A Travellerspoint blog

Finally, my vege patch!!!!

and school holidays

overcast 16 °C

For 2 weeks from the 18th April the kids had school holidays. This meant less time to myself, but also sleep-ins.
Some days they had friends over which was better because they entertained themselves. Their easter gift from grandparents Maryvon and Bernard was a pingpong table and there’s only so many hours of ping pong I can play. Much like Uno.
Especially when I’m sure they are not quite keeping score properly and/or making up rules.
In their favour.
Good thing I’m not competitive. Even when I know that was my point, but can’t explain (I mean argue) in French why.

So the second week of holidays following Easter was, better. Less stressful for me. Possibly because I only had one child to deal with, the slightly more agreeable one. The other bus-ed off to Rome with a church group for 8 days for some theological learning.
The mornings were easy, we usually had breakfast ‘petit dejeuner’ in front of le television with cartoons such as Garfield and scooby doo dubbed in French. Easy enough to get the drift of the story.

One morning i decided a little trip was in order, needing to do more research on what fruit and veg is in season and available locally and what prices i should be expecting. The best option was a visit to a market in Simandre which was the closest that day, about 20 minute drive away. From the tourist office in Sennecey I got a list of all the markets in the Bourgogne Sud (Burgundy South) region. There’s a market on each morning in say 10 different villages or towns. I have circled them on my map so when I’m really free I can work my way through the list.
The directions I had written were minimal and thought I had missed a turn-off but the road signs came through for us and we arrived. This one was a tiny market in a tiny village, a nice drive, practice of some terrible French with the vendors and leaving with a handful of fresh fruit and veg (few oranges, beetroot, strawberries, olives and salami, and a particularly superb red melon, looks like but sweeter than rockmelon).

Other days we would ride or walk taking the longer scenic route to the local tiny boulangerie in Laives for une baguette. Nadine has an old tourer bike (as opposed to mountain bike) that I want to get a basket for so in future I can cruise to the boulangerie and the bigger village Sennecey-le-Grand just down the road and perhaps fit more than a loaf of bread.

The Tuesday I made Anzac biscuits with Amarine to mark the Day, which everyone liked and i then tried to explain what i remember about why we celebrate the Day.

A few days later I woke with an almighty cold, but with practically a home pharmacy of homeopathic medicine it has been clearing up since. No idea where i got that from, Nadine had lost her voice the previous week so perhaps a virus with different symptoms for me. I've just receovered yesterday and as yet no one else has caught it.

Friday we watched most of the Royal Wedding. And wasn’t that great! I saw that vows but missed the ring exchange until it was replayed later due to running to and from the tele trying to cook lunch at the same time. Loved Kate’s dress – absolutely perfect and appropriate in every way. Thought Princess Bea and Eugenie were dressed seeking attention and even got lots of footage of PM Jules’ arrival. We switched off after the Balcony scene so unfortunately missed the apparent cruise through the streets in the Aston Martin. Did anyone see that?

That night was a rare, spur of the moment decision to eat out at the restaurant at the Lakes in Laives, called ‘Au Bout du Monde.’ This is only the second time we have gone out for dinner, both just at small local places, and I have to say that the food quality, presentation and service does actually kick arse over Australia. Whether it’s because these have been owner run-and-managed or there really is much more pride in providing food and service here still I don’t know, but it’s a bloody refreshing change!
Afterward when the Owner/manageress saw me peering through the open kitchen door she invited me to have a look through. Ok so it was tiny and not much to see as it looked like the cooking was finished, but I asked a few questions about the preparation of the desserts on display - all made in house too.
For a little over 20 euro we each chose a 3 course ‘formula’ (kind of set menu). I chose Grenouille for my main course - ie frogs legs, this time served 'Provencale' ir with diced tomato, parsley, garlic and butter. This is the second time I’ve had this (3rd if I count tasting Bernards at the first dinner outing with the family in the Laives Auberge/guesthouse restaurant). It was a tad on the oily side but deeelicious!
I dodn't take my camera with me no pics, but I'll be ordering that again somewhere.

