This past year we have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know the Serrano-Milone family. There is Elias, Aurore, Maëlle, Gabrielle (Dada) and Joshua. They are a kind, wonderful family who live in Toulouse, about 3 hours north of us. We love them and we are hoping they will get to America in the next few years. We have had many weekends and short trips together. This past 8 days they came to stay with us in Sanilhac, except for Elias who came for the weekend and then met us at the beach on Wednesday. We all had so much fun together! Many hours were spent poolside, at the river, jumping cliffs, watching movies, playing card games, catching frogs and crabs, laughing and laughing for hours! Many tears were shed as we had to say goodbye! We feel so blessed and grateful to have met the Serrano-Milone’s! The kids all had control of the camera for 8 days and we have hundreds of photos so I have had to go through all the pictures and try to choose a few for my journaling.
Today we got up early and went to Marseille. We had plans to go to Château d’If. Château d’If is a fortress (later used as a prison) that was built in the late 1520’s to early 1530’s on the island of If. It is the smallest island of the Frioul archipalego about a mile off the coast of Marseille in the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandre Dumas made the Château famous in his popular novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. This is the reason for our wanting to see the Château d’If.
We were all in the car by 8:45am and made it to Marseille in less than 2 hours, quickly found a parking spot and headed to the Vieux Porte. We walked up to the ticket counter and posted on a white piece of paper that looked like it had just been torn out of a notebook, was a handwritten note, “No chateau d’if today”! Aaron lost his cool a little bit with the lady. Customer service does not exist in France. This woman could have kindly said, “We are so sorry for the inconvenience!” But instead, she just said, “No, it’s closed.” She didn’t give us an explanation, except that the wind was too strong.
French websites are terrible! No explanation needed. If you have experienced it, you know what I am talking about. I had checked the Château d’If website and there was nothing about weather conditions or a possible cancellation because of wind, etc. I looked at it in French and then I did the English version so I wouldn’t miss any important information. Clearly, there was nothing posted about closures. We were disappointed and irritated to say the least!
Well, what to do on a hot day in Marseille! We took the ferry boat to a different island, Frioul, and passed right by Château d’If. We walked around Frioul, had lunch and enjoyed the beautiful views. We did not pack any bathing suits or towels so none of us swam. It was a bummer because there were beautiful coves where people were swimming. Over all we made it into a fun day, but we were disappointed that we didn’t get to visit the famous Château d’If!
Marseille has a beautiful Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille. It is a church that sits atop a hill that overlooks all sides of Marseille. Aaron took me there on our honeymoon many years ago! It is beautiful!
This is the Old La Major Cathedral. I have never been inside, but it is an amazing site. It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral that seats the Archdiocese of Marseille.
AJ was the most disappointed in not being able to get to Château d’If. We still got pretty close, just at a distance!
After we arrived on Frioul we walked around a bit and then found a little restaurant for lunch. Alexis ordered a plate of petits poissons, little fish, thinking it would be a little sampling of a few pieces of fish. After she ordered it and asked the waiter a few questions about it I realized it was not what she was going to be expecting. She then ordered a salad but we kept the order of fish. The fish plate arrived and as we expected it was a huge mound of little deep fried whole fish. Alexis still ate a few, but AJ and Austin enjoyed most of them. Jack and Tristan both tried one but they could only eat the tail side, not the eyes!
While walking around Frioul we came upon a sculpture. It was a metal rhinoceros with a clear plastic box in its’ open stomach area. Inside the plastic box were books. It was a little library for those who would dock their boats and needed something to read. It was the coolest, yet oddest of ideas. I guess the oddity comes from the location.
We had a fun day in Marseille, even though it wasn’t what we had hoped to see and do!
Back in June 2009 our entire family was able to make our first trip to France! The little hamlet we stayed in is Vendras. At the time there were 61 residents of Vendras and now there are 100. We became friends with our neighbors, Michel and Lucette, and we have kept in touch with them the past 6 years. We all wanted to visit Vendras and see if we could see Michel and Lucette. Sunday afternoon we all loaded up and headed north about 18 km to Vendras. We arrived in the cute hamlet and noticed Lucette looking out her window. We had a lovely visit and they were so grateful we stopped by to see them. We reminisced about the first time Austin really discovered escargot along side Lucette. Austin was collecting the snails and Lucette gently reminded him they were for eating not playing.
