Monday, August 19, 2013


In the eight years (!) we've had the condo, this was our first time to go to the resort during the summer season. Normally we go either in winter, or in the off-season (June or November), just to check up on things. But since we really, really didn't want to drive the whole way back from vacation with the rest of France on a Saturday, we drove to the mountains instead. Much less traffic. And more fun!

We let the boys do a ropes course. Noah was a little disappointed to not get to do the "real" course, but you had to be six years old to do it. Next year! As you can see, Benjamin was thrilled to do the "real" course, with the harness and all. He did a great job, and fortunately didn't fall from fifteen or twenty feet up the couple of times he forgot the cardinal rule of not unhooking both carabiners at once.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

You know it's vacation when... get ice cream for breakfast. Hey, we had to clean out the freezer before we left, right? They didn't complain too much.

Clean energy vs "clean" energy... these lovelies were only a few km from our vacation rental. Perhaps we should have checked with the pharmacy first thing to get our iodine pills. Just in case.

So, vacation in the south was over, and we left for the mountains. One day, we will go take an actual picture of this castle instead of just a from-the-car-picture.

A rare, rare, rare moment, (though quite frequent if one believes the parental mythology which I will tell you about in a few more years): the boys getting along for long enough to play Uno.

And a nice rainbow to make up for the rain the evening of the day we arrived.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"Colorado Provençal" and Gordes

Friday we decided to visit the ochre quarries, in what they call "Colorado Provençal," near the town of Rustrel. We had no idea they had landscapes like this in France! We took an easy hour-long walk in the area (showing us how sorely out of shape we really are, yikes). Noah was of course covered in red by the end of our walk.

After a picnic at Rustrel (in the car, as the picnic tables were all bee-infested, boo), we decided to stop by the hilltop town of Gordes on our way back. There were plenty of other tourists there, but far fewer than in Les Baux de Provence.

And we made one last quick stop on the way back to the house, where I braved all sorts of prickly weeds to capture the courage of this lone sunflower making its last stand.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Flea Markets, Sunflowers, Villages

The previous day, we drove by many signs proclaiming there would be a "Belle Brocante" in a town not too far from where we were staying. Never ones to turn up our noses at a brocante, we thought we'd go check it out.

Well... turns out that "belles brocantes" are quite out of our price range, as they are antique flea markets, as opposed to "people getting rid of their old stuff" flea markets. But we got to see lots of beautiful things we couldn't afford.

Found some cute kids at the flea market.

In Provence, even the mailboxes are pretty.

On the way back, we fulfilled my mission for our vacation. We found a sunflower field for family pictures.

In the afternoon, Rose Mary and I went out to see the nearby village of Mornas while the husbands and kids hung out around the pool.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Les Baux de Provence

Wednesday, we visited Les Baux de Provence, an ancient hilltop village. As far as number of tourists and difficulty parking, Les Baux reminded us of Carcassonne and Mont St Michel. We think it might be a nice place to visit in the off season.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Tuesday, we went to Avignon, famous for its bridge ("le pont d'Avignon"), and the "Palais des Papes," the papal palace during the Papal Schism.

Turns out its also currently the home of a store that specializes in toilet paper accessories (no, really!).

And that it's incredibly touristy and hard to park in during August.

On our way back, we stopped for a picnic at a small church we found.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let the vacation begin!

True vacation began on Monday, when we started the day with a local market. (And of course the kids all ended up posing together for a photo right in front of this naked statue - we wouldn't be in Europe otherwise, would we?

Then we spent all afternoon in the pool! Benjamin practiced a little, since he plans to join the competitive swim team this fall, and Noah made amazing progress after having had only fifteen lessons last spring, so we're debating signing him up for another round of lessons this fall. He'll get to go swimming with school this year, like Benjamin, but not until February.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Marseille & Allauch

Sunday, we took advantage of being (relatively) near to Marseille, and attended church there. After services, our friends Philippe & Dolores Dauner took us on a picnic in Allauch, a town that is about 30 minutes away from Marseille and has a great view on the city.

After lunch, we enjoyed ice cream on the terrace of a local shop. We had a great time catching up with them, and seeing our other friends at church. We hope that some of them may stop through and see us in September when they are up our way.

We didn't walk all the way up to the church this time (the last time I did that was in 1996!) because Frédéric is still having trouble with his knee after an injury at work in June.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Traffic in France in August

Saturday afternoon we drove from Lyon to Mondragon, where we were spending a week with our friends. This is what driving on a Saturday in August typically looks like on the highway. Most vacation rentals run Saturday to Saturday, so most vacationers don't have a lot of choice as to which day they will hit the road.

We were just glad that we didn't drive the entire way Saturday.

The helpful highway signs let you know what type of traffic jam you are in for, except they are not always quite up to date with the latest information.

I particularly like the triangle sign filled with cars.

We had lots of nice scenery to take our mind off of the traffic jams, though, between the mountains, the rivers, and the sunflower fields.

Le Parc de la Tête d'Or

We drove partway to our vacation spot on Friday, hoping to avoid some of the terrible traffic jams that go along with Saturday travel in August in France. We stopped overnight in Lyon, and on the recommendation of Benjamin's friend's mom, we visited the Parc de la Tête d'Or ("The Park of the Golden Head" - not sure offhand what this refers to...). It was beautiful, and unfortunately we didn't allow as much time for it as it deserved.

There was even a free zoo inside (and lots of apparently illiterate and uneducated people who kept feeding the animals right in front of the "please don't feed the animals" signs).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tiny visitor

This very small guy hopped his way across the patio tonight.

Look at him standing up, so funny!