Monthly Archives: August 2014

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wind-down

We’re usually the ones who take-off on holiday on the evening of the last day of work, or at crack of dawn, next morning, but this time we are taking an entire leisurely Saturday to pack and potter around. A much more relaxing start to a holiday.

We have three weeks and first stop is Switzerland. This time tomorrow, all going well, we’ll roll into Geneva, kids fresh from a very long nap. What shall we see? I guess I’ve got some reading to do. There’s a lake, definitely, and mountains, it being Switzerland. Fortunately, most of the five hours-or-so drive is within France, and I can hot-spot the 3G on my phone and use my ipad in the car to google things. Ah, the joys.

The next stop on our trip is properly in the Swiss Alps, and then we head down into Italy, where we will chill out by a lake for a few days. From there we will stop off at Milan, Padova and Venice before heading north to Salzburg.

I make no promises but there might be a blogpost from Salzburg. I’m glad we are going back to Italy; it was pretty awesome last summer. I suspect we’ll need warmer clothes this time, as we are basically lapping the alps – which gives a rough idea of our complete route.

Fewer days are set aside for dedicated lazing about, than last summer, but we will be seeing all sorts of stuff in five different countries. And we’re driving which gives us a bit of freedom – and I’m not gonna lie, air conditioning is nice. Public transport in Italy in August… steamy.

I’m glad we didn’t rush off first thing today. I’ve had the kids home with me all week. We’ve cleaned out the perishable foodstuffs and stayed on top of the laundry but packing didn’t happen till today.

What did we do? Well, there were three markedly different huts – not bad for our cozy wee living room.

inside the first hut

Inside the first hut, a picnic for the toys.

hut number three

The third hut, before the friends arrived. They had a real picnic lunch in there.

On discovering the ludotheque was closed for the week, we took advantage of good weather (which didn’t last, I’m sorry to say) and visited a different park to usual, at the other end of Antony.

exploring the distant playgrounds

The distant park – which still has sand!

the favourite playground

And we went back to our usual haunt – the kids’ favourite park in town.

working on the cycling skills

And when the rain came and went we dashed out to the closest park, and Elena biked!

We ate our breakfast one morning by the fish pond.

breakfast by the fishpond

Mmm, fresh pastry and ominous skies.

fishes!

But the fish were out and the weather waited a little while.

Another day, we stopped in at Louis’ favourite cafe, for hot chocolates.

chocolat tiede

Or rather, ‘chocolat tiede’, so that it’s cool enough to drink.

menu angst

And the kids had more fun with the menu than the tiny waffles.

There was a little down-time each day, while they napped. I’ve been trying to make all the broad-strokes edits to my manuscript, according to some horribly wonderfully insightful questions and suggestions from an editor. Meanwhile, Luuk has had a FULL ON week at work, and had left-over work to do every night. Needless to say, we were in no shape to pack and go first thing today.

And I finished my major-edits about an hour ago. Hurrah!

And margaritas! Had to use up the limes, of course.

Occurs to me now that there are clothes in the machine, clean and wet and not getting dry enough to pack. So much for being on top of the laundry.


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busy somethings and busy nothings

We had a mad couple of weeks, and then things calmed down and the quiet is a different kind of mad.

First, the mad weeks – the busy doing something bit. A kiwi friend came to town and so I played tour guide, which I love. We walked our feet off. The first day we went to Versailles and (finally) saw the Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s wee (not actually tiny) village.

too early for the trianon

The Trianon doesn’t open till midday – consider yourselves warned – so we wandered around the lake and took in another angle on the palace and gardens before we went into the Trianon.

the grand trianonThe grand trianon was like a summer house, a cottage if you will. But giant.

the petit trianonAnd then there’s the petit trianon, which is small, I suppose, but set among vast gardens.

marie antoinette's farm

And beyond that is the village that Marie Antoinette had made, so that she could experience authentic french village life… yep.

exploring marie antoinette's village at versailles

Me and Elena at the little village.

