What’s New In The World Of Gwen And Blaise?

Since our last post in May there have been a few major developments in our little family. Watch this little video of our bookworms to see the kids in action.

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

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Biscuits and Pixar. Sweet together.

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E-I-E-I-O

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Gwen’s News

In September 2014 Gwen started at the local Ecole Maternelle, which is technically school but is a lot like Kindergarten. They have a proper classroom, but they spend a lot of time playing in their cafe, drawing, playing games and the like. She LOVES it so much. Every morning she acts shy, but by the afternoon she’s running around like a crazy thing playing with all the other little kids. Also, she’s becoming less fussy about food as she’s at school all day with a proper school lunch. They eat really well (and there’s no alternative food), so I’m sure that’s why she’s trying lots of new things at home now.

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Pretty and ready for a birthday lunch

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Summer nights!

She is gorgeous.

A postcard? For ME?!?!?!

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Gwen’s in a class with older kids, which is probably good for her in terms of learning French. The class of kids her own age are a bit less talkative. Why is she with older kids? Well, for starters she’s one of the youngest kids in the school (there were about 40 kids in our town bumped up from creche to school early because there wasn’t enough room for them in the new creche). There are two classes of Petit Section at this school, and they tried to make the older kids go in one class and the younger ones in the other. But the numbers didn’t add up, so 5 lucky kids got chosen to go up to the next class. By surname. Me, I would have chosen the oldest kids, but whatever. As I said, I think it’s actually doing her some good.

First Day Of School (Maternelle/Kindy)

She’s started talking in French more often to us, and it’s clear from a few conversations that she understands what’s going on at school. When she speaks French to us, it’s usually a full sentence, then she switches back to English. So, she’ll say “J’ai fini!” or “Qu’est-ce qu’on fait?” randomly, with a sprinkling of “Alors” when she’s trying to think of something to draw.

The latest development is that Gwen turned three (see the video of her blowing out candles)! She’s currently obsessed with her new kitchen from her great Nanny. Blaise is too – that thing rocks. Gwen’s also big on dinosaurs and books, so she got lots of them for her birthday too.

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Bruce took Gwen on a special birthday adventure the day after her birthday (because in France there is no school on Wednesday afternoons), but he hasn’t uploaded the pictures yet. It will have to wait for another post.

Blaise’s News

Blaise finally started walking pretty much on the dot of turning 18 months. That was also a big turning point for teeth and talking too. He got four new teeth (for a total of 8) the week of turning 18 months. Then a week later he got another 4 molars coming through. So much teething pain!

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Yes?

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LOVES his bike.

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Nee Nor, Nee Nor

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On the talking front, he mostly said “Oh dear!” and made animal noises before 18 months. Since then he’s taken up a couple of new words every day or so, both in French and English. Blaise has also started at a new creche, which is bigger than the other one so he gets to hang out with kids his own age. I think that helps.

Blaise is totally obsessed with cars (and Pocoyo). He has piles of toy cars and trucks which are the best things ever. Also, the steering wheel toy rocks, and he lives for the times when papa takes him for a drive in the real car. He LOVES Top Gear, but gets angry when they stop driving their cars. He starts yelling at them, going “Broom BROOM!” and “No. Ready steady GO!”

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He has also grown quite a bit since our last post. Check out this cute little smile. 🙂

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Holiday In Cahors

At the end of August we went on a camping trip in Cahors (Reflets de Quercy), which was more like Glamping than camping, but without the glam (if that makes sense). The tent was furnished and had all the kitchen things we’d need, like a fridge, cooker, crockery and cutlery. Most importantly, the tent was in a campground that had an awesome pool and play area, which we made good use of.

Reflets de Quercy Pool

Kitted out tent

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Hello!

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Bouncing!

We went on a couple of great daytrips in the area. The big trip was to Padirac Cave (see the official site and some tourist info) and then Rocamadour (more tourist info). The campsite organised a bus tour, which we realised later was the best way to see the caves as you didn’t have to wait in the MASSIVE line. Anyway, those caves were amazing – the best I’ve ever seen and probably the best I will ever see in my life. Photography wasn’t allowed, so check out the websites to see how impressive it is (the official site has a brilliant virtual tour). Also, we got one official photo taken (on a gondola in the cave), but I don’t have the digital version of that just now. I’ll add it later [Edit: Added]. Rocomadour was also pretty amazing. It’s a castle and a cathedral on the side of a cliff. We spent a few hours there and got a tour of some parts of it.

