Tag Archives: family

Junior High in France

French students in what are essentially 8th and 9th grades do a one-week shadowing internship, observing someone doing what they think they want to do for a living. This year, Theo’s 8th grade year, he is in a small private French school, so he was expected to do this “stage d’observation.” And what Theo is interested in doing as a career, is sustainable farming, imagining his own restaurant and maybe using this knowledge and platform in developing countries. Our part of France is amazing for family farms and sustainable farming. I don’t think we have ever passed a field of more than 20, 25 cows. The local produce is preferred, and it’s amazing. Unfortunately, his stage was scheduled at the end of February. Farms aren’t really all that busy in February, and so we were having some trouble finding a farm willing to take on this American kid no one knew.

At the last minute, an acquaintance of another parent at the school who is a farmer, who happens to also have a church and food pantry and bread ministry on his farm, agreed to take on Theo. It was a match made in heaven! He spent four days working hard in an all-Francophone environment, and instead of finishing the day weary and near-silent as usual, I would pick him up, energized and talking constantly of all he had done! And he did a lot.

Farmer Ted. Note the amazing view from the farm!

Farmer Ted. Note the amazing view from the farm!

He helped build a pen for the new little chicks coming in, and helped them settle the next day. He accompanied the tractor mowing the grass around the bees’ hives, helped build parts of the electric fencing, and sautered and painted a cow pen. He also ate lunch with the family each day, a nice French farmer lunch!

Where they grind the wheat they grow into flour, which they then bake into loaves they use for food aid.

Where they grind the wheat they grow into flour, which they then bake into loaves they use for food aid.

Only one loaf left! The oven is the whole wall in the back.

Only one loaf left! The oven is the whole wall in the back.

The sheep are getting to know Theo.

The sheep are getting to know Theo.

Another view from the farm.

Another view from the farm.

He spent the next week preparing the report of his stage, and he is more convinced than ever that this is what he wants to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paris: the Day of the Musee D’Orsay

The next day was a Sunday, and found Theo still sick, and he seemed to be getting a cough. But our museum passes were all pre-purchased, and Theo still had hopes of seeing the beaches of Normandy Monday, so we decided to see if he would improve. We left him to his internet and manga and headed back to Paris, Myriah to the international service at the Cathedral du Notre Dame, and Stoney and I to Sainte-Chapelle, apparently once a royal chapel, and an amazing collection of stained glass.

The chapel is under renovation, it’s third one, I believe.

The chapel isn't far from Notre Dame, and the is the smallest church we have visited.

The chapel isn’t far from Notre Dame, and is the smallest church we have visited.

The difference between restored windows and yet-to-be-restored is clear. These are dirty.

The difference between restored windows and yet-to-be-restored is clear. These are dirty.

The restoration process is extensive and painstaking. They remove panels and take them apart, cleaning each piece, replacing the leading, before putting the puzzle back together. It must take FOREVER.

The restoration process is extensive and painstaking. They remove panels and take them apart, cleaning each piece, replacing the leading, before putting the puzzle back together. It must take FOREVER.

See some of the results, and our visit to the MO, by clicking here. Continue reading

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When all that glitters IS gold…

Glitter and glint are EVERYWHERE at Versailles. I mean, you hear that the Sun King was a liberal fan of gold, but wow. This was extreme.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Even in the distance, on a rainy day, the chateau gleams with gold.

My family joining the crowd.

My family joining the crowd.

Guarding the entrance.

Greeting all-comers.

 

Gold at the gate.

Gold at the gate.

A tiny slice of this enormous castle.

A tiny, less ornate, slice of this enormous castle.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

Suffice it to say that this theme was continued indoors. Doorways, mantles, fabrics, ceilings, stairways, well…everything was covered in its fair share of gold. By the time we reached the end, I was actually tired of it. Some things are special and lovely because they are rare. To me, gold is pretty garish when it’s not an accent, but the main palette.

Also by the time we were finished, Theo had grown quite a headache. We took the metro back to our hotel and began dosing him up with decongestant and Advil. The next day he wasn’t really better, so we went into Paris with just Myriah. Coming up, the Louvre.

 

 

 

 

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The City of (Christmas) Lights

The day after Christmas 2013, we packed up and headed for an adventure in Paris. Theo wasn’t feeling so hot, but truly, he had had some sort of cold or bad allergies since before Thanksgiving, so we just pressed on. We stayed at a Hilton at Orly Airport, which was pretty cheap with big rooms, but very, very tired and nothing like picturesque. However, the breakfast was good, it had great access to the metro, and kept us from having to drive into Paris traffic.

It's best feature is size.

It’s best feature is size.

That night we took the metro into Paris, and our first view of the Eiffel Tower was at night (quite fitting for Christmas).

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

up close

An up close view. We went back in the daylight so Stoney could see the engineering, of course.