The kids were exhausted long before we were done. That place is huge. It’s beside Versailles, so the very concept of huge is seriously warped.

music and fountains

Luuk took the kids home, after a fortifying ice cream, and my friend and I continued on to the palace. The fountains in the gardens were all going, and some even had music playing, so it was quite spectacular. Transporting, really. It is hard to imagine the opulence of life in this place when it was a palace.

On Monday, we went to Paris but our tired feet kept us from going far – just a lap around Notre Dame and a little of the little Ile St Louis. We stopped in at Shakespeare and Company and then had some lunch.

worn out in Paris

Elena slept through lunch.

And then we headed back to Antony in time to drop the little lady off at halte garderie.

Tuesday we were amped and organised and showed up at the Louvre just after it opened… except it didn’t open because it never does on Tuesdays. Quick change of plan, which was nervous-making given I’d forgotten my phone. Its handy-dandy maps of Paris and GPS functions are good at times like these. We winged it and found our way to Sacre Coeur, then the Amelie Cafe and the Moulin Rouge.

creme brulee at Les Deux Moulins

Creme Brulee at Les Deux Moulins

After all that traipsing about, I left my friend to find the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower by herself and took Elena to halte garderie. I took the afternoon off.

In the evening, we went to see La Belle et la Bete – Beauty and the Beast. It was brilliant. It was in French. But there’s not a lot of subtlety in musical theatre and we picked up most of the jokes.

la belle et la bete

The staging, the costumes, the music, was all brilliantly done – lavish and hilarious and even a little bit moving – when chip, the little boy who’s been trapped in a tea-cup, gets to be human again – aw. And the feast – ah! – the plates and napkins and cutlery all prancing about. The plates lit up. There were streamers shot into the audience. If you’re in Paris, and you can stretch for it – so worth seeing.

Wednesday, my friend went to the Louvre, and Louis and I hung out at the ludotheque while Elena was at halte garderie, so that was nice and chilled-out for the morning. On Thursday we stayed in Antony and went to the market. We met up with a friend of mine in the morning and another came over in the afternoon. The first was about to head off on holiday, the second was about to head off for good. It’s an expat thing, and it sucks, but it’s also very predictable. You make these friends knowing you’re only going to live in the same place for a few months or years. This particular friend is a writer and a great babysitter, so she will definitely be missed!

The next day our visitor left and the kids and I had a lazy day. Lazy was also the plan for Saturday, but it was gorgeous weather and while I’d got plenty of exercise, walking around Paris during the week, Luuk has a desk job – so it was bike ride time! We went up the hill to the coulee vert and discovered a new play ground. We came back to rest our tired muscles and then heard from Kiwi friends who used to live in Paris, but have been in Lille for a year now. They were in town, just for the night, and so we biked up the hill again to catch up with them.

Well after the kids’ bedtime, we biked back, and got home only to discover that Luuk had forgotten his back pack. So he did the hill three times on Saturday. Sunday, we felt quite a lot of sympathy for the tour de france cyclists. It was the final day of the tour and they came into Paris via a road that is only a short walk from our house.

ready for the tour de france

Waiting for the bikes.

So that was all the busy somethings. This week has been busy nothing. Halte Garderie is closed for the summer, and Elena and I are getting rather tired of each other. Louis still had the holiday program to go to, but I’ve not been well, just niggly things that mostly wear me out rather than make me feel sick. Getting out of the house and doing anything interesting with the kids has just seemed like a huge effort. Hopefully I’ll get better, get my energy back, because next week Louis isn’t going to the holiday program and I will have them both to myself, all day, every day.

To think, once upon a time I thought being a full-time mum and home-maker was right up my alley. Turns out, I have a very small capacity for playing with very small children. I run out of ideas, and patience, horribly fast. A few hours, a morning, is fine, but then I’m ready for some time to myself.

Two of them, together, can be great if they want to do the same thing, together, and happily. The playdoh colours are all mixed together, but hey, they’re happy. I can join in, then wander away and do some housework or a blog post, then peal the colours apart and put the playdoh away and organise lunch. It can be relaxed, but it tends to go that way for just a fraction of the day. And there tends to be rather too much television on.

‘George of the Jungle’ is the current favourite. I do an excellent jungle-man yell.