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Rocomadour

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The other big daytrip was a road-train ride around Cahors. We were right in thinking the kids would love the train, and we’d love seeing the sights without having to carry the kids. It was about an hour and a half of sight-seeing, and I swear they hadn’t run out of interesting stuff to show us by the end of it. Quite a fascinating town, really. Wouldn’t mind living there!

It’s now months since the holiday. Gwen still asks when we’re going back to our tent. 🙂

Singing

Bruce and I are both still singing with the local choir, and I’m still singing with the Lotelles Trio, as well as branching out alone.

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Social Life and Choirs

Everything’s great here. Things are just starting to fall properly into place.

I’ve (Ange) been doing freelance work for MakeUseOf.com for a few months and slowly but surely have been offered more responsibility (and money), which is pretty awesome. MakeUseOf.com might not be on your radar, but it’s in the top 100 tech blogs and PC magazine recently listed it as number 5 in top tech blogs for the year. So, as far as using my degree for something appropriate goes, this is pretty high on the list. 🙂 Plus, it’s fun! And it means messing about on the internet is officially useful for me professionally. Woo!

Other work things… I’m about to start working as an English teacher for kids (just two short lessons per week on Wednesdays). Basically, this will mean playing games for an hour with about 10 kids. 🙂 I’m also about to start conducting a bilingual kids choir. I’m not getting paid for the conducting. When I agreed to it I wanted an excuse to get out of the house more and I had previously figured that volunteering would be a good way to pick up more French and meet new people.

Socially, we’ve been sort of adopted into a lovely family here. Their kids have decided that we’re like aunt/uncle or cousin to them. I babysit the girls every now and then, plus I go to the park with them sometimes on Wednesday afternoons (kids here get Wednesdays off school). Most weekends there’s a lunch either at their house or our house, plus we go out for dinners/lunches sometimes. We’ve even been to their family farm. 🙂 For the little one’s 4th birthday, we had been invited for lunch on the Sunday when the grandparents would be there, but when the kid woke up on the Saturday (which was her birthday) she demanded that there be a birthday lunch for her ON her birthday and told her parents to invite us around quick smart.

Oh, and another day, I was driving somewhere with the mother and the girls, when one kid suddenly asked if she’d be allowed to spend some time at my house while her mum wasn’t there. ?!?!?!?! The other kid decided that would be a great idea and got in on the begging. So, somehow we wound up agreeing to this and I looked after the girls (ie. let them play computer games and eat lollies) while the mum went home and had a nap. They also choose having me babysit them over the nounou (nanny), which is good(ish) for them since the nounou can’t often take them at short notice.

Both of the adults of this family speak better English than we speak French. The father is determined to get us to teach his whole family decent English, so he prefers it if we speak English (with the girls especially). The girls hate this idea, so we say things in both languages (if we remember). Then, we sneakily set up computer games which will teach them small amounts of English (but not rely on it). I think they learn at least one new English word (in a way they’ll always remember) per day of babysitting.

There’s not much of a work social culture for Bruce, but they’re all lovely and friendly people. Occasionally there’s work lunches or dinners, and if there’s English speaking people that need entertaining I usually get invited out too (perks!). We usually entertain the English-speaking people who are here on business during weekends, too.

In choral stuff, we joined a choir a year ago. This was the start of everything. It’s just a small (5-10 people) unauditioned choir in Agen (choir is called L’Ensemble Vocal Expression d’Agen). Because of the conductor and a few choristers, we’ve then either joined other choirs or at least met people through joint choir concerts.

Alright, I’m going to have to start throwing names in to ensure things make sense (note: Françoise is a woman, François is a man. Different people).

The conductor (Françoise) and a few singers from there (including François and Anne) also sang in another choir once a month on Sundays (called Gaudeamus), which Bruce and I got invited to join. Gaudeamus is basically made of people from Expression d’Agen and another one of Françoise’s choirs, Impulsion de Villeneuve (Villeneuve is a town 30 minutes away). Gaudeamus is held at Anne and François’ house and has a rotating roster for who’s in charge of making lunch, so we’re blissing out on awesome French food when we’re with these guys. They also sing awesome music (Françoise has great taste). Oh, and it’s got lots of Dutch women who speak English and are still learning French (and are lovely and give me lots of mirabelles), so we all help each other out with understanding what’s going on. We like this choir.

Meanwhile, Françoise has convinced me to do some solos and to sing solo/duet stuff at weddings with her as well as the choir stuff. And Bruce and I get to go to French weddings!