We took a boat tour aboard the Bateaux Mouches, although we didn’t go past Notre Dame, due to the Seine River being so high it affected our clearance. The night was quite cool and damp, but the boats were heated.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

Ready, cap'n!

Ready, cap’n!

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D'Orsay.

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D’Orsay.

Lights at night

Lights at night

The Paris lady liberty

The Paris lady liberty

...and up close.

…and up close.

After the tour we had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby. And yes, all the French folk in Paris seem capable of a functional English. Tomorrow, Versailles.

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Holidays in France 2013

I definitely wanted to document our second year of holidays in France. For one, we made an American Thanksgiving for people here who made an impact on us and made us feel very welcome. It was a big meal in a small kitchen, but every person there was a gift we were thankful for!

A lively table of food and conversation.

A lively table of food and conversation.

We weren't just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

We weren’t just thankful for us old fogeys, either.

And I was super especially thankful that my oldest daughter had arrived from the States to join us for more than a month!

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

And not just thankful for the help washing dishes. Folks were pretty amazed we had no dishwasher here.

My friend Brigitte brought adorable little costume additions that we photographed the group with. I added them to our centerpieces!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

A centerpiece with extra oomph!

We had a quiet Christmas at home, but left the next day for Paris. I’ll include the Paris photos another time.

 

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child's birth!

Joyfully celebrating the Christ-child’s birth!

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

The big reveal. I am sure Theo was grateful his sister came. His dad and I are sort of boring on Christmas morning.

New Year’s was celebrated early, with Italy, and minimally, with a toast of sparkling pear juice. Party on, people!

So that was our Bonne Année, and I think next year we will get to have some of it back in the good ol’ USA.

 

 

 

 

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A Stop in Lyon, France

Rather than make such a long drive our last day of vacation, we stayed overnight in Lyon. This was the city that gave us SUCH a headache as an attempted lunch stop on the way to Switzerland, due to the Tour du France passing through. Honestly, finding our hotel on the way back was something of a headache, too. In the end, though, I loved it.

We stayed at the Hilton in the Cite International, which had upgraded us as HHonors members to a luxury room. I loved the very French welcome!

Macarons, and a note welcoming me by name!

Macarons, and a note welcoming me by name!

There was a lot of remodeling going on, so perhaps that’s why the upgrade. The room was spacious by European standards, and Theo’s favorite so far. My only inconvenience was the glass door to the bathroom, only semi-frosted, so that one had to be mindful of the privacy of others and stay away when the facilities were in use. We were high up in the hotel, so the window view was very nice.

Across the river Rhone (?) as seen from our hotel room.

Across the river Rhone  as seen from our hotel room.

Zooming in on the view, including the ancient arches among more modern buildings.

Zooming in on the view, including the ancient arches among more modern buildings.

The hotel upgrade was very nice, with a reception in a top floor area with snacks and drinks, as well as breakfast up there. A very nice breakfast. But you know, it felt sort of awkward, too, requiring special access, and we’re just plain folk.

The hotel was part of this long commercial strip, with bookends of an arena on one side, and apartments on the other, with retail space, restaurants, a casino and cinema, and a modern art museum in the middle. This is a view from above.

This view reminds me a little of a Georgia O'Keefe cityscape, or even more maybe Joseph Stella or Charles Sheeler.

This view reminds me a little of a Georgia O’Keefe cityscape, or even more maybe Joseph Stella or Charles Sheeler.

Outside the modern art museum.

Outside the modern art museum.

Stoney with his buddy, the skater, outside the residential section.

Stoney with his buddy, the skater, outside the residential section.

Stoney chilling at the end of the area where our hotel was.

Stoney chilling at the end of the area where our hotel was.

 

Our best discovery was one of the largest urban parks in France, the Parc de la Tete d’Or. We only saw a portion, but I have so many lovely photos from that visit that I’ll give the Parc its own post.

 

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Passing Through Geneva

Geneva was our port of entry for Switzerland, and also our exit. Upon arriving, we had to stop and purchase a decal for the car window that permitted us to drive on Swiss roads. This is their alternative to tollroads, which are a huge expense in France. Winding through Geneva to get to Bern had shown us a lovely city on a lake, with sidewalks overflowing with wildly dressed mostly-young people. There must have been a festival of some sorts, it was that wildly dressed; like pirate-wear and almost no-wear. We struggled to navigate through the crowds and did not stop.

Leaving Brienz, we enjoyed the nicest rest stop we have found in Europe thus far:

Texas plates? Really?!

Texas plates? In Switzerland? Really?!

Passing out of Switzerland through Geneva, we had planned to stop and visit. Theo had selected a lunch site at the top of a major multi-level department store, Manora, which took several passes around to locate nearby parking. It’s one of those cities where you can see where you want to be, but street directions may not get you there easily. The restaurant is sort of like a cafeteria, but divided into stations. For instance, a fresh pizza station, a pasta station, a sushi station, a grill. The food was good, and fresh, but you had to watch out for a la carte pricing. For Switzerland, though, it wasn’t too terribly costly.

