La Grande Motte

We made our first trip of the year back to La Grande Motte a few weeks ago while Rebecca was with us.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  We love the beach and my children are so easily entertained for hours!  We will miss having the water less than an hour away!

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Austin caught a few little crabs that were crawling along the bottom of the shallow Sea. We only wished they had been big blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay so we could have enjoyed a nice dinner!

Anduze

Anduze is a little city of about 7,000 residents that sits on the banks of the Gardon River amongst the rocks of the hills and mountains.  It is about a 40 minute drive from Sanilhac. Anduze is known for is beautiful pottery, especially ceramic outdoor flowering pots.  I wish, desperately, that I could get some to the States!

Side note, when we first came to this region 6 years ago many locals recommended we take our children to Anduze and ride the steam train.  We visited Anduze once before because we were told they had a bamboo forest nearby and we wanted to see what it was like.  On that particular trip we ended up enjoying the little village and bypassing the bamboo forest and the train because of expenses (the bambousserie is so pricey).  I am so glad we didn’t waste our money on the bamboo forest because this time we all saw it from the train and it really wasn’t anything special.  It was interesting, but it was almost like paying to go into a local nursery.  6 years ago a few of the kids were disappointed we were not able to ride the train, so I kind of felt obligated to take them back and experience the train ride.

So, that is what I did.  We (except for Aaron, who was in the States) all loaded up and made the field trip.  We had fun and I am glad we all got to enjoy the steam engine.  It is the Cevennes Steam Train.  The Cevennes is the mountain range.  There were tunnels we traveled through, large bridges we crossed, beautiful houses on the mountainsides, fields of milking goats, the Gardon River…

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Great Roman Games

Saturday, May 2nd we had the chance to go see a reenactment of the ancient Roman Games in the Arènes de Nîmes.  The Nîmes arena is a Roman amphitheatre dating to 70 AD.  We have visited the arena on a few occasions but this time was awesome (despite the mile long line and heat)!  Jenn and John were still in town so we all got to have a new experience together.  The spectacle is performed by 500 participants from around Europe. When we arrived at our seats, each person received a colored program with a red handkerchief.  This “red” was our team and whoever was in the arena competing, the respective color would be waved in the crowd.  The team colors were red, green and white.  This Roman Games was based on the famous military commander, Hannibal. Hannibal was considered one of the greatest generals of antiquity.  He played an important part in the history of the Mediterranean area.

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The Games lasted 2.5 hours.  It was a long time to be in the sun, but we did eventually get cloud coverage and it cooled off a little.  This was a performance I am so happy we were able to participate in.  I don’t know if we will ever get a chance to see a reenactment quite like this in a 2000 year old structure!  We were all interested as chariots came roaring out in the arena and started “fighting” each other, or seeing the “fights” against the barbarians of different lands.  It was very entertaining and we had a fascinating afternoon imagining life in times past!

Running of the Bulls

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Back in the Fall our neighbors, Morgan and Guillaume, told us about the running of the bulls in our little village of Sanilhac.  They told us it would be in May and it was really fun and something we did not want to miss.  They took us to the bull ranch one afternoon so we could see all the bulls.  They have about 20-30 head.  We were anxious to see this event but we had not seen any advertisement as we approached the month of May.  The children all had friday, May 1st off from school.  I had noticed that stores were advertising they would be closed on May 1st and we were not quite sure what the holiday was.  Until, Aaron and I returned from Paris with my girlfriend, Jenn and her husband John, the night before May 1st.  When we were driving back home from the train station I noticed gates were being set up in certain places in Sanilhac.  A light bulb went on and I knew “this” holiday was somehow associated with the bull run.  Sure enough, Aaron inquired at the Boulangerie about 30 minutes before the events were to start.  The running of the bulls began at 11am and then activities were happening throughout the weekend.  May 1st is Labor Day in France.  Everything was closed!  (We had to buy some eggs from the baker because all the grocery stores were closed.)

