Sunday, 30 November 2008

Day 1: Jack's Story

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It is the last three weeks in France and it is our first day in Normandie.
We went to a museum, it was about World War II.  I found out that the allied army used gliders across the UK channel. The Germans had a heavy guard on the coastline.
(When the allied's arrived) the army went to bars in the town and had drinks, they left a cigarette for payment.
They couldn't dig trenches deep enough because of the low springs. By Jack.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

On the road again

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Not much happening in the rear view mirror.. at least I can tilt it down and keep an eye on the rats in the back seat.

Took around 8.5 hours, including a few short stops, to get from the Dordogne to Normandie.  We stayed on the motorway most of the way... easy driving.

The gite (house) we are renting is really nice. We are off to bed early.

Falling Behind

So much happening I feel like I need to stop time in order to record all the memories of these last few days in France.  Tonight is our last night at our 'home' here in the Dordogne.. we leave early tomorrow bound for the town of Bayeux in Normandie.  It is around 8 hours drive away so it will be a long day.. we plan to stick to the motorway but would have been a better idea to split the journey in two and take the road less travelled. Can't do everything!

I'm pretty sure that I won't be able to get Internet access in Normandie.. so blog wise the next week may be a bit dry.

It has been a full on and interesting day.  It was last day at school for the boys. Maybe even more importantly their last school lunch - sorry I've lost the menu.  They are in for a nasty surprise at Northcote Primary next year.. packed lunches can't compete with these French cafeterias.

We took along treats (bonbons) and cake as is birthday custom.. James got all confused and thought it was a birthday celebration for him even though it isn't his birthday.  We also took along some small gifts for the teachers to say thanks.  The head teacher at Le Got school is very disappointed to see James leave...  she has been fantastic with the kids all year. As we left Le Got we had scores of children all madly waving and screaming goodbye. It was quite moving.  Jack also had a good day.. his friends at school made a fuss of him and he also received a letter from one of the girls at his school but is not showing it to us. 

We had lunch with the owners of this house and their daughter down in the village.  It was good to eat there one last time.. but we also went back and ordered some take-away pizza tonight.  The food was great as usual..  I had paté for starters, a fantastic lasagna for my main and peach tart for desert. This came to €10.50 which also included wine. 

This morning Ange and I had a frantic and determined last cleaning of the house.. it has been a work in progress all week.  The idea was to invite the owners back to the house for an inspection after lunch.  That has all gone well and they plan to come around tomorrow, with coffee hopefully, to see us off around at 8am.

This afternoon the invoice for our freight luggage arrived (€950 for 164kg).  This was more good news as a. it was what I had been expecting  b. it means the luggage has arrived in Paris and is not bound for Mumbai.   Everything is slowly falling into place and my stress levels are back to around a relaxed "3rd glass of wine" level.  This is another good sign as over compensation tends result in a sore head in the morning.  

The car is now packed like a can of sardines.. tomorrow there is just enough room (I hope) for three little anchovies and mum + dad in front. I also just received an email from my travel agent warning me that Emirates are having a "overweight  baggage blitz" so we will have to do some more luggage culling between here and Charles De Gaulle.  

We have decided to hold onto our car while we are in Paris, it will be the easiest way to get back to the airport. I'm also quite keen to drive around Paris, to gain a new perspective, although I am expecting this novelty to wear off quickly.  We found a reasonably priced parking garage just 50m from our apartment, I should be able to move the luggage in three or four trips.

Hopefully this won't be my last post for a week.. 

Friday, 28 November 2008

Last Serving of French

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Nothing like a good frost
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Off to French school for the last time
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Minus 7ºC on the way to school

An important day for us but only a short post.. sorry too busy to blog.  I need to go convince Ange to ditch more clothes:) 

Have you met James French?

