An Overdue France Adventure Wrap-Up!

We left France the second week of December, and after spending Christmas with family in England we are finally back at home!

Our last days in France were wonderful…

…clear mornings walking to school with a low mist over the grass pale-green with frost…

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One of our last morning walks to school

…a cold, lovely afternoon at the Reims Christmas market, watching an elderly French couple playing a street organ while everyone sang Petit Pere Noel (“Little Father Christmas”…a new favorite Christmas song for me, especially after all of the children in Conrad’s class sang it while packed into the village post office to send off their letters to Santa – see some lyrics below)…

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Louvre Palace, Paris

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Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

…an impromptu night with the whole family in Paris, walking under an archway of the Louvre Palace that resounded with a symphony played by a busking violinist, wandering on through the Jardin des Tuileries to see the Eiffel Tower lit up with sparkling Christmas lights, and then marveling at the glowing shop window displays (of course this was all fuelled by McDonalds chicken nuggets again, although at least Michael and I got cheesy tartiflette from a street stall)…

…ice-skating and hot mulled wine at the village Christmas festival…

…a last walk under the oak trees near the gite to bury a family “time capsule” (now we have to return some time in the future!)

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On the children’s last day of school, we sent farewell goodie bags for all of their classmates (that’s just under 90 goodie bags, phew…!) Roman brought home a portfolio of fantastic artwork from his preschool class, and his school workbooks that showed he’d made real progress with his penmanship and sums. Victoria was especially proud of a clay mouse that she’d made in class, with a rope tail and wire whiskers.

Conrad’s teacher put together a wonderful memory book for him, with photographs of him with his friends and copies of drawings that each of his friends had done for him. As we waited by the gates for the final dismissal, the teacher pulled Conrad to the front of the line so that each of his classmates could give him a good-bye kiss on the cheek as they passed (of course, it’s France!) Twenty eight kisses later, and the adventure in French schooling was over.

So what were the conclusions of three months living in France? Here are a few thoughts…

  1. France is fantastic! I’d half-forgotten this before we actually moved out there. Food, fashion, perfume… We really enjoyed the bread, the chocolate, pâtés, cheeses, butter, crème fraiche, and of course the wine… Women in Paris were subtly chic (luckily the style in the village was rather more down-to-earth!). Of course France is the home of Chanel, and many famous cosmetic brands. Even our small village pharmacy had several shelves purely devoted to slimming creams. (Okay, they almost certainly don’t work, but it still strikes me as sort of brilliant). I loved the French architecture – the history and grandeur of Paris, the double-slope roofs (I looked these up – they’re called mansard or gambrel roofs), and of course those beautiful stone farmhouses in cobbled courtyards.
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Conrad and his class-mates, ready to send their letters to Father Christmas

  1. Children are very adaptable. Roman and Victoria enjoyed school, and learned much more than I’d expected. Gaston easily settled into his routine of walks and train-spotting. Conrad learnt a huge amount of French vocabulary. He can now write in French cursive, and he even memorized two French poems (without understanding most of the words). He can perform a delightful rendition of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in French. It’s truly amazing how children can soak up language, and how easily they make friends despite the communication barrier.

 

  1. Children also like stability. Sometimes the kids all went a bit crazy. This can happen at any time, so it’s hard to know how much it was connected to being away from home. Certainly, for Conrad at six years old, and much more so for sweet Roman at five years old, their regular beds and toys were often on their minds. One night we were chatting about this with one of the French mothers we’d befriended, and she told us about a family she knew who’d converted a bus into a mobile home to take periodic long trips around Europe while homeschooling their children. She’d offered them all beds when they came through the village in order to give them a break, but instead they’d chosen to sleep in their bus, parked outside. “It’s familiar for the children, and we’ve learned that the consistency helps”, they’d explained. (I suppose even children of nomadic tribes stay in the same shelter while they are travelling, close to their families). I do think there are amazing benefits to exposing children to the world and other cultures, but there is probably a balance.
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First snow in the gite courtyard!

  1. Our home, in eastern Washington, is awesome! It’s truly beautiful here surrounded by pine forests and lakes. We’re so happy to be catching up with friends. It is hard to beat this wonderful quality of life, and we’re excited to get back to school, sports and nature hikes. Plus it’s great being back in our own house. There’s a lot to be said for the minimalist lifestyle, but having all of this space is very pleasant. (It’s still my goal that some of the kids’ toys we’d packed away will stay in ‘storage’ forever!). It’s a huge relief that the house is ours, and if one of the kids marks or damages something it’s all on us. (And I reiterate that tumble dryers are a superb invention).
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Farm tracks and mistletoe along the canal

I’ll miss hearing the French language, seeing our new French friends and the countryside of northern France: that low morning mist, the line of trees along the canal covered with balls of mistletoe, the castle tower outside the window, the old stone churches. (I actually ate SO much French bread, I won’t miss it too much…at least for a while).

Happy New Year, and here’s to future adventures near and far!

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First Sunday of Advent

Petit Papa Noël

 

It’s a beautiful Christmas night
Snow spreads its white coat
And eyes lift toward the sky
On their knees, small children
Before closing their eyelids
Offer one last prayer
Little Father Christmas
When you descend from the sky
With toys by the thousands
Don’t forget my little shoe
But before you leave
You must cover yourself warmly
Outside, you’re going to be so cold 
It’s a little because of me…
…And when you are on your beautiful cloud
Come first to our house
I wasn’t always very well behaved
But I ask for your forgiveness
Little Father Christmas
When you descend from the sky
With toys by the thousands
Don’t forget my little shoe

3 thoughts on “An Overdue France Adventure Wrap-Up!

  1. Mary Schweitzer says:

    I have loved your French blogs, Eleanor. They made me feel almost like I was there enjoying those experiences with you. Yes, children are adaptable and accepting of many things. But….there’s no place like home.
    Happy New Year and God’s blessings to you and your family.

    Like

    • evmb21 says:

      Thank you Mary! Really glad you enjoyed reading the posts. It was a wonderful adventure, and it has made us enjoy and appreciate being home in Washington all the more! All the best for a great 2018, from all of us.

      Like

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