Monday, July 16, 2012

Househunting and Friends

Well, we aren't househunting, but our friends still are. They came over yesterday to visit a couple more houses, and we took advantage of the occasion to celebrate Gabrielle's 4th birthday, since the boys were down with chicken pox when she had her party at her house.

And the weather was (surprisingly, lately) reasonably decent, so the kids played out in the neighborhood for a while, on their bicycles, and up on the hill (not with their bicycles).

After Lily Rose took a tumble from her bicycle in front of our neighbor's house, our neighbor offered her some roses to cheer her up. Which led to a long discussion between her and Rose Mary about flowers and how to grow them, and then she showed us her back yard, and let Benjamin and Lily Rose feed her fish out of their hands.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Leaving Aquitaine

The sun came out the day we were leaving, of course! So we finally got to see the view from across the street from our friends' house just before we left. There is an old-fashioned wooden train that goes up to the top of the peak you see pictured below; but with the bad weather and my fear of roads / tracks without guard rails, we decided to skip that excursion.

Driving home, we saw this pass us on the road. And then stop at the same gas station we did, so I could snap a picture. We thought about this guy again as we arrived in the Paris area, under the pouring rain!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Beach!

We promised Noah we'd go to the beach on this trip. And as they say in French, "il ne perd pas le nord" (he has a one-track mind)... he asked countless times when we would go to the beach.

Finally, the day arrived.... clearly without the weather we were hoping for... but we went anyway.

And we even braved the water, up to our shins, for the adults, and up to our waists, for the kids. It was a balmy 68°F, air and water both.

I enforced a warm-up time after Benjamin and Noah ran back up the beach, shivering and covered in goose bumps:

And more time was spent playing with the sand little pebbles than playing in the water.

Benjamin and his friend Alexandre were extremely proud of their sand pebble castle, and of their muscles.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


After our weekend in Toulouse, we continued on to see our friends near Bayonne and Biarritz, since we were "in the area" (read: only 3 hours away instead of 11).

I wasn't familiar with the Aquitaine region at all, but I loved it, especially the houses.

Many houses have names rather than street numbers:

We stayed in the "Gernika" (the Basque spelling) house where our friends live.

And admired the other houses in town as well:

When we went out walking, we came across some pottoks, or Basque ponies.

And then we found the kids' favorite part of town... the playground, of course.

In the afternoon, we went to Spain to do some shopping.

And thanks to our contrary GPS, we also visited the French town of Espelette, known for its hot peppers (which aren't all that hot, though perhaps the French think they are).

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cité de l'Espace at Toulouse

I did not know that Toulouse had a space center, but JL's coworkers suggested it as a possible outing for us - and we thank them! We had a great time. Lots to see and do.

My favorite part was the experiment stations, where employees showed and told us about the moon or about Mars.
Noah was fascinated by the Martian atmosphere experiments.


Noah looking through the telescope at the rocket ship.

 The MIR space station.

 Future astronaut?
The boys got to practice walking on the moon, and I got to ride the twirly thing (aka multi-axis trainer). We all watched an Imax movie about repairing the Hubble telescope.

Afterwards, we stopped at a local Chinese place for dinner, and JL instructed the boys in the art of chopsticks.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


After spoiling JL's culinary experiences with some Belgian fast food from Quick, we drove to Carcassonne. I had been there 14 1/2 years ago, but didn't remember much. Walking in the city gates, we realized that Carcassonne had some striking similarities with Mont St Michel... like the crowds and tourist shops.

 Love the old buildings, and the overhangs.

This is my favorite street in any city!

For the boys, this was the highlight of our visit to Carcassonne.

Ailes Anciennes airplane museum in Toulouse

In our first non-US, non-Alps vacation in a long time, we decided to go to Toulouse and Bayonne this week to visit friends. My friend JL was in Toulouse for work, so we headed there for the weekend (after getting the ok from the doctor about Noah not being contagious anymore).

I didn't have a lot of time to think about what we were going to do in Toulouse, since we decided Thursday afternoon that we'd be taking our vacation Friday morning, but then it occurred to me... Toulouse... Airbus... airplanes. Obviously we couldn't go to Toulouse without visiting something airplane-related for Frédéric.

Accordingly, we started Saturday with the Ailes Anciennes airplane museum. The visit was long (3 hours!) but very interesting, at least for Frédéric and me.

The boys liked looking in the airplanes...

but they preferred getting to go in the airplanes.

