Sunday, March 28, 2010

home again, home again, jiggety-jig

We're back!  And our return wasn't too bad.  It all started with what we affectionately refer to as the "Orange Crayon Incident of 2010."  Or maybe before that...  Yes, now I remember, the whole week was bad because everyone felt sick.  We had the whole nine yards of stomach flu starting Sunday and Ella and I were the only eluders.  Most of my prayers throughout the whole week included pleas for no one vomiting on the airplane on Friday.  The last few days were filled with last minute "must do before we leave" items and Wednesday night we stayed up late packing.  Thursday morning we woke up early to start cleaning everything out.  At noon we took some extra things over to a friend's house and were invited to lunch at the Tanguy's -- a nice family from church who had us over about four times -- so nice!!  They had the usual French spread and it was delicious and my kitchen could stay clean.  It was a win win, for us and us anyway.  So my next step was to take all of the towels and bed linens, along with any other dirty clothes, to the laundromat so that we could get all of that done quickly.  I left a couple of girls sitting with the laundry while I went home to scrub, scrub, scrub.  I came back and saw that they had transferred everything to the dryer.  Wonderful.  I sat with them to wait.  The buzzer went off and everything was still damp so I divided the load in half to use two dryers.  As I started pulling things out I noticed there was orange crayon -- on everything!  The day before I had seen Phin stuffing his pockets with random objects, but I had failed to empty them before washing and this was the result -- every single towel, sheet, duvet cover, and pillow case in the entire house now had some orange on it and it, of course, was never somewhere discreet.  I just had to shrug my shoulders and be grateful that all of it was old and tattered in the first place.  We will have to see what the owner says.  I was disappointed because I was so excited to be leaving it in better condition than we found it.  Not anymore.  The girls took some of my leftover change to get in some more pastries while I wallowed in self-pity.  Matthew took the girls and I to the train station in Toulon around 7:00 and we agreed to meet at the hotel near the airport in Nice.  We arrived in Nice at 10, but then couldn't find a bus until 11:30.  There was very little written information anywhere in the station and the decidedly UN-helpful information lady simply gestured with her hand saying, "Juste la."  What exactly does she think her job description includes?  Fortunately there was a kind portuguese lady who helped us find our way and a little after midnight we limped up to the hotel where Matthew was waiting anxiously in the lobby to let us in the door.  Next morning we arose early to get ready, transport everything to the airport, turn in the car, and check in.  Surprisingly it all went smoothly and we soon found ourselves once again pooling all of our leftover euros for the absolutely last french pastries.  Mmmm.  They were all successful choices.  The flight to London was fine, and at Heathrow we all found something acceptable for lunch, with Lucy and I heading to a restaurant for fish and chips.  The dreaded nine hour journey wasn't too bad.  Phin did have a few screaming bouts which were unbearable for everyone within 300 feet, but eventually he took a little nap and was okay the rest of the time.  Next was the three hour wait in Chicago for the bus with the girls sacked out on benches, Charles and Matthew watching Larry King, and Phin busily pushing luggage carts around in circles.  Several passersby mentioned he was making them tired just watching him.  It was late enough in Illinois for it to be funny (almost 10 p.m.) but the fact that it was nearly 4 a.m. where we had been made it even more bizarre.  We arrived in Normal around 1 a.m. and our wonderful friend Chad met us at the bus with our van.  Whew!  Traveling always seems so grueling, but I suppose it isn't as bad John Adams three month journey across the ocean with huge storms and pirates with which to contend.

 Now we're home, yea!  And thinking our house is actually quite lovely and the shower downright decadent.  And Happy Birthday to our baby!  We slid right into the finish with the lap child thing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Our time here is coming to an end.  I am really sad.  I knew it would go quickly so I shouldn't be surprised, but still.

What won't I miss?  Being incoherent and stepping in dog poo to name a couple, but what might be the thing I miss most?  Flea markets!

There is one near here every Saturday morning that is so extraordinary and I only went twice.  I know!  What was I thinking?  And the second time was actually quite tragic because I was trying to be good.  I'll confess to my stupidity.