Then we attempted to strike out on foot and see some of the city.

A park across from the lake.

A park across from the lake.

Some pavilion-like structure in the park.

Some pavilion-like structure in the park.

Up close, it is quite detailed.

Up close, it is quite detailed.

I guess this is how they keep the park so clean?

I guess this is how they keep the park so clean?

The famous water cannon on Lake Geneva.

The famous water cannon on Lake Geneva.

An Anglican church. There are so, so many more Protestant churches in Switzerland! This one was a cutie!

An Anglican church. There are so, so many more Protestant churches in Switzerland! This one was a cutie! It kind of reminded me of Charleston churches.

We only visited a few hours before moving on to our destination for the night: Lyon. Geneva just didn’t call to us; after so much vacationing, we were looking forward to returning to France. You can find all of our Swiss visit by clicking the tag Switzerland on the sidebar to your right, or searching the tag Switzerland, once it moves out of the tag cloud.

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Scenes of Brienz

This post is just to give a feel for the lovely city of Brienz, including the much-preserved art of woodcarving. It’s a big deal in this area, and in Brienz was featured not only in two major studios, but in a museum dedicated to the craft. But you couldn’t turn a corner without encountering examples.

A column near the outdoor dining area of our hotel. And if you go back to first shots of the hotel, you can see the carved lintel on the building across the back garden.

A column near the outdoor dining area of our hotel. And if you go back to first shots of the hotel, you can see the carved lintel on the building across the back garden.

An ode to tourists? I am trying to remember where I captured this fellow; I think either outside the museum or the office of tourism.

An ode to tourists? I am trying to remember where I captured this fellow; I think either outside the museum or the office of tourism.

It's not Swiss without a cow, right?

It’s not Swiss without a cow, right?

He we are, heading down to the lake. It's not a long walk, really; but it is a steep descent.

Here we are, heading down to the lake. It’s not a long walk, really; but it is a steep descent. Follow us lakeside!

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Yes, there really is a Swiss Knife Valley.

And we took the very winding, often narrow, looooooong-tunnelled route between Brienz and Brunnen, the home of the Victorinox museum and the heart of Swiss Knife Valley. The lure of assembling one’s very own, monogrammed original Swiss Army Knife was too great to stay away. We did need an appointment, which was easily made in English by phone the day before.

Brunnen, home of the Victorinox museum.

Brunnen, home of the Victorinox museum.

The instructor there in the middle, explaining to Stoney and Theo the parts they are putting together.

The instructor there in the middle, explaining to Stoney and Theo the parts they are putting together.

The truly handy end results, accompanied by all kinds of new trivia.

The truly handy end results, accompanied by all kinds of new trivia.

But Brunnen was more than just a knife museum. It also had a stunning view…

I think Switzerland must have as many lakes as they have mountains.

I think Switzerland must have as many lakes as they have mountains.

Th everpresent haze over the mountains and lake. I am going to have fun playing with these effects in paint!

Th everpresent haze over the mountains and lake. I am going to have fun playing with these effects in paint!

And, although not the most picturesque Swiss town we visited, it had an irresistible miniature golf course. We succumbed.

Theo, displaying his laissez-faire form. He actually really golfs, so you can see he considers this total play.

Theo, displaying his laissez-faire form. He actually really golfs, so you can see he considers this total play.

The statuary throughout this little course was amazing. Half of why I chose to play was just to get closer to the forms. It certainly wasn’t my high likelihood of dominating at this game. Ahem.

See the peacock in the distance behind the lion?

See the peacock in the distance behind the lion?

An eagle.

An eagle.

A giant mantid.

A giant mantid.

A wof.

A wolf.

I think Brunnen is a great place to take kids. It was very engaging and kid-accessible. And we have wonderful souvenirs!  I even have a pair of Victorinox steak knives now, just not with my name engraved.

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Lake Brienz: Trekking to a Waterfall

Switzerland has lots of waterfalls. It stands to reason, right? I wanted to visit one, and the nearest was accessible by either car or boat. Well, technically you could hike or bike there as well, but that would be all day and more athletic than I have EVER been, so really, no. And Stoney is not a fan of water transport, tolerant as he was in Venice. So car it was. However, let me just say that driving around the bottom tip of this lake and up to the parking for this waterfall was considerably more “adventurous” than any boat ride. The road was steep, hairpin riddled, and in places truly not wide enough for oncoming cars to pass. Shuttle buses came up this road! Seriously?

Anyway, we arrived to this scenery.

This is what I came for! The large chair is an unnecessary photo prop, though, as you will see.

This is what I came for! The large chair is an unnecessary photo prop, though, as you will see.

Come join me on our tour! And fair warning…this is a bit of a photo-bombing. I am not sharing half what I have, but it is so gorgeous I can’t help myself.

Follow Stoney!

Follow Stoney!

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