Lucette was excited to meet Sophie! She was surprised at how much the children have grown. It was so delightful being with them!
Aaron, Austin and I had been inside their home a number of years ago and got to see the wild boar head mounted on the wall. The other kids got to see it and Michel told us he and his hunting group had caught 100 wild boar this past hunting season! They wanted to give us a little of the meat to take home but we were not going directly home and it was a hot day.
Michel was a miner by profession. He began mining at an early age. We learned this time that his grandfather had been a miner and they actually have his lamp he used in the mines back in the day. It was so cool!
The two summers we stayed in Vendras there was an older man who would sit on a bench at the entrance to the village. He had white hair and a long beard. He was deaf and would rarely wave to locals. He would sit on that bench for hours! We never found out his name but as the years have passed we have found ourselves wondering about the old man who would sit on the bench. Well, as we were getting ready to enter Vendras on Sunday I jokingly presented the question, “Do you think the old man is still sitting on the bench?” Oh my goodness! He was there!!!! But his long beard was shaved. Our jaws all dropped! We found out he has to have someone come into his home 2-3 times per week to help him stay clean. We were shocked he is still alive and still spends his days on that bench!
Château d’Allègre is a favorite family spot that we discovered 6 years ago. It is the remains of a fortress that housed 12 knights dating back to the 1100-1200’s. It sits high up on a hill and is open to anyone passing by! We spent the early evening there on Sunday. AJ had control of the camera and he did a pretty good job capturing the beauty of these remains.
Château d’Allègre is 20-25 km north of our house in Sanilhac. As you can see from a few of the photos, the fortress is right above a road and the Château is marked by a very small old sign. I love that one can be on a back country road and discover such beautiful things!
Mother’s Day in France was Sunday, May 31st. Jack and Sophie spent some “secret” time at school and at church creating beautiful gifts for me. It was a beautiful and simple day spent in France. We attended church where the primary, which consists of Joseph, Emma, Jack and Sophie, sang a Mother’s Day song. It was interesting because they did not sing during the sacrament service. They were allowed to sing after the closing prayer. Everyone stayed in their seats while the children walked up and sang and then the four children passed out flowers to all the mother’s in the congregation. All 4 children were so cute, especially Jack and Sophie! After church we headed to the Sea for a day of “rest”. It was very enjoyable!
Sunday, June 21st, was Father’s Day here in France. In years past, Father’s Day has fallen on a different day in France, so we were happy America and France were on the same page this year! Again, Jack and Sophie created handcrafted items for Aaron. They were so excited to give him their gifts. We attended church and the 4 primary children sang a Father’s Day song after the closing prayer. Jack and Sophie did a great job! It was so fun hearing them singing in french!
Alexis made Aaron breakfast in bed: sweet potato pancakes, which he enjoyed!
Jack and Sophie had a school musical “spectacular” in the Batucada genre. I didn’t know what this was until I did a little research. Batucada is a mix of African and Brazilian samba usually played percussion style. All the children in the Sanilhac school had been practicing their songs and music for months. Jack would always note when it was lundi, monday, because that is when they had music class. Sophie would come home singing a little tune that none of us understood, except for her and Jack! The children were so excited for their performance and were saddened when it got cancelled last friday night. Le spectacle was taking place at the centre ville because in this style of music it is performed while walking. So, the program was for the children to begin at la mairie and work their way through the little village and stop at 2 other places, la place du château and la place du Four, while playing their instruments and singing.
It was raining all day friday. In fact, we had flood warnings again in our area so the children obviously could not perform in those conditions. Jack and Sophie were so sad the fête, party, had been cancelled. They wanted to get their “costumes” on and show off what they had learned!
On monday when they returned to school it was announced that the spectacle would be mardi soir à 18h, tuesday night at 6pm. Hooray!!! Tuesday we woke up to beautiful sunny skies. You could feel the excitement in the air when I took the kids to school. Around 4pm dark clouds rolled in and it started raining!!! Jack and Sophie would look out the window every 5 minutes to see if the rain stopped. It would rain, then stop, then rain, then stop, then sprinkle, then stop… Around 5:45pm the rain stopped and we knew we had to get the kids to la mairie. Sure enough, the whole town was there and all the school children were ready to perform, rain or shine!