Françoise also conducts a choir (well, she conducts lots of choirs) not far from here in Bon-Encontre. This choir is a bunch of oldies and is massively bass/tenor heavy and so she begs me to sing with them sometimes. Thankfully, she doesn’t make me go to all the rehearsals and has allowed me to be the sort of evil ring-in that everyone hates (except they don’t). Bruce is invited to sing as well, even though they really don’t need more guys around. And these guys are great – they invite us to their massive lunches after choir events, so we get to hear old-person jokes, practise our French and eat more awesome food. Expression d’Agen and the Bon-Encontre chorale sing concerts together sometimes too. Oh, and through these concerts in Bon-Encontre we’ve met this awesome Irish priest (who lived in Adelaide).

We’ve sung at community events, fund-raisers, the fête de musique and proper concerts (as well as the weddings). Sometimes we go on short hikes with choir people before or after a concert (and they teach us which wild plants are edible). Some concerts are with more than one of these choirs, and we either sing the same piece together or a few pieces each. It all works out, although sometimes we have no idea what’s going on.

Three of the choirs (Gaudeamus, Expression, Impulsion) went to Auvergne at the end of September for a joint concert and whatnot. It’s a beautiful mountain area.

I think we’ve met about 100 people directly through this small circle of people. Plus, we’re getting to see a lot of local culture and everyone is keen to teach us local history, make us try new foods and notice anything special worth noting. It’s great!

Somehow I wound up being convinced to conduct Gaudeamus after Françoise parted ways. It’s not a paid job and I’ve told them they can only have me temporarily until they find a proper conductor. Mainly, they wanted to get someone who knows last year’s music well (Jenkins – Armed Man), since we learned it especially for a concert in Holland this July.

Oh, and for this year (year being like the European school year: Sept-July) Françoise wanted to get a female choir (made from Expression and Impulsion) to sing one of my favourite pieces ever (Jenkins – Adiemus). I have no idea when we’ll have time to practise this, but I’m damn well doing it.

So, that’s our French choral circle. Then there’s the English choral circle. (Oh, also in name annoyances, in this social circle there’s both a Victoria and a Vicky).

Earlier this year, Victoria decided to start a female choir which was friendly to mums with kids. I figured I’d join so I could meet English-speaking people (especially mums). In this sense it’s GOLD. There’s a few mothers (25-40 years old) with small kids. They babble on about toddler/baby stuff, the French school system and bilingual kid issues constantly. Perfect. Also, they talk about how to get hold of English produce in France (or things that are normal in England but you can’t find here, like CRUMPETS). So, it’s great. I’m learning (about both kids and being an expat in France), networking and speaking to people more my own age – yay! They’re also a fun bunch who are involved in local folky/music stuff. So, there’s a few of us there who keep track of the local folk events and make sure we all know what’s coming up. Plus, those ladies have partners who are all friends too. They run a cricket club for English expats who get together for beer & cricket in Summer. They want Bruce in. 🙂 Oh, and we sort of made friends with the guy who runs the curry cart at the folky events. Mmmmm, curry.

Luckily, it is also a good choir. The conductor, Vicky, has great taste in music. For this choir it’s all show-tunes and boppy stuff. The girls sound good. It’s fun – Yay! But, within seconds of joining this choir Vicky had asked me to join another one of her projects. So, after those rehearsals, Vicky, Victoria and I have a practise together for a trio (which might expand when we find the right people). We sound amazing together. We’re singing pretty, angelic-voiced stuff for one concert theme, and Vicky wants us to do some dixie (and similar) for a concert she’s got planned with her husband’s band. It’s going to be awesome. And busy!

So, I pretty much need to stay inside and hide from the world so I don’t wind up finding out about other cool things I can do. 🙂

In general, we’ve spent lots of time chilling at home, reading, watching movies, playing games and trying to learn French. We’re tourists some of the time, too.

Oh – and we were taken gliding the other day!!! After a lovely lunch our host just said “Hey, the weather’s nice, let’s go gliding!”. It was great!

Sometimes I think we do nothing, other times I think we do too much. 🙂

Most of this post was written in one hit (originally in an email to tanya) and I’ve been slowly adding photos relevant to what’s written here. However, there has been many other events between the last post and this. Plus, there’s other news worth mentioning this week. My grandfather Barry Moore has recently died after slowly watching his body fade away. I will be very sad not to be in Australia for the funeral on Friday.

A giant catch-up post – April to August

Okay, so it’s been quite a while since the last update. Sorry all! I’ll try not to leave it so long again. We’ve had no regular internet access at home since June, so it makes blog posts just a little more difficult.