Last weekend was fantastic. Sunny and 25 for a start which meant digging to the back of my wardrobe for the 1 pair of shorts I brought with me. Maryvonn an Bernard spent the arvo here. I love when they’re around anyway, but it also means the rest of the washing and tidying up is taken care of as I think she quite likes doing those motherly duties, while Bernard busy’s himself in yard with Frederic.
Saturday morning they got around to hiring a soil plough/cutting machine to rip up and area of land for a vege patch. I have been waiting for this since i arrived :)

Then after lunch Nadine and I went to the garden store to buy soil and finally some seedlings! We raked, watered and planted:
About 30 strawberry (frais) plants that we had rescued from the amongst the weeds a few weeks ago,
3 varieties of tomato – cherry, roma and ‘coeurs du beouf’ ('heart of beef' -huge wrinkled round ones)
4 courgette (zucchini) of 2 varieties
2 aubergine
1 round pumpkin-like squash
1 yellow and one red capsicum(=’poivron’)
1 each of coriander, basil, chives, rosemary and parsley.
Almost got broccoli but they were all out.


The rhubarb (mmmm rhubarb) was harvested today also so hopefully that’ll be cooked soon. At least it’s one thing that it still good after being overcooked, if that is it’s fate. Which is likely (in my opinion).

  • update* the rhubarb was overcooked and slushy, but that's my fault. I got distracted while it was on the stove stewing away. Next time it goes on a lower burner...*

So, je suis content (I am happy)
If I can manage to not spend 100% of the next 2 weeks doing the final uni project and enjoy being in our garden I will be even happier. Best be getting back to that now.

And a BIG Congratulations and virtual hugs to a certain brand new mum in Perth !!! :)

Posted by Madeline84 12:33 Archived in France Tagged patch vege Comments (0)

Church, church, more church.


sunny 19 °C

So in case the title didn't hint enough, over the last 2 weeks or so i spent a lot of time in church. Catholic church.

Now i do believe in god and was brought up around the Anglican principals, and a Catholic high school (though a pretty laid back one) so church services/mass is not foreign to me, but i don't regularly attend church either, so let's say i think i've 'done my bit' for the rest of the year. Well til Christmas.

The family don't regularly go either, but the kids are somewhat involved in local church activities, Easter time is a big deal obviously and I would normally go in Darlington at least at Easter and Christmas anyway, and here i feel doing these things is part of learning, so starting on Palm Sunday (for the non-religious that's the Sunday the week before Easter) we went to a local church in the next village for morning mass. This was about 1.5 hours and pretty darn cold inside but i was expecting this (after already having visited quite a few big, old, stone European churches in my time) and dressed appropriately.

The following Tuesday we attended a mass at the Cathedral St Vincent in Chalon - because Amarine's choir was singing. A little more interesting too as it was a special service for the other priests and led by a Bishop. Typically some of the best looking guys i've spotted so far were there... dressed in 'beginner priests' robes. :(
Two days later on Thursday evening we went to a little church in nearby small village Gigny as it followed a class for Amarine's First Communion coming up at the end of May.
The next Saturday evening a friend of Amarine's was getting Baptised and Nadine was Godmother. There was a small party, about 15 people including us, not overly exciting with all conversation in French but i make a game out of seeing how much i can understand. The highlight was watching Grandma knock back more than a couple of glasses of port and wondering if she would make it through the night. She did, but I’m sure she would have slept through the church service.
So this was an aperatif 'dinner' (mostly just cheese and pastry wrapped meat and lots of champagne. Decorative cherry tomatos were the saviour) at the house then stroll over to the church at 9pm. This service lasted for 2 HOURS, the longest of all of them!

So the next day was Easter Day and after a much needed sleep in we went again for the 10.30am mass.

So that was at least 7 and a half hours in 5 Catholic, french services over 8 days at 3 different churches. Lots of practise singing in french.

