Speechless!

I am deeply troubled by the headline news stories that I have read today! All I can say is “God help us all!”

1.  Supreme Court rules legality of same sex marriage in all 50 States!

2.  Man beheaded by Islamist and head displayed outside an American owned business on the outskirts of Lyon France!

3.  ISIS suicide bombers kills at a Kuwait City mosque!

4.  ISIS claims responsibility for two terrorists opening gunfire at Tunisia beach resort and killing many!

Vendras

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!

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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!

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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

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.

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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!

5th Place!!!

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About a month and a half ago, Tristan took a countrywide English test.  All students in his grade throughout France are required to take an English test.  We, and all of Tristan’s class thought it wasn’t fair that Tristan take the test.  Tristan’s english teacher insisted that Tristan take the test.  I will tell you why… the boys have been studying “British” english this year.  The english curriculum in France is based upon what is taught in England, because that is the most common english that would be spoken in this part of the world.  Quite frankly, I enjoy the “proper” english over America’s versions of english!  The test consisted of sentence structure, vocabulary (which is often different), factual information about education in England, and a few questions of English history.  Tristan had to study for this test because there were definitely things about the english language he did not know. Naturally because english is his native language he had the advantage over every student in his school.  But, again, the teacher really wanted Tristan to take the test.

It had been announced that the first 5 highest scores in the country would receive prizes, first prize being a laptop.  Tristan was a little nervous on test day because he wanted to win that laptop!  He came home upset because he knew he had answered one question wrong:  “Mr. Pond calls to speak with Tristan (I am inserting his name because he could not remember the name of the person on the test.)  Tristan answers the phone and says:”. There were four choices and he did not answer with the correct, “Speaking”.  Tristan had never heard that expression before, which I was surprised because that is what I learned from my Dad growing up.  I guess I never taught him proper phone etiquette!

Just last week the test results were announced and Tristan came in 5th place in all of France!!!  He found out that the four students that placed higher than him were all British students.  How funny is that!!!!  Hooray for Tristan!!!  Because he came in 5th place his prizes were not as glamorous as a laptop, but the trophy and clock sure put a huge smile on his face!!!  Way to go Tristan!  Everyone at the boys’ school were talking about the student who won 5th place!  What a fun memory and souvenir to bring back to America!

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Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day!

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!

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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!

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Alexis made Aaron breakfast in bed: sweet potato pancakes, which he enjoyed!

Le Spectacle “BATUCADA”!

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!

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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.

IMG_3132 Sophie’s teacher, Mâitresse Sylvian

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IMG_3134 Principal Gault

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Dinner on the Seine

John, Jenn, Aaron and I took a dinner cruise on the Seine when we were in Paris.  It was another thing Aaron and I had not done before, so we were looking forward to the experience.  My first trip to Paris as a teenager my family and I took a river ride on the Seine, but it was not a dinner cruise.

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We had a great time!  The waitress was so surprised when we told her we would not be having champagne or any alcohol.  She asked us quite a few times if we were sure we did not want something more than water and/or soda.  By the end of the evening she told us she was very impressed that we did not drink alcohol.  It is a very hard concept for the french to understand and respect.

We arrived at the boat around 8pm and we left the dock at 8:30.  It was a two hour cruise up and down the Seine.  We had a menu with 3-4 choices for each course.  We ordered our food at the start of the cruise and the courses, 4-5 total, kept coming until the ride was over.  We started with an apéritif, cheese/cauliflower puffs, with our drinks, then we had soup or a salad, our main dish, a cheese tray and then dessert.  I tried the duck and Aaron had a plate of veggies.  Their mashed sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes were so yummy!  We all really liked our food!

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It was fun seeing some of the sites from the boat.  For example, the Eiffel Tower was beautiful as we rode by.  When the sun goes down the Eiffel Tower has a light show on the hour and we happened to be passing by right at 10 pm.  It was so neat!  Also, Aaron was able to capture the Statue of Liberty, with the Eiffel Tower in the back ground!

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We loved being with friends and we had a night of laughter, good food, fantastic ambiance in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!

Lucky Charms

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Alexis and I were grocery shopping in Nîmes one afternoon and we came across Lucky Charms in the international section.  Alexis loves Lucky Charms and we were a little excited about taking a box home with us until we saw this:

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That’s right, 9,49 euros or $10.69 for 16 ounces of Lucky Charms!  They were not that enticing after seeing the price tag and they did not end up in my shopping cart!:(

6 Impasse de Candordy

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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…

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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.

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This is the master bedroom french doors over looking the pool.

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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!