Generally, we’re both well – healthy and happy. Bruce now has a permanent position at Agralis, we have a new house, so we’re feeling more settled and still soaking up as many French lessons as we possibly can. I’m studying French madly – 1-6 hours of audio lessons per day while I work. Plus, I watch movies, try to read things etc. But really, I just need to hear and speak more French. My understanding is still heavily academic. I need more French friends (that don’t know any English). But, that will come when September starts and France stops having its month-long holiday (called August). I’ve found a few choirs to join (although they seem a little old), so at least that will get me out of the house, singing and chatting to Frenchies. Bruce has the exact opposite problem to me. He needs to speak French at work & he hears office French all the time, which is draining – he comes home wrecked every night. It’s really very tiring to translate all day. But he never gets a chance to do lessons, so he’s speaking very broken French with awful grammar. End result is that he’s far more confident talking French than me, while I ponder my sentences more and the conversation races off without me. But enough about French.

Bruce has been extremely busy working and driving all over France. And since driving isn’t something you can decide to go home early and not finish, he hasn’t really had much time for anything else. He comes home close to 9pm most nights after travelling, which is just enough time to feed him and send him off to bed. Crazy. This also means that he doesn’t have time to hassle our internet provider about getting the house some internet. During Winter/Spring he was off on work trips 2-3 days a week. Even when Bruce isn’t off driving, he works late most days (until 7-8). Anyway, what this means for me is that I’m the one doing all the cooking, shopping, cleaning, housework, unpacking, errands, bookings for travel, organising our lives, etc on top of my own work (not complaining, just saying). I’m basically Bruce’s personal assistant and housewife (he doesn’t see it that way though). It’s also tough doing all this without a car. C’est la vie!

A huge part of feeling at home in France involves syncing with the locals – working out when to work and when to run errands. I think I’m just starting to get in sync. At first, I kept trying to do the errands first thing in the day (since they were more time-critical), but France doesn’t really work in the mornings. It’s actually best to head off to run errands at about 4:30-5pm. That way you’re just ahead of all the office-working errand-runners (who tend to run errands 5:30-6:30). If you try before midday you run the risk of places not being open at all. Between midday-2pm is lunchtime and barely anything is open. If it is, they’re understaffed and it will take you an hour to do anything. 2pm onwards is when things really pick up, but I hate interrupting myself in the middle of my day to run errands – It takes too long to get started again. Since most places stay open until 7:30pm you’ve still got quite a while to get stuff done. It just means you have to be used to eating dinner around 8-9pm. So, if I eat a snack at 4:30pm and then head out to do errands it all works out perfectly. And, all of this is made even easier with our fantastic new location.

We’ve moved into a new townhouse (see the youtube tour) in a nice part of town which is part of a small closed-gate community which shares a communal pool. It’s a 5 minute walk into Le Passage shopping district, where there’s a Wednesday/Saturday food market, two supermarkets, bakeries, lots of other shops, a café, a wine cave, DVD place. Old Le Passage is only 10 mins away (slightly different direction), which has the Mairie (mayors office), library and the bridge over to Agen. Just across the river is a huge selection of restaurants and bars – it’s the big food district. There’s also the main park where fairs and exhibitions are. It’s only 25 mins walk to get to that part of Agen (the Jardin/Garden district). From there, you’re minutes away from Boulevard de Republique, which is the main heart of Agen with shops all along its length. Our favourite toy shop is at our end, while the Sunday markets (another 15 minutes walk) are at the far end. Basically, we can walk to most places we want to go within 30-45 mins. And if you take a bike it’s even quicker. Another bonus is walking the other direction – It’s only 10 minutes walk to the canal. Plus, our closest section of the canal is the tree-lined bit which is really pretty. Back to the house itself, we bought beautiful, old furniture from our old landlords and got all our new whitegoods in one hit. We’re still busy nesting and setting up the new place, plus we have a patch of empty backyard that needs a vision. But essentially, our house has pretty much everything we need except internet.

The internet dilemma is a great one and a fantastic lesson in how not to privatise government monopolies. France telecom is as messed up as Telstra & has more power. We made the mistake of signing up for phone and internet bundled through a competitor, Free. Free needs France Telecom to set up our phoneline before anything can happen, so naturally France Telecom don’t care and have put the request at the bottom of the to-do list. Meanwhile, we can’t break our contract with Free or in fact do anything except wait. We know now that we should have signed up with France telecom first and then transferred the number. Oh that 20-20 hindsight. Anyway, as soon as France Telecom actually set us up with a phone line, Free will hopefully get us connected quickly and we’ll be back online. My current arrangement is using a 3G dongle, so it’s the same as using internet over a mobile phone. It’s slow and expensive. What would normally take one hour takes five hours using this internet (and costs about 35 € or $70). In the meantime, I’ve managed to sneak some photos online while I worked at Bruce’s office on occasion, but without enough time to explain them to anyone.

