Pomme de Reinette et Pomme d’Api

Here’s your daily ear worm. No need to thank me. No really.

It’s a children’s song called Pomme de Reinette et Pom d’Api, and is a kind of “Eeny-meeny-miny-moe”, or a “Duck-duck-goose”.

“Pomme de reinette et pomme d’api,
Tapi, tapi rouge,
Pomme de reinette et pomme d’api,
Tapi, tapi gris.
Cache ton poing derrière ton dos
Ou tu auras un coup d’ marteau”

Literal Translation:

Pippin apple and lady apple,
Red, red carpet
Pippin apple and lady apple,
Grey, grey carpet
Hide your fist behind your back
Or you’ll have a hammer blow.

The children stand in a circle and one does the counting-out. The child on which the last syllable falls must hide his/her fist behind his/her back, the last one is “It”. (Aparently the song can end with “Sorti!” which is like “You are OUT!”

I mention it, not to irritate you; no, that’s just a happy accident! – but to give you some context for the names of the toy stores I went in yesterday while attempting to do some holiday shopping. They are two separate stores, connected and under a common ownership but separate spaces with a separate focus. Pomme d’Api is for the younger kids, and specializes in dress-up costumes and handmade wooden toys, dolls, marbles…that sort of thing. The outside has several racks of handmade wooden racing cars that are basically awesome.

The other sister store, Pomme de Reinette, is much larger and is geared for more sophisticated toys. It is a series of narrow rooms lined with glass cases and little tiny winding staircases, and each room is loosely grouped around a theme. One case just had hourglasses and eggtimers; another features optical toys and lenses. There was a huge intensely beautiful collection of kaleidescopes, everything from smaller paper tubes to elaborate handcarved wood and brass masterpieces. There was a room full of wooden board games, chess and Chinese checkers and Go and many that I didn’t recognize (and I did in fact buy a chess set for Mathieu and I for Christmas!); there was a room full of marionettes and puppets, and a huge octagonal room for magic tricks, card tricks, illusions and all sort of esoteric trickery.

This is the outside of the store. Just the outside display stops you in your tracks and gives you the feeling something magical and strange is about to happen – and this was me as an adult (although admittedly an adult with a fairly overdeveloped capacity for wonder) : imagine what this place would do to a little kid!

Mathieu and I are super broke this year – this has been a complicated year with the marriage, the fire, the move, and the fact that I’m still learning the language and am spending a lot more time in school than I am earning money, so we don’t have a huge budget this year for Christmas gifts, but my sister’s two little kids are at the age were Christmas should be someting magical and wonderful, and they are so much fun to shop for, so I picked out a few things for them that I think they’ll love. I’m dying because I want to tell you, too, but since my sister reads this blog, I’ll have to save it for a post Christmas breakdown blog. Suffice to say, they are AWESOME. I might go back today after class and pick up one more thing that I’m thinking about and sort of wishing I’d bought yesterday…or maybe I’m just going back because I feel like I stumbled on a miracle. Seriously, everyone come to Montpellier. We’re all going.

I made a stop to my favorite bookstore in the city afterwards. It’s called Le Book Shop. Yes, it really is. It’s owned by I think a British man or a couple (I’ve only seen the man, with a ginger beard) and is two floors of English books, used books, a little cafe, and couches. It’s in a little tiny street, almost an alley with stone steps and no cars…and is again, a narrow space in an old building with a staircase to the basement where the older books are. I love it so much…so wonderful to be able to just pick anything up and read it!

I finished up at the Christmas market on the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle off the Place de la Comedie, where they have a huge white lit Christmas tree outside the opera house.

The market is really cool. There’s an arch that you have to go through, with a temporary skating rink set up. There are stands everywhere selling vin chaud (hot spiced wine), marrons chaudes (roasted chestnuts), chou-chous (a sort of caramel covered sticky nut?) and barbe de pàpa (Papa’s beard, or what we in the U.S call cotton candy). There are temporary wooden stalls set up where vendors sell gifts, candy, wine, foie gras, crafts and holiday ornaments…and yes, I made one last stop at a place to pick up some things for my niece and nephew.

No, not animal hats..though I was tempted but too worried they might scare the kids. The chicken one kind of scares me, but I think it’s AWESOME.

There was also a little band, a six piece Dixieland jazz band with a clarinet, a banjo, a trombone and trumpet, a sort of…what do you call the thing that you blow into like a clarinet or an oboe but it has a keyboard down the front? One of those. And a little drum set, worn around the neck.

Oh. And a WASHTUB BASS.

They were so good! I finished up the day with a cup of coffee in front of the merry go round before heading back to Cournonterral on the bus where, you’ll be hay to know, we finished our FDA prior notice paperwork and are shipping our wine samples TODAY to the importer in the U.S. And then we watched an animated movie about a racecar snail called Turbo, so you know, it was a really good Christmasy sort of day.

I bitch about France not celebrating Thanksgiving or Halloween, which are entirely American holidays, but DAMN do they do Christmas. Everyone was feeling good yesterday too…I had conversations with all the shopkeepers in French; the one guy showed me the chess sets and we chatted about the games, and the girls at the toystore wanted to know about my niece and nephew and how long I’d been in France. Even the guy at the Christmas market was feeling talkative and gave me a free pair of felt flower barrettes at the end, with a big smile. Every day, I’m starting to feel more and more at home in this crazy foreign country…it doesn’t feel as scary, or at least not most days. The French are really warm and kind and happy when you speak French, and are mostly willing to help. I felt really warm and embraced at the end of the day, not like a foreign outsider at all like I have for the last few months. I know every day can’t be that good…but I’ve learned to embrace the days that are. They give you the fire you need to keep going. I have class this afternoon, and am ready to go!

And I visited the midwife yesterday too!! But that’s another post, methinks..;) Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

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2 thoughts on “Pomme de Reinette et Pomme d’Api

  1. Sounds like a delightful day! And just think how fun it will be next year, when you can shop for your own little one. Loved your photos and I almost felt like I was wandering through the little shops with you. Our shopping malls are efficient, but the many little shops in a European town are so much more fun.
    I’m so pleased that you’re experiencing that feeling of happiness, of being a part of your new home. Merry Christmas Laurie!

  2. May I ditto everything Kay said in her comment! We are so happy for you and it sounds like you are ‘fitting in’ better all the time. No, I am not surprised. Your ability to describe and create the word pictures is just wonderful! Thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings, they are so well communicated. Looking forward to every post and email. Yes, and Mele Kalikimaka to you and both of your families!

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