Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sunday 27th June, 2010 to Sunday 4th July, 2010

Saturday, 3rd July, 2010
The end is nigh. Planes were coming in most of the night, but it was very cloudy. We ate our breakfast and packed all the extra things up. I made the bed back into its soft yellow sheets and covers and packed ours into the last bit of space in the bag. Loretta rang to say goodbye, but reception wasn’t too good so she would ring back later when we were at the airport. I locked everything up and Gray carried them downstairs as it looked like it was going to pour any minute. We got them all into the car, which still didn’t have a scratch on it!) and went back to carry stuff to Martine and to give Suzann her rose. As I made one trip, suddenly a whole load of water came splashing down. Gray had tipped one of the plant containers down the verandah drain and we found out where the pipe went. Into the air above the path.
Martine came out, but she looked awful and said she had had a crash on one of the motorways in her car yesterday. Someone had crashed into the back of her as she was slowing for the toll booth and she had spun out and crashed badly. The pompiers had come and the gendarmes and she had been in hospital. This was dreadful as now she didn’t have a car and was so far from Chantilly. She took all the food and plants and was very sad to see us go. We hung the wet towels on her drying rack under the eaves as it was now raining again. We said Avilly was crying because we were leaving! We gave Suzan a rose in a pot and the garbage. She didn’t seem to know we were leaving and was sad as well.
We locked up and gave the keys to Martine and she gave us a special horse racing keyring which had special significance for her. I took the Famille Doherty d’Australie off the door and we drove out of the yard and on our way.
It wasn’t pleasant weather at all. Being a Saturday, there weren’t all the big trucks on the road and the Tomtom led us to Charles de Gaulle. We turned it off as it was going to Teminal 1 and we needed Terminal 2D. It is an incredibly huge place and we eventually found our way round and down to the Europa terminal. I went to go in a closer entrance, not realising there wasn’t a hole in the fence. So… typically for my driving in France, I went around and down again and we parked. Gray found two trolleys while I went to the Office. It was closed. What to do now? I didn’t want to leave the keys in the box. We took copious photos of “no damage” in the rain then and saw a sign that showed us to a different office in a terminal. So we set off….two fully laden trolleys with 4 huge suitcases, 4 smaller bags and the rolled up air mattress to post somewhere in a Post Office. Through the puddles and rain, dodging cars and uneven pavements we went hopefully heading towards a Europa Car office. Eventually in the distance we saw the colours and followed on. I stood in a line for quite a while, until a lady behind a counter said what did I want, oh I just had to hand the keys in and she took them. I hastened to say well there was no damage and I had photos to prove it. Nobody checked anything at all. Bit of a worry! I asked a security man where there was a post Office and he pointed and said I had better hurry as it would shut in 5 minutes. Everything shuts at 12 o’clock in Paris! I left Gray with the trolleys and ran inside to just join a queue. One slow fellow dealing with all sorts of International requests! Finally it was my turn and I explained I wanted very cheap and slow postage. 67euros to post a mattress that cost 20 euros! It took me a while to realise that this was ridiculous, but what else was I going to do with it at this stage!! He obviously missed all my French for very cheap and as slow as he liked. Oh well, had no euros left now, that was one thing! Back I went to Gray and we went to find the Terminal 2C. We went round a corner , up in a lift and we were there! We weren’t expecting that. Hopefully now we could get rid of some of this luggage at the Emirates terminal. We sure did! We were 7 kilos overweight!!! I must have packed heaps more in, or Loretta’s scales weren’t accurate. I figured it was probably the former. We gulped and went to hand over the 50euros a kilo across the way and then back to get our tickets. After that we went through to customs through another barrier of x-ray machines. We had decided that Gray would empty his pockets into a plastic bag and put it in my handbag before he went through as that would be one less thing for him to do. Bags on the conveyor belt and I realised that I still had the broken corkscrew to dig the shoes clean. Oops, handed it to an officer and through I went. Gray’s bags came through and I told the man he had new knees and would light the lights! The man grinned, groaned and frisked him. Meanwhile our bags were causing some interest. One lot went back and through again and I was desperately trying to remember what was in there as we had stuffed many last minute things in. We went aside and the man had a good dig around in my handbag….brave man! And then into Gray’s sleep machine bag. He came out with my jewellery case from the sleep bag and opened it up to see all my metal necklaces. He laughed and said they just had to check, all was well.
We continued on our way and went to buy lots of chocolates with Gray’s left over Euros and then down to the lounge to relax. We dumped our bags and found loos and food and wine! And there we sat! Text messages went back and forward around Australia and France and goodbyes were said. I managed to hear from Margot. Eventually we boarded and began our long journey back home. We were in good safe hands as the pilot’s name was Stephen Root. We had a steward who had spent 3 years at Uni in Bathurst we discovered when we asked him which part of Australia the pilot came from. He said he would ask and came later to say he was from Sydney and it was such an unusual name that he knew there was another family of the same name in Orange. We ate well and as we were leaving the plane the steward came down and said the Captain would like to meet us. The cockpits on these huge planes are very small and the Pilot and Copilot were in the middle of masses of lights. I had an extremely swollen foot during this flight and the steward told me I should get a wheelchair, but I said I would be right. It was now Sunday. We went into the terminal and the crowd in the customs hall was absolutely awful. I should have had a chair! It was so hot I was raining the whole way through. This time we both lit the lights and rang the bells. I think mine was my jewellery. I collected all the bags, something was said to me, but I didn’t hear properly. I waited for Gray and our time for the next plane was very short. As I set off to start walking slowly I was called in to a cubicle and frisked by a woman in a burka. Gray came along looking for me as I came out. I wanted to ask her how else she got her thrills, but thought I probably shouldn’t. We set off to walk to the boarding gate as we saw on the board that it was open. My foot was causing me extreme pain. We found the boarding gate and had to wait a few minutes before we could get on. Once on the plane, I sat with ice on my foot most of the way home and it was still very swollen, but the pain went out of it after many hours. Once again, good champagne and lots of food! This was a good flight as we didn’t go through Bangkok and that cut two hours off the journey. We organised a wheelchair this time in Sydney and moved rapidly through the gangways to the luggage area. It was a bit too fast for poor Gray with his heavy bags. At the luggage console I climbed out of the chair and helped Gray with the bags as they started coming through all at once. As long as I didn’t put the foot down it was all right. I had a strong trolley to lean on and we limped off to customs and quarantine. No worries at customs as we had declared things and they sent us straight through to quarantine. That was way down the end of the huge area and on we limped. There were three of them watching my slow progress and showed me where to go. She asked what we had and was happy with chocolates from Duty Free and the picture frames from Montmartre were fine. I explained about living on the horse area and what I had done to the shoes. She was amazed and waved us through. They hadn’t x-rayed the bags so didn’t see the plaques.The car was waiting and we were whisked off to the hotel at Brighton.