Anyway, I’ll have to try and squish all the main events of the last five months into this one huge post. Here goes. As you will soon see, we’re living it up here – enjoying the sun, the fact that France is so close to everything and that there’s so much to do in Europe.

April brought in some warmer weather, letting us eat outside most evenings. Over the Easter weekend (sadly, while Bruce was away) I got a brief visit from Tim and one of his friends. We also cruised around one weekend and got acquainted with some of the local towns.

We started May with a trip to the farm of the mother of Bruce’s boss. We stayed there for a weekend and went to the Musée de Goya and took walks around Revel from there. It’s a very, very pretty area.

May gave us teasingly warm days and then torrential rain. It’s beautiful to watch and shows clearly why Spring is just so much more exciting in Europe than in Australia. There’s flowers, greenery and birds EVERYWHERE. Adelaide’s seasons just seem so much more subtle.

Just before our Paris trip, Bruce somehow managed to drag me on one of his work trips to a lovely (almost seaside) town of Perpignan for one night, which was a very unexpected bonus. It’s down near Spain and feels very Spanish (well, it does to me, but I’ve never been to Spain).

Paris with Jason Standing was an amazing whirlwind tour. It was my first time in Paris and Bruce’s first time in the centre as a tourist. The main event was Bobby McFerrin, but we figured we could do high-speed sight-seeing while we were there. We got straight off the train and went to the catacombes. Good plan, since we lined up for nearly two hours before we got in. Incidentally, Jason had planned to go to some other catacombes in Paris, but somehow we wound up at these ones. Jason met us in the line, so we had plenty of time to catch up before touring. Many, many dead bodies later we were appalled to find ourselves starving hungry and back in the mid-afternoon daylight, but that didn’t stop us wolfing down some Moroccan food before more touristy stuff. We took in some beautiful gardens, a decent beer spot, the outside of the Notre Dame, some cutesy restaurant district and finally found our hotel with just enough time for a quick shower before heading out for the show.

Bobby McFerrin was every bit as good as the word-of-mouth hype we’d hoped so much was true. He launched into some mellow, but beautiful piece to begin with, mesmerising the whole audience for a solid half-hour or so. When we came out of our trance he was ready to get the place jamming. The rest of the night was spent bouncing between listening to him performing amazing solo works and watching him include members of the audience for some improvisation and tricks. A surprise guest was Camille (of “Ta Dolouer” fame), who he’d become friends with during a recent workshop. They performed her song with Bobby jamming in his merry way, which led to some fun duo improv. Over the course of the night, everyone in the house had a great sing (see this youtube clip for an idea) and was left with no doubt that Bobby McFerrin is both a fantastic musician and a brilliant entertainer – and he clearly loves every minute he gets to sing!

Sunday we checked out the Georges Pompidou art gallery, and quickly checked out the opera house, Eiffel Tower and other tourist hotspots, then it was back on the train home for us.

Read more about our Paris trip by Jason here or check out Jason’s pictures here.

June was fairly uneventful travel-wise as we were busy searching for, signing for and moving into the new house. We started June with a quiet birthday party for Bruce, then Bruce went and proved he was getting older by doing his back in. Just in time for moving house – unfair! So, I got to move all the boxes by myself (Aside: his back is mostly better now). On the fun side, I got to spend one day taking kiddies to a fair (It’s a hard life). We were also treated to a visit from the lovely Jen, who timed things perfectly for being able to see both the old house and the new house. Later in the month, we were shown how birthday parties are really done.

Bruce and I went to the local wine cave to see if it was any good. It was FANTASTIC. This place is within 5 mins walk of our house. We walked in, said we were new to France and that we wanted to try wines. They sat us down, fed us tapas (all of their food was amazing) and the best part of a couple of bottles of wine. They tried talking to us and soon worked out how bad our French was. But, they kept trying. They were all very friendly and they obviously loved the place, the wine, the atmosphere and the food – as did we. We bought two bottles of each wine we tried, and somehow ended up only paying about 8 € ($16) for all the wine and tapas we had while we were there. Then they also gave us a waiter’s friend. Seriously, we’ll be back there often. 

In July, we went for a trip to Toulouse (for Leonard Cohen) and Bruce took a long weekend so we could explore a little. Leonard Cohen was a great show. He pulled an enormous amount of talent on stage, created some amazing new versions of his music and managed to stay sprightly all evening. The evening was indeed magic and we are so, so lucky to have seen the show.