And brings me to Easter Day. Surprisingly no bigger deal here than in Perth, the kids got chocolate eggs hidden around the garden for a egg-hunt but no presents for us adults. I didn't want to give the kids more chocolate (really there are enough sweets stashed around the place that its not really a treat anyway) so i bought 2 notebooks and covered them with nicer paper and a note inside. These are journals/diaries for them, hopefully an alternative way to express their thoughts and feelings. And perhaps fewer outbursts. Worth a try.

Lunch was a little more special, only us and Nadines's parents but some special food including foie gras (duck liver).
For a complete report see the food blog i am starting...

The rest of the afternoon was 'reposer' /siesta / snooze time. Probably the same thing you were all doing!


Posted by Madeline84 10:32 Archived in France Tagged easter 2011 Comments (0)

Hate study want to explore

semi-overcast 13 °C

Bummed at the moment because i have 2 essays due next week and a major project 3 weeks later. As of next Monday the kiddies are on 2 weeks holiday so i have been glued to my books and computer doing nothing but solid uni :( Plus we've have mostly nice weather and i want to get out and look at everything! And do a little shopping, i really didn't pack much in the way of clothes since 2 pairs of boots i never wore in Perth took up a lot of space.

On Sunday we did get out, all to Lyon, about 1hr 20mins drive. There's an amazing art market along the river each Sunday with a huge extremely diverse range of canvas paintings plus sculptures, and more of a craft/jewellery market following. I've spied a vase i'm going to get next time we go which apparently is fairly regularly. Didn't see anymore of Lyon except from the car. After the market we had to have lunch with Frederic's parents - not enjoyable but a duty. Neither Frederic nor Nadine get on with them but for the kids sake they do a visit every couple of months.

The week with the kids has been up and down, i just never know what to expect each morning. Antonin has been mostly... let's say 'grumpy' and disrespectful, difficult to get even a goodbye or hello out of him each day before and after school (plus the usual 'No' and 'I don't like it' which seem to make up 90% of what he does say). I can see he is the same with Nadine and Frederic and his Grandparents too so i'm trying not to take it personally. Then yesterday he was actually very pleasant! I dare even say happy. And he asked before changing the radio station in the car, even with a 'please' without being prompted. Shocked.

But it was Amarine's turn to be stubborn and difficult. (As Nadine had warned often when one misbehaves the other is good). Yesterday morning with a forcast of cloudy and max 14 degrees for the she insisted on wearing a mini-skirt to school. As if.
Frederic happened to not have left for work so he took to the situation, and she was really making us both work - he physically had to dress her in pants. Which she took off not 5 minutes later as i walked in to hurry her up.

So yesterday was an improvement. Then today after lunch and half helping load the dishwasher he decided he'd done enough and a yelling match ensued between us to make him finish. It would have been easier for me to just do it but i'm determined to stick to my guns so they realise what i say goes, and eventually with me simply seating myself across from him at the table and placing the cutlery in front of him he got up after a minute and loaded it. So i guess i'm learning patience and perseverence, not to mention building a thick skin!

Posted by Madeline84 21:25 Archived in France Comments (0)

Week 1

And the Gypsy's are in town

What a job. If I do ever have kids at least i will be very prepared...

Overall the week was va bit stressful for all. Some Gypsy’s settled for their legal 5 day stint in a town between here and Chalon, and duped one of N & F’s employees into giving him tools to sharpen. What they do is tell someone they will do them a service like that, come back the next day with the tools that they haven’t fixed, then demand something like 1,500 Euro for the ’service.’ The police can’t do a thing because there’s no proof of any wrongdoing and it causes more trouble. If you refuse to pay they imply they will either go to your business at night and do something or follow you home at some point and cause some sort of problems. Your only option is to see how much they ask for and then negotiate a much much lower price. And being a woman helps. So Wednesday Nadine had to do just that. And I had to be extra careful about locking up the house and gates even when inside and not go for walks out of the village away from the houses. Bizarre hey.