Friday, 2nd July, 2010
I had an incredible feeling of the end of our adventure coming closer this morning. I was up early with everything opened up to enjoy the cool and to watch the horses going out.
Today was the day to clean and clean and clean. Towels had to be washed and given to Martine the next day as we left. I packed all the food and household items into two boxes for Rochelle and Martine. Suzanne would have a rose and Martine would have the rest of the plants. The herbs were really thriving well, but the fuschia looked a little deader by the hour. We swept and cleaned and dusted and cleaned the shoes. I had cleaned all the soles of 6 pairs of shoes and washed them and disinfected them and sealed them in individual plastic bags so that we could assure customs we had cleaned them thoroughly because we had been living in a horse area. I left Gray his joggers and he battled away an almost lost his cool for the first time as he said anyone but me wouldn’t have said they were in a country area. Told him I didn’t want to be responsible for bringing disease to Canobolas thank you. After a long time I finished them off for him, but couldn’t pack them as he was going to wear them home. We decided we would take one broken corkscrew to the airport to get out the last bits of dirt picked up in the next day or so.
I washed the towels, leaving one for the next day and we really did need one to use and had them out to dry. Loretta texted to see how we were going.
We packed and locked everything except for one case that we would have to put the sheets in and our clothes from that day. We had out warmish clothes as everyone kept telling us how cold it was in Sydney.
We washed all the floors and as they were drying we were listening to the thunder rumbling around in the distance. All the cases were in the entry hall and down came the rain. It absolutely streamed down in torrents and started to pour in through the bottom of the doors on to our beautifully washed floor. We grabbed all the towels and mopped up as best we could. So much for dry towels for Martine the next day. We left them in rolls under the door and headed of to Rochelle’s. We parked up in the square and walked down, but when we arrived her car wasn’t home. I remembered the gate code and it opened to let us in. We looked and gray said there was a light on in the kitchen so we knocked. Harry came to the door and we met the Phantom Harry at last. The boys were both at home and they were watching sport much to Gray’s delight. We had some red wine and eventually Rochelle, Gigi and friends from Houston came back from Pierrefonds. We had a couple of drinks and stood to go. We were going to eat out as we had cleared all the food, but Rochelle said she would put some curry on and why didn’t we stay. She is such a generous, welcoming soul so it didn’t take much to convince us to spend our last night in France amongst convivial company, even if it was all in English.
We had a delicious curry and dinner and suddenly realised how late it was.