We all quickly got ourselves ready and we went down to the centre ville.  There was a lot of excitement.  People were lining along the barriers and some were, also, just walking in the middle of the roads.  I was a little perplexed by this.  I had envisioned bulls being herded through the streets of our cute little village and was a little concerned for those just casually walking around in the streets.  Jenn and I had to run through a field of waist high weeds so we could reach the boys as they were watching from the side of the road.  Right as we got to the road the parade started.  I say parade loosely because it was nothing like a US parade.  It was just a line of trucks and cars.  3 trucks started this parade and then we see horses all packed together tightly.  A few horses were getting a little “wild” and their riders had to reign them in to get control.  Within seconds, this pack of horses went right by.  We would have totally missed seeing the bulls if we had not been on this little overlook of the road.  There were 3 bulls sandwiched in between the horses.  This was the running of the bulls.  What?  Did we miss something?  This was fun?  We all broke out in hysterics because of the stupidity of this event!  I didn’t even have time to take a picture of the 3 bulls that were hidden.  We laughed so hard!!!!

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If you look at the above photo you can see the hilarity of the moment.  There is the parade of horses with 3 bulls in the middle, an old french man on his bicycle, young men running with the parade in their typical french sweatsuits, two kids on a four wheeler right behind the horses…  Not shown are the rest of the residents of Sanilhac driving their cars/trucks in this parade.  We all looked at each other and asked, “was that it?”  Maybe this is one of those moments where you had to be there to appreciate the humor!

After this running of the bulls, all the spectators started making their way to the center square for drinks, fair-type games for the kids, food and music.  As we were walking we came across a few of the injured horses that had obviously been hurt by the bulls horns.2015-04-30 21.32.46

The kids enjoyed the few games they had set up.  John gave the boys a little money so they could shoot for a prize.  It was funny!  We all had some great laughs that day!!!

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La Baume

It is that time of year again when we set out for La Baume!  It is “right in our backyard” with just a few miles of hiking in between.  We all love going down to the river.  The weather is getting warmer but the water is still freezing!  I don’t think the river ever changes temperature.  It has always felt cold, even on the hottest of days!  The kids LOVE the river, especially the three older boys.  We wanted to show Becca one of our favorite spots.  It was a beautiful day for a hike, plus, it helps that the summer crowd hasn’t appeared yet!

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Uzès Spring

Uzès houses the original water source for the ancient Roman aqueduct, The Pont du Gard.  The spring allowed the Romans to get water to Nîmes, about 50 km (31 miles) in the 1st century AD.  This spring is still beautiful and a relaxing park surrounds the original site.  Our family has visited this green space many times and we wanted to show Becca, Alexis’s roommate, while she is visiting with us for a month.

The children brought their soccer ball, volleyballs, etc. along with a blanket and some snacks to chill on a lovely afternoon.  We strolled around the park and I took a few photos. The Alzon river goes through the park and there is a trail that follows its’ winding flow.  AJ, Austin, Jack and I decided to follow a little more of the trail this time.  It was so pretty and peaceful.  We discovered a sheep farmer, plaques that marked the water level of the river at certain years, and tranquility.  It was so relaxing!  Sophie loved watching the ducks swim upriver.  It was a great family day at the park!

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Update on Sophie

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Sophie had three weeks of bandage changing every two to three days by two different nurses, Sophie and Karine.  The nurse, Karine, came the last time a week ago and told us her finger was fine and didn’t need anything to protect it.  Each nurse has given us different bits of information regarding Sophie’s finger healing.  Aaron and I are not confident that this information is correct.  We have had a number of broken bones and a finger “hanging by a thread” over the years and we know injuries like this are not done after 3 weeks.  So, I have been wrapping her finger almost everyday to keep it clean and protected.  We haven’t even had the recommendation to do a follow up with the surgeon.

The health system here is very different!  We payed each of the nurses for their individual house visits.  They were 8 euros per visit and they charged us a little for supplies we were missing.  Each nurse handed us an invoice and we had to pay her with a check and then we submit the invoice to our homeowners insurance to try to be reimbursed.  It has been almost a month and we have not received any bill, except for the x-rays (which was around 50 euros).  We are then supposed to pay the bills when they come and submit the invoices to the insurance company.  We don’t even use our international health insurance. It all goes through our homeowners insurance because it was an accident that happened on our property.  Hopefully, the bills for the hospital, surgeon, anesthesiologist and urgent care are not astronomical!

