Vacation

All the children are on a two week school break! Yeah!! We are on vacation in Normandy Region of France and traveling to Belgium and Luxembourg! I only have wifi on tiny occasions. I will get back to blog posts when we return next week!!!

Golf

Aaron had told AJ, Tristan and Austin he would take them golfing for the first time this summer, but time got away from them and could not fit it in before we left for France. Today, we decided to check out the local golf course in Uzés.  Aaron told the boys they would go check it out and get pricing and other information.  We found the golf course and came upon a large iron gate that was the entrance to the establishment.  We found it humorous because we had already driven through a few different holes in our car (the road went right through the golf course).  Anyway, we get through the gate and Aaron goes in and comes out a few minutes later with three buckets of golf balls and three golf clubs. There was a driving range that the boys could hit a bucket of balls each.  That was all they could do.  Apparently here in France, one has to have a “licence FFGolf de l’année obligatoire”, that is a license to golf.  It is a yearly license.  We couldn’t even play golf here if we wanted to because we do not have a golf license!  HA!  How funny is that?  Is that normal?  I have never heard of that in the States.  In fact, anyone can play on the Logan River Golf Course in Cache Valley, as long as you pay, of course.  I know there are restrictions in the States for Country Clubs, etc.   The pricing was reasonable at this Golf Course in Uzés.  About 25 Euros for 9 holes, plus the rental of clubs, which is 2 Euros per club.

After being disappointed and finishing the driving range, we left only to be greeted by the iron gate again.  It opened for us, we drove back through the few holes, hoped no one hit a golf ball through our window, and saw a hunter with a gun in hand as we were leaving the property of the Golf Course!  LOL!  C’est la vie!

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Sanglier

A few years ago on our first family visit to this area of France, we had some neighbors who told us all about wild boars, or sanglier.  Michel et Lucette were our neighbors in a little hamlet Vendras.  They had a stuffed wild boar hanging on their family room wall.  Michel was a hunter.  They not only hunted for wild boar, but they also introduced us to the art of escargot.  They would get frustrated with our kids when they would see them collecting the snails, because Lucette et Michel would collect them and prepare them to eat.  I still have not tried the escargot!  Lucette would put them in a huge pot, similar to a pickle crockery, and she would soak them in a water substance to remove their slime.  Then she would remove the snail from the shell and cook them according to their liking.  It was so interesting to all of us.  In our village of Sanilhac there are snails every where!  Our kids love playing with them!  We have seen all different sizes and colors.  It fascinates all of us!

We, also, have wild boar all around our village.  (We live in the country!)  In September, our family was returning from Nîmes late at night and I was driving.  As I was rounding a corner, a wild boar and two smaller boars were in view because of the headlights.  As they were running away from the road, I quickly told everyone to look, but within seconds the car lights were shining in a different direction and the boars had run away.  It was such a strange sight for me, to see wild brown pigs running in front of the car!  I am used to an occasional deer, but never a wild boar!

About a week went by and I was out on a run on a larger trail, and I came upon a car parked near the trees with a large hunting sign displayed with a wild boar.  This was a warning to any one in the area.  I quickly ran a few more steps and decided to turn around and find a different path to run.  As the weeks went by, the sounds of gunshots in the early morning and at dusk were becoming quite frequent.  We knew exactly what was going on.  As you drive along the countryside, you can see little white vans or trucks that dot the hillsides.  These are the hunters.  Occasionally you will see the bright orange article of clothing they wear and almost definitely you will hear their hunting dogs.  This has become a familiar sight and sound.  I am assuming the dogs are like trapping dogs.  I do not know anything about hunting, except one wears camouflage and has a gun.  When one hunts in Utah, I believe it is far from civilization for obvious reasons.  Not here in France.  Wherever there is a bit of forest, there are hunters.  The surrounding hills in our area are filled with hunters.  One does have to have a license to hunt in France.  I have noticed that those who are cyclists, runners or walkers all wear something bright.  Thankfully I brought a fluorescent yellow jersey with me, so I wear that on my runs now.

