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French Families

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Because Carl was working in France, many of his colleagues invited us over to their homes to meet their families and share meals. These were some of my favorite moments in France because I got to see how they live, eat, and play. We had great conversations and the kids met some new friends (and so did we!).

This is Cyril’s wife and their guinea pig. Caleb adored this guinea pig. Check out the long hair on that thing! I loved going to Cyril’s home because he also spoke Spanish so we had quite the evening of speaking English, French and Spanish.

At Cyril's home near Bourges

Eva loved the guinea pig, too, but she spent most of the time with their youngest daughter out on the swing set.

At Cyril's home near Bourges

One afternoon was spent at the home of a family we met at church. Here is a picture of my kids with the youngest of their six (only 2 left at home).

At the raveau's home near Bourges

We ate paella and then went for a 4K walk around their village. They live in a small village that doesn’t have any commerce. It is all residential. Basically there are several buildings surrounding a church and then some small farm houses around the way. They live right across the street from the church in a house that used to be a restaurant. On our walk we saw a lot of animals and ate wild strawberries from the side of the road. It was such a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

One day during our last week in Bourges, we went to a colleague’s home and had lunch. His name is Pierre and his wife, Pamela, is from Pennsylvania. Their teenage daughters spoke wonderful English and kept the kids engaged. Unfortunately, I took no pictures while we were there. We were having such a good time, it didn’t occur to me. We ate a wonderful pork loin, salad, cheese course, and a cherry custard dessert that was really yummy.

One evening we celebrated the birthday of Manot (the daughter of one of Carl’s colleagues) at the Bourges Fair. That night will get a post of its own, but here is a picture of Manot and her brother, Matthieu, on the bumper cars.

Bourges fair

We made some great friends and if I ever go back there to visit, they will be the reason we do.

Lazy Days

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We spent a lot of days in France just messing around. One afternoon we went bowling.

Bowling

The bowling alley there was really high tech and nice. They put in our names at the front desk and the bumpers came up automatically whenever it was Caleb or Eva’s turn. Pretty sweet. They also had these really need sliding drawers that they pushed out for us to put our shoes inside. When we brought the bowling shoes back, they pushed the drawer out again and we could take our street shoes out. Slick.

There was also some pretty awesome music playing and the kids couldn’t help but dance.

Bowling

They projected music videos on the wall right next to our lane. It was quite the afternoon of bowling and dancing! Once it became apparent that Caleb wasn’t going to win, I was glad we were the only ones in the place. We had a bit of a meltdown and I had to apologize profusely for my mad bowling skillz. I told him I had years and years of practice (I’m really not that great of a bowler– I just barely won). He wasn’t too happy about that but we survived.

We also went to the lake a few times. It was kind of far away from our apartment (too far to walk) so Carl would drop us off on his way to work and pick us up for lunch. We would play and the kids went down to the pier with the manny to stick their feet in the water (I stayed back at our shady spot to stay with all of our stuff–and enjoy the alone time).

Lake d'auron

Some afternoons were spent in the apartment drawing pictures or watching TV. Eva was kind of a TV junkie. She watched all sorts of things even though she had no idea what they were saying. Her favorite thing to watch was MacGyver. She loves watching that at home, too, so most of the episodes she knew what was going on.

French macgyver

Whenever the theme song would play she would dance around and be so happy. One day we were leaving a beautiful medieval city that we were visiting and we were all reflecting on the day. All Eva had to say was, “I hope we didn’t miss MacGyver!”. That kid.

Speaking of that kid, check out her new swim goggles. She insisted on wearing them home from the store and she kept looking at herself in every window we passed.

Eva's new goggles

Hot stuff.

Food

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One of my biggest regrets on this trip is that we haven’t been eating that well. By well, I mean French. Caleb is pretty sensitive to smells and can’t tolerate waiting for any amount of time so going to restaurants is a pretty intense affair. We’ve avoided it as much as we can. That means I cook a lot in our TEENY TINY kitchen and we’re eating very similar to how we eat at home. We have spaghetti, sandwiches, couscous, chicken, and we kept our regular pizza night (Domino’s is cheap on Tuesdays). As much as I’d love to immerse myself into the food culture of France, I’d love to keep Caleb as meltdown free as possible. We cope.

There have been some opportunities to eat new things. In my last post I said I didn’t take a picture of the best pizza ever. Apparently, I did. It was hiding in my camera roll. Behold: La Pizza Taglatiere.

Some food

Eggs, potatoes, many kinds of cheeses, onions, and bacon are on this bad boy. It was so yummy.

We’ve been partaking of plenty of desserts. This particular tart was so darn delicious. All of the strawberries were perfectly ripe and sweet. We bought this one to celebrate Father’s Day. I forgot to take pictures until we got down to the last few pieces.