Sophie’s finger looks great!  The fingernail area is black, which was to be expected.  Her skin has grown wonderfully back together.  It looks like a completely different finger from 4 weeks ago!  Sophie is still very nervous to use it in anyway.  She still whimpers a little when I have to clean it and change the bandaging.  In fact, just last night she told me “it scares me to look at my finger.  It still looks gross!”  We feel it a miracle from above that her finger looks so good.  I even think her fingernail will grow back just fine! :)

Cannes

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We spent the weekend in Cannes, France with our friends the Serrano-Milone’s.  Aaron had a business meeting Saturday afternoon, so we all decided to make a fun weekend out of it.  We really wanted to get to Spain and Portugal, but the older boys had youth conference at the beginning of the week and Alexis comes tomorrow (YEAH!!!)!

The Côte d’Azure is beautiful!  Cannes is known for its’ Film Festival:

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The Cannes Film Festival takes place in May so we did not spot any Hollywood stars! That’s okay, because the boardwalk is so crowded anyway without celebrities nearby.  We enjoyed driving through the hills and neighborhoods of Cannes.  Aurore lived in Cannes when she was a little girl and her mom is buried there, so we got to see the “real” Cannes!

We spent saturday on the Med.  Aurore, myself, Noami (the wife of the Serrano-Milone’s friends) and the kids all hung out on the beach while the kids enjoyed the sand and water. It was an overcast day so our kids were the only ones swimming.  It was fun!  Our kids have a great time together!

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When the sun began to fade away we all loaded up and went to Noami and David’s house near Saint-Raphaël.  They live in the beautiful hills/mountains between Cannes and Saint-Raphaël.  The city lights of Cannes could be seen from their backyard.  They had a potato farm just beyond their stone “fence”.  Also, on our way up the hills/mountains we saw a group of wild boar grazing in the fields. It was so cool!  Noami made a delicious spread of food (I wish I had taken photos)!  We didn’t start eating until 9:30pm.  I love how the french take their time in preparing and planning their meals.  She made a few fresh salads, homemade “french” fries, a delicious olive tapenade, sausages, hamburgers, homemade mayo, a cucumber salad…  It was awesome!  We enjoyed great food and great company.

The next day we went to church in Cannes and met Noami’s father.  Fun family!  Her father has one of the largest “The Cure” memorabilia in all of France!  Aaron “died” (the last area he served) in Cannes on his mission.  It was so awesome for him to go back and see the church building and see some familiar faces from 25 years ago.  We had a fantastic weekend!

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French Alps

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This was our view as we left Vars, France a few weeks ago.  I forgot I had taken these pictures and I found them on my desktop.  They are breathtaking.  The road to get to Vars was so small and scary.  Most of the road did not have a guard rail and the drop was far and steep.  I had to close my eyes because of my vertigo when we went up the mountain, but coming down didn’t seem so bad.  The views were incredible!!!!

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Easter in Toulouse

Friday after all the kids were home from school we loaded up the van and went to Toulouse to visit our friends, the Serrano-Milone’s.  We met them, Elias, Aurore, Maëlle, Gabrielle and Josh, back in October when Elias was visiting our Nîmes Ward.  We have gotten together with them as much as we can being 3 hours away from one another.  All the kids get along so well!  It helps that their two girls are the cutest and sweetest young women in all of France! :)

While we were there, everyone talked, laughed, danced, played hide and seek, watched movies, shopped, went bowling, played football, rope swinging, catching frogs, went to the skate park (for a minute because it started raining), ate yummy homemade food (Aurore made some delicious couscous), watched a little General Conference, made a fort, had an easter egg hunt, and laughed some more!! We had a blast!  This was a nice break from our stressful week with Sophie’s finger!  We were all so occupied with “fun” that I didn’t get too many photos.

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I could not find any plastic easter eggs that are so common in America.  Here in France, most of the chocolate that is for Easter are chocolate eggs.  The best are the Kinder Surprise chocolate.  They are egg shaped hollow chocolate with a cool toy inside.  So, there were no plastic eggs filled with American chocolate or easter candies.  But, it was fun finding the chocolate eggs filled with new surprises!