Last week I was on a run and I came upon a wild boar!!! That’s right!  I was running along a frequented path and the boar came running out of the trees and brush, snorting.  I immediately let out a short scream and the boar immediately stopped.  We both stared at each other for 2 seconds, the boar quickly turned around and went the exact direction it came from and I quickly turned around and started running the direction I came from.  My heart was beating so fast!  I continued to look behind me to make sure nothing was following me.  It freaked me out a little! :)  Thankfully I only had a little way to go before my turn around point on my run!  The boar was not very big, maybe 24 inches in length and 2 feet off the ground.  After my heart settled, I thought how cool and different that experience just was.  I thought, “I just encountered a wild boar!”  LOL

Wild boar and hunting season is so commonplace here.  I am finding myself thinking it is all normal too.  For example, two days ago I was on a run and came upon a hunter with gun in hand and his three hunting dogs.  We politely said hello to one another and we both went about our business. No big deal!  Hopefully I won’t die from getting shot by a boar hunter, or a speeding car, or a flood, or from contaminated water…

 

 

Storm Update

We are all safe and doing well after last weeks major storm.  Our electricity did get turned on Saturday night and we did start getting water on Sunday but we are still NOT allowed to drink the water.  School was closed for all students on Monday because there were more potential storms and flooding, but we never received anything but a few drops of rain.  Our electricity did go on and off periodically throughout Monday.  It was a nice day off (with electricity) for all of us!

The bus for AJ, Austin and Tristan resumed its’ usual schedule Tuesday morning.  The boys did not comment on anything unusual at school that day.  Jack and Sophie went back to school on Tuesday, but they could not get a drink from the water fountain.  In fact, Jack came home and said, “Mom, I am so thirsty!  Can I please have a drink of water? We can not drink the water at school, so I need a drink!”  Today, Jack and Sophie received these little bags of drinking water that the school was distributing to each student.  Sophie received one and Jack received two.  I had never seen anything like it so I decided to snap a few photos.  The water is only good for three days, so as the teachers were handing them out, they all reminded us parents that they had to be used by the end of Friday.

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This morning on my run I decided to run a path that I haven’t traveled in a few weeks and I was shocked by the damage done to parts of the road.  It is a “back” road that is usually used by hunters and local farmers needing to get to their vineyards or fields.  It made me sad to see so much damage caused by the storm.  Parts of the road were ripped apart and those ripped out pieces were scattered all over vineyards and fields.  The power of water and flooding is unbelievable!  Again, I am so grateful we did not experience any damage or injury to this property or to ourselves!

Clouds

I am not sure why, but my kids, specifically, Austin and Tristan are fascinated by the clouds here in France!  Whenever we are driving or hiking they always seem to notice the clouds!  I remember as a youngster (I still consider myself young!)  looking at the clouds and trying to discover animal shapes and other things.  It is and was always so cool when I could make out something that was so obvious to my eye!  The other day the boys got a hold of the camera and this is what I found:

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I have been thinking about why my boys are so interested in the clouds here.  Maybe it is because the summers in Utah are usually clear blue sky, “without a cloud in the sky”, or the winters are usually filled with inversion?  Or maybe it is because we did not have time “to smell the roses” with our hectic life in the States?  Don’t get me wrong, we are busy, but we do not have all the distractions, like sports, extra lessons, abundant amounts of playdates, etc. to keep our minds too preoccupied to notice something so beautiful as clouds!  And the good thing, no one else we have come across here in France has the same “keep up with the Jones’s” attitude that many have in Utah and in America!  (I just have to be able to keep this feeling after we move back to the States, because I do miss watching my children participate in sports!  I know they will continue to play sports in the States, but maybe not on a team that practices 1.5 hours away!)  This has already been a wonderful experience for our family!

What about you?  Do you take time to relax, read a book, ponder or is your life too hectic to not notice the beauty all around?  Do you feel “busy” because of the culture in which you live and you feel guilty if you are not participating in a million things?  Do you second guess what you are wearing because you might run into someone who is ready for the runway at a soccer game?  Do you occupy your time with good things but maybe it overlooks your family?  These are a few things I have been thinking about since we moved here and when I saw these pictures I reflected upon them further and then some! :)

Chateau Tarascon

Last Saturday on our way home from Les Baux-de-Provence, we stopped at a 15th century castle, Chateau Tarascon.  Jack loves seeing all the castles and envisions himself as a knight fighting off the enemy with a large shiny sword!  So, this experience was so fun for him.  We only stopped for a few minutes because it was late afternoon and we were all tired.

