Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday 17th May 2010 till Sunday 23rd May 2010

Sunday, 23rd May, 2010
I woke to the harmonious sounds of sleep machine next to me,so I was up rather too early for my liking. We dressed in summer clothes as it promised to be another warm day and then packed up. As we were doing this, our breakfast arrived and the description “a groaning tray of food” had nothing on our tray. It was very heavy and contained tea, coffee, juice, yoghurt, fruit, jam, butter, croissants, bread, pain au chocolat, bread, cheese and various types of meat. After we had eaten through some of this, we finished packing and left the hotel. We asked if they had another night as we could cancel the other without penalty, but unfortunately they were all booked out. We joined the crowd and drove out across the dyke towards the Mont. We were early, but there were thousands of cars and motorhomes and cars and bikes out there already. (This is no exaggeration as you will see when I eventually get photos up.) People seem to spend the night in their motorhomes out there. Things have changed rapidly since I was there in the 70s as they would all have been swept away when the tide came in. Nowadays there is only a small amount of water because the dyke has changed the ecological way things work and the River Cuesnon has a lot of silt. There are huge programs under way to try to restore it to the way it used to be. Still a steady stream of cars poured in behind us.
We walked a long way to the bottom of Le Mont along with many other people. It is an amazing sight from the base of it as the old stonework forming the buildings and the abbey is fabulous and just…so old. According to the book we bought, the first building on it was in 700AD. The actual abbey was built in 1300s. All the stones were pulled up by a huge wooden wheel, a replica of which is there today.
The crowds were large as we walked up the cobblestones, through the steep alley lined with tourist shops and restaurants. One line going up and one coming down and no-one else able to go past. We walked up and up and eventually decided to go into a museum house, a museum and a son et lumiere. This was great as it was all in French. However, I managed to understand a lot of it. Gray got some and I could help with some. When we exited this we were at the beginning of the abbey. More climbing, up, up, up till we eventually went into a hall to pay and begin our Abbey experience. There were lots of people, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Each room had a plaque as to what it was and we had a brochure. There was a service taking place in the Abbey, which was full. We were able to watch some of it. Outside the Abbey the view was over the sand flats that extended for kilometres. People were walking over them and swimming. There were huge groups of people walking around the sands and we discovered that these were groups of pilgrims making a pilgrimage both to the Abbey and to other sites kilometres away. We walked through all the rooms of the Monks’ area which led us back down to the main hall. We had to leave by les Jardins and we walked a long way further to the exit of the Abbey area.
Now, we were tired and hungry so we looked for a restaurant and had a delicious lunch. I went for steak because, as nice as my seafood was the night before, I miss my meat.
After lunch, Gray decided that he really should have bought the stamp he had seen up in the Abbey shop and he would walk back up to get it. I found a bit of protruding rock in a wall and sat and waited for him. He returned empty-handed as he couldn’t find the Les Jardins exit and wasn’t going to queue in the IN line for ages.
We decided we had had enough walking so we would go back to the car and book in at the next hotel. That was easier said than done as there was now wall to wall people climbing the Rue and going down. We just stepped out into the flow and were carried down in a crush of humanity. We eventually reached the bottom and walked back to the car. Now there were two rows of huge coaches on the road at the bottom of the entrance and thousands upon thousands of cars. The sign had said that the tide would come in at 3 and take about 3 hours. It certainly wasn’t the rush of water that had come in 38 years ago when I was last there.
We found the car and joined the steady stream of vehicles moving towards the exit. Then we crawled back into the village and booked into the Mercure Motel. It wasn’t as exotic as the Relais le Saint Michel, but it was comfortable and it was a bed for the night.
We walked around the village and did some shopping. Then we decided to walk back part of the way and see what the water was doing. It was a little higher in the Cuesnan, but not much. We watched a family of ducks, nine ducklings, swimming down the river and some other birds. We walked back towards the motel and went down a road at the back, only to discover a large fence that we couldn’t pass so we had to walk back and through one hotel’s bottom floor. We had dinner in the restaurant that was attached to the hotel and sat outside under an umbrella. We had been thinking of driving back out to Le Mont at dusk as Pierre Eric said it was very different, but suddenly realised I had had a couple of glasses of wine and might be slightly over the limit so we didn’t.
For the first time in France we saw about 6 or 7 buses full of Japanese Tourists in the village and up on Le Mont.

