Published: November 18th 2007November 4th 2007
Watching the Ducks Swim by
One of our stops during our trip up to the country house was in a cute little village, where we found a huge group of ducks swimming by.
So it's been quite a while since I sent out my first blog. My plan was to have another one sent out a couple weeks later, but it has definitely been more than just a couple of weeks...So this one may be long! My apologies! :) But enjoy!!
A lot has been going on here in France in the past little while! From getting really sick and taking a week off work, to my parents visiting, and then having the kids all to myself for an entire weekend, things have been pretty hectic around here.
The father of my French family, Marc, has a country house up in the Cevenne mountains that is owned by his family. It is an incredible old stone house literally built in the middle of a tree covered mountain. Here is a little history on the house: It was built by fleeing protestants in the time of King Louis XIV. He was a strong follower of Catholocism, and a known persecutor of the Protestants. When he revoked the Edict of Nantes (which provided protection to the Protestants), most of the protestants fled France and ended up in Germany, Switzerland, and another country that I
cannot remember. But there was a small percentage that decided to remain in France. So they moved to the Cevenne mountains and built themselves a life there. They built their houses with the knowledge that there will likely be soldiers coming up in search of hidden Protestants. And so the houses were built in the most confusing manner possible. With many different winding staircases that lead to different rooms, closets all made to look like doors, and then everything coming to a dead end at the top of the house, soldiers were easily confused, and the Protestants were able to hide or sneak through a door that connected their house to the next house over. In this way, the Protestants were able to escape being caught.
This house belonged to Marc's grandparents, and now belongs to Marc and his siblings. It is now used as a holiday home for his family set in the beautiful Cevenne mountains. Lael and Marc (the parents of my French family) decided to take a weekend trip out the house so I could see it. It's only about an hour away from Aniane, and the drive there is stunning! Passing through mountains, cliffs, rivers and
Marc, the Boys and the Ducks
Marc showing Olivier and Raphael the ducks as they swim by :)
non stop greenery, it was a breathtaking trip there. As well, Marc took the time to tell me about the history of the area and show me all the beautiful sites there are to see.
The house itself is beautiful, with walls about a metre thick (literally) and the house made entirely of stone. My bedroom looked out into the mountains, across a valley and into a little village.
The first night there turned out to be quite...well, interesting!
The French are very big here on picking wild mushrooms. After a big rain, it is very common to go out seraching for mushrooms. So while up at the country house, Lael went on a search for mushrooms and found some growing in front of the house. After getting the ok from a lady who supposedly knows her mushroom species, Lael cooked up the mushrooms into an omelet for dinner. Her and I were not huge fans of the smell/taste of the mushroom and therefore did not eat very much of it. Marc and Olivier on the other hand, downed the majority of the omelet without complaint. Before we had even left the table, Olivier was already throwing up his
Feeding the Ducks
We found a mother and daughter at the pebble beach feeding the ducks. They very kindly shared some of their stale bread with Raphael and Olivier so they could feed them as well.
However (as you can see in the picture) Olivier, being 1 yr old, was more interested in eating the stale bread than giving it away!
dinner. We thought maybe it was the mushrooms, but not necessarily because everyone else was feeling fine. However, about 15 minutes later (after I got vomited on by Olivier), Marc disappeared and I suddenly heard him heaving and throwing up his dinner as well. Conclusion: it was the mushrooms! Mushroom poisoning can be extremely dangerous, so we called an emergency doctor who was not too concerned since they had such an immediate reaction. We were put on Marc and Olivier watch for the night, but all was ok :)
Unfortunately, the next day was not much better. I came down with a really bad sinus infection, and ended up going on a search for a doctor who would see me and pharmacy that was open. This was very difficult as most stores in France are closed on Sundays. But after a stop at the hospital in Le Vigan to get a name of a doctor, and another long drive that felt like an eternity, I eventually got my prescription and got it filled. During the next week, I ended up visiting another doctor and then spent 9 hours in a French emergency room being pumped full of pain killers
Look, it's Mini-Me with Blond Hair!!!