The museum is run by a non-profit association. They hope to open a covered airplane museum in 2013. If you are over here then and are interested in airplanes, it will be worth the visit!

Friday, July 6, 2012

No more school, no more books

The boys' last day of school was July 5th this year. Well, Benjamin's last day; Noah missed the entire last week, thanks to chicken pox. But the teacher was outside when Frédéric took Benjamin to school that afternoon, and Noah was in the car, so he did get to give his gifts to his teacher himself.

I went to the random stuff store for last-minute teacher gift inspiration, and found these super cute tiny silicone cupcake cups. (To which Frédéric astutely said, "Those are going to be fun to wash!")

I made a white cake, and was thrilled that the cupcakes didn't stick inside the cups. They popped out quite easily. However, we decided that 36 cups was not enough, so went back to get a few more the next day.

A little buttercream frosting, and voilà, part one of teacher gifts.

I also found cute little plant pots at the same store, so then headed to the garden store and found some flowers to put in them. And of course the boys made cards for their teachers and the aide.

Benjamin's card read: "Chère Maîtresse, Merci pour les 15 minutes de récré pour jouer l'après-midi. Merci de m'avoir aidé à apprendre à lire. J'ai bien aimé cette année de classe. Bonnes vacances et à l'année prochaine."

[Dear Teacher, Thank you for the 15-minute recesses to play in the afternoon. Thank you for helping me learn to read. I liked this year of school. Have a good vacation and see you next year.]

Noah's read: "Cher Maître, J'aime bien l'école. Merci d'être un maître gentil. J'aime jouer et colorier à l'école. Bonnes vacances et à l'année prochaine !"

[Dear Teacher, I like school. Thank you for being a nice teacher. I like to play and color at school. Have a good vacation and see you next year.]

and for the aide: "Chère France, Merci d'avoir joué à la pâte à modeler avec moi et d'avoir fait des jeux et la peinture avec moi. Bonnes vacances et à l'année prochaine !"

[Dear France, Thank you for playing with play-doh with me and playing games and doing painting with me. Have a good vacation and see you next year.]

Both boys will have their same teachers in September, so no major changes for either one as Benjamin goes into second grade and Noah into the 4-year-old preschool class.

Benjamin's teacher requested goodies for their party on the last day of school, so I made this cake for them, complete with sunshine and sailboat at Benjamin's suggestion.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4th of July

In honor of the 4th of July, we had American guests come to visit. Namely, my "internet friend" from New York with whom I've been corresponding by email for the past 7-8 years. She and her husband came to Paris for their 10th anniversary, and they were kind enough to take time out of their trip to come see us so we could finally meet in person! 

Despite the threatening rain clouds, I took them on the short tour of the village... and sure enough, the rain clouds followed through on their threats on our way back up the hill to our house.

Nonetheless, we had a good visit - and hope we won't have to wait 7+ years for the next one!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mommy's First Field Trip

Talk about jumping in headfirst! My first field trip with Benjamin's class was to an amusement park: "La Mer de Sable." I hadn't originally intended to go, but they had to change the date due to teacher training days, and some of the other chaperones couldn't make it on the new date, so I agreed to fill in.

I'm not totally sure what the theme of this park is... it seemed at first to be "Far West," "cowboys and Indians"...
we were greeted by these characters at the entrance

But right across from the entrance you have this structure... so I guess it is just "sand" themed. Any and everything to do with sand.

But then you see this inside one of the rides.... and you wonder... what do wealthy pandas have to do with sand? (Or is that sand in their cave there?) It's a mystery.

The kids got to play Tarzan... (and only two of my four fell off before making it to the end of the track).

At one point, we met up with three of the other groups and were able to all go on one ride at the same time - there were 24 of us, and we all just fit. (It was sort of similar to a Buccanneer ride, but on a track.)

When the cowboy / horse show started around 4 pm, we found that there was no waiting at any attraction, so we took advantage to finish up our tour and go on a few rides a second time.

Earlier in the day we went on this ride, which takes you up to the top of a "tree" and drops you back down. As soon as we got off and for the entire rest of the day, my four kids were begging to go back. It was unanimously declared their favorite of the day.
So we made time for it again at the end, and they were overjoyed. (Though Nathan, next to me and not in our group, was much less than thrilled with the ride, for his part.)

I went in with four uninjured kids, came out with the same four uninjured kids, so that alone makes it count as a successful field trip as far as I'm concerned! As a bonus, we all had a great time, and the kids went easy on me.