Saturday, 22nd May, 2010
Up quite early and we had breakfast, packed and left about 10. We had the tomtom on and decided to follow it carefully. Well we started out that way until it told me to turn left and I missed it. Oh well, it repositioned itself and picked us up again. We went on to a Toll way, something I had been scared of doing, because of the money. I had texted a Mum the night before and asked if I needed, notes, coins or a card. Back came the answer of all three are ok. Well here we went. There was a toll booth and a toll collector. All my worries vanished at once. This was different from what I had been led to expect. Another fear dispelled! When on earth did I become so fearful of so many things?
We followed our Tomtoms directions religiously, but discovered that bear left does not mean turn left. Well we went round a sort of a square round about and a few streets, three times till I worked that fact out. Back we headed for the motorway and kept going. We pulled off into a garage cum food place along the way to have some lunch, after we had passed a few and worked out that yes they did come back on to the motorway. It is all so different that you can take nothing for granted.
The next few kilometers were very busy and there were huge hold ups at the toll booths. There was also roadworks along the way which is great on a holiday weekend and I was sure that the left lane wasn’t as wide as our car. It did turn out to be all right though. Next point of interest was going towards Caen. Take the exit and keep left, so I did and then when it said keep left I became a bit disorientated and we ended up back on the motorway. Oops! Never mind Tomtom fixed us up and we continued on our way. Sharon had said don’t leave too late and I am very glad we took her advice as it was slow enough at that time.
Eventually we came across signs to Le Mont Saint Michel and Gray thought he spotted it between the trees. Then it disappeared again. We stopped at one hotel to ask for directions as when I had put the co-ordinates into the Tomtom, it came out as East for the latitude not west, so we didn’t have firm instructions of the actual place. We eventually arrived at our exotic location for the night and found ourselves in a magnificent room looking straight out to the Mont itself. Wow what a view. Room was great and internet was free so lots of emailing and we even talked to Mum on Skype. Only one detail missing; no coffee making things! Very strange for a four star hotel! We had a walk a little way along the path and then to a local supermarket and bought some wine, beer and nibbles and yet another tire buchon, as all the other three corkscrews were in Avilly. We sat out on our small verandah and enjoyed the early part of the evening.
At seven we went to dinner and were seated right at the front window with an amazing view of the mountain. The food was delicious. For entrée I had Paté de Foie canard and Gay had a seafood tasting plate. The waiter came with a selection of 5 extra pieces of cutlery I think it as and laid them out on the table setting. The plate was huge and he had winkles which he had never had before. For main course we both had lobster, mine was with white butter and Gray’s was supposedly flambé, but the waiter came with his little copper pot of Calvados and it wouldn’t light. Really didn’t matter as the taste was still there. I have always hated watching people eat lobster at the table because of the mess it makes. Well…! Now I hate it even more because I managed to make more mess than anyone I have ever seen. Meanwhile the night was beginning to get a bit darker and I took photos of the Mont through our window. Card were streaming out and back in all the time.
Desert was delicious too, Gray had profiteroles. Over here they are all filled with ice-cream and then I had a coffee. Back in the room I continued to take photos and it was finally dark just after 10.
I did my usual, very little sleep in a strange place so was very tired.

