We were able to watch a part of the internationally renown Tour de France bicycle race. Leg 16 started in Carcassonne.

Tour de France Logo  (Wikimedia Commons)
Tour de France Logo
(Wikimedia Commons)

The 101th running of the Tour de France’s stage 16 raced through Carcassonne literally a half block from our apartment.  This stage was the longest of the 2014 race with 237.5 kilometers (148 miles) from Carcassonne traveling west up through the Pyrénées mountains and finishing in the village of Bagnères-de-Luchon near the Spanish border.

Tour de France 2014, Stage 16 (Reuters)
Tour de France 2014, Stage 16
(Reuters)

The Tour de France was actually two events for us.  The first was a parade of sponsor’s floats, called the Tour de France Caravan at 8:45.  Dozens of cleverly designed floats drove by throwing novelties, t-shirts, hats, and samples.

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At 10:45 the racers (followed by their support vehicles) sprinted past as they circled the town and headed west.  We got to see the traditional yellow jersey on Italian bicyclist Vincenzo Nibali at the head of the pack of the 22 teams.  Although this was the mass start at the beginning of the race with careful riding through the narrow, twisting city streets, the entire pack of nearly 200 racers past us in less than 20 seconds.  We were cheering for US racer Tejay van Garderen who was in sixth place overall.  Thirty-four year old Australian Michael (‘Mick’) Rogers used his experience to climb the five peaks and power through the 237.5 kilometers (148 miles) to win this stage with a time of 6 hours, 7 minutes, 10 seconds.

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After the chase cars, there were support trucks, motor coaches, and media mobile broadcast trucks.

We had a great morning experiencing in-person an event that has been exciting the world for over a hundred years.  We are also anxious to learn if Vincenzo Nibali will be the overall winner when the Tour de France’s concludes this weekend.

Tracy at the Tour de France 2014
Tracy at the Tour de France 2014
Route of the 2014 Tour de France. (Wikimedia Commons)
Route of the 2014 Tour de France.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Carcassonne: Carnaval de Carcassonne 2014

Our local version of Mardi Gras, the Carnaval de Carcassonne occurred over the weekend of February 15 (a few weeks early from the traditional Fat Tuesday – Shrove Tuesday start of Lent.)  It was a wonderful combination of Burning Man, Carnival, and a Disney Parade starting at the town square of Place Carnot, through the streets of La Bastide, down the Rue de Verdun, across Square Gambetta, down Boulevard Camille Pelletan to a final bonfire with masked ball under the stars starring five different bands at Le Dome.  There were an amazing variety of costumes (ranging from medieval traditional, outrageous, risqué, modern, and child friendly), music, singing, dancing, with lots and lots of confetti along the way.  (Tracy is still finding confetti that made it home.)

Carnaval de Carcassonne Poster
Carnaval de Carcassonne Poster

While not nearly as big as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Venice, or Carnival in Rio; the celebration had a “home town” flavor (like “Jack’s Carnival” or “Hometown Christmas” in Sparks, Nevada) and was major fun enjoyed by children and adults alike.   The expected crowd was in excess of 16,000 people.

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While the Carnival in Nice, Rio, New Orleans, and Venice are world-renowned, this was an exceptional event to attend especially because of the intimacy of a being a local celebration in a smaller city.

Alan and a traditional Masquerader at Carnaval de Carcassonne, 2014
Alan and a traditional Masquerader at Carnaval de Carcassonne, 2014

Carcassonne: New Years Eve 2014

Bonne année et bonne santé!  Happy New Year and Good Health!

This last year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Tracy cooked our holiday meal, and extremely well done they were!

So for New Year Eve, le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre, I tried to make my lovely bride, Tracy, as close to a traditional French New Year’s Eve dinner as  I could manage.

So after some research and shopping I  felt I was prepared:

Seared foie gras:  this time of year foie gras is everywhere.  It’s a major menu selection for Christmas and New Year Eve dinners.  Foie gras is incredibly delicious, I had no idea.  I seared it about 30 second on each side.  The good news: it was melt in your mouth perfect.  The bad news:  the high heat searing caused the smoke alarm to trigger.

Blinis with smoked salmon and caviar: smoked salmon appeared to be another favorite for the season.  I also obtained a nice black caviar (not the wonderful and endangered Black Sea or Caspian sturgeon caviar you hear about.  My pockets are not that deep.)  The blinis, tiny buckwheat pancakes, were obtained from a store as we still struggle with baking in France.  Tracy enjoyed both the salmon and caviar.

Polenta with black truffles.  Truffles are a big deal in France.  The polenta had shaved flecks of truffles throughout the pan-fried polenta.

A cheese plate with chèvre, camembert , and roquefort cheeses.  It’s France, there MUST be a cheese plate.  Tracy (and I) love chèvre (goat) cheese.  I also included Camembert de Normandie (A.O.C.) and roquefort (A.O.C.)  blue cheese both of which are “Contraband cheeses” that cannot be imported into the US since they are unpasteurized.

Additionally, I made meatballs, sausages, and sliced ​​meats.  We used to do this for hosting the kids during New Year Eve.  It ended up that I had way too much food, but we enjoyed it over the next week.