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The Castle of Tarascon is a Medieval Castle on the banks of the Rhône River.  It has a cool mote that does get filled up on occasion and a drawbridge.  The interior walls were protected by the infamous gargoyles.  They were too high up, so I could not get a good picture! :)  The kids all thought this was so cool!  I think it is a neat experience to witness these beautiful, old, historic castles that we, as Americans, only see through the eyes of a theater screen or a book.  Castles, like this one, are common throughout France.  Each one has an interesting history.

For example, Chateau Tarascon, was built during the first half of the 15th century and was designed to protect the Provence region from attack.  It was an important strategic location due to its position at the bottom of the Rhone Valley and on several important trade routes.  After the region became part of France, Tarascon was no longer important, although it did serve as a castle during the War of Religion (the Protestant uprising in the Lanquedoc region, which is the region we live in).  By the 17th century is was being used as a prison up until the 19th century.  Now it is a museum with tapestries on display and the community has different festivals held at the castle.

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We love discovering new places like the Chateau Tarascon!  We feel like pinching ourselves when we have these experiences!  (Sophie felt like a princess as she was walking up the old stone staircase in the inner courtyard!)

Natural Disaster

Thursday evening we all went to bed expecting to wake up and do the same Friday routine.  Austin and Tristan were excited because they only had to go to school until 11am on Friday.  Well, as I went to bed that night (Aaron is out of town on business.  He is always out of town when something like this happens!), I was having a hard time sleeping because of the rain.  It wasn’t very heavy but it was keeping me awake.  As the night progressed, the storms were getting worse.  By 5am a full blown lightening, thunder and hard rain storm was under way.  I have never experienced this kind of storm.  The lightening was never ending.  One bolt, seconds after another and the thunder was immediate.  I felt like Eeyore under a rain cloud, but this rain cloud was nasty and tumultuous!  The sound of the thunder was deafening!  It, truly, was engulfing our little village!  Plus, the light show from the lightening was incredible!

This storm went on for 2 hours.  During this time period, ALL the kids were up and joining me in my bedroom.  Jack and Tristan were afraid, Sophie was a little oblivious, AJ was curious and Austin was excited he didn’t have to go to school!  I wasn’t worried until the power went out around 6am.  I knew the boys would not be going to school because I had received an email from the bus company the night before giving parents “heads up” on potential weather interruptions.  (I previously posted about the weather info we have received from the schools about the autumn weather hazards.)  Plus, it was raining too hard for them to catch the bus and I knew that France has flooding issues when there is a lot of rain, so I did not want to drive.  It rained most of Friday and our view out the kitchen doors looked like this:

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Well, as the day progressed we began to receive information from neighbors about how bad this “storm” really was.  We have had NO access out of our village.  The roads were ripped up from flooding on all sides.  We were stranded.  In fact, our neighbors all told me to not go anywhere, it was too dangerous.  I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, but they gave me the warning.  We have been without electricity or water for over 36 hours.  The electricity just went on 2 hours ago, but still no water.  We will probably not have water until Tuesday.  The water lines have been contaminated so it will take a number of days to get it clean enough for human usage.  The children all found ways to entertain themselves with out electricity the last 2 days.  Ping Pong on the coffee table, make shift golf, and snail collecting are just a few.

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The community of Sanilhac has been great.  From what I have witnessed, no one has been impatient or angry.  Every one has been very cooperative and helpful.  Our neighbors have been wonderful and kind!  They all know that Aaron is out of town, so they have been coming over periodically to make sure we have everything we need and are okay.  In fact, one family found out we did not have gas for cooking so they brought over their large gas barbecue grill today.  We did not have to use it, because right when I was getting ready to prepare dinner on the grill, the electricity turned on!  Also, last night as we were all sitting around the table with a flashlight, a loud knock was made on the front door.  It was our neighbors, Patrick and Denise, making sure we had candles.  We had not been able to find any in our pantry so it was a blessing!  Who would have thought we would need emergency preparedness here in France just for a year?!  One can never be sure about any natural happenings in the world!