Friday, 21st May, 2010
I was in quite early and set up the computers. Sharon has invited us to her home for a barbeque on Sunday next week. That will be nice to be able to socialise with her without all the hassles of school.
The printer, which I thought I had wrecked worked again, thank heavens. We had a spelling test and they all answered the Borenore children’s emails. I tried to make them all email accounts of their own, but it was too difficult as the computer was reading between Australia and France and didn’t like the fact.
We covered a lot of work and finished our artworks as well. Some people started on their Floppy dog’s hat. Nabil was pretty well behaved. Slowly I seem to be winning, but it is a three day weekend so Tuesday will be interesting. I just seem to have to be the dragon and he is good.
Had time off and wrecked the printer again. This is a difficult one as no one seems to do computer things at all. Gray came in for sport in the afternoon and I had 2 Maternelle 6 year olds who can’t read yet. Oh dear! One has quite a lot, one has not much at all and the two who are French have NONE, were away. More next week, but we did have a happy Mum. Sport is another thing! Frustrates Gray no end. There are 16 of them and they don’t move around. They will look at the cricket ball instead of chasing it in continuous cricket. Obne good little fello wasn’t listening to him at all and reminded him that he had no English. We speak a strange jargon when we are giving instructions so that everyone understands.
We didn’t go out for dinner as we were going away for the weekend. We were so tired, we didn’t even pack. Decided to do that tomorrow.

Thursday, 20th May.2010
I was really tired this morning and didn’t want to get up. I spoke with Shell as there was no email from her saying she had booked. She is still vaccilating she said. …so… will we see her, will we not!
Nabil was nicely settled for most of the day for me. He is still hard work and played up no end in the playground and wasn’t very good for the French teacher. Gray walked into Chantilly along the so called Forest Track. It was most disappointing as there was a large wall on one side of the track and a fence on the other. He had a beer and then found couldn’t get a bus for a long time so he walked back home. He was exhausted when I came in.
School was an interesting day. Loretta was yelled at again by Claire who didn’t like something that had to be done. I went in to make her some tea and heard Claire say something very loudly as I walked past, so I opened the door and said nicely,
“Did you say something?” Well now I know what it feels like to have someone yelling in an extremely loud voice at me as I stood there hoping to calm her down. She was shouting full bore at the situation. Two little girls had come inside for something and went back to Loretta to tell her we were having a fight. I hastened to tell them, that I don’t fight and had gone in because I knew she was upset, to see if I could help. How unprofessional to scream at people like that! I have never seen or heard anything like it. Life is full of different experiences over here.
At lunchtime they skipped again. As soon as the Maternelle bell rings, the cry goes up, “Rope!” and Mrs Doherty will you turn rope please?” I now have tennis elbow or some such ailment in my arm, but how can you not play with them. It gives them something to do in the concrete yard and they just love it. I do have to look up some more skipping rhymes because I could only really remember Teddy bear, teddy bear and I am heartily sick of that one. Nabil is always a problem when I am not out there and just want to tell the others that if they got up and played a game or two with the children instead of sitting in a line on their chairs he would be better for them too. Ah me!
Thursday afternoon they finished off most of their museum book work although some will still be going next week. The room is beginning to look more like my classroom now thank heavens.
I was late home as was helping Loretta. Had an email from Isabelle and they will come and visit us soon. We had been hoping to see mo and Gaynor as they drove from Calais to Orleans, but it was not to be. That is sad. He said they might come for a weekend, but we worked out we only have 3 free weekends left in our time here. I can’t believe how fast it is going.