Champagne.  What is the point of living in France if you don’t enjoy real champagne for special event?  Of course there was Champagne with dinner.  (Although Tracy and I both love Italian Prosecco sparkling wine.)

Dessert:  Chocolate and café éclairs from our favorite pâtisserie and boules de noël’ chocolat from the Christmas market in Square Gambetta.

It made a fun dinner with a new tradition to welcome in the new year.

New Years Eve dinner
New Years Eve dinner

Carcassonne: Christmas 2013

DELAYED POST, I am catching up our blog after our blogging hiatus while recovering from walking the Camino de Santiago.

December 24 and 25, 2013

A quiet Christmas eve for us.  Tradition in France is to attend la Messe de Minuit evening mass followed by a large family meal, le Réveillon.  Tracy and I had planned to go to midnight mass at Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne, but Sami, the min-pin puppy, was having terrible separation anxiety when we would leave her alone in the apartment.  Rather than impose Sami’s whining on our neighbors, we spent the evening dining in and then took a midnight walk with Sami through the Bastide.  Beautiful night walking through the quiet lanes, enjoying the lights.

Cathédrale Saint-Michel (Wikimedia Commons)
Cathédrale Saint-Michel
(Wikimedia Commons)

Père Noël (Father Christmas) was good to Sami Christmas morning.  Sami scammed all sort of treats and toys from Père Noël .  Tracy had previously knitted Sami her own Christmas stocking.

Sami opening her Christmas presents.
Sami opening her Christmas presents.

Christmas evening Tracy made a delicious Christmas dinner. Turkey roast, mashed potatoes, gravy,  sautéed mushrooms, corn, green beans, toasted chèvre cheese on baguette, champagne, and religieuse pastries for dessert.  Sami even got a small portion for her dinner. The nice thing about living in France is that if you want French champagne for dinner it only requires a walk to the end of the block.

We had a nice visit with some of Tracy’s family as they gathered for dinner, via FaceTime on her sister’s iPhone.

Wonderful Christmas, but we are missing our kids over the holiday.

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Carcassonne: La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas) Festival

DELAYED POST, I am catching up our blog after our blogging hiatus while recovering from walking the Camino de Santiago.

December 6, 2013

La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas) Festival is a month-long (December 6, 2013 to January 5, 2014) celebration throughout Carcassonne.

There was a Christmas market in Square Gambetta with a Ferris wheel, carousel, and two children’s carnival rides.

In Place Carnot (the town square) the city had erected an ice skating rink. The rink had live and recorded music, food booths, and later at night “ice go karts” were available for the adventurous.

At Place d’Armes and Port Jacobin (Jacobin Gate) there was a large roller coaster and a children’s roller coaster and spin rides.

Jardin Andre Chenier (Andre Chenier Garden) had a simulated sled run, mild for children and steep for the more bold with several more children’s rides and food booths.

The final venue was up in the medieval la Cité de Carcassonne was a christmas crafts market behind the Basilique Saint-Nazaire-et-Saint-Celse.

During the month there was all kinds of live music scheduled at the different venues.  The city businesses all had Christmas trees decorated with ribbons outside their front doors and there were Christmas lights hung over the streets.  In short, the Christmas spirit  was everywhere we walked.  Square Gambetta is only a block away from our apartment and there were several special trips for seasonal specialties and stops for vin chaud (hot spiced wine.)

Tracy and Sami  walking in the medieval la Cité de Carcassonne after visiting the Christmas craft fair.
Tracy and Sami walking in the medieval la Cité de Carcassonne after visiting the Christmas craft fair.
Alan and Sami  walking in the medieval la Cité de Carcassonne after visiting the Christmas craft fair.
Alan and Sami walking in the medieval la Cité de Carcassonne after visiting the Christmas craft fair.

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Carcassonne: Fête de la Saint-Nicolas’ Torchlight Parade 2013

DELAYED POST, I am catching up our blog after our blogging hiatus while recovering from walking the Camino de Santiago.

December 8, 2013

To celebrate Carcassonne’s Fête de la Saint-Nicolas (Feast day of Saint Nicholas) there is the Marche aux Flambeaux (Torch Parade), an amazing parade from the medieval city of la Cité de Carcassonne across the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) through Gambetta Square’s Christmas Market, the Bastide (the traditional town)  to reach Place Carnot (the town square and marketplace).

Lead by Saint Nicholas, marchers in traditional medieval costumes, families, bands, and visitors all with flaming torches happily walk the route talking, laughing, and singing along the way.  It is a wonderful start to the Christmas season in Carcassonne and one of the first events in the month-long La Magie de Noël (The Magic of Christmas) Festival.

We had a wonderful time joining in with the marchers, although Sami, the min-pin, was far less impressed with the volume of the music, especially the marching band’s drummers.

Tracy and Sami on the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) waiting for the Marche aux Flambeaux (Torch March) to arrive.  La Cité de Carcassonne in the background.
Tracy and Sami on the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) waiting for the Marche aux Flambeaux (Torch March) to arrive. La Cité de Carcassonne in the background.
Alan and Sami on the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) waiting for the Marche aux Flambeaux (Torch March) to arrive.  La Cité de Carcassonne in the background.
Alan and Sami on the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) waiting for the Marche aux Flambeaux (Torch March) to arrive. La Cité de Carcassonne in the background.

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