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Everyone is in shock that this has happened in the village.  I have not talked to one person who hasn’t said, “I’ve never seen this happen here like this before!”  They have all experienced levels of flooding, but nothing that has effected them directly.  The Mairie, or Mayor, has been handing out water to village residents since Friday afternoon.  He handed more out today. I felt extremely grateful as I was standing in line for water for our family. We have received one 1.5 liter bottle of water per person per day.   Certainly not enough to shower, but enough to drink and brush our teeth and wash our hands.  We started using the swimming pool water tonight after the electricity went on for washing dishes.

This afternoon, I was told that the road to Uzès was ok to drive.  Austin, Sophie and I made our way to Uzès, to get to the one grocery store that was open.  The regular Carrefour had 3 feet of water so we were told an InterMarché was open on the other side of Uzès.  Austin and I were in shock by what we saw.  Below are the pictures we took along the two routes we traveled leaving and coming from our village of Sanilhac.

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The above photo is an overturned car filled with tree limbs and debris.

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This is the road I run on most days, and half of it is missing!:(  I do not know if schools will be open on Monday.  But, we have internet access now so I can check the local forecast and road conditions.  The roads to Nîmes are closed off with road damage and/or bridges submerged.  This experience is very fascinating to me, as we are trying to navigate a natural disaster in a foreign country, trying to speak a foreign language!  Our family feels so grateful to the Lord for protecting us.  Tristan and Austin all commented on how lucky we are to be living in a village up on a hill.  Even though we have so much damage, it is all below our village.  The electricity and no water have been our inconveniences, but no houses in our village were directly harmed or damaged and there are no deaths from our village.  I do not know about those who were stranded or in other villages close by, but when I ask the locals, their response is, “no deaths”.

There will be weeks, if not months, of repair and rebuilding of roads.  Hopefully our water issue will be solved sooner than later.  But, c’est la vie!  As I jokingly said to our neighbors, we now have a great story to tell of our experience in France!

Haircuts!

AJ, Austin and Tristan all wanted to grow their hair out long.  I told them, “Sure, why not!?” Well, finally after the constant voice inside my head saying, “I wish my boys would get tired of their long hair!  I like it shorter!”, Austin and Tristan decided they didn’t like their hair long and wanted a haircut.  Hallelujah!  Nothing against long hair, I just prefer to “see” my children’s faces!

I asked my good friend, Isabelle, where a good, reasonable salon was and she gladly suggested we meet up with her, Samuel and Lolita.  So, yesterday we all met up together in Nîmes and had a fun time.  Isabelle frequents this salon often so I felt comfortable with her recommendation.  It was so funny as all 4 boys were getting their hair washed together!

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Aren’t they all cute?!  I loved how the salon had four chairs for each one of them!  We proceeded with the haircuts.  Thank goodness Isabelle was there to help me!  I have never had to use french vocabulary for a haircut, so it was all new to me.

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All the stylists were so fun and were having a good time while I was taking pictures.  They were jokingly telling me I could take their picture for 30 Euros!  Isabelle told them I have a blog and was going to post pictures.  It was funny!  All three boys, including Samuel, looked handsome and my boys had a touch of “French” with their cuts and style.  It is a tad bit different than an American cut!  I like it and they do too!  Success!

La Fouine

Over a week ago our family was watching TV upstairs when I noticed a foreign animal silhouette up near the roof.  We turned off all the lights to get a better look at it.  It looked like something that belonged in the ferret family.  It had a full long tail and its’ fur was dark. It quickly ran off as we were all pushed up against the french doors observing.  We looked online and found pictures of mongoose, badgers, fox, etc and could not find exactly what we saw at our house.

The next day, Saturday, Aaron went and asked our neighbor, Patrick, if he knew what the animal was.  He was a little perplexed as he has not seen anything like that nor did he know exactly what it would be.  He then called a friend, who called a friend, and before we knew it, there was a group of people congregated together near our driveway discussing this “unknown” animal.  An older man remembered the owner of the house, Monsieur Torres, having a trap of some kind.  Him and Aaron searched the property and found a very strong trap!  Aaron got it set up on the upstairs covered porch that has large windows, which we keep open.  The neighbors all agreed it was a Fouine or Stone Martin.

