We tried to truly take advantage of the nice weather and local goings-on in town this weekend. It is so much easier now that the girls are much bigger. I remember how much planning and effort were involved when I was alone with Chiara and Ines in France when they were little. There were cobblestone streets to navigate with a stroller and naps to consider. There was also the lack of diaper changing station situation in public bathrooms that I had to contend with. Often, I just opted not to go out with the girls. There was just too much planning. The bad side was that not going out just increased my sense of frustration and feeling of helplessness.
So here’s what we did this weekend. I wanted to keep some semblance of our lives in the US so I told the girls we would go out to dinner on Friday night, which back home is our take-out night (aka Mommy does not cook on Fridays). We went to a local restaurant in town that I’ve been wanting try.
Then, on Saturday, we went to a book signing by French actor turned writer, Philippe Torreton. Philippe just came out with a book called “Mémé” (one of the many ways to say Grandmother in French) as an homage to his own grandmother and his memories of childhood in Normandy.
Then, the girls had their riding lessons on Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, we went to the beach in Deauville where I spent part of Sunday re-reading the late Ann Barry’s book “At Home in France.” A former New York Times and New Yorker editor, Ann was a single woman who decided to buy a small house in the Lot region in France. Her courage, adventures and mishaps during her yearly visits to her house in France just inspire me to try more things while we’re here despite the language and cultural differences. After all, it’s in making those language and cultural mistakes that we learn best, n’est-ce pas?
It feels like this summer is going super-fast. I can’t believe that August is just around the corner, which means slowly shifting gears to start thinking about school-related stuff. I really do not want to be in that mode yet. I know that come end of August and early September things will accelerate quite a bit, especially with Chiara entering fifth grade this year.
Instead of thinking of what’s ahead, I would rather just be in the moment. This is my first full week where the girls are at summer camp all day from 9 to 5. I like using the alone time getting things organized around the house and doing things that are not kid-centric. I also like using this time to hear myself without someone interrupting my thought process every few minutes or so. Trust me, I love my girls but sometimes I just need the space. Don’t we all?
The other thing that I have done this week is sift and edit photos that I have taken so far. I like looking at some of the ones I’ve taken here in Normandy as I think these photos capture simple everyday pleasures from our summer here. Here are some that I’d like to share with you.
There’s the farmer’s market that we like to go to for fresh produce and local goods..
There’s the local Norman architecture around town that I will never get tired of…
There’s the little housekeeping we need to do…
C organizing fire wood from a fallen tree
There’s the regular crêpe bingeing…
A trip to a local bookstore with lots of older paperbacks and French children’s classics..
And lastly, there are the fruits and veggies that grow in our garden…
We are back in Normandy and slowly returning to our routine. The girls are in camp the next two weeks with local Norman kids. As much as I am always a little afraid of leaving them in camp where local slang and ways need some deciphering, I know that I will have two happy girls at pick up time today. Like last year, they will have lots of stories to tell me about kids they met and the activities they did during the day. Plus, they’ll probably see some of the kids who were with them in camp last year.
I know we are lucky to have such an extended vacation period. Most Americans only get a couple of weeks or so. But the last few weeks of solid family and couple time have been great for all of us. Sure, there’s been some meltdown and bickering as all families do when they spend lots of time together. However, there were lots of unscheduled and unrestricted time to simply let go of the usual and the expected and just do things we really want to do.
I will be alone with the girls in the next few of weeks at our house in Normandy. I always look forward to this time alone when I challenge myself to do what the locals do and not be intimidated by my less-than-perfect French. Like in years past, I know I will get by and come out from the time alone feeling a bit braver and calmer, restored.
Below are some of the last photos I took at Île de Ré last week. How’s your summer coming along so far?
Plage les Gollandieres
Entrance to the ancient walled fortress
As I mentioned in my last post, our girls are with my in-laws for a few days while we sneak away some time alone. We are in Île de Ré, a pretty island in the Southwestern part of France. It’s only a two and a half drive for my in-laws’ house but it feels like we are much further away.
Île de Ré can probably be compared to Cape Cod in the US. Unlike other beach resorts in France, especially those in the Riviera, the island is very understated in many ways. No crazy night clubs and glitzy cars, just lots of bike paths everywhere. The island is full of old, white-washed homes that complement the beautiful sunsets here, which is particularly stunning in the old port at the town’s main hub, Saint Martin de Ré.
The island was previously reachable only by ferry. However, ferry traffic and wait times got a little out of control so a bridge was built in 1987 to ease the bottleneck of the comings and goings on the island. The unfortunate side is that the island has become a lot more popular and real estate prices have skyrocketed. The good thing is that the island is pretty big so it never feels too crowded. There’s plenty of room to enjoy the endless beauty of the island.
Love this church’s red door
Random cat on the street
The French equivalent of the American July 4th obviously is Bastille Day, which the French refer to as le 14 juillet. Often, this day is when Richard’s family have their reunion. Given that there was a family wedding last week, his extended family decided not to have a reunion this year. Instead, we had a smaller get together at his parents’ house where the girls will stay for a week with their cousin while we sneak away for some much-needed alone time.
We asked the girls not to bring their iPads or any electronic games during their stay with their grandparents. I will most likely leave my old Kindle for them to read their books while we’re away. It’s amazing what the lack of iPad and gadgets can do. The girls have already spent much time outdoors, re-discovering nature and fun in the simplest things. There was a tiny little dead fish that Ines caught yesterday and a bigger alive one that Chiara got today. There were lots of play time and art making with their little cousin. There is a little lost bird that Chiara discovered today with her grandfather that she is trying to save from dying. Lastly, there was some playground fun and bike riding at a local park.
They do not seem to suffer from “electronic withdrawal.” We’ll see how they are by the end of the week.