France Day 14 - Chenonceau, Amboise, & BETRAYAL!
Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
77Trip End Sep 01, 2008
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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
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
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 ½ hour) and had an unforgettable time rowing around the lazy river around and under the huge palace. ... Go to http://www.chenonceau.com/media/gb/index_gb.php 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 Francehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_arrondissements_of_France
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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teau_d%27Amboise), 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
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
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, ...so 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
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 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
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
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
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
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, ..
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!