For those of you who knew me as a little kid, look at the girl in the pink. She looks exactly like I did when I was her age, except she has blond hair!!
before actually starting to feel better. Lael and Marc were amazing to me and allowed me all the time off I needed. At least now I can say that I have 1st hand experience with the French health care system!
Lael and Marc decided to take advantage of having an au pair, and planned a weekend trip away to celebrate their anniversary. This was their first time being away from the kids for more than a day, and this was my first time taking care of kids for more than just a day. So needless to say, we were all a little bit nervous. None of us could predict how the kids would react to their parents not being there when they go to sleep and when they wake up, and if they would act up even more when they realized it was just me and them.... I was definitely worried about that. To all of our surprise, the weekend passed without any real obstacles. With a few timeouts here and there, a few questions as to the whereabouts of mama and papa, neither child seemed too phased that their parents were away. What a relief! We went for
The Country House
This is a view of the country house, as seen from the village across the valley.
Although it looks like 1 house, it is actually 4 houses clustered together. They were all connected in some way, to make hiding easier.
The one we were in is on the left side.
lots of walks, attempted (unsuccessfuly) to find the famous donkeys in Aniane, played with lots of toys, and watched lots of Baby Einstein. Every time the kids took a nap, I took one as well. I really needed it after spending the whole day running after and entertaining them, preparing their meals, cleaning up after the meals and trying to keep them busy and happy. As much fun as it was, it was just as exhausting! Eventually, Sunday night rolled around and Marc and Lael returned from their trip *phew*
The weekend after my week off work was the weekend my dad was supposed to come visit me! I was really excited to see him and spend some quality time with him travelling the south of France (even though he was only coming for 4 days). However, when I went to meet him at the airport, he came bearing a surprise....my mom! My mom had managed to get some time off work and decided to come with and surprise me. So I got to spend the next few days with both my parents. We had such an amazing time travelling the cote d'Azur! In 4 days, we managed to
From my Bedroom
This is a view of the village on the opposite side of the valley, as seen from my bedroom.
It was stunning!
visit Nice, Eze, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Cannes, Marseille, Avignon, Montpellier (just a quick drive through) and last but not least, Aniane (my village). Nice was absolutely stunning!! The views and atmosphere of the city are great! It definitely lived up to our expectations.
While in Monte Carlo, we managed to catch a sighting of Prince Albert of Monaco. After noticing some camera men waiting around for something, I decided to ask them what they were waiting for. When they told me they're waiting for Prince Albert to arrive for an Oktoberfest party, we decided to hang around and wait for him as well. He showed up soon after with his 'lady friend' and they walked right past us, up the path and into their party, which began as he entered the tent. We were not the only ones waiting eagerly for his arrival either. As you can imagine, the crowd grew as time passed and everyone came by to ask "why is everyone standing here?" As soon as they heard that Prince Albert was coming, they inevitably decided to wait as well. So we were like a group of amateur paparazzi, just waiting for our split second glimpse of someone
rich and famous. We all snapped as many pictures of him as we could, and took the time to compare them once he was well out of sight.
While in Cannes, we stumbled upon a MAC makeup conference in a hotel, while looking for a bathroom. With models, actors, and conference attendees all milling around in their formal wear and/or costumes, we probably stuck out more than we realized. However, I managed to speak to 2 of the female models (who turned out to be stilt walkers) and an actor, who was sitting off to the side going over his lines, to find out what was going on. It was really interesting to see it all happen. The very attractive and nearly-naked male models mounted their horses to welcome the attendees into the gala, while the stilt walkers and other male models were just inside the doors offering drinks to each person who entered the event. I'm pretty sure I would have been quite noticible had I tried to sneak in, so I didn't bother. But I'm not going to lie and say that the idea did not cross my mind.
