Poisson Avril – Happy April Fools- Happy Easter 2018

Kale ran through the Gite, with a paper fish surreptitiously taped on his back, as Madison giggled under her breath…


The taping of a fish, on a person’s back, is the joke for April 1st in France and it’s a very enjoyable tradition. “Poisson d’Avril” (or April Fish), Madison yelled and Kale realized the joke was on him.  “Happy April Fools Day”. In downtown Percy, there were a plethora of bakeries and chocolatiers that made the most art-like and “delicieux” fish shaped pastries and chocolate.  It was an added bonus to see the Easter chocolates of eggs, bunnies, crosses, that were almost too beautiful to eat!


What was in store for us on Easter Sunday afternoon?  A giant Easter Egg hunt with friends.  The clues were planned and treats were placed by each clue.  I think it was the best East Egg hunt I have ever attended!  There were 6 children, all ranging from 6 to 13 years of age, but they all stayed in a pack, like wolves,  and followed each clue together to their delicious prize. Each clue had 6 sweet treats on them (one for each child) and then on to the next clue.  We had beautiful weather in Normandy on Sunday, which is very lucky, because the weather here can change instantaneously, hence we travel with rain poncho’s everywhere.


Traveling to Paris to meet up with Madison’s Friend Acadia was a welcome trip.  I think there is always one child that might be a little more homesick than the others.  I always thought that Kale would be the one to be most affected but it was my daughter Madison.  One of her best friends from Maine was making the trip to Paris with her mother, Joy, so we decided to make the trek to Paris.  It’s only approximately a 3-hour drive, from Percy-en-Normandie,  so it was no big deal.  It was a quick trip to see a friend from L’Ecole Francaise du Maine and a trip to the Eiffel Tower or “Tour Eiffel” as the French call it.  I have taken the tour before to the top of the Tour.  In our estimation, the best location to take photos near the Eiffel Tower is the Trocadero metro stop.  This time we brought our Yorkies, which slightly cramped our style, because we could not bring them up the Tower.  There was a big sign that showed, “No Dogs Allowed”.  Not to worry, the kids went up the Tower with Joy and Acadia, while Bill and I found a Café right on the Sein River and had a couple glasses of “vin rouge”.  Most restaurants in Paris allow dogs however if you want to do some serious touring like the Musee du Louvre, Sainte-Chapelle de Paris, Cathedrale Notre-Dame, I recommend leaving the pooches at home.

Oh, excellent news!  I found an American Dentist in Paris.  Since I am a  little shy about my French, I am going to give Dr. Jane Matkoski, 12 Rue Saint-Denis Julien, Le Pauvre, 75005 Paris, a call. Fingers crossed.

by: Tara Magaw



Yes, I am a Foreigner in a Foreign Land…


Ouch…I have a terrible toothache!

First off, I hate aging.  I know I need to show my children, through example, how to age gracefully but here is a little secret, I don’t like it one bit!  I didn’t have a cavity until I was 30 years of age and now, here we go again.  I think I have a tooth abscess.  Part of acclimating to your surroundings, is figuring out where do I shop, where do I find basic necessities, and yes, where do I find doctors and dentists?  The people of Percy are very kind.  It’s not like Paris where, just like New York City,  you can find people with attitudes (disclaimer – I am allowed to say this because I am a New Yorker).  I am having a difficult time finding a dentist and it really is upsetting being so far away from home.  In a past life, before kids, I worked in Luxembourg, for the U.S. Embassy, and we were given local doctor’s contact details  that spoke English.  Here, in Percy-en-Normandie, I am completely on my own to figure this out.  I have found a great Dr. here, Docteur Pascal LOREILLE, who is very kind and speaks English really well. I was able to get some antibiotics from Dr. Loreille, to cure the infection, however I still need to find a dentist and possibly an oral surgeon. I found that even though I have private health insurance, a requirement of having a temporary Visa, doctors really don’t know what to do with you unless you have a “carte vitale” . I am told that the French Health Care System is one of Universal Health Care, it is largely financed by the French Government National Health Insurance. I have read that the World Health Organization, has ranked France as one of the BEST health care systems in the World, but, and it’s a BIG BUT, you need to have access to it and you need to be able to communicate.

You will get where I am going with this thought in a second – – I will always have empathy for foreigners or immigrants in the United States, I know that my Government (the U.S. Government) right now, is not pro-foreigner, but the U.S. was a Country founded by Immigrants.  France is very similar to the United States, in that the French People, just like Americans, are very proud of their Country, Culture and Language. I am a foreigner right now in France!  The “French” very much believe that you need to speak their language.  I have tried to call a few dentists to no avail.  I have left numerous messages, all in French but granted very sophomoric French, in what I am sure is a less than perfect accent.

**Je voudrais in rendez-vous pour in abces et une douleur dans ma dent.  C’est URGENT!!!!!

Navigating the whole medical system can seem a little overwhelming!  I am still looking for a dentist.  I might fly back to the States in a few weeks.  I have been told a few times, that “the dentist is not accepting new patients” however there is this nagging feeling, in the corner of my mind, that is saying, the real issue is I am a foreigner or that my French is less than perfect.  I have read, that there is a shortage of dentists in the Normandy region and that the government tried, in 2011, to create incentives for doctors to move to the Normandy region.  Maybe I am wrong and its not personal that I am being rejected. Here is to crossing my fingers that I sort this all out! 

Being abroad, it makes you very conscious, of staying in touch with family and friends.  I have been using “Facebook Messenger”, to keep in touch.  I did gain a local phone number, via the company Orange, but Messenger is free and I can also do video conference calls. My Mom and Dad have helped with my adjustment and sending care packages, my brother Will (in Med School) has been helping me navigate the medical system, my sister’s Ali and Abby, have been great “listening ears” for my occasional depression, and my Sister-in-Law, Debi, has taken care of our house and sending medicine, mail, etc.  Gregory West and Family have taken care of the house too and friends, Joy and Tamara, have sent my kids care packages too! I am truly grateful to them all! MERCI!


At the Gites de Jonquille, it is a magical place.  Deborah Powell absolutely loves animals!  I have told her she should have been a Veterinarian. She has bought ducks and chickens to raise as pets and they are very spoiled.  They are fed “evening tea” (evening supper) and it is warmed up in the oven.  These little chickens and duck can be picked up and pet on their feathers.  I never knew that if you raise them from infants, they loved to be picked up and carried.  They follow Deborah, David, Amelia, Victoria and my children Kale and Madison, all around the yard. It seems apropos, on Easter weekend, to see these little creatures run around the lush garden.  Easter means “Resurrection” or “Rebirth”.  Being here in Normandy, feels a little bit like a rebirth.


For Easter, Bill, Kale, Madison and I will go to the most lovely church in the center Percy called the Eglise Saint Jean-Baptiste.  In Europe, the little “villes” and villages, are often built around these gorgeous churches.  In this particular church, there is incredible stain glass but also this incredible heat lamp chandelier, that emits the most comforting, warm heat during a chilly Spring day.  Even though the church is enormous, it is very cozy inside.  Madison had her first Trumpet concert this week.  The acoustics in the Church were absolutely incredible. After the concert, they served “vin chaud” or hot wine, back at Madison’s school, to keep everyone warm in the night air.  It was an amazing experience!

Happy Easter and Joyeuses Paques!  Next time, I will tell you about “Poisson Avril”.

by: Tara Magaw