LeChat The3Pigs
Have you met young James French? At least that's what we would be calling him if we stayed in France any longer. This young pioneer of the Biscuit Bunch, who can't even remember what his room back home looks like, has taken great strides in the big wild world this year.
So very cute.. I'm so proud of you James.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mission Accomplished

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One of the highlights was the full scale models of the Mir space station.
Well Mission Impossible turned out to be not so difficult after all. Although the building wasn't grey or signposted it look very similar to the obscure building I visited in Paris back in February when I collected our luggage. 
My little car looked very out of place squeezed in between big trucks.  Fortunately it only took just over an hour and this meant that Jack (riding shotgun) and I had some time to kill before heading home. 
The more I see of Toulouse the more I like it. We had a quick lunch and then managed to fit in a rushed tour of Cité de l'espace, a space theme park on the outskirts of the city.  It was good fun however short lived.
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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Tuesday Tune-up

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Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

  • I must admit I'm not really into this post.. a bit tired of packing and organising which seems to go on forever.  We are 80% there...... everything is boxed up and ready for transit to Toulouse tomorrow. 
  • This is a daunting prospect because I'm heading towards the freight area of the Blagnac airport, which I know will be huge and I'm looking for a grey building that says France Handling.  Actually I don't know what colour it is or even if it has a signage..  At least I can always ask someone for help.. like in French.  Anyway I keep telling myself that these are the sort of challenges that are designed to separate explorers from the tourists.
  • Birthdays... yes. My mid-lie crisis is now official over as I turned 41 yesterday.  Ange is a few months behind me and I wish she would hurry up as this mid-life crisis stuff is so like... yesterday:)
  • We had some friends over on Saturday night for a final get together.  We have got to know two families quite well and the kids have all got on really well. Their friendship and inclusion has made a big difference to stay in France this year.  They somehow found out it was my birthday (thanks James) and spoilt us rotten with birthday and going away gifts.
  • The daily runs have become an exercise in staying warm.  Today was gloriously sunny but the temperature was hovering just above zero all day.  We still haven't had any EJP days (high electricity charge) so they must still consider the temperature to be too high! I have to keep reminding myself we are travelling north this weekend.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Last Foot

LastFoot Jack had his last two games with his team from the FC LA MENAURIE football club.  They were up against some strong competition, going down 3-0 in the first and narrowly loosing the second 2-1. 
It was freezing down in the valley below the village.  Ange and I took turns to look after his brothers back at home, normally this is the "short straw" duty but today it wasn't so bad.
So is this the end of Jack's "international" football career?  We'll have to wait to find out:)

Saturday, 22 November 2008

la photo du jour

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The hills of the Monbazillac valley which are home to Château De Planques vineyard.. one of our favourite wine labels from the Bergerac region.

Mad Rush.. but stress levels dropping


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Boxes, banks, packing, cleaning, travel agents, insurance....

We have been through all this before, in fact it was this time last year that things started to get really frantic.  The feeling of déjà vu is slightly offset as this time round everything is in french, which provides a new perspective:)

We have just transferred our remaining euro funds back to our bank in New Zealand last night.. the timing was rather fortuitous as the NZ Dollar plummeted overnight to a 10 year low against the euro.  We checked the account this morning and the transfer had gone though.  That is one major boil of stress which has been successfully lanced.

Our updated air-tickets have also arrived in my inbox last night.  These were never really at risk but were high up on the to-do list.

Packing is now our priority. We have to finalise what is going on the plane and what goes in the boxes (and the most contentious part: what gets left behind).  I have arranged to drop off our freight boxes in Toulouse next Wednesday. I'm still a bit nervous about this but nowhere near as stressed as I was two weeks ago, at least my agent in Paris seems really switched on.

In exactly three weeks time we leave Paris for Dubai.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

la photo du jour

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Another bush run...

One of the best things about living in the country and not working is that there is plenty of time for all the good stuff.

Yep - This is living.

I think it will be pretty hard to re-adjust to life in the city.  But that is exactly what red wine is for and I'm sure if our stocks run low we could sell one of the kids to buy another crate or two :)

Note the trail marker on the tree.. we are not lost.... I think that is why Ange is smiling:)

It's a Camera..