Avignon is an amazing medieval village, which is well
My room :)
This is where I spent most of my weekend, unfortunately :(
However, Marc tells me that this area of the house (ie. my room, the kitchen and the outside) was the sheep's area. It has since been changed and built into a bedroom and a kitchen. You can see the line on the wall where the division used to be.
known for its papal pallace. After taking a quick walk through the village, we decided we could not leave without seeing more. So we went on a tour of the Palace of the Popes before heading out towards Aniane. I was a little too optimistic and decided to do the tour in French. So unfortunately, I cannot tell you too much about the palace. But it was amazing to look at the architecture, and to ponder about how difficult it must have been to build such an enormous structure without the engineering and machinery of today.
I was very pleased to see my parents' reaction to Aniane. After showing them around a little bit and introducing them to my French family, they seemed very pleased with my setup here in France. I am very happy with everything here, but it's always nice to get someone else's approval. Because of the time once we were finished exploring, and since there is not too much available in Aniane, we had a very limited choice in restaurants for our final meal together in France- it was the hotel restaurant or nothing. On the outside, the hotel is nice, but nothing special. So we
They keep going and going and going....
did not expect too much from the restaurant. However, this turned out to be one of the best meals we have ever had. The waiter by far wins the Best Waiter award in my books! He was very professional yet friendly, and we had some great conversation with him. He recommended a delicious red wine for us, and in the end opened up an expensive bottle of white wine for us to try, and gave it to us on the house. We immediately assumed that he was the owner of the hotel. However, it turns out that his friend owns the place, but he was asked to come in for a few months to help him turn it around and improve it. I must commend him, because he is certainly doing an amazing job. The food there was also amazing! My dad's meal consisted of what would be the equivalent of about 2 meals in Canada, but for about half the price. It was actually unbelievable. The quality of food and service here definitely beats any restaurant that I have ever been to.
I actually went back to the restaurant today (the day I'm writing the blog) for lunch, as
and going and going and going....
I just didn't feel like being at home. As soon as I walked in, the guy who was our waiter last time remembered me and immediately asked me how my parents are doing. I was quite impressed with him. As I sat eating my lunch, he came over to speak to me (since I was the only one in the restaurant). Soon after I started to eat, him and the owner (also a great guy) sat down to have their lunch as well. The owner came out with a bottle of wine that they were having with their lunch, and kindly filled up my glass without me ordering wine. (I must admit that I wasn't planning on ordering any wine as I had gone out drinking the night before, and was still suffering the consequences. But hey, it was free, so why not?! haha) Anyways, as I finished eating my salad, Stephan, the waiter looked over to me and asked if I would like dessert. When I replied No thanks, he looked at me funny and asked if I would like a creme brulee? I didn't really know what to say, because I wanted it but at the same time
The Children's Bedroom
This was not Raphael and Olivier's bedroom, but the children way back in the day
I didn't. But before I could reply, he had walked off to the kitchen to get me a creme brulee. Once I had finished eating the dessert, he kindly brought me a coffee. When I asked for the bill, he only charged me for my salad and told me that the rest was a 'cadeau' (a gift). It was really sweet of him, and on top of that, it was an amazing meal! I will definitely be back before I leave Aniane, that's for sure!
I've been spending a lot of my time at the French American center lately. They've had a bunch of events, such as a Halloween party and a wine tasting party, and I've been regularly attending the weekly tea party. I've gotten to know the staff at the center, who are pretty much all around my age and are really cool people! The staff is comprised of mostly Brits, some Australians, some Americans and one Canadian. Since I dressed up as a Canadian for the Halloween party, I have earned myself the nickname Canada. And so whenever I go to the center, I walk in and hear Hey Canada! It's great! I love it! (I
Note the Thickness of the Walls
I'm not sure how well the photo shows it, but every wall in this house is just as thick!
know some of you are thinking that my costume choice was really lame, but it was the only costume I could put together entirely from my wardrobe, without having to waste my money on a costume. Aside from a tube of red facepaint, my costume was free!) But it was actually a huge hit at the party. I was told by a couple of people that if there had been a contest, I would have won for best costume! Haha Unexpected, but nice to hear!