Wednesday, 19th May, 2010
Had emails from mum and others. Mum skyped me at school but I missed her. Shell thinks she will come. We had Music and the children showed the instruments they had made. I then played the guitar and we sang. I am not very good at it at all really. I think it is because a) Loretta is there and I never play well in front of adults and b) it is a small one and doesn’t have much sound coming out of it. We had a good lesson with my English Class. Gray came from the market with a bag full of cheese and vegetables and we came home and had lunch. I put all the shopping away and we then went to St Maximin to do the weekly shop. It becomes easier each time. We bought all the food, not quite so much as last time as we were going away. We couldn’t find a Post Office, but there was a stamp machine. We had many goes at trying to get stamps of the right amount and in the end we gave up. We came home via Chantilly so gray could go to the post office. I found a parking spot on the pavement and drove on to it, as you do here. He went to the Post Office and I got a ticket from the machine to put in the car window…and another ticket…! Eventually he came back with a story of a fellow trying to get a passport and everyone in the line huffing and puffing because it was taking so long. They are a very patient people the French…haha!
We bought some maps while we were in Cora to see where we would go on Saturday to get to Le Mont Saint Michel and after dinner we put them out on the floor to look. I managed to get one hotel booked for the Sunday night, but everywhere seems completely booked out for the Saturday night. Eventually I found one at an exorbitant price and we decided just to take it as otherwise we might not find one anywhere. I was happy to have a bed for each night.
We went home and unpacked everything and I made dinner and then did my work. I was very tired once more.

Tuesday 18th May, 2010
4 degrees in car this morning. Gate at school was shut so I had to try and open it. The car fitted on to the pavement in front of it. Just! I had to use every muscle I have to push the gate open on both sides. Ah well, I have done it now, so I know I can do it! The fear of it has gone! Now I can go earlier if I want to. School is supposed to start at 8.30 so there is never enough time to do everything before it starts, especially if I want to read the emails.
We had a good morning! Nabil was pretty good. The others were keen to work and are enjoying the freedom of doing work that isn’t as formal that they are used to all the time. Their presentation skills leave a lot to be desired. Humbert and Nabil have a huge college exam tomorrow. Nabil couldn’t have cared less, but I spent the morning answering Humbert’s mathematical questions. There are so many things they haven’t covered this year! It is a bit scary!
I had from 11.30 off this morning with just Break duty and Lunchtime duty. I am still turning rope or playing Dodgeball. We have converted one Maternelle person to play and Loretta will turn rope, but the rest just say no and stay sitting on their chairs in the sun if there is any. It is incredible. The children are all playing together and having loads of fun, but they do need some help to do some of these things! One of the great delights is watching 6 year olds, Ange and Nicolas having such fun running in and skipping successfully. Nicolas’ face almost splits in two, his grin is so huge.
Gray took it easy today and only went as far as Courteuil. The woman at Tabac told Gray that she was only closed yesterday because it was so cold! He bought home a baguette and had lunch.
My French hasn’t reappeared properly yet. It is a bit of a worry.
Good one from Gray tonight! His new red shirt has shrunk!!! He won’t have it that it hasn’t and the cheese is starting to show. Hehehe!
Gigi bought ne a bag of new books to read today. This is great as I had read all the others. It is good having a personal library to borrow from when necessary.

Monday 17th May, 2010
It was rather cool this morning. The jockeys from across the road were snuggly rugged up when they set off. The dragon in me flared this morning and I laid down the law to Nabil and told him there was no way I was accepting anything except vastly improved behaviour. We all had a much better morning. He was pretty good in French as well. The afternoon was more pleasant and the others all enjoyed it much better.
Gray had been for a walk and looked rather dead when I eventually arrived home. It was much further than he had expected and he turned back through St Nicolas d’Acy or it would have been worse. He trudged into Courteuil to have a long awaited beer at the Tabac, only to find it closed! I am getting tired rather early and waiting for the clock to get to 10 o’clock. This is most unusual for me!
My French seems have disappeared! I have been concentrating so hard and trying to understand as much as I can and speak it as well, so maybe it is overload and it might be hidden in there somewhere.
Finally I managed to book a second hotel for the Saturday night this coming weekend. Monday is a holiday and we are heading to Mont Saint Michel for the weekend, but everything was booked out. I booked one for the Sunday night and we got the last room in a different hotel for the Saturday. It is quite a long way and I have set the Tomtom. However! It says go to the end of the road and turn right! This is a bit of a worry as it is taking us in the opposite direction from that on the map. We shall see! Next amusing instalment.

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