Some food

You might notice the blurred fork at the top of the image. Carl was going in for more!

This week we spent two evenings at the fair so we got to have some food there. It was pretty typical fair food. The kids got hamburgers and fries. I got a kebab. It’s really a gyro but that’s what they call them here. You get to pick from a ton of different sauces. My favorite is the pepper sauce.

Some food

The next evening at the fair I had churros for dinner. That’s one of the benefits of being a grown-up, right? If I want churros for dinner, that’s what I have!

Some food

I also had to try some cotton candy (shared with the kids) because they had a bunch of different flavors and I had to try it. I got cola flavored cotton candy. It wasn’t too impressive. It mostly tasted like regular cotton candy with a hint of cola.

Some food

We ate at a restaurant last weekend when we were out and about but I didn’t get any pictures of the food there. The kids had burgers and fries (so typical) and I had a steak brochette with pepper sauce. It was good but Carl’s dinner looked better. He got a burger on a gallete (potato pancake) topped with an egg, cheese, and some other good stuff.

We’ve been eating at some friend’s houses as well. It has been really great. A couple of Carl’s colleagues have invited us over and one family from church. We’ve enjoyed the meals there and they’ve been very gracious even when Caleb isn’t able to filter his feelings about the food (we warned them ahead of time). The man Carl shares an office with here is married to an American and they have 3 teenage daughters. They all speak great English and they have a piano and a wii and a dress up toybox and they fixed the kids hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies so that was by far their favorite place to go. We enjoyed it, too. We got to have grown-up food: Pork loin, tomato salad, potatoes, radishes (one of the daughters taught me to eat them by dipping one end in butter and then salt and then putting the whole thing in your mouth–yum), and a cherry custard dessert. I’ve also grown quite accustomed to the cheese plate that comes out after the main dish. I’ve tried some really great cheese!

TIP: Blue cheese is not my favorite but at one of the homes, the husband explained to me that if you eat the cheese with a little bit of butter, the fat helps bring out the full flavor of the cheese and minimizes the “blueness” that most people don’t like. It worked like a charm and I even bought a bit of blue cheese to have at our apartment!

This weekend we plan on going to another restaurant and next week we’ll be back in Paris without a kitchenette so we’ll probably eat out some more (but probably fast food like Patapain or a creperie).

The restaurant down the street has about 8 choices of carpaccio and a ton of brochettes including one with veal kidneys. Don’t know what I’ll be up for trying there.

Chambord

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Chambord

This chateau is in the middle of a protected wildlife preserve. It was mainly built as a hunting lodge for King Francois I. You know, because this is what kings build to keep them comfortable while hunting.

It is the largest in the Loire valley and while we didn’t go inside (Carl has been in once before and said the decorations were sparse and the real beauty was on the outside), we made the most of our trip. As mentioned in a previous post, Eva wanted to ride on a boat.

Chambord

Here we all are in a rowboat. Eva was rowing at this point although we all took turns along the way. There is a little canal surrounding the chateau and you can either rent rowboats or small motor boats. We decided to row–more authentic and “romantic”. Caleb cried anytime a motor boat passed us so it might not have been the best choice. We made it, though.

Chambord

There’s our view from the boat.

We weren’t allowed to go under the bridge in the next picture but I sure thought it looked pretty.
Chambord

I love the roof of this chateau. It is like a mini-skyline because it is full of different sizes of towers and chimneys.

Chambord

They say (the brochure) that Da Vinci may have had some influence on the design of the roof and the double helix staircase inside. This chateau was also used as inspiration for the Beast’s castle in the Disney movie.

All of the pictures so far have been of the back of the chateau. This is the front.

Chambord

Not as impressive. Once we saw the front we decided it was time for some ice cream. We tried to eat dinner there but it was almost closing time and they were out of most of the food. So, dessert first again!

Chambord

After we left we went to a little town and stopped at a small cafe. They had a buffet and pizzas. We opted for pizza for Caleb’s sake. Him and Eva shared a cheese pizza and Carl and I shared the best pizza we’ve ever had. It had a nice rustic crust and it was topped with several types of cheese (including a French goat cheese), potatoes, onions, and fried eggs. I wish I had taken a picture but we were too busy eating the deliciousness that I forgot. After that, we made the drive back to Bourges. I have no idea how long it took because I fell asleep. By the time we were all in bed it was well past 10pm and it was a very memorable day!

The Chateau Royale in Blois

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I’m skipping a bit ahead in our timeline of the Saturday from Father’s Day weekend. We had a stop at Le Clos Luce but Caleb and I didn’t go inside (he told us through his actions that he would rather stay in the car). I stayed with him since Carl was really the one that wanted to see all the Da Vinci stuff. So, before I blog that, I want him to tell me all about the pictures he took inside.