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This post is 'sponsored' by Purely Gadgets (UK), a great option for purchasing electronics online in France/ Europe.  I saved around €90 on this purchase.

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Arrived at: 11:49am
Weighs in at: 350g
Delivery time: 108 hours 59 mins

Yes.. the rumours were true. 

I've been trying to hide the 'bump' in recent photo's.  Some of you have commented that it looked somewhat more substantial than just the result of "wine and cheese" feasting.  Well the truth is now out. 

The last stages of the delivery was absolute torture.. I thought it wasn't going to happen. Then at around 11am I was told that  the package was moving south and then behold it just arrived,  just in time for lunch.

What a relief.

Welcome, young Canon to the Biscuit Bunch family:)


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

la photo du jour

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We came across this fellah while out on a bush run a couple of weeks ago. 

Ok...  He was fenced in but it sounds better if I say that we had just stumbled across him.

Actually Fred or Fredrick belongs to "Le Gaulois Auberge à la Ferme" a great spot just around the corner from us.  I got to know Fred back in June when I was helping the owner drive in some fence posts (using a digger while I was holding the post). Fred was quite nosey and kept stumbling over to check on what I was doing.  He is a big lad and I was quite nervous.

Tuesday Tune-Up

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Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

  • School Teachers are on strike this Thursday = no school. All this industrial action seems to be rubbing off on Jack .. he was due to be paid his hard earned pocket money at 5pm on Monday but for some reason this slipped. Anyway after dinner time he boldly stated that he won't do any dishes (start a new weeks round of chores) until he had been paid for the previous week. Bugger - now his brothers will catch on to this too.
  • Benjie and Oscar.. less than two weeks left. We will all miss you guys. Oscar, I'll miss your fearless (or somewhat blind) courage towards fast moving vehicles. Benjie your devotion to me is so awkwardly one-sided, I can only hope that some of this has rubbed off on Ange and the kids. A special thanks to both you guys for helping our boys overcome their apprehension with dogs.
  • Last week came home from a run to find a fox in the sheep paddock, Briggs and Stratton where standing their ground and starring this guy down from 2 metres. Oscar chased him off... I think we saw the same chap on the back road run the next day. Oscar chased after him.
  • My new canon camera is still in "General status. Sorting(Domestic Transit/Import): Bordeaux". I'm having to resort to a whole new camera technique.. a) only frame shots on the left side and crop out the blurred area or b) take two overlapping shots, crop left side of each and photo-merge them. Hurry up DHL!!
  • Check out the home delivery that we came across yesterday. Madame your pain de campagne has arrived. I was feeling pretty peckish by this stage of the run.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

la photo du jour

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A great photo from Alfred Eisenstaedt of children watching a puppet show in the Tuileries Garden in Paris (1963). This was taken at the climax of the show just as the dragon is slain.

Eisenstaedt is perhaps best know for his V-J day photo in Times Square of an American sailor kissing a young woman.

Google have just digitised and released the full archive from LIFE magazine going right back to 1860s. Click here to see it

Gotta love Google

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While there are a few big companies that have impressed me in the past, I don't believe I have ever felt the urge to reach out and thank one.  In fact, Google, I'm pretty sure you are the first. 

Please give me a minute as I authenticate using my Google email account to access my Google Blogger web site.  I plan to upload some photo's to the Google Picasa web site but first I have to trim and adjust them using Google's Picasa 3 photo software.  These photo's (below) show a brand new fascinating Google Map feature called STREET VIEW.  This feature is a great addition to the Google Map service and Google Earth software, which we rely heavily on to navigate our way around France.   Still, however powerful, this web service is nowhere near as useful as Google Translate, without which I'm sure that my family and I would have starved to death.  Starving perhaps, but at least never bored, as I have my Google Home Page with dozens of Google Gadgets to keep track of all the news happening in the world.  To top everything I've just discovered Google Reader.... now I'm able to keep track of many more interesting blogs than I had ever thought possible.

Possibly the most amazing Google feature of all is that all these fantastic services, including all the data storage,  are paid for by some mysterious advertising that I hardly ever see and rarely take notice of.