A week went by and we had not caught anything but the stray cat that hangs around.  He was not happy and had the largest cat teeth I have ever seen.  He definitely looked scary!  We quickly let him out and set the trap again to try and catch this Fouine.  When Austin woke up this morning for school he said he thought he heard something upstairs and perhaps we caught the animal.  He was right!

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He was the cutest thing!  He was very intelligently gathering up the colored tablecloth and making padding for himself all around the cage.  After we saw him I went to the computer to do a little searching and sure enough the Fouine is specific to France.  This is a small portion of information I found:

Smart, cute and as mischievous as a weasel the Stone or Beech Marten (Martes foina) is widespread across France. A close cousin of the Pine Marten the Stone Marten is very similar but slightly smaller in size measuring 40 – 50cm in body length with a tail of between 20 – 30 cm. The easiest way to distinguish between the two is by their creamy white bibs, in the Stone or Beech Martin the bib or collar is more fork shaped like an upside down V.

Generally nocturnal the Stone Marten is much less shy than the Pine Marten and can be found in close proximity to humans occasionally completely unnoticed, but they are commonly discovered over wintering in the attics of buildings sometimes even in small spaces between the roof and plasterboard ceiling, particularly in France. Sometimes house owners are awakened at night to their loud chattering and crashing around – for such a small creature they can make a lot of noise!”

This little guy was making his home between our roof and the ceiling because each morning we would notice small pieces of insulation were on the ground near our kitchen entrance, right underneath the rooftops where we saw him.  Ha!  So interesting!  We took the little Fouine and drove about 5 miles down the road and let him go.  Aaron was a little hesitant to open that cage, because, after all, a Fouine is a wild animal!  That thing darted out of that trap so fast we blinked and he was gone!

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In the above right photo, you can barely make out the brown Fouine running away!  We could not detach the tablecloth because it had secured it so well to the trap.  So now we will wait and see if anymore commotion takes place in our rafters.

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Les Baux de Provence

We were invited to have an outing with our friends the Dargaunces, the Riberas, and Maria del Carmen et Paul on Saturday afternoon.  Aaron and I were under the impression that we were going to be hiking through something similar as a National Park.  We all were prepared with walking sticks, water and shoes for the occasion.  When we arrived at the Dargaunces’ house we were still under this impression as Aline made a comment about wearing her long jeans and she was putting on her walking shoes.  We were all looking forward to a nice hike.

We drove about 30-40 minutes and arrived at this beautiful village amongst rock formations.  I could tell the boys were excited to go and explore.  Little did we know that we were going to be exploring the village.  Which means, leisurely walking along the streets and periodically entering little quaint boutiques.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE discovering a beautiful French village, but my children were prepared for a hike.  I know we will come back for hiking because we saw trails out in the distance amongst the rocks and trees.  Once again, the language barrier created misinformation! :)

Les Baux de Provence is breathtaking.  The views from the village that sits up high on a hill are amazing.  We looked  down upon perfectly manicured lawns and gardens with old stone houses dotting the landscape.  I felt like I was looking at a painting!  The village itself is so quaint and lovely.  The shops are so specialized and inviting!  I want to go back with Julia and Alexis so we can just enjoy a stroll and shopping!

Les Baux de Provence is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France.  If interested do an internet search for this village and you will discover its’ beauty.  I am grateful we got to go, even though my kids did not get to hike.  My pictures do not do this village justice, as I only brought my cell phone camera with me.

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Notice Austin with the walking stick!   When we left the village he said, “I felt like the dumbest person walking around!  I was the only one with a walking stick!”

We saw two different wedding parties in the village.  Couples in France get married at the Mairie’s office, which is usually in the center of any village or city.  It is fun to see women and men dressed up.  I have noticed over the years that women wear hats to weddings here in France.  It is so intriguing and fun to see and discover a different culture!

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Food always seems to be a part of our discovering a new place.  The kids came upon a little candy shop that had long ropes of different flavors.  We all tried various kinds, coca cola, marshmallow, fruit, sour, etc.  It was funny.  Isabella and I laughed about how both of our families end up buying things on these little outings but it always seems to be food!  We did get home with a purchase of Savon de Marseille, which is soap of Marseille.  We love this soap.  It comes in beautiful, colorful bars.

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