Wednesday Amarine was at a friend’s house until I collected her at midday. Nadine went back to work after lunch and I took the kids out walking around Laives.
Afterwards a dog followed us home, and unfortunately for everyone Antonin has very badly wanted a ‘le chien’ for a while, and he quickly became obsessed with this one, repeatedly disobeying my requests to leave the dog outside the gate and come inside and throwing a long, long tantie.
[ A side note: This tantrum was abominable and I cannot understand why they think throwing a tantie will get them what they want. I know kids have short memories and don’t reason like adults yet, but I have watched Nadine discipline them and they KNOW the consequences if they repeatedly disobey their parents or me]

Antonin would have been playing with the dog for over an hour before I really put my foot down and made him come inside, when he attempted to go and play Dofus on the computer (his other obsession) and I had to confiscate the mouse and put up with another round of screaming and crying.
When Nadine and Frederic got home from work both the kids got a severe lecture, and Nadine assured me I had done exactly what she would have, but she would have been harsher on them.
I think the dog incident was an exception, apparently he takes to any dog immediately and the “I want a dog” issue starts all over again.

Thursday was interesting. I dropped the kids at school before 8 but had to hang around Chalon til 10 when I was to accompany Amarine’s class to swimming lessons. As I was looking for a Carrefour supermarket I found en route an outdoor market being setup so pulled over. Next door there was a ‘Salon du Thé’ (coffee shop) which, despite looking and feeling like a truck-stop served not just café or café au lait, but also cappucinos yay. It looked to be run by Italians, but surprisingly the coffee was Fabulous. I decided to kill time there by doing some uni work before checking the market out and heading back for the swimming lesson. Once one of the guys serving noticed my awful language skills he struck up conversation in broken English, and over the following hour took the other seat to talk to me about learning French, ask what I was doing in France and if I had friends here, if I had a boyfriend, if I wanted a boyfriend and what was my number/msn/face book. I was a little taken aback but quite amused, told him ’not right now’ and ’sorry I don’t have a mobile’ (which he believed!). He was definitely not my type and Italian anyhow :) I’m expected back there sometime this week though so I’ll have to decided if it’s a good opportunity to practice French…

Friday everyone was in a better mood, after the morning school run I went to Marie’s apartment as the best Chalon market is Friday mornings and I was hoping to find some fresh raw sheeps milk, or something like that you don’t normally get in Perth, and fruit.
She gave me green tea in a little bowl. Different. I know it can be common to drink coffee from a bowl (like the size of a big soup cup) but didn’t expect tea.
She is about 1 minute’s walk to the main pedestrian shopping area in Chalon, also where the market are held. Loved it, it’s not big but its spread out so when you think there’s only a handful of stalls you turn a corner or go through an arch and there’s some more. We stopped to buy flowers, the amazing soft goats cheese, dried fruit, fish and veges. And into a Boulangerie for the kiddies afternoon tea.
I also happened across a stall selling honey and spice cakes plus some natural skincare, and spoke for quite a while to the woman there, Cecille, in English. She was happy to explain how cosmetics and also food is labelled in france to identify Organic or Sustainable and I bought some soap. This week I’ll be dropping in again to show her my natural sunscreen (she can’t find any in France apparently) and to get some hair stuff.

Friday lunch times everyone meets at Marie and Bernard’s to eat, so Bernard arrived, I collected Amarine at 12 and Nadine, Frederic, and Antonin arrived a bit later as they had been at a parent-teacher meeting for Antonin. Lunch was green salad, fish (fried in some butter and oil), english spinach (local, about $2 per kilo and sold loose not in bunches! - steamed to wilt, then pan heated, with butter), bread (which they don’t put butter on, but often use to soak up meat juices), wine of course an cheese. Another 3 courser but the portion sizes are sensible and it's good eaten slowly. Certainly don’t want to eat until dinner time rolls around late.

For the arvo everyone went back to school/work and Marie and I perused the other market selling clothes (mostly rubbish, made in China and for what it is, expensive) for a couple of hours while gossiping about the gypsys we saw in the market and the unemployed people drinking beer and playing boules in the park until kids pick-up time again.

Yes we manage to gossip with basic French and me guessing a lot of words.