Google - Thank you! I love your work, all of it.  I also trust in the knowledge that your amazing search engine will find, record and take some pleasure in this humble thank-you post.

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Monday, 17 November 2008

la photo du jour

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The hamlet of Saint Cernin de l'Herm in the late autumn sun, it is pronounced "San Surnan de laHerm".   Jack's school (and the Marie) is just off centre in the picture, the church steeple is jutting out behind it.  Our house is at the top of the hill behind the trees just to the left of the church steeple.  I took this while Jack was at football yesterday, there was no match they just had training.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

French Facts: Option EJP

It's a slow day today.. camera hasn't arrived but it made to Bordeaux, so it's getting closer.

We are back in "EJP mode". This is a period that runs from 1st November to 31st March.  It consists of 22 days where electricity is much more expensive than normal.

This is one of many "power supply agreements" available to consumers in France.  In fact this EJP option was so attractive that it is no longer available to new customers.   The concept is to reduce demand during periods of peak consumption by charging a premium price for electricity.  The advantage for the consumer is a much lower price for non-peak periods.

We experienced around 14 RED days early in the year but haven't had one this year yet.  Two weeks to go- our fingers are crossed.

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Got to go.. All Black test just started. Loving seeing the Scots almost upset the yappies.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Carcassonne Symphony No 5

I took quite a few video's on the old camera (the one with the scratched lens) and took the time today to splice some of them together..

Check it out...

My replacement camera is on route via DHL and I'm getting excited. Hoped it would arrive today but no show.. so probably Monday. I can't wait that long.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Trade Places?

In the bottom corner of my home page I have this little weather box.  For most of the year it has reminded me of how lucky we are, weather wise, compared to Auckland.   Now this trend is starting to reverse and the worst is yet to come.

We are just about to go for a run as soon as Ange gets back from the local shop.  I have the thermals on, three layers in total and I'm still considering taking a jacket.

It's 11:24am and its 1ºC outside.

So, if you feel the warmth of the sun this weekend then spare a thought for us frozen Kiwis in Europe. 

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iTs a NeW DaY!

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Carcassonne - Tuesday

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A closer shot of the walled medieval city of Carcassonne. I love the colours.

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At the east gate where the two walls are connected by a drawbridge over a moat.

Dadandjames James is up to mischief (as usual)

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The restaurant l'Ostal where we had dinner

 

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A bit of history.. no this is not another French Facts post:)  Ange and I first visited Carcassonne in December 1998, she was about 23 weeks pregnant (with Jack) and we were on a round the world "blitzkrieg" trip.  We thought it would be our last chance to go travelling for a very long time.... 

We arrived in Carcassonne from London and were totally blown away by the medieval city and then spent a few days travelling up to the Lot and Dordogne departments.  On the first night in Carcassonne we found this restaurant that looked as old as the city itself. It was here, over dinner that we first explored the idea of spending a year in France at some distant time in the future.

The idea obviously took hold and so it was a nostalgic (and proud) moment to be able to go back to the same restaurant with the three boys to celebrate the achievement of turning this idea into a reality. The restaurant itself is nothing special.. it was just really really old and hadn't changed in 10 years (or probably 100), even the menus looked the same.

It is just as well that we left our Carcassonne adventure to the end of the year... all other castles and sites (even Beynac) would pale in comparison to this grand old city.  You can easily spend a day wandering through the old city and around the outer walls..  The tour through the Chateau was really impressive, the complex is huge and then you get to walk all the way around the top inner wall back to the east gate.  The whole Carcassonne experience is ridiculously cheap: of course it costs nothing to wander through the old city. The entrance to the castle is €7.5 for an adult and kids are free (viva la France)!

The accommodation was not bad for €100 a night and a short car journey from the old city.   We had a good look around the city and outer walls on Tuesday afternoon.  After dinner at restaurant l'Ostal we had another wander around the walls admiring how they had all been lit up at night. It had been a long day and a very tired bunch hit the sack early as tomorrow we planned to tour the Chateau. 
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