30 August 2014

Daytrip to Honfleur

One of the things we have been most looking forward to living in France is the access to to so many sights and treasures ... many just within a hour or two reach. With school starting up this next week, we thought we would take advantage of some time on Saturday to head out for a day-trip to the utterly enchanting village of Honfleur. Have you heard of it? It almost reminds me of a French version of Venice, with all the candy colors, shops, and tiny walkways. Like a grown-up playland.

It was breezy and a little drizzly out, but perhaps that made it a little less busy and touristy. (Even though we are tourists 100%, we like to pretend we are not.)

Honfleur was miraculously spared during the bombings of WWII and the port, half-timbered buildings, and even some of the moored boats look much like they would have in the 16th-18th century. It feels like a time-capsule.

The kids have been really open to seeing and trying new things (they all ate mussels today!).  I'm super proud of their perspectives on this adventure and marvel at the gift of being able to do this together. I know these child-rearing days will be gone in a blink and I am just trying to soak it all up. 

And did you notice? It's official. Peter is taller than me.

We began chatting with a German family at lunch today, after they apologized for some restless behavior from their toddler and preschooler. Naturally, we didn't mind a bit, but I realized ... we are now the family with "big kids." 

(Incidentally, French lunches are notoriously long. By the time we were done with our meal, we had all sorts of conversations with our lunch companions. We even had an invitation for a tour of Frankfurt, should we happen to make it to their home town. Maybe we will!)

Honfleur, being an ancient coastal village, has some wonderfully quirky character traits. For instance, the church was built out of wood by the local seamen and the interior naves look like upside down hulls of ships ... and if they were to turn upside down, they would float!

Everywhere one walks there is someone with their camera or even an easel and paintbrush. The lighting is beautiful and it's no wonder it was home to some of the original impressionist artists.

It can be a rather inspiring city!

*Is Honfleur your style, or are you more of a big city person? Do you approach one kind of city differently than another?

28 August 2014

Same Thing, Just a Little Different

Today I was rifling about looking for some paperclips to unite bundles of school registration paperwork (seems like staples are frowned up on here ...), when I hit jackpot and came up on a string of them in the back of a desk drawer. Isn't the slightly varied shape fun? Which shape would you prefer? Standard (American) issue oval within an oval or these steepled paperclips?

It's funny how it is continually surprising to find new versions of the same thing. For instance, I've been very delighted that we have a washing machine and dryer here, but boy that dryer gives me fits. I just can't figure it out. I haven't been overly concerned, as I knew I would be air drying as much as possible to save on electricity bills. So I basically have been using it as a 10-minute fluff-cycle for my towels (Air-dried towel commiseration, anyone? So crunchy!). But today, during a fluffing session, the machine started cursing me and telling me I needed to "vider réservoir." So, turns out that the dryer has a tank that fills up with water/moisture and when it gets too full, you have to empty it. On the dryer! Did you know about this phenomenon in the laundering world?

Same thing, just a little different.

26 August 2014

How to Embarrass Oneself and Still Earn a High-Five

Today we went to the market in the town just outside our little village. A town with about 15,000 people that houses our grocery store, library, bank, shops and school for the children. It takes us about 15 minutes to drive in and it's such a gorgeous drive that the time passes very quickly. And some of the tiny villages we pass through on our way just about take my breath away with their charm. Sometimes I feel like I am existing in a movie set ...

And like any movie set community in Northern France, you must have an open-air farmers market right outside a stunning 16th century church. (Year-round, 2-3 times a week.) I wanted so dearly to take some photos, but I felt a bit sheepish about it. This is regular life, not a tourist experience, for these locals! Perhaps later I'll find a way to take some covert photos, but for now you'll have to trust me ... it was idyllic.

In my mind I picture myself strolling through the vendors trilling my orders in gorgeous French and chatting with the vendors as if we are decades-old comrades ... but the reality is that the dialog in my head drastically exceeds my abilities and my whole body shuts down in a frightened stupor. Suddenly, I don't know my name or who my children are much less how to ask if the whole loaf of bread costs 1euro15 or just part of it. So instead, I point and grunt and laugh manically as if to express, "Oh dear, isn't this funny, I can't even ask a proper question about bread." But the vendor looks at me quizzically and perhaps sympathetically, as he surely wonders how this woman has managed to stay alive and function for all of her years.

24 August 2014

The Outside Endeavor

Do you know why this girl is smiling? First of all, She and Pops built a tree swing. That is sure to bring a smile to most anyone, big or small.

But secondly, it's hanging from what will soon be ... a treehouse ...

You must head outside, naturally, and then take a right towards the back garden and head through these gates. You'll see hollyhocks and a grape arbor on the right and a gorgeous limbed tree straight ahead.

22 August 2014

La Petite Rose

While we were ruthlessly discerning in our packing, I had decided to allow myself the luxury of one small piece of beauty to remind me of home. When gifted this little vase from a dear friend (whose sister has a magical etsy shop), I knew it was perfect. Tiny, beautiful, practical. I love it.