We drove from there up to Blois to see the chateau there. It was really just a convenient stop between Amboise and Chambord (our final destination for the day). Caleb was asleep in the car so Carl stayed in the car with him and Eva and I went out to see the place. We didn’t pay to go inside so we got horrible pictures and then we went into the gift shop and bought some coloring books.

Chateau royale in blois

We were pretty happy to be on our own for a few minutes!

Chateau royale in blois

This chateau is up on the hill overlooking the town and this is one of the main squares. The entrance underneath the horse statue is where you go into the chateau.

Chateau royale in blois

And here is my stealth picture through the gate. The staircase is really the highlight (according to the brochures).

Chateau royale in blois

I took this picture to show Caleb. He loves porcupines and this was the animal featured all around the chateau.

Chateau royale in blois

We only spent about 20 minutes here so we could get to Chambord in time before it closed. We had a mission. Eva wanted to ride on a boat and we promised her we would make that happen.

Ancient Rome in France

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Around 50 BC, Bourges was a town called Avaricum and Julius Ceasar’s forces came to destroy the town. They killed almost everyone and built up a Roman city with fortified walls, aqueducts, and a big ampitheatre. You can still see bits and pieces of that old history around town. Many of the villages around here have old Roman influences and when you’re just driving along you can see the coolest things.

Driving in the Loire valley

I don’t even remember where we were when I snapped this but it was somewhere near Blois.

Carl also made me take a picture of the road so he could show it to his students. He was just going on and on about how dangerous the roads were because there were no guard rails and just a few feet away from the shoulder of the road, it dropped down into the river.

Driving in the Loire valley

Some of the most interesting things we’ve seen on this trip are things we see in little villages along the way to other destinations and it is a shame I’m not able to capture them in photographs. Some of my favorites were the houses built into the hills on the way to Chenonceau. Hey, check it out. I found a link to a Smithsonian magazine gallery of some of those houses.

I used to wonder if people around here know how awesome it is to live among all this cool stuff. Now that I’ve been here a month, I can see how they might take it for granted. At the beginning of our trip, a walk to the store was full of discovery and fun. Now, it’s just a walk to the store by old buildings and I’m mad at the cobblestones for making me turn my ankles all the time. It’s a shame, really.

Chenonceau

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Just over a week ago we left early in the morning to go and see as many chateaus as we could in the Loire valley. The main one I wanted to see was Chenonceau so we made sure to go there first and then work our way back. I took quite a few pictures there and it was early enough in the day that the kids were actually pretty happy to be there.

Chenonceau grounds

Before we went in the grounds it was almost lunch so we decided to have a picnic. They covered all their bases to make sure so many people could know that this was the place to picnic.

Chenonceau picnic and garden maze

The kids and I were goofing around a bit. There wasn’t a sign designating a certain spot for that, so we just hung out by the river.

Chenonceau picnic and garden maze

Catherine de Medici was one of the women that lived at Chenonceau back in the day and she made this really cool maze with the hedges. These aren’t the actual hedges from her time, but the maze design is her own. The kids had a blast running around in there.

Chenonceau picnic and garden maze

I was the last one to get to the middle. Caleb was rubbing it in by drawing in his notebook while waiting for me. Stinker.

Chenonceau picnic and garden maze

Here is the front view of the chateau. It doesn’t look that big, and for a chateau, it really isn’t. When you see the side view and all of the length of it over the river, it adds some expanse but most of that is just a big hallway. The living space is actually quite modest.

Chenonceau grounds

The gardens are absolutely gorgeous and well kept. There are nice walkways around the edge of the river that give some spectacular views of the chateau.
Chenonceau grounds

Chenonceau grounds

The kids had a good time running around for a little bit before we had to get back in the car.

The inside of Chenonceau was nice. Having been to Versailles, it’s hard to compare the luxury found there to any other chateau I’ve ever seen. At Chenonceau, I was most impressed with the kitchen and pantry. I took a ton of pictures down there. Here are a few.

Chenonceau inside

Chenonceau inside

Chenonceau inside

Chenonceau inside

Chenonceau inside

As you can tell, I got a little carried away taking pictures in the kitchen.

Eva wanted me to take her picture here in the chapel by the trap door. I don’t really know what the door is for or where it leads to but we’ve seen similar doors in many of the churches around here.

Chenonceau inside

I can see how having your own chapel in your house could be pretty nice. No need to travel anywhere for church!
Chenonceau inside

There was a nice balcony on the second floor where Eva and I stood and pretended to be the princesses.

Chenonceau grounds

I took this next picture looking down on where Carl and Caleb were waiting (Caleb said the castle smelled funny so he wouldn’t go inside).