We drove off home, hoping to see a last deer, but no such luck.
No more rain had come in thankfully so we wrung the towels out and put them back down just in case.
We decided to go early in the morning so that we could get there comfortably and find our way to the lounge when we had done everything. Good night Avilly.

Thursday, 1st July, 2010
It was a strange feeling to know it was a weekday and not have to go to school, especially since the others were there. I spent time on the internet trying to find out about the Europa car return and the terminal we needed to be in. There isn’t much information around, but I found some maps and sent an email.
Today we would finally visit Château Chantilly! As usual with the closest things, they are often the last to be visited. It was going to be warm so we set off to be there close to the time it opened. We decided to take the train around the gardens as it was a huge walk, something like 7800 hectares. One of the walls around it goes all the way out to Avilly as Gray discovered when he walked the forest path into Chantilly. We parked the car, once again very cheap parking, in under the trees and I went back up to the cobblestoned roundabout to take the photo of the scene that I saw every morning driving to school. It still amazes me each time it suddenly appears.

We then walked down to the castle and saw several groups of school children, some Maternelle and some Primaire all converging from different areas. We walked in through the gates and bought our tickets for the castle and the train and then walked back out and up to the main forecourt where an imposing statue of Anne de Montmorency astride his horse was facing the castle entrance. Small children with many adults were everywhere. We took some photos of the cultivated tapestry of gardens and went back down to wait for the train. A group of children was heading that way too, but they fortunately stopped and listened to their teacher expounding on the various parts of the area.
The train arrived, we climbed in and the driver went off the other way. We found a compartment that had both windows open so it wasn’t too bad and there we sat. Another group of people arrived and then the driver returned and we were off. An interesting beginning to the journey, was the rattling of this train on the cobblestone roadway with us on very hard seats. However, once on the dirt tracks it was a lot better. They are certainly amazing gardens and you could imagine them on horseback during a chase through the forest, or wandering in groups with parasols through the ordered sections.

