Friday, July 3, 2015

Paris, or, I Won't Do This for Just Anyone

Just ask the friend who visited last week. When I heard she had a friend from Germany who would come see Paris with her, I jumped for joy and let her go on her own! But I agreed to go to Paris with the family members visiting this week.

We had an adventure getting on the train - I wasn't sure I'd find a spot at the train station to leave the car all day, so we had Frédéric take us in two groups. I went with the first group, and we bought everyone's tickets, and waited for the second group. And waited. And waited. I cut the timing a little too close - they pulled into the station just as the train did, and we still had to run underground to the other platform. But we made it!

We started out by taking a peek at Notre Dame, and then the Luxembourg Gardens. After that, we hopped on an RER to go look at (but not go up in) the Eiffel Tower.

My friend who came last week went to the Arc de Triomphe so she could get a view of Paris including the Eiffel Tower. We thought that sounded like a good idea, so we did that, too.
There are not as many stairs as the Eiffel Tower, but they were spiral, so you get dizzy, too. 

It was hot, hot, hot, hot! After the Arc de Triomphe and a stroll down the Champs-Elysées, we decided we had seen enough of Paris. We caught our train back home, and made a bee-line for the kids' pool once we got there.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pierrefonds Castle and the Heat Wave!

So it turns out that we're really popular people. The day after my friend left, my aunt, uncle, and cousins arrived from Croatia. It had been ten years since my aunt and uncle came through Paris on a whirlwind trip, so we were glad they got to visit this year. Today I took them to nearby Pierrefonds castle - a castle that really looks the way we Americans expect it to.

There was a new exhibit inside of medieval-style costumes from operas.

Our lucky visitors arrived just in time for the heat wave. It got up to around 100°F - we only get temperatures that high for about a week each year, so we don't have air conditioning, and aren't used to the stifling heat.

Fortunately, our guests were from Texas, so they thought it was nice, normal summer weather. Still, after our few tourist-type visits, some of us cooled off in the kids' pool. And when I say cooled off, I mean it... the warmest the water got, even during the heat wave, was about 66°F!

(You might be a French kid if you can't go in the pool in the yard without your swim cap...)

The boys also took advantage of the hot weather to pitch their first tent (with help from our aunt and uncle, the real pros), and sleep outside, where it was at least a little cooler than upstairs.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wolfsschlucht II

Before my friend's visit, a local friend had mentioned that Hitler had a bunker during World War II, located not far from where we live, and that it was open for visits. I had never heard of this before, or known that there were German bunkers located so nearby. It sounded interesting, so we showed up in Laffaux for the visit.

The land belongs to three different towns, Laffaux, Margival, and Neuville-sur-Margival. You can visit the association's facebook page if you're interested in a visit.

Wolfsschlucht II, Hitler's headquarters on the Western Front, was built in 18 months, by 22,000 forced workers, some of whom signed up more or less willingly for the job in occupied France, since it was a choice between work camps here where they lived, or work camps in Germany. The site was chosen because Hitler remembered it from when he fought in the area during World War I, and the hills and valleys made it a strategic location.

On June 17, 1944, 11 days after D-Day, Hitler, Rommel, and Von Rundstedt arrived at this headquarters to discuss strategy. Rommel presented his new secret weapons, with which he planned to win the war. Obviously things didn't go according to their plan, and since that time, the site has been used by NATO, and by the French army and special forces for training.

The bunker pictured at right was the Fuhrerbunker, Hitler's own bunker.

The soldiers stationed here also had a swimming pool. The helmets in the photo at right were inside one of the smaller bunkers, where six soldiers could stay at a time.

After the visit, the guide let the boys try on French medical officer hats. Benjamin said the tour was fascinating. So we'd be happy to take you there when you come visit us. The visits are free, but the association does accept gifts to help maintain the site.

Vieux Moulin : beautiful village

That is what the sign says, and we've seen it twice a week since September as we drove the boys to gymnastics, but never stopped to check it out. So with a friend visiting this week, we decided to go check it out and see if it lived up to the sign.

We had gorgeous weather, there were beautiful flowers, a little stream... not bad.

The church was very pretty, and different from others I've seen, with the wooden porch. This sign on someone's house made me laugh - "les blaireaux" is "the badgers," taken literally, but it's also an expression - one of my go-to translation websites translates it into English as "dork."

I just can't pass the poppies without stopping, so we took a few more poppy pictures on the way home. Can't believe the boys cooperated for all of these photos.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Septmonts and Vauxclair Abbey

Yesterday morning, we visited the town and castle of Septmonts, and got our exercise with all of the many stairs to the top of the tower. These beautiful blue, cloudy skies are one thing I love about the area where we live.

In the afternoon, we had reserved a visit at the Dragon's Lair, the quarry used by German and French soldiers - sometimes at the same time! - during World War I. We ended up getting a private visit in English. Our guide was knowledgeable, interesting, and had a great singing voice! Yes, he even sang some wartime songs for us. Unfortunately, you're not allowed to take photos inside the quarry, so you'll just have to come visit it for yourself some time. I've been at least three times so far, and learned new things each time, so it's definitely worth the visit!

We went to Vauxclair Abbey afterwards to walk around the ruins.