A woman set up her little space with all sorts of things that I like -- chintz pillows and chests overflowing with old linens.  On a table she had some knick-knacks and silverware.  I picked up a bouquet of teaspoons prettily tied with a satin bow, imagining how perfect they were for eating ice cream, and asked how much it was.  She said that she wasn't selling them separately, but that it was part of an entire 12 pc. set, complete with serving pieces, that she was selling for €20.  I didn't just want them so that I could have this conversation:  "What lovely silverware you have."  "Thank you so much, I brought them back from Fraaance."  We actually need new silverware.  I think we only have 5 forks and this price was better than even Ikea.  I do not know why I didn't stuff them all in a bag and run, but I had already bought a table cloth and some little santons, not to mention other things I have purchased since we've been here and we were completely stuffed to the gills when we arrived.

 I looked to my kids for advice.  Charles:  They look heavy so they will really cost more than that when you have to either ship them home or pay more for the suitcase.  Ella:  You will have to polish them.  They both had a point.  I was also worried about getting in trouble with my husband for the money and the bulk.  I.walked.away.  Slowly to be sure.  Then talked about them while we wandered around.  Then told Matthew all about them.  Then kept thinking about them.  They were pretty.

Then when we went to the flea market in Paris and saw ONE SPOON for €40.  I just about died.  What had I done?  So I kept thinking about them.  And almost came home a day early from Paris so I could go to the flea market one last time.  (Then found out the flea market was also on Sunday so skipped over there early with Ella, apologizing for being a bad example, it was an emergency! and the magic silver lady wasn't there anyway, shh).

Then looked on Ebay and saw a similar set minus serving pieces for $1795.00!  Oh dear.

I know I will feel depressed every Saturday morning from now on knowing there is an amazing flea market happening in Hyeres.  It was so close!  But will now be so very far.

I am sure there is some spectacular market going on in Turkey every day of the week, but I am ignorant of it so it doesn't fill me with the same angst.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

sixth day -- more chateaux

We headed a little bit south and stopped in Blois for the night.  Next morning we drove through the beautiful countryside toward Chambord.

::pretty village
::it was very cold

::rushing from one room to another (can you hear the distant swish of silk and satin skirts?)

::dancing in the chapel

::swinging audioguide around neck in the chapel -- woohoo!  fortunately it didn't break, but the one in Avignon was not so fortunate, may it RIP

::fun on the stairs

::the unique double helix is ideal for sneaking a peek at one another

::I didn't realize the Mona Lisa was that large... we saw a great exhibit on art that was stored at Chambord during WWII -- how did they know it wasn't the end of the world?

::thank goodness for parks!

That got us ready for the 8 hour ride home.  Whew!  I can never believe how good the kids are in the car.  We hardly stopped, but they didn't complain, or scream, or lose it completely...  What a blessing.

fifth day

Friday morning we left Paris -- we drove to Chantilly which is a lovely little village and saw another, yes, chateau.
::a precarious bridge


::using the baby for his own sinister designs

::Charles created his own title of liberty

Once again, everyone loved the gardens best.  We now have plans to install an english garden, a canal, a hamlet, some grottoes, and a few greek temples in our own yard at home.  I'm sure that we have the space.

Paris! fourth day - Versailles

::a very low tunnel under Paris to get to Versailles -- we all thought we were going to scrape the top!
::Charles especially loves chateaux -- can you tell?

::we were grateful for audioguides -- it makes it much more interesting

::have I mentioned that we can always find a place to frolic?

::we liked the gardens best

::that place is huge!

::always lovin' the columns

::classic in the mirror photo

::every time we passed a grate Phin was determined to fill it completely with gravel and he didn't care if we left him there to do it

::"Escape from Grand Trianon" -- after meandering through the gardens we realized that we had somehow become locked in!  See that pointy blue gate in the background?  We had to climb over it to get out -- no photos of that experience, but one we will never forget

We left Versailles feeling a little sorry for Marie Antoinette, but with a greater understanding of why, perhaps, they might have been guillotined.  I mean, sheesh people!  My personal opinion is that poor Marie didn't deserve it as much as Louis IV -- the sins of the fathers...

::we drove home through Paris to see the Arc de Triomphe at night

::and the Eiffel Tower all sparkly for five minutes on the hour

Monday, March 22, 2010

Paris! third day

::we headed back to Notre Dame to visit the crypt and the towers which were closed on our previous visit
::feats of strength

::from both angles

::exiting Quasimodo's lair

::gargoyles can be a bad influence

::pretty window -- awww

::then over to the jewel box of Sainte- Chapelle

::stop at the booksellers
::and walk over to the Louvre

::she wanted it to look like she was wearing the crown

::we can always find a place to frolic

::don't mess with him

::we ended the day with a long walk (limp) along the Champs Elysees eating crepes.
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