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…
Today I went to the store to pick up a few things. One of the items on my list was limes. I can’t always find limes, so I was happy when I saw a few. I picked up the remaining limes, 8 to be exact. They were 5 for 1.50 euros. At the check out counter the lady got to the bag of limes and looked at me and said, “These are 5 for 1.50. You have 8. That won’t work.” I looked at her and said that was all that was left and I needed all 8 limes. She then said, “Well, I don’t know what to do. You need two more.” She then looked at the other cashier and asked if she knew what to do because I needed all 8 limes but the store did not have any more and how was she supposed to do the transaction. The other cashier did not know and so she had to make a phone call to the manager. I was laughing! How could this be a problem that she did not know how to solve? What if I only needed one lime?
She talked to a manager and I was charged for 10 limes and I was told to go to customer service so I could receive a refund for the 2 limes that I was over charged for! How funny is that? I went to customer service and received 60 centimes (like 60 cents) for the difference. France!
While I was at the grocery store, Aaron was at the specialty pool store to get something for our pool. He said the door was open and he noticed a worker in the back. He walked up to the counter and said, “Excuse me, can you help me?” The worker looked at his watch and said, “We are closed right now. We will open in 10 minutes. Please come back.” Aaron politely walked out the open door and waited for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the man helped Aaron. France!
The majority of stores in France will close anytime during lunch, 12-1:30/2 pm. The French usually are not out shopping at lunch time. They take their mealtimes seriously and those that work expect that time off. It can be very inconvenient but we have gotten used to it. The major grocery stores stay open at lunch time, which is the time I like to go shopping because I know not many people will be there. They are all eating lunch! Speaking of lunch time, Aaron and I are going to miss our 1 hour and 20 minute lunch we have with Jack and Sophie. I do love that my kids all get to enjoy their lunch time and they never feel rushed.
The Vélodrome d’hiver was an indoor bicycle track and stadium not too far from the Eiffel Tower. On July 16 and 17, 1942 the French police, under German orders, round up over 13,000 Jews, 4,000 being children, and located them in this large stadium under terrible circumstances. The Jews were given barely any water or food, the sanitation conditions were almost non existent and it was extremely crowded. The Jews were held there for about a week and then deported to concentration camps throughout Europe. The majority never survived.
I have read many books and histories about this particular historical event. Our friend, Benjamin, loaned me a french movie, La rafle du Vel’ d’hiv, 16 et 17 juillet 1942, that was difficult for me to watch. It took me three days to get through the whole film. It is one of the most accurately portrayed film of these events.
When Aaron and I were in Paris we had a morning to ourselves and I wanted to find the small memorial in the location where the Vélodrome used to stand. I am so glad we found the monument and plaque. I felt like it was sacred ground and it stirred more emotions in me in regards to this period of history. I was happy to see that a future memorial garden is currently under construction.
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.
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!
One of our favorite places to visit in Paris is Versailles. Aaron and I love going and spending an afternoon in the gardens. We took Jenn and John to Versailles and we spent quite a few hours there. The grounds are massive, around 1,976 acres of land! We all had a fun time visiting the Château, Marie Antionette’s hamlet, the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the extensive gardens!
Aaron and I traveled to Paris two weeks ago to spend a few days with my best friend from college, Jenn and her husband John. We were so excited to finally have family and/or friends come to visit. We spent 2.5 days with them in Paris. Aaron and I went a day early so we could spend a little time together too. It was a fun few days in Paris and then we all took the train south so they could spend a few days with us in Sanilhac.
One of the places we visited while in Paris was the Sainte-Chapelle. Aaron nor I had visited this cathedral before. The Sainte-Chapelle is a medieval Gothic chapel dating back to the late 1230’s-1240’s. It was erected under the commission of King Louis IX to house his collection of the Passion relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns. The chapel was damaged during the French Revolution but it was restored in the 19th century. It has one of the largest 13th century stained glass collections in the world. It was magnificent! My iphone did not capture the vibrant colors of the stained glass. It is not a large chapel, like Notre Dame, but it is beautiful! The ceiling of the chapel is a vibrant blue that did not show up in my photos. The Sainte-Chapelle is a few blocks away from the Notre Dame.
This is our friend Marius! He is the kindest 10 year old boy I have ever met. Aaron first met Marius at Jack and Sophie’s school. Marius is responsible for opening the locked gate for those students who ride their bike and need to store his/her bike. Sophie rode her bike to school one day and Marius helped her get her bike “locked” up. Since that first meeting many months ago, Marius has met up with our kids at the stade, field, to play a sport, he has come over to our house to hang out with the kids, we see him riding bikes through Sanilhac, we see him at the village events, etc. Marius always has a huge smile on his face. He lives right next to the school and he has an older brother, Justin, and a younger brother between Jack and Sophie’s age. Marius is very polite and very kind. He always tries to help others if they are hurt or need something. He adores Sophie and is always looking out for her. We love Marius and wish we could bring him back to America with us! We will miss seeing his adorable smile and miss his genuine kindness!
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!!!!
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.
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!!!