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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Internment and Deportation Museum

With my friend who was visiting this week, we decided to check out the relatively new (opened in 2008) Internment and Deportation Museum in Compiegne. The Royallieu camp was an internment camp for political prisoners and Jews during World War II. It was a relatively open camp where the prisoners went to work in town every day. The Red Cross was also permitted to visit the prisoners. But some were shot, and eventually 50,000 were deported to concentration camps in Germany.

This is what the camp looked like at the time. There are three barracks left today, two of which are currently open to be visited. The rest of the land has been used for residential housing and a private hospital.

Internees organized schooling inside the camp. Some of their notes were on display. We also saw the tunnel via which several internees managed to escape.

One of the internees, an artist, left behind some images of life in the camps.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Last Gymnastics Meet of the Year

The last swim meet was closely followed by the last gymnastics meet. Benjamin got to play spectator again. And what a good-looking one he is, too!

Noah has improved by leaps and bounds this year in gymnastics. He came in fourth out of nine kids, and got the highest score of any of them on the horse.

Here's a video of his floor routine, horse, and parallel bars.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Final Club Swim Meet of the Year

Benjamin had to sit this one out due to his still-healing arm, so Noah got all the attention to himself, which is always fine with him.  
Since we have a pretty small club, it turned out that Noah was the only boy in his age group, so it wasn't a surprise when he came in first out of one. He did a great job, and participated in the relay race at the end, too.

Monday, June 15, 2015


We invited some of Frédéric's cousins for lunch. It had been a while since we'd seen everyone.
After lunch, when one of our younger cousins broke out her books to study for her bac de français, Noah did not intend to be left out of the fun, and went to find his schoolwork, too.
 Benjamin was particularly solicitous with his 2-year-old cousin. He played with her and helped her on the swing and the slide. Such a nice boy!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

End of year school show

The preschool through fifth grade had their end of year school show yesterday. The preschoolers sang a few songs for us. Noah's CP/CE1 class (1st & 2nd grade) did a skit in English (!) based on Eric Carle's Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? and an African-style song. Benjamin's CE2/CM1/CM2 class (3rd, 4th, & 5th grade) did "acrosport," which is static figures using two or more people (a human pyramid is one example).

Since Benjamin couldn't participate, thanks to his recently broken arm, he and another boy, who also injured himself, were the MCs. They called the names of the participants for each figure.

On our way home across the cow path, we stopped for some pictures of boys and poppies. I love our countryside!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Country market

After the Memorial Day ceremony, we accompanied our friends to a country market at Marigny-sur-Orxois. It seemed to be the place to be, given the crowds! They sold all kinds of things, but the cheeses are the most fun for pictures. Particularly these traditional ones, at left, on straw mats. The ones on the right are newer sheeps' milk cheeses.

One might say that these cheeses have seen better days, but the French appreciate them more in their old age.

As we were leaving, we saw this sign for the town "Ecoute s'il pleut." (Go see - literally, "listen" - if it's raining.) Wikipedia says this is an old/rare expression which means one of several things:
  1. A weak man, who is stopped by the smallest obstacles.
  2. A false promise, poor defeat, or very uncertain hope.
  3. A mill which only functions when the water where it is located is sufficiently high due to rain, or fed by locks.
So that is your French lesson for today. You're welcome!