Friday night we all went out for dinner. A rarity from what I can gather. It was only at the local Auberge (guesthouse, the only one in Laives) but it could have been a 5 star restaurant. Menu’s small but diverse, tasty and immaculately presented. I won’t go on, but I chose the seafood boullabaise entrée, fish main and the chocolate cake thing that’s warm and gooey in the middle for dessert. Bernard ordered the frogs legs which I tried (soooo good, but Nadine assured me I should wait until we go to some other better places for frogs and escargot…). Then there was also cheese or fromage frais so I opted for the fromage frais, cos its more like yoghurt. All fantastic and we left with very full stomachs and the kids just about asleep.

This Saturday was the first one in over a year where Nadine and Frederic had not worked so we went to the market in Tournus, about 15 mins drive away. Another cute town, famous for it’s Abbey.
And this is one thing I saw.


That's right, heads, feet and some feathers for decoration. Fresh or what.


This was smaller than the Chalon market but similar quality, mostly local produce. There Nadine shopped up a storm, so now the fridge is packed with vegetables. We also stopped to sample 2 glasses of rose wine from a lady they used to buy their wine from.
Delights were the white asparagus and whole artichokes. I can’t wait to cook the asparagus with Nadine, til now I’ve only had them from a jar.

Posted by Madeline84 09:17 Archived in France Comments (0)

General Routine

Monday-Friday except Wednesday:
Get up, spend from 6.30am - 7.15am waking the kids and breakfast. Should be plenty of time but Amarine can take up to 15 mins to wake up and get her out of bed and ’alive’ and another 10-15mins to get dressed, and I have to be by her side most of the time, and Antonin’s too, telling them to hurry up “dépêche, dépêche.” Then breakfast can be tiring enough depending on their mood, if they decide they don’t feel like eating what’s on offer, and if they start to irritate each other. Get in the car.

7.20am to 8.20am: Drive to schools in Chalon and back to house (20-25 min each way). If we leave any later we catch the traffic getting into Chalon.

I usually just have a quick green tea and bits of fruit before the school run then eat something proper when I get back. Maybe go for walk if weather permits and I have time. Do stuff, and I’m never short of something. Apart from my own uni work or French learning there’s always a dishwasher to load/unload, washing to fold or something. If Nadine and/or Frederic are coming home for lunch they will come just after 12, for around an hour. So far they’ve only come back once so I haven’t had to prepare anything, only whatever I want to eat.

Afternoon clear up lunch, whatever I didn’t do in the morning. Make sure there’s something to take for the kids afternoon snack when I pick them up.
4.15pm drive back to Chalon, park on street outside Antonin’s school, walk over to next street to collect Amarine and then back to the car to wait for Antonin who’s out by about 5pm.
Drive to N & F’s company in Lux (just outside Chalon, on way home). Kids sit down to do homework, I help if I can or Nadine helps. If they are really busy Marie will meet us their so she can help.
Hopefully leave before 6.30 to get home, kids shower and something to eat. Ideally finished eating 7.15pm, teeth and in bed by 7.45. That is yet to happen.

If N & F don’t get home early enough for dinner with kids they can arrive anytime between 7.30 and 9pm. Depending how late they think they’ll be I either eat with kids or wait for them.

Wednesday Amarine has no school, Nadine picks Antonin up and they come home for lunch, then Nadine back to work and I have kids for the arvo. Friday arvo Antonin finishes earlier, at 4.30, then we wait for Amarine and go back to Marie’s place for their snack, then I drop Antonin at Judo in Chalon and go straight home with Amarine.

Saturday and Sunday are technically free days for me, I’m not obliged to be around and do things but if I’m home I help. Some time on Saturdays will be used for Nadine teaching me French, and so far the ‘lunchtimes’ have been organised, a-few-hours affairs taking up half the arvo. On either day we’ll usually do something or go somewhere, that’s interesting for them, me and to entertain the kids.

I will be doing some cleaning, there’s no set amount to be done, it’s just ‘as necessary.’ The kids are old enough to keep their own area’s tidy (with someone standing over them) so my main things will be vacuuming and wiping over the bathrooms and kitchen when they’re starting look grotty. I think a couple of hours twice a week will take care of everything.

Posted by Madeline84 09:10 Archived in France Tagged routine Comments (0)

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