The climbing roses outside our door are nearing the end of their blossoming, but still exquisitely gorgeous. And perfect to adorn my little-bit-of-home. I have a little leap of joy each time I pass by.

What are some simple things you do at home that bring a smile to your face?

21 August 2014

A Good Day

Oh, thank you for all of the comments and personal emails yesterday of bolstering encouragement. It really was a boost. I say I am writing this blog for friends, family and posterity ... but it may just be for a few pats on the back and "you can do it" cheers. Merci.

Miss Lucette took some photos today of our laundry gathering. We've been avoiding using the dryer to save on electric bills and with the weather still calm ... it's a rather pleasant experience to let the sun do all the work.

While we hope to do some exploring beyond our little village this weekend, we have so enjoyed just doing everyday life. It's some calm amidst the chaos.

Because things are never picture perfect. And that's okay. Sometimes you have to wrestle with a bathmat on its way down from the line. But the laundry still gets brought in and at the end of the day ... I am the boss of the bathmat.

Today we managed a trip to the bank (hurrah!) and tomorrow we have a morning meeting at school to square away the details (hurrah! hurrah!). Our liaison we found through our landlord, Caroline, has been acting as translator and all-things extraordinaire. Finding the best bank rates and wi-fi companies, setting up appointments, recommending the best place for pastries and haircuts. She's sharp as a tack and is covering some of the details we don't know to. Plus, as one might expect, she's got that French Femme savoir faire. Must remember to mine for tips.

But now the day is done, the laundry is in and the bathmat is in a subservient position on the floor. All in all, a good day.

20 August 2014

Inevitable Fails and Small Successes

I have been forcing myself to make small ventures into town each day. Both to get out of the house and to get used to it! I confess, the driving rules* and language and cultural differences make it rather intimidating. In someways, large cities are easier to be a foreigner ... because so many people are!

Today, we needed groceries (again), underpants, shoes for Jane, and pencil pouches. We have yet to complete our full school supply shopping (daunting), but apparently pencil pouches are expected. My kids weren't thrilled with the comic character pouches at the grocery and I had noticed a Librairie (bookstore) in the center of town next to a promising shoe store.  The Librairie had darling leather pouches of myriad electric colors (one for each child), plus needed post-it notes and the most darling cahiers. Cahiers being the French name for blank, lined notebooks. I'm certain I desperately need these for something.

19 August 2014

La Maison, La Cressonnière

To say we are enraptured with the maison we get to live in for the next year ... would be to phrase it lightly.

The place we call home has always been key to our family. A place to rest, to work, to laugh, to dwell. And after all of our months of preparations and day dreams ... we have been ready to be excited to be home.

We had the whole two-hour drive from Paris, in which to anticipate. But you know how it is. You try to measure your expectations, as sometimes unexpected hiccups and realities are just part of the drill. (Like when the rental car company goofs and you must perform luggage tetris to get all of your gear into a hatchback sedan. It seems okay and you just trust the children are still in the car by the muffled sounds they make, as you can't really see them anymore.) 

But when you turn into the drive, past the gate, and see it ...

15 August 2014

A Window to Paris

To be eight years old, gazing out from above ... upon the Parisian streets. I wonder what thoughts flit through her adaptable mind ...

13 August 2014

La Tour Eiffel + La Travel Tip

Guess where we went today? Paris is organized very well, but as Pops said, "It's huge." Since it took a fairly long metro ride from the 11th arr. to La Tour Eiffel, and we are already pretty tired, we decided a simple look about was all that was needed. 

After all, it's Paris. It's the Eiffel Tower! There is plenty to gawk at even if we kept our feet on the ground.

Travel tip for families? In this case, we will be in close proximity to Paris for awhile, so we truly can "see it next time." But even if your trip is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, if you are just too tired, or are contemplating doing/seeing something because you feel like you should, tell yourselves "We'll see it next time." Somehow repeating this phrase makes it feel okay to skip an otherwise fun thing.

It's just not worth burning yourselves out and dealing with a crew of cranky people over something that's optional. Trust me, there will be plenty of crank-inducing moments that will not be optional.

And truly, when it keeps the masses congenial ... the view from the bottom is every bit as good as the top.

How about you? Any good travel tips out there?

**PS-When we were in New York, men in flip flops everywhere. Paris? I haven't seen any male toes. Almost entirely clad in proper shoes and when in sandals, thick strappy kinds that keep those hairy man toes covered. I mentioned this to Pops. I don't think we've lived here long enough for him to care.

12 August 2014

To Arrive in France

 And we are here! If you rent a furnished house, this is what luggage for 5 people for 2 years in France looks like! I don't know if it looks like a lot or a little, but we were definitely the American hillbillies in Paris.

After a whirlwind tour of New York (more on that later), we survived a trip from NY to Reykjavik, Iceland and then on through to Paris. May I just say for a moment that IcelandAir is one of the most pleasant airlines I've flown? I dearly hope we can fly again and actually stay for a visit.

Our pre-arranged taxi picked us up at the airport promptly and took us directly to our darling little apartment in the 11th arrondissement. We have only explored a small bit, but there is something interesting at every turn.