France Day 2 - Settling in ...

Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
Trip End Sep 01, 2008

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Flag of France  , Pays de la Loire,
Monday, July 28, 2008

Ah, ... a cool shower before bed... a nice breeze through the house. What a perfect night. We slept like rocks!

First order of business is for me to make good on my promise to take the fam out for a big ol' French breakfast somewhere nice! It will be our first time using the car here. We pile in and head out in search of a place to grub. Last night, everywhere was closed (as we were warned by Frank and Sandrine). Surely this morning we will find something. ... Strange though. Still everywhere is closed. Bars are open. And La Boulangerries everywhere, but no sit down and eat type place. We keep driving, but the best we can find ... well, not the best necessary ... but the first we can find once we've crossed the MUST EAT NOW line is a little bar type place near the river. Zero English for the first 10 minutes of confusion as we try to order. Then, lo' and behold, our savior ... the owner comes down from her house up top and she can speak a LITTLE. The numbers and some basics like 'water', and 'where are you from', etc. She, like everyone else in the restaurant, has a big huge smile on her face as we all laugh at how difficult it is to communicate with one another. The food is good. A simple omelette with ham and cheese for me (quite runny egg cooking ... I think its a French thing), and Janice and the kids share a chocolate waffle. Simple food.

With food in our bellies, the next stop is the grocery store. Gotta stock up on some food so that we can really feel at home in our new house. Chips, soda, milk, eggs, crepe stuff, pasta, fruit. Now we are set.

And while wondering the isles of the store, I decide that its time for me to take up a new hobby. I will endeavour to become a cheese conessioure. My quest starts today. I pick up three cheeses (which I later research and they all turn out to be from cow's milk, drat ... I had hoped for a variety): Brie Pasteurise, Port Salut, and Pont L'Eveque. We shall see how they all taste! I'm excited!

On the way back home, we find our way to the Tourist Office of Chateau-Gontier and find a very nice guy who speaks English well. We end up chatting for about thirty minutes and gather some maps of the river area nearby and other stuff thats fun to do within driving distance. ... Side note here, Franc and Sandrine have done an AWESOME job taking care of us here. They have a special binder with plastic sleeves full of maps, brochures, and a personally created list of their favorite things to do nearby ... also has friends and phone numbers and such. Its great.

Back to the house for some rest and to unpack. All this shopping has made us hungry, but we are feeling lazy ... so we walk down to a restaurant I saw earlier for our first French lunch ... La Villa Roma. Again, no English. Janice has started to have flashbacks to French class at Foothill and a word or two is coming back to her here and there. She is doing awesome, but she has said repeatedly how much she regrets not taking a second year. Me, on the other hand. I suck. I can hardly say bonjuer in a way that is even close to being understood. I think most people half smile and half laugh at me each time I say it. Doh! The kids split a pizza, and Janice orders a specialty pizza with artichokes, ham, and cheese that comes with an egg smack in the middle too!, and I get the Menu Express that starts with a very French looking salad (salad, tomatoes, a piece of bread with toasted cheese on top... YUM!), then a bit of pasta with a gravy covered piece of pork tenderloin. Very good. Dessert is a sweet fruit salad and chocolate mousse for the kids. Both devoured in seconds by us all.

Back home for the kids to play. They never want to leave the house. Between the toys, the calm feeling of the yard and home, the trampoline and swingset in the back, the books, the games. They love it here. I start working on various tasks to make sure our next coming days are fun. I take a look at the bikes, coordinate with several friends of Franc and Sandrine's who have very graciously invited us to their homes for dinner, help work through some details with Franc and Sandrine's visit to our home, ... and finally ... I talk to Laurent Brunet who speaks English and is a co-worker of friends of Franc and Sandrine's (Olivier). Laurent co-manages the towns leisure center with Olivier. He invites me to 'come have a look' to see if our kids might want to go there during our stay. I head out in the car to meet at a local church, St. Martin's (its a perfect meeting spot, impossible to miss). (By the way, our church is St. Remi's). .... Laurent is very very kind and it seems he loves to help. He takes me to the leisure center and we spend about an hour meeting all the teachers (including Olivier who is one of the folks we will have dinner with next week ...with his wife and two children!). We walk through the center, which is basically a high school closed for summer that has been taken over by this day camp of sorts for local children. Its great. It totally reminds me of the wonderful memories I have of going to the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica during at least one of my summers. It totally put me out of my comfort zone, but it taught me so much about interacting with strangers and making new friends. ... All of the teachers are at least fourth year college students in a variety of studies. They teach and play with the children as a paid position during the summer for three weeks. They also get some school credit for the work. Little French children come up to me giggling, counting in English to show off. The teachers are all super friendly ... some of them have large grins ... including Laurent and Olivier who tell me that they share my feeling about being VERY EXCITED to be here, experiencing the day to day life of a French family. Our smiles are equally wide. Its a neat thing. We then review costs (13 euros per day per child which includes lunch) ... they basically have a drop off time between 7am and 9:30am and a pick up time at 5pm - 6pm. They have a full day for the kids including music, drawing, outdoor activities, snack, lunch, quiet time, story time,... and field trips. We've just missed out on the kids going to ride ponies at a nearby farm ... but swimming pool days are coming up next. ... Laurent takes another thirty minutes out of his work day and helps me to fill out the form for our kids. Tomorrow, I'll bring Janice and the kids by to see if they are as excited as I am about the idea. ... Oh, one funny thing. Just as I leave the place, there is like five teachers gathered round and I try to bust out and use one of the six French phrases I know. Goodbye shouldn't be tough. I get all their attetion and with a big proud American smile I say, "Bonjuor!" ... They laugh. Loudly. DOH!

Before I left the house, I changed in to shorts. The sun was beating down on me. Too hot for pants. Now, thunder and lightning and dark, dark clouds. How bizarre! It feels like Hawaii ... bright sun, then BOOM! Rain... only here, the temperature drops drastically as the rain comes down. I head home as buckets come down. As soon as I get home, Jancie is just winding up a one hour collect phone call with Debbie. Kidding, not collect. It was 'free' via Skype. Janice loved the talk and touch back to normal life. ... Then, she and the kids ran through the backyard, buckets of rain and all to the trampoline. Its protected by a large garage out back ... and they jump and scream and laugh and play. Its an awesome thing.

Inside, we grub on Janice's cooking. She's made some awesome grilled chicken with onions.

As I work, and Janice reads ... the kids watch Peter Pan start to finish for the first time. Ella is so tired she falls asleep half way through. Sam loves it. ... Its a magical day in France for us all.
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burtmommie on

French is crazy
I'm so with you on the French pronounciation thing, Asher. When we met Franck and Sandrine, we asked F how to say something like 'How are you?' Both Ron and I must have looked like deer caught in the headlights when he rattled it off. I sheepishly asked, 'Slower?' He said it syllable by syllable and we were still lost. URGH. Spanish and Swahili come easily to me but French sounds so, well, so FOREIGN!!!

I loved talking with Jannie on the phone too! It felt like she was just around the corner!

I'm glad you guys are having fun! It looks beautiful. I do not envy being in a land of French-speakers though, I would be soooooooooooo hopelessly lost. It is great to hear how nice everyone is! I too have always heard that the French do not like Americans. Guess you can't believe everything you hear.

Oh, i can't remember if you mentioned this website or not in your last post and i'm too sleepy to check,
You can type in a website and it will translate it for you (like if people wanted to read Franck and Sandrine's blog or if F and S wanted to read yours, it will translate most of the site from English to French or vice versa). Gotta love Google.

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