France Day 14 - Chenonceau, Amboise, & BETRAYAL!

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

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Flag of France  , Centre,
Saturday, August 9, 2008

Today, we journey to one of the most famous chateaus of the Loire Valley, Chenonceau.

Our journey begins with a quick fill-up with gas. Trying to travel lightly, I've brought along only the essentials today, ... which unfortunately means I forgot my cash. Doh! Back to the house, back for the gas, this time with cash on hand. ... And THEN we hit the road. On the way, we stop off in Angers for a quick bite to eat. It is here that I realize that I didn't bring very much cash, only fourty euros for the whole day ... I have my credit cards, but we've found that a lot of places either don't accept credit cards at all or have problems with American cards. The low cash thing could really be a problem. There is no guarantee that the ticket office at Chenonceau accepts credit card, and that alone will be at least twenty euros for the family. The whole day, I stress about cash and spending, which is not a fun thing. From now on, I'm rollin' with big time cashola.

Our stroll in Angers starts with a walk through a beautiful garden, then a stop at McD's for the kids (there goes 8 euros!), and then some time walking through the market, with a stop at the playground before we get in the car again. We only see a little bit of the city, but it looks and feels beautiful. A great start to the day!

Back in the car, we press on to Chenonceau. The kids are really struggling now with how many road trips and adventures we've gone on over the last two months, so now ... to help them through it, we've busted out the iPods and the Leapster for entertainment. The kids LOVE listening to the cousins' recorded voices, and Sam loves listening to hip-hop pop music. Its hilarious to hear him singing along to songs like "I want to be a rock star!",

On the way, we have to pay 10 euros for toll charges. OUCH! Thats expensive. So, 10 euros both ways = 20 euros. Plus half a tank of gas = 30 euros. Plus entrance at 20 euros for the fam ... Thats 70 euros for the road trip. Add in the exchange rate, and we are at $110 USD just for the base trip, not including food. YIKES! The good news is that the toll roads accept American Express. Bad news is that I don't realize this the first time and fork out 8 euros cash, dwindling us down to 22 euros. Argh. ... At Chenonceau, ... more good news, they take credit card! Bad news, Janice and the kids want ice cream. : D ... Actually, once we find that the toll roads and Chenonceau accept credit card, we are totally fine with money.

I won't go in to a ton of detail about our time at Chenonceau other to say it was magical. We rented a small boat (a great deal actually at 4 euros for hour) and had an unforgettable time rowing around the lazy river around and under the huge palace. ... Go to for an idea of the place. It was amazing. Depending who you believe, this ranks as the second or third most visited French palace/castle after Versailles.

Around 5pm, we jump back in the car and drive towards home with the plan to stop and eat somewhere along the way (the food at Chenonceau was too dang expensive!). Ooh, small detail here I forgot to tell in a previous blog entry. I took a photo of our car, ... if you notice, the last two digits of the license plate are a bit set off from the rest. Thats because these two numbers tell you were the car is registered in France. Catherine told us all of this, and as we drove around Pornichet, she would point out where all the various tourists were from ... and would always show us how Paris drivers were the worst! : )

On we drive, and I see a sign for Amboise and am reminded that yesterday, while we were doing some internet research about the local chateaus, Vincent made an "Ooh la la" sound when we read about Amboise. We take a detour and discover a wonderful city, where Leonardo da Vinci lived! A couple of turns and we are rewarded with a perfect parking spot at the end of old town. We stroll the the streets of old town Amboise, directly underneath the chateau (, looking for a place to eat. The streets are full of tourist shops, but the crowds aren't too bad. Eventually, we come to a perfect restaurant at the base of the chateau. Perfect because it is open, busy (but not TOO busy), ... and the menu offers something that is on our Must Do list for France: ESCARGO!

Ten minutes later, the Escargo is served. A negotiation begins with the kids. First off, I will try it first, and if its nasty ... they don't have to eat it. Second, whoever trys the escargo will be greatly rewarded with a huge dessert. A deal is struck, and after I eat my piece, Janice goes next. Then, Ella nervously volunteers to try it. She downs it no problem. Samuel is last and has all sorts of delay tactics (check out the video where he decides to show of his trivia skills about the human body), ... but ultimately puts it down with only one gag type reflex (occurred half a second after I stopped recording). ... Yay! Desserts for everybody! .... I also ordered a bowl of onion soup, one of my favorite French dishes to eat while in the States. Wasn't impressed with this offering. Not bad, ... but nothing special. I think I'll try it again at a nicer restaurant. This one was a bit touristy. And really, only one last thing on the Must Do cuisine list, ... fondue. But this remains for another day.

And then, we grab a seat to enjoy a ridiculously good dessert feast. We spotted this place on the way in and every seat was full, with families and couples eating out of huge bowls of ice cream, sharing fresh pastries with one another, and slurping down home made hot chocolate and cups of unique juice concoctions. After we order, Janice takes the kids for a little walk to a nearby tourist shop ... and a fiasco begins.