Chenonceau grounds

When Carl went inside to take a look at the chapel and I was sitting on that bench, a bird pooped on my face. That was the highlight of the trip for Caleb and Eva. A lady nearby said that it was good luck to have a bird poop on you. I told her that is just something people made up to say to people that have bird poop on them because their day couldn’t get any worse. It actually wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me that day. I was glad to have provided a bit of comic relief for the kids and I was grateful it wasn’t in my hair or on my clothes.

We left Chenonceau happy and ready to drive up to Amboise to check out the Leonardo Da Vinci museum. That will have to be another post for another day.

The Cathedral

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On Friday mornings our apartment gets cleaned and we have to be out of there for about 2 hours. It’s pretty early by French standards so not a lot is open for us to do. Last Friday we decided to go inside the Bourges Cathedral. I’d seen plenty of the outside by now but the kids haven’t really been calm enough for us to dare enter. Plus, the manny works there and he’s been worried his boss will get mad if Caleb is in there being loud. Caleb ended up being pretty good! I didn’t get much of a tour because I had to keep reminding Caleb not to sing (the echoes in there are amazing!).

Cathedral saint Etienne

There you can see Eva and the manny and you can get an idea of how massively tall it is in there.

Cathedral saint Etienne

This is the old clock tower (now inside) and it has a very accurate clock on the bottom that after hundreds of years, when it was matched with the atomic clock, it was only 2 seconds off.

Here’s another shot of the inside from the back looking towards the front.

Cathedral saint Etienne

Each of the little chapels have beautiful stained glass depicting a scene from the Bible or one of the saints. One of them dates back to the 12th century. We especially liked the one of Saint Denis who got his head chopped off in Montmartre and then he carried it around for a while.

Cathedral saint Etienne

Caleb danced in there. Our family has been dancing all over this town.

Cathedral saint Etienne

I want to go 1-2 more times (preferably without the kids) to get a better idea of what’s inside. I didn’t have a chance to see all of the hearts and pelicans or get a good look at the rose line that runs through it. I guess I have one more week to make that happen.

Cathedral saint Etienne

French Artists

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Drawing class

My kids have always been the type to draw a lot of pictures but here they have taken it to another level. I’m sure the lack of tv and video games have something to do with that. Anyway, I introduced Eva to a youtube channel that teaches you how to draw stuff. In the picture above, she’s drawing a chameleon. I also like how there is a little bit of paper stuck in her hair.

Drawing people and cutting them out is Caleb’s thing. He does that a lot at home, too. In Belgium they took away all of my tiny scissors that I keep in my knitting bags. Even though they passed inspection in the US, the Belgians were too afraid that this middle-aged knitter was going to assault someone with her scissors. If they were really concerned about safety, they shouldn’t be letting men on wearing neckties. You can do a lot of damage with those. Back to the scissors…I had to buy another pair so Caleb and Eva could cut out their drawings. As a result, there are tiny bits of paper all over the apartment (and Eva’s hair).

Drawing and coloring

Caleb has drawn every single Mario Kart character and all of their carts and bikes. He has also drawn every single dancer from Just Dance 3. Eva has been focusing on drawing people she knows. I’ve heard her more than once ask where Millie and Wilson were and for us not to step on Abel.

I’ve also gotten in on the act. I’m not the greatest at drawing but I’m pretty good at coloring. I found this book at the local supermarket and at the time I realized I could really use some anti-stress art therapy so I bought it.
Drawing and coloring

Here are my first few pages. Not all of the pages are so complex but I really love the designs in the book. This one took me a few hours to finish.
Drawing and coloring

“Luckily”, I don’t get to go out much so I have a lot of time to work on things like this. Eva and the manny go on outings and I stick around here with Caleb because he isn’t a fan of leaving the apartment and human interaction. C’est la vie.

Swimming

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We’ve designated Wednesdays as our swimming day. That’s when the pool is open the longest because the kids here are still in school so they have reduced hours. We were a bit disappointed to find out our manny doesn’t swim. We made him go anyway and even if you go in and don’t swim you have to put on a swimsuit.

Swimming at gibjoncs

Poor guy. I would have taken a picture of him but let me just say, in France, you aren’t allowed to wear swim trunks in the pools. You have to wear a speedo or other type of tight swim shorts. I’ve seen more of our manny (and every other man at the pool) than I bargained for.

Swimming at gibjoncs

Swimming was really fun. It is an indoor pool with a retractable roof. One side of the pool is a brick wall but the other sides are big windows and sliding doors. It was nice to feel like we were outdoors but not get sunburned. I’m looking forward to going back again this week.

Eva made some friends at the pool. They were entranced by her because she spoke English. They all asked her simple questions and treated her like a princess. It was quite funny for me to watch but they all had a great time. I hope they are there again next Wednesday because they wore that little girl out with all the playing and fun.

Sleepy Eva