The Friday afternoon, we were lucky enough to catch a pedestrian tour of Toulouse in English. This was a great starter to our weekend of exploring, because we’d seen most of the important old buildings, learned a little of the history and had clear ideas where we were going to spend more time at over the next few days. Lucky for you guys, we also forgot the camera that day (I know!!).

One museum we spent most of a day in is the Musée des Augustins. The building itself is a museum piece (an Abbey from way back), but inside there’s a huge variety of ancient stuff and relatively modern artwork. It’s actually got the biggest collection of Roman statues in the world (if I remember that right), plus it’s got  good selection of medieval tablets, gothic church statues, gargoyles, paintings and whatnot. Quite worth spending a few days wandering around. It’s also got concerts in the church regularly, so we’re hoping to cruise over for some of them soon.

We also spent quite a significant amount of time in Jacobins, since it lends itself rather well to photography (see the youtube clip of entering Jacobins). We need to do more research and go back for another trip, because we’ve already forgotten most of the important history of these places.

When we were in Toulouse I got to fill up a couple of shopping bags with Indian spices, so I’m able to make pretty much anything Indian (and most Asian stuff) as long as I have a recipe (please pass any great recipes my way!!). Oh curry. I really miss good curry – and Thai food. France really isn’t big on anything that even sounds like it’s heard of spices. There’s Asian restaurants, but it’s very French Asian. Same goes for Indian, although I think it’s a little more authentic. But African is win. We went to an awesome Moroccan restaurant in May and I think it’s my new favourite restaurant. 

The night before Bastille Day is when Agen has the Bastille Day fireworks display. We’d forgotten about them, and so were at home watching movies instead of by the river in Le Passage like the rest of the town. We stepped outside to see if we could catch a glimpse and were treated to a fantastic half-hour display right from our back door.

We raced over to England on a whim (planned months ahead) for a special weekend at Bletchley Park. We were only in London for a day and a half. Expensive craziness, but it was fun. We caught up with Richard and Hilary on the first night. Bletchley took up most of Saturday (with tours, lectures and geeky awesomeness – Craig, Cecilia and her boy were with us here), then we caught up with Aussie friends in London (Craig, Michelle & Jen, plus some RADA friends of Jen’s) until the wee hours of Sunday morning. We slept in an excellent youth hostel (called “The Clink” – it’s a restored watchhouse) for about 3 hours and then made our way back to the airport for a 9:50 flight (which we nearly missed). Ryanair only does one flight to our part of France on a Sunday and they’re basically only running the flight in order to run a more reasonably-timetabled flight to pick up English people who have spent the weekend in France. I think the most unexpected thing about our trip to England was arriving in France and feeling like we were home again (especially since we’d arrived in a city we’re not exactly familiar with).

August began with a delayed Christmas in July. We couldn’t pin down our guests until August, so that’s the way it goes. We had gifts, pudding, ingredients and recipes sent from Australia, so all we had to do was cook it all up and host a long lunch. As I prepared away, I realised that all the bits of lunch that the French see as vital (like entrées and cheese) were not quite in sync with all the compulsory parts of the meal which I had been sent recipes for. So, the menu just kept getting bigger and bigger – I wrote it out for a laugh. After stuffing ourselves with goodies and opening presents, the afternoon turned into an excuse to play every game we owned, do puzzles and teach kids how to juggle. As you do.

After much badgering from the girls, we finally went for a trip to Parc Walibi (2 mins up the road from us – check out the Parc Walibi website). Yes, that’s the French-Belguim theme park’s own special way of spelling Wallaby – the wallaby is the park mascot and there are little cartoon wallabies all over the place. I thought it was going to be more of a waterslide fun park, but it turned out to be more like Seaworld. We saw sea-lions, rollercoaster rides, the world upside-down, terrified kiddies, water all over us and lots and lots of lines. Fun & exhausting. I’ve still got a sunburn line.

We’ve spent most of the rest of August lying low, saving pennies (well, Euros), setting up the house, unpacking a bit and chilling out. Since France is essentially on holiday for all of August there’s not really a lot that can be done. This is a good thing, since we just need to not do much for a bit. It’s sunny and warm, so we’ve spent evenings walking to the canal, playing games, reading, listening to music, watching movies. General summer holiday excitement. It’s a bit of a bummer that we don’t have an outdoor table setting yet, but since the backyard isn’t much to look at yet (and it’s bloody hot out) we’re not too fussed.