First, Janice returns after two or three minutes with a scowl on her face. "That woman was so rude!" ... she tells me as she points at the shopkeeper who has followed Janice out of the store and is now staring in our direction. "The kids were just touching some magnets, and she came and shouted DON'T TOUCH!", Janice explained. ... Ah, the rude shopkeeper. Oh well, she won't get any of our money.

One minute later, we hear Samuel say, "Oh my gosh! Look at this! There is a doggie on my chair!" ... and we turn to see a small stuffed animal on the chair. My first thought was that perhaps it belonged to the dessert restaurant that we were at. Maybe it was a clever way to get tourists to buy stuff, ya know? But I looked around and didn't see any souvenirs inside, my next thought was that maybe the creepy old man sitting next to us was being nice by sneaking a toy to the kids as a gift. But I made eye contact with him and he was as baffled as I was. Hmmm. And then, it struck me. Theft. ...

But which one of the kids? Ella would be the first thought (sad to say, but true). But she was over by Janice, ... and Samuel loves doggie stuffed animals and had it in his hand, and so my interrogation begins with him. The thing is ... the way it was "discovered" by Samuel means that one way or another, some sort of devious plan was involved here. Either Ella took it and planted it on Sam's chair, or Sam took it and pretended that he found it here. ... I start with Sam and ask him if he took the doggie and he looks me in the eye and says "No....". So sincere and believable. And then I think, maybe it was Ella. She is definitely the more devious member of our family. So I go to talk to her about it. She also say, "No...." and is so busy playing and talking that I'm equally convinced its not her. Bah.

Just then, I look over and the shopkeeper is still standing, now looking frustrated and with her arms crossed and I realize I still have the little doggie. So, Sam and I walk over with it (he in tears now) and we give it back and I have him say sorry in French. We walk back to the dessert place as the ice cream is served and I tell Janice that I'm pretty sure it was Sam, but it doesn't seem right to her. ... And me either. ... Its just not like Samuel to do that, ... and particularly to continue to lie about it. ... I decide its important to get to the bottom of this and get a confession.

The next strategy is a little bluff on my part. I tell Sam to sit and think about it and tell me the truth. He repeats that he didn't take it. He only found it on the chair. But I'm not buying it. I tell him I know what happened. After all I explain to him, they were in the store, they were by the doggies, and then, it miraculously appeared on his chair. What was his explanation? I told him I knew the truth, and that he needed to tell me. As he cries, I give him a big window to open up with the truth. I tell him that if he tells me what happened, the truth, ... that he will still get ice cream. I also tell him that we all make mistakes, and suggest maybe he was playing with the doggie and accidentally forgot to put it back and then was scared to get in trouble and so he pretended he found it. I just wanted him to fess up. ... As he continued to think and cry, I check with Ella again just to be sure. She is three spoonfuls in to the ice cream feast by now and shrugs her shoulders in a convincingly nonchalant way and says, "I don't know what happened... I was playing with the magnets, and she said 'Don't touch!' and we came back and mommy wasn't happy with her because she was rude, and brother found the doggie!" A little lip jut at the end of her sentence as if to say, "how weird?! I don't know...".

I decide that we need to get some more info. Its killing me ... I absolutely don't want to be that parent we've all encountered who lives in denial that their kid has stolen or been a bully because the kid is their 'precious little angel' ... but at the same time, something just isn't sitting right by me. ... So I take the kids over to the shopkeeper and ask (by sign language) if she actually SAW the kids take it, and if so, which one? Samuel or Ella? (I ask with the two fingers towards the eyes and then motion to each of the kids, asking her to point out the culprit ...). She goes on and on in French, and finally points out Samuel. ... I head back to the table and send Ella to Janice to enjoy ice cream and then I lay in to Sam a bit for lying and such. And its the weirdest thing. He maintains his innocence. ... I'm reminded of a story that Debbie Burt related to me about one of her kids who stole or lied one time. It was totally out of his character, but after being left to 'think about it' for a bit, he confessed. So, I figured that maybe Sam was just scared of the consequence of the initial theft and was now acting in fear. Maybe some more time was what he needed. So Janice, Ella, and I continued to eat the ice cream while Sam sat in tears. I asked Ella again what happened, just to be sure she wasn't involved somehow and she told me, "I don't know daddy. I didn't even see the doggie in the store." Fair enough. And finally, Sam spoke, "Daddy, maybe I took it on accident, but I really don't remember." ... Well, jeez ... maybe that is good enough of a confession for tonight, I figured. But still, he is such a thoughtful kid with a reliable memory, it just didn't add up. ...

And so, I go back AGAIN to the store (and now the shopkeeper and her husband are just looking frustrated at seeing me yet again). I ask her if she speaks any English (no) and ask her again by sign language if she saw Sam take it. Did he put it under his shirt? Did he hide it? ... and she walked me back toward the stuffed animal area and rambled on in French for a minute or two as if I understood ... I didn't really. But one thing I did understand as she reenacted all that happened: She didn't actually SEE the kids take it. She only realized it had been stolen after they left. She saw the empty spot where the doggie had been. And now it made sense why she followed Janice out of the shop and stared us down while we sat at the dessert restaurant. She wanted the product back. She was trying to get Janice's attention without yelling at her and calling her and the kids thieves.

