Southern France spring brings wild poppies in meadows, new shoots on miles of vines, and the most vibrant greens pocking up in every direction you look. Today is Labour Day! What is May Day in France you might ask?
May 1st is a traditional holiday in France called Labour Day, which comes with a custom to give ‘un brin de muguet’ or a stem of lily of the valley to ones you love wishing them good luck and happiness. It is the one-day of the year, where individuals and organizations can sell these little hand wrapped flowers and not pay tax.
The French unions and organizations often use this day to fight for workers rights and hold demonstrations and parades throughout France. We nearly collided with a parade today while driving through Beziers. Police were out in droves, and the flags flew high, and some streets were completely closed off for the demonstrations.
We wanted to spend this extra day off during the week with the kids, especially after weeks of carting them from place to place while we try to get our life started up.
While we were in Hungary, the children spent most of their time playing in waiting rooms, while we sorted out ID cards, passport renewals, trying to find a way for our family to officially get into the EU medical system.
Without an income, it is hard to become a part of the system in France. You can have all the money in the world, but try to get a mortgage or a basic car loan and all they look at is income. Try to start an above board business venture, and the red tape is lengthy and sticky! For us to start a business without a safety net of a starting pot makes no sense, and we already paid for our home and apartment, and everything in between! We are still weighing it all out.
We have been waiting on our motorcycle and van plates for nearly six months. Six months sounds preposterous to us Canadians, where you can buy a car off virtually anyone, go to any insurance broker with a little slip of paper both parties sign, and instantly have the vehicle put in your name, buy insurance and plates all within 10 minutes.
But today we unplug… We weren’t allowed to talk renovations, business, or Internet. Nor bureaucracy, supplies or hosting – nothing at all!
We decided that we would take the kids to buy shoes. But surprisingly the French take this holiday very seriously. Nothing was open, not a supermarket, a home renovations or clothing store. Most restaurants were closed.
Even the mall was closed. Can you believe it? While we were there we noticed the theatre was in fact open, and we picked a movie to come back to see after a quick lunch on the beach.
The kids wanted KFC, and they happened to be open, (damn it) so they got their food pick for the day, but we took it to go and headed towards Narbonne Plague. (It is actually good value, as we share a meal for 2.)
We ate in the van along the beach, where a police officer asked us nicely to put our pop-up down. Then we went for a long scoot/walk on the promenade that left us sleepy and ready for naps.
We were not prepared for the sand and surf, as we looked at the weather before we left and it said cloudy, highs of 16. Well I can tell you at 11:00am on the beach there was not a cloud in the sky and we all stripped down to underwear to layout on the picnic blanket we keep in the car. The only rule for the kids, while we napped, was not, under any circumstances, to go in to the water. We did not bring towels or a change of clothes or anything, as we would normally when going to the beach. Plus the kids really wanted to get to the 16:00 movie, which meant dry clean kids.
Well my lovely Angelina, while we were packing up to go back to Beziers, after a fabulous day at the beach, decided to rinse off her feet, and managed to get soaked. Alfonz told her to sit in the sand and cover herself in clean sand to dry off, which breaded her like a piece of fried chicken ready for hot oil! I could feel my blood pressure shoot through the roof. I had never heard of drying off like that before. People around us probably thought I had Tourettes syndrome. Oh I was mad as a hornet. Now Angelina was soaked and caked on dirty, and we were about an hour from show time.
Angelina felt so bad being the cause of the entire ruckus and the reason we couldn’t go to the movies. Alfonz embarrassed, packed up and headed towards the car to get away from the commotion. I couldn’t even get Angelina into the van in that state she was so dirty. Okay, breathe….
I stripped her down to her underwear and placed her to dry on the blanket like a Norwegian salted cod. After about 6-8 minutes on both sides she was close to completely dry, I then wiped away the sand with the blanket. But her clothes were still soaked. What to do? Daniel thoughtfully offered his collared shirt he wore over his T-shirt. We gave it a try and sure enough it made a very cute dress, and she put back on her tights from the morning. Voila day saved! And of course she pulled off the green Hawaiian shirt-dress with such confidence!
We made it to the movie right when the previews ended, and the first scene was on the big screen. We watched Julia Roberts in Snow White, in French so it counts as a home school day.
Now we are home, Alfonz put on a fresh coat of drywall mud to sand off tomorrow on the apartment walls. I am sitting in my favourite chair having a drink and telling you about our day, and the kids are fresh out of the tub, in Pajamas snug as bugs in a rug.
All in all not a bad day and even my laundry managed to dry on the line while we were gone.