At the wine tasting, everyone was asked to bring a bottle of wine and to be ready to present it. Only about 3 people had actually gone to some sort of trouble compiling some information on their wine, unlike myself who basically just read the back of the bottle to the group. However, I was asked to do it in French, which threw me off my game a little bit. My presentation was therefore not too great, as I had no idea how to say all the technical terms written on the bottle. So my French came out a little iffy, but it was fun nonetheless. After everyone had presented, and we had tasted everyones
wine (about 10-15 diff wines!), the bottles were all put out for the taking. So we basically just hung out afterwards and polished off the rest of the wine. As if we had not drunk enough, we decided to go out to a bar after everyone had left. Needless to say, I quite inebriated by the end of the night. The drive home with Marc was quite awkward, as I was trying my hardest to act normal (ie. sober), hoping he wouldn't notice anything!
A few weeks ago, I went with a couple friends to a place called Accrobranch. I actually found it on the internet before I left Canada, and decided I was going to do it! Their website describes it as 'organized tree climbing', but it's more like a ropes course up in the trees. It was a lot of fun, but I wish we had more time to spend there. We were a little rushed and didn't get to do as much of it as we had wanted. We ended up doing the easiest course and the hardest course. The hardest course (called The Extreme course) was extremely hard!!! We all had to bail partway through,
as we didn't have the upper body strength required to go on. But surprisingly, we actually did pretty well on the first half :)
The last thing I'll write about before I send it off is my first, and hopefully not last, experience in med school. The Montpellier med school was the first medical school to open up in France. I took myself on a tour of the med school last week. As I went into the anatomy building, I saw a lot of people filing into one of the rooms. After sneaking a peak inside, and making sure it wasn't a lab or some other room where I would be extremely obvious, I decided to go in and sit in on the lecture. I'm sure the students all knew that they hadn't seen me before, but I just acted like I knew what I was doing and hoped that no one would say anything to me. I was the only one sitting off by myself, not furiously taking down notes like all the others, but thankfully no one asked any questions. After sitting there for half an hour, I still had no idea what the prof was talking
The Living Room cont'd
Apparently the house used to be filled with antique furniture. Thankfully it has all been moved out and old furniture has been moved in.
Probably a wise move with 1 and 2 yr olds running around...
about. He was speaking into a microphone that had a really bad echo, and so I could not make out any of the words he was saying. I'm sure I would have understood more had I been sitting at the front of the class, but I'm just not that ballsy. So after half an hour of not understanding, I slipped out of the room. I was hoping for some cool anatomy lecture, but in the end I think he was talking about creatine levels...not that interesting.
You may be wondering how I've changed since I've moved here. Well, I'm now used to being hit, bitten, jumped on, spat on, snotted on, slobbered on, barfed on (gross, i know!) and much more. I guess that comes with the territory of working with 1 and 2 year olds! I have also become a diaper changing wiz! I can almost do it with my eyes closed! (although I havent yet tried, as that could be kind of messy) :P I never thought I would know so much about Thomas the Tank Engine, or know the entire book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by heart.
But seriously, I definitely have changed since being
View of the House from the Back
Taken on our walk into town
It's really a beautiful old house!
here. I've become a lot more outgoing, and a lot less hesitant to try new things. I've learned that if I want to do something, I need to just do it and not sit around contemplating and being indecisive, as most of you know I usually am. I figure this is my chance to do as much as I can and experience as much as I can. So there's no sense in wasting time, because in reality, there is not much time to be wasted!
These past 2 months have gone by extremely quikcly, and the thought of leaving France in a month really saddens me. I've met some amazing people and will be very sad to say goodbye! But I will make the most of the next month and will hopefully leave with lots of great memories of my 3 months in France.
Anyways, that's all for now. Feel free to leave comments or questions :)
Hope everything is going well for everyone! And hopefully the next blog will come quicker than this one did. :)
There are more photos below