As I walked back to the restaurant, it dawned on me that maybe Sam had been wrongly accused this whole time. Maybe he was the victim not only of a wrongful accusation, but also a false identification initially by the shopkeeper. Maybe it was Ella who had taken the doggie from the shop, and then later realized she would be in big trouble and planted the doggie on Sam's chair to avoid incrimination. And maybe she then, with cool calculation, pretended to be disinterested in the whole interrogation ... content to enjoy a huge ice cream feast with mom as her brother sobbed and cried under the pressure of wrongful accusations. And maybe Ella figured that a huge stroke of luck was granted to her when the shopkeeper mistakenly identified Samuel as the thief ... and her determination to avoid being found out was strengthened, and so she was able to lie to me several times ...while looking at me directly in the eye,... even being held in my arms. .... Its a horrible thought to imagine such a selfish thing to be perpetrated by Ella against her own flesh and blood. Really, its troubling.

I walk back and call Ella to come to me. I only have one last chance at finding the truth here. If I miss this, she will have successfully lied to me three times in a row and will be taught that she can outwit her parents and get away with murder. ... So I pull out all the stops. I hold her close in my arms and tell her to look at me. She is sitting there, smiling ... with ice cream on her lips. Not too loving (to betray her guilt), but not too distant. Just ... perfect. And I tell her. "Ella. I know what happened." ... "I do too, Daddy.", she says, referring to the fact that Samuel did it. "No. Ella, you listen to me. I just talked to the shopkeeper, and she told me EXACTLY what happened. She saw everything." ... *pause for effect* hoping to break her down, but she doesn't flinch ... so I dig a little deeper ... "Ella, she told me she saw everything. She saw YOU take the doggie." .... *another pause* ... and now, a chink in the armor. Not much, but the slightest grimace of guilt, and I know that this is the Truth. This is what happened. Ten seconds later, when I prompt her for the REAL story she confesses.

And I'm heartbroken. My precious little girl. This is the worst thing she has ever done. She has yelled, and hit, and lied. But all individual mistakes. Acts of rage and fear. But this, ... this is just ugly. And dark. I'm really really troubled by it. Especially because she watched as Samuel anguished and missed out on the entire dessert reward as she ate to her stomach was full. ... I decide to postpone her punishment until I can think things through. This is a big thing. And she needs to understand that its not acceptable.

We walk back to the car and pass a pirate candy shop ... so we send Sam in to buy a bag full of candy since he missed out on the desserts. Ella stands outside the shop, not allowed to enter as part of her punishment. ... I tell her several times that I'm disappointed with her and she has made all of us sad and angry.

Sam, meanwhile, forgives her within a minute or two. He is so softhearted and generous. ... And Ella can be too, don't get me wrong. I love my little girl to no end. To the moon and back, as we often say to one another. She can be sunshine on a cloudy day. When she chooses to love and give and share a smile or hug, she has a tremendously positive heart and spirit. But there is this undeniable streak of rebelliousness and deviousness in her that worries me terribly. On our drive home Janice and I talk a lot about the intrinsic nature of personality and character that we've seen to exist in both children and adults. Certainly, we are all shaped and formed by the various events and experience that come our way throughout our lives. But ... WOW ... the older I get, the more time I spend with our children and with the children of friends and family ... the more I believe that so much of who we all are is something written in our DNA, something predetermined. I'm determined to develop a parenting method that addresses these challenges that Ella faces. I love her so and don't want her to have to experience painful things. If there is anything that we can do to keep her out of life's School of Hard Knocks, ... I want to do it. ... And with all this said about our little girl, I think a huge part of what happened today is the fact that we have been traveling for 6 weeks now, away from her bed, her language, her toys, her friends etc ... she is tired, and that never helps, ya know?

Her punishment for this will be over four days and will be, by far, the most severe discipline she has ever received. I want this to send a strong message to her, something she won't forget I want to give her an opportunity to use this mistake as a crossroads to change. ... Tomorrow, when she wakes up (already asleep in the car!), she will receive four swats. Starting immediately, her blanket will be taken, she will get no desserts, nothing from la boulangerie, and no popcorn or soda... for the next four days. I plan to retell the story to her twice each day and remind her of the severity of what she chose to do ... we will mark in the calendar her days of punishment so that she sees how long and understands what is going on. Hopefully, it will help.


At home, the kids sleep, and Janice and I watch "The Godfather" on the laptop. We've never seen the series! ... Each night, we are watching 45 minutes of it before we go to sleep. A great movie so far!

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tonja_f on

... or down a plate of escargot!

still wishing i could've stowed away in your guys' luggage!

oliveteresa on

uh oh...
oh boy, she almost did pull that one off.
forget insurance, go work at guantanamo.

i checked out the hyperlinks. wow, some very beautiful places!

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