I did manage to spontaneously go along with another of Bruce’s work trips to Perpignan last week, though this time it was just for the day. We picked a random seaside town for me to hang out in (Canet) for a few hours while he worked, then on the way back we detoured past a statue and an old ruin we’ve been eyeing off from the highway for a while. Perfect daytrip – hope I get more of them!

Just to keep you all in the loop, future travel plans will involve us heading to Barcelona with some Aussies in England, plus we’ll be heading to Adelaide.

I’m still trying to upload pics from the start of the year (and last year!), so some of these photo albums will fill up a little more over time. In fact, I’m sneakily adding one or two pics to new albums just so I can link to them when I post this blog post. Sorry that’s a pain, but that’s the way it is. Coming soon: Bruce losing his hair, Bruce’s trip to Vienna, a random work trip of Bruce’s, more of January. There might also be short videos added to some albums. Er, later.

By the way, if you want to know our new address for any reason, it’s available for friends to see on my Facebook profile, or you can email us and ask for it.

Okay, well that’s it for me and this post. I’ll try very hard to not let it slide for that long again. Bruce may even write something one day too (I’ll believe it when I see it!). Maybe if I update more frequently I can actually get into some detail instead of just barely managing to cover all the important bits. Even with stealing paragraphs from emails here and there I’ve taken most of a day to write this. *sigh*

Right. Bye for now!

Lyon Exploration

Hello all, This is another post from Ange as I can’t seem to convince Bruce to write anything yet. I’ll work on him, I promise.

So, we’re over our jetlag and starting to work out which way up we are now. We’re also getting the hang of where things are, somewhat. Just in case you haven’t been given these links yet: this is our house location, this is a good overview of Lyon and this is a link to some random landmarks in Lyon.

Also, there are two numbers you might like to know in order to get through to us cheaply from Australia (cost of a call to Adelaide):

  • Ange Adelaide Skype
  • Adelaide VOIP (when we set up the handset later today)

Ask us for the numbers. Please be nice and call after 7pm Adelaide time, otherwise you’ll wake us up (even thought we might actually deserve it).

Also, we took some pics of our flat and some things right near it.

One of our most exciting jaunts so far was our trip up the Basilique de Notre Dame de Fourvière. This ominous building looms over Vieux Lyon (the medieval bit of town, where we are) from the top of a very steep hill. We didn’t know what it was or why we had to go there, but we did. We checked Google maps and found the best path up there and wandered up there by way of rue de Boeuf (Beef Road), a bloody great staircase and a pretty rose garden. As the sparrow flies, this is probably less than a kilometre from our house, but it is a long way UP. It’s also well worth the trip. The cathedral is exquisite (even the crypt is exquisite), the view over Lyon is amazing and the walk up there is gorgeous. We took LOTS of photos.


We also ducked into the Smoking Dog pub on the way home, which we instantly fell in love with. I’d heard about it long before getting to Lyon and figured it was a must. It’s got a wall of books opposite the bar! It also happens to be an English pub, so while we were having a quiet drink the place filled up with rugby fans. After a few beers, the idea of hanging out with random English people and watching England Vs New Zealand looked pretty appealing. It was very unexpected, but kind of fun.

Changing topic completely, we’re loving the Lyon Markets. They have so much awesome food for sale every morning until lunchtime. However, we still felt the need to seek out the Asian grocers so we could get a few bits and pieces. Chinatown was surprisingly easy to find, but the prices are still fairly steep and the Asian veggies didn’t look too crash hot. Now if only we can find Englandtown..

We still speak French pretty badly. I’m sort of at the stage where I can read most stuff (and guess the context of the missing words). My grammar is okay, thanks to all that high school French. I am doing well with the Pimsleur and Michel Thomas lessons, however none of those conversations seem to come up on a day-to-day basis, so it’s not been very useful yet.

So, most conversations just go something like this:

Shopkeeper: Bonjour!
Us: Bonjour!
Shopkeeper: !@#$% !@#^&^$@$ @#$^&*%^%
Us: *terrified look* Je ne comprends pas.
*some serious pointing ensues, followed by a purchase that we hope is the right thing*
Them: Aurevoir!
Us: Aurevoir!

Madness, I tell you. 🙂

Our satellite TV claims to have multiple language options on most channels, so we get kind of excited when we see shows that we know are in English originally, only to find that the only languages available are French and German. Or sometimes something really unexpected, like Turkish. We’re really not sure why the English sound isn’t one of the options. However, we did find a run of Law and Order shows in English one night which was truly relaxing to take in.