When we arrived Jack was trying to locate his instrument that he had made but he could not find it amongst all the others. He was able to grab a tambourine. Each class was dressed in a different colored shirt. Sophie wore white, Jack had green, our neighbor Thomas has blue, our friends Adrian, Rudy, Marie, and Marius had on red shirts. It looked really festive when they were all marching down the streets together. Jack and Sophie got to wear colors around their waist, neck, wrists and Sophie had a purple flower in her hair.
I loved watching Jack and Sophie sing, dance and interact with everyone! I had to pinch myself as I was watching them perform, in the rain at times, surrounded by old stone houses and narrow stone streets. AJ, Austin and Tristan all knew people and/or friends from the village. We feel a part of this community and there definitely were tears as I thought about leaving this beautiful place in just 6 weeks.
At the first of April I snapped a few photos of the outside of our house. Jack and Sophie were photo bombing some of the pictures and others I just couldn’t resist capturing their cute faces. The above photo is taken from our grass backyard area. We have a lot of trees on the property! There are two fig trees, two cherry trees, a plum tree, two walnut trees, an almond tree, rose bushes, lilacs, iris, many herbs…
This is the side of the house that we see when we pull into our driveway. The property owners used the upstairs as their main living space for many years so the stairs led to their front door. It wasn’t until later when the couple was getting older that they finished off the main level, moved the kitchen downstairs and had the front entrance on the main level. We never use the front door. We always enter in from the garage or the french doors off the kitchen.
This is the master bedroom french doors over looking the pool.
This is taken from our backyard looking out toward the street. We love our little property that we have rented and feel so grateful to have found this little bit of tranquility!
Bruno is one of our good single friends that we have had the privilege of getting to know while living here in France. We met him at the church we attend in Nîmes. He lives in Alès, which is 40 km (25 miles) from Nîmes. He is a very thoughtful and kind man. We have had him to the house a number of times and he has come to help us with yard work, rides to and from church, and he has given our children gifts spontaneously. Bruno would always call and check up on me and the kids when Aaron was traveling. It has been a blessing to have Bruno in our lives. We will miss him!
Chemin de Candordy is the name of the road that our little “Impasse”, or dead-end street, stems from. These are the cute ceramic road signs in our village. The hand painted drawings are different throughout the village. They add a little extra character to the normal (French) street signs.
This is Dennis and Ann Marie’s gate and entrance to their house. They are one of five neighbors on our “Impasse”, or street. We see this white gate every time we come or go from our house. Most home owners have gates. Property is very private and if you visit someone you have to ring at their gate. One does not even get to the front door. Most gates are automatic, like a garage door in America. Ours is not. If you notice in the above photo, there is a small light on the right hand side of the gate. When their gate opens/closes this light will go on to warn anyone of the operating gate and/or someone pulling out of the driveway. I have noticed this light at many residences.
This is the intersection of our “Impasse” de Candordy with Chemin de Candordy. The property with all the shrubs and trees is Patrick and Denise’s house. They have been great neighbors, especially during the floods. Their grandson, Adrian, goes to school with Jack and Sophie and he is often found at our house. In fact, Jack and Adrian argue like brothers. Adrian is 9 years old. They usually like to play soccer.
This is a view looking down our Impasse/street. Around the bend to the right is our house, 6 Impasse de Candordy. We have loved our little street. Last weekend our street had a “neighborhood” party. It was at Ivan and Caroline’s house. They live at the end of our street. They have a son who is in his 20’s. Ivan had Mojitos ready for all of us to drink and we had to kindly decline! Ivan and Caroline are known for their crazy and fun parties. Ivan brought out his guitars and my boys tried to play with him. We were all singing and enjoying each other’s company. It was so fun! When my kids started feeling a little tired, around 10:30, they were saying goodbye to everyone and we noticed the french were a little surprised by this. Aaron and I asked if it was polite that they leave and okay for them to leave (after all, we just lived one house down) and they all responded that it was fine, just unusual. Usually the kids all stay up late with the adults. Aaron and I did not leave until after midnight.