Friday, September 30, 2011

i Puffi at the Billa? Let's go! Andiamo!

A trip to the Billa grocery store in Ventimiglia these days is even more interesting than usual.

Along with cheap pasta, a huge variety of Italian cheeses and great reusable shopping bags, until the end of October there's added incentive to battle the crowds to shop there:  the i Puffi promotion.

i Puffi is Italian for the Smurfs and Billa has launched their i Puffi promotion to coincide with Italian opening of the new 3D Smurf movie. As it turns out, Italians are crazy about the Smurfs.  Who would have guessed?

Here's how the promotion works.  For every 10 that you spend in Billa, you get a packet of 5 i Puffi stickers depicting scenes from the movie.  For 3.90 (2.90 if you're a Billa fidelity card holder) you can buy a really nice hard cover album in which to stick your stickers.  
Of course I bought an album and started pasting in my i Puffi stickers last night and I had a grand time. I even learned a bit of Italian in the process.  I'll let you know when it's full.

In some of the packets, lucky shoppers will find special cards for prizes like  stuffed Smurfs or vouchers for store credit but the grand prize is what keeps me going back:  free shopping at Billa for an entire year.  I'd love to win that. 

Think of all that free pasta!



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Keepin' it Clean, Part I. The Pacifier Man of Menton

In March of this year when the City of Ottawa announced their intention to cut household trash collection from once a week to once every two weeks I could almost see the flies cheering and beating their wings with glee.  What a happy and stinky time for all those hungry insects, insatiable raccoons, squirrels, rats, mice, cockroaches and other parasitic chow hounds that will join the flies in the stampede to the trash can buffet!

Here in the south of France, trash is collected six times a week and it takes no getting used to at all. How do they do it?  I don't really know but I'm glad they do.

In Menton, if you live in a house, every day you put your trash in your very own trash can and leave it by the side of the road.  If you live in a village with streets that are too narrow and steep for a trash truck to manage, you put your trash in a designated central place in a large communal receptacle that everyone shares.  Uncle Jim and I do this at our house in Monaco.  It's a good chance to mingle with the neighbours!

Along with the frequent household trash collection there is a huge fleet of trucks, boats, carts, hoses, receptacles and dedicated people who roam the streets and sea throughout the day who sweep, spray, empty, scrub, scrape, scoop, wipe and generally work hard to keep the streets and water for the most part, shining and bright.  The exceptions will be discussed in Keepin' it Clean Part II,  but I digress...

This morning as I was leaving the Marché U grocery store in the Port of Garavan, I met up with Jean-Pierre, one of Menton's most specialized street cleaners.

Jean Pierre roams the area around the port of Garavan between the sea and the wide pedestrian avenue on the Promenade du Soleil, collecting all the things that the messy people drop, throw, toss and discard. You always know when Jean Pierre is nearby because the street behind him is clean and by how he decorates his trash cart.  It's unmistakable.  For years now, Jean Pierre has been collecting all the tetines or pacifiers that he finds.  All of these colourful tetines form a pretty ring around his trash cart.  

On this beautiful sunny morning, I asked Jean Pierre how long he has been collecting the tetines.  "A few years," he replied and added that he finds more of them in the summer than the winter,  the summer being a prime time when tourists with babies sucking on tetines descend on Menton to swim on the beach.

 Judging by his cart, shops that sell new tetines in Menton are doing a booming business!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Wanted! Cats who eat Rats.

It seems that while Uncle Jim and I were away visiting Canada this summer, some four legged, beady-eyed pests were making trouble for Auntie in the garden in Menton.

When we got back to Menton this week, Celine told us that something was wrong with one of our mandarin orange trees.  It seems that the tree had a disease and on Thursday the gardener was going to take a closer look.  

It was obvious that something was wrong.  A lot of bark was missing on its upper branches and the gardener thought maybe the tree was diseased.  This was bad news.  

That mandarin tree was over 50 years old and was a star producer of tasty sweet, perfumed mandarins.  I use the little mandarins to make a delicious sorbet, which my Japanese friend said she dreamt about after eating it.  They also make excellent juice for Uncle Jim to sip in the morning while he reads the Financial Times.

When Thursday arrived, the gardener carefully slid between the trunks of the trees in our little citrus forest to poke around and get a closer look at the troubling situation.  After a few seconds, the branches shook a bit then stopped.  They shook a bit more and stopped.  After about one nail biting minute, the gardener popped out with the news:  our tree didn't have a disease at all.  It had rats!  That's right, rats were climbing up the tree and eating the bark! 

Supposedly this was quite common.  After the rats eat all the fruit they keep right on eating.  The bark, the gardener said, tastes sweet to them.

This seems to be Auntie's summer of vermin what with raccoons and squirrels stripping bare my grape vines and apple trees in Ottawa and moths making a snack out of my wool sweaters.

Nellie the Brave
Celine says that she often sees two French cats in the garden that she thinks belong to our neighbours.  There's a big fat white one and a small tabby that reminds her of Cat.  I guess they don't like to eat rats.

I think we need a Canadian cat on the scene to get the job done.  Like the Canadian Allies who came to help the French during WW2, the two French cats need our help!

Parsnip the Fearless
Maybe my friend Suzanne could send her kitties, Archie and Parsnip whom I understand are good mousers.  If they're busy maybe Liz can send her cat, Nellie, star of this summer's hit video, Nellie the Cat Plays with a Buzzing Cicada.  I think together they'd take care of the problem tout de suite!

Archie the Great
In the meantime, Celine went to Ventimiglia and bought a little "snack" for the rats.  The woman at the garden shop assured her that it would take care of the rat problem.

Paws crossed!