Today we’re hoping to do something a little touristy and look at Lyon’s secret tunnel system (traboules). There seems to be a self-guided tour of the public traboules which explores the buildings surrounding our house. Apparently some of the more impressive ones are on the other side of the river, so we’ll probably do that another day.

PS. If you want photos of our jaunts around Lyon as they happen, then keep an eye on here.

Now, our biggest problem of recent weeks has been our air freight. The original booking our agent made with Thai air was changed after problems in Bangkok, so our gear ended up with QANTAS. For some reason, QANTAS decided it was okay to leave it sitting around in London (1.5 hours fight from here) for 5 days. After some frantic emailing to Jetta and their head boss yelling at QANTAS, our stuff finally got handed to Air France who got it to Lyon.

Then the trick was getting the air freight. This turned into a paperwork chase reminiscent of “Love and other catastrophes”. We knew it was going to cost a lot, but we weren’t prepared for the headaches. This was very silly of us, since everything about France says “You will drown in bureaucratic paperwork”. So, we hopped onto a bus to the airport (17 €) only to be told the cargo area was nowhere near the main airport. We ate some airport lunch (10 €) so that we didn’t get too grumpy. Then we jumped into the biggest taxi we could find and drove around to the cargo area. The Air France person couldn’t find us in the system as all our tracking numbers were for different airlines. She found us eventually because we knew exactly when the flight got in the night before and how it came to be in their possession. Then she gave us a form and told us we’d need to go to customs and get it signed. She also said that when we got back we’d need to pay her 40 € for something or other.

We ran over to customs and got pointed into a rabbit-warren of office windows and shown the correct window. The people behind the window were lovely, but could only speak French. So, they couldn’t tell us what they needed from us. I handed over my phrasebook/dictionary in the hope that they’d find what they needed (Note to self: next time get them to write it down and look it up myself). The guy there got the giggles and started reading all the most useful phrases, like “I am pregnant” and then looking at his belly and saying “C’est vrai!” (“It’s true!”) and laughing himself under the table. It was actually funny and it was hard not to just stand there laughing all day, except that we had a taxi outside, a tonne of boxes to pick up and limited funds to pay for the taxi. They did understand we were in a hurry when I mentioned the taxi, and somehow worked out what they needed from us by photocopying my passport, looking at my wedding ring, getting me to write down our address and tell them we had an inventory of goods with the baggage.

But that was only getting the piece of paper stamped. Then Air France had to get 43.91 € from us. Unfortunately, they had no change because they couldn’t find the cash box (they didn’t think to look while we were at customs?). So, we wound up grovelling to the taxi driver for change. With that paid for, we then had to wait for the gear to be moved outside (they didn’t think to do that while we were at customs? or at least while we were paying?). But, it only cost us 20 € ($40) for the taxi to wait for us that whole time, so I think we got off fairly lightly. The trip into town cost another 44 € (50 € including a small tip). So, all up, the day cost us around 140 € ($280), about 4 hours, some gratitude to the nice bureaucrats and taxi driver, plus a diminished life expectancy due to extremely high stress levels. But it’s over for now.

The big news is that we’re moving to the other side of France (Yay – more logistics!). Bruce will be starting a contract in January with Agralis in Agen, presuming we can sort out the paperwork involved. This is fantastic, as they need someone who knows the industry and knows Sentek gear. He’ll need to learn French madly in all free moments, though. Bit of a challenge. 🙂

We’ve started looking for a house in Agen. It seems that there are lots of tiny apartments but they are all very cheap! It’s hard to find something that isn’t a teensy tiny apartment (even if you’re willing to pay). However, we’re talking prices of under 200 € per month (About AU$400/m) for a small, very average flat or 300 € per month (Approx AU$600/m) for a much nicer, tiny flat with a pool. Considering we were paying $800/m for our last place in Adelaide, which wasn’t very big and had terrible space usage, I think these places look great. We’ll just have to be very selective about layout, size and conveniences. Plus, there’s still the option of fully furnished houses for just under 400 € per month if we’re willing to live a bit further out (not far at all). There just aren’t as many of those to choose from.

We might have to drive across to Agen once or twice in the very near future. This is a pretty scary prospect to say the least. We’re not even used to being passengers on the wrong side of the road, let alone driving! I’m scared that I’ll go the wrong way around a roundabout or something. Or that I’ll shut my eyes and scream while driving the correct way around it. Something like that. In fact, the hardest bit will be turning corners: making sure we get into the right lane will be a trial, as will making sure we look in all the right places for cyclists. Scary scary scary!

Anyway, that’s me all blogged out. I’m working on developing a habit involving more frequent, shorter posts. Hopefully by getting Bruce to write some of them. 🙂