It seemed to go on forever. The commentary was in French and was followed by one in English which was good for us to know that we had heard right the first time. We passed statues in various places and a hunting lodge and a shooting range. Sylvie’s house is having massive renovations with scaffolding and fencing all around. The small cottages we read about in the novels are actually small castles on their own, just like Le Petit Trianon at Versailles which Marie Antoinette had built after seeing Maison de Sylvie. You could get off and on the train if you wanted to, but we decided to stay on. We passed the Jardin de Kangourous which was an enclosure of red wallabies which were descendents of a pair brought from Australia many years ago. Claire had told me about an eating place where you eat the most delicious “aux gouter champetre” and as we passed a fascinating collection of very old buildings we saw De Hameau and the restaurant. We remained on the train till it returned to the château and then went to visit the interior of the castle. It was quite fascinating, as they always are, to see the grandeur in which these people lived. This particular one had been started round the 1300s, but was destroyed by the Chantilly peasants during the Revolution and then later rebuilt. It houses a collection of thousands of books including a facsimile of “The Book of Hours” by Duc de Bery. It supposedly has the best collection of paintings outside the Louvre and they are certainly very impressive. Incredible to see all these famous works I learned about in art so many years ago, just hanging on the walls.
Once we had wandered through the various rooms and chose not to take a tour through the apartments, we were feeling peckish and decided to walk back to De Hameau and find the good tastings. It was very warm by this stage, but quite pleasant in the shade of the huge trees lining each roadway. There was a canal alongside the road and very huge, sleepy carp would drift to the surface and then swim lazily off a little way. All the water was very green and some had areas of algae. We came to a bridge and wandered in along the paths to see very old buildings built for Prince Louis Joseph de Bourbon Condé in the 1700s.

There was an old mill building in the collection which today is a restaurant and many tables with umbrellas outside in the gardens. It was very hot, but there was a breeze under the umbrellas. We drank our usual bier pression and vin rouge. We ordered an Assiette Gourmande each which was a plate of food from the local area containing pâtés and terrines of duck, stag and pork. Hadn’t wanted to eat stag, but had forgotten by the time it arrived. It certainly was too salty for my taste and would be better running around in the forest. We followed up with dessert, me with sorbet and Gray with his usual chocolat. The tablecloth was just beautiful and I asked where you could buy them. The answer was the Marché des Tissus de St Pierre. Oh dear, we didn’t have time to go to Paris again. One of the waitresses was very easy to understand and she could understand me so I told her in my best French that I had “un grand problem” because I liked the tablecloths so much and would like to buy one, but I was going home to Australia the next day and didn’t have time to go back to St Pierre so was it please possible to buy one. She went off to the other girl and I heard her say I’ll have to ask my father. Next thing I knew, I had a new tablecloth.

We wandered slowly back to the chateau along the shaded road and back to the car. It was a great experience and we were very glad that we had finally got there.
We drove home to Avilly feeling a little sad that we wouldn’t make this trip many more times. Back to the packing. I was determined to have everything packed and many of the cases locked by bedtime.. It was hot in the house, but we did manage to get a breeze with the downstairs door open as well. The only reason to close the doors being the white dust when a car went past.
Rochelle texted to tell us to come and have a drink the next evening as Harry had arrived from America that morning.
Quite late to bed.

Wednesday 30th June, 2010
Off to school by 9am, nice to be late. Took the scales back to school for Loretta. I think we should be OK. Everyone meandered around for a long time. Gave out my gifts and was feeling sad to say goodbye to Sharon, Margot and Claire. Loretta wasn’t coming till after lunch as she had a meeting in Paris. I had brought a sad cake as I called it, because it had been tipped while being carried around the afternoon before and some had fallen off. I gave it to Sharon and she fixed it and put all her raspberries around it so it looked very good.
We cleaned and tidied up and then had Break in my room. Anne Laure came too and a lot of French conversation happened.
Claire, Margot, Sharon, Catriona and I went out to lunch at Bar Sylvie. I rode with Margot and Sharon and we arrived first. We had a drink and ordered good food. Catriona wouldn’t order anything as she didn’t know if she had been paid. She wouldn’t let anyone buy her anything so it was all a bit strange and uncomfortable for us to be eating in front of her. When the bill came it wasn’t very much so I picked it up because I had to get rid of some of the euros we had.

When we got back to school Loretta was there and Coralie was arriving to talk to people who had questions and to interview someone. I had virtually finished everything so I packed up and went home. Loretta had asked if we would see her again, but I didn’t know. I went home to Gray. He had been to the Horse Museum, but it wasn’t all open as they were renovating in a big way. He did see a show though and bought a couple of things home.
It was so hot when I got home that I fell asleep. I missed a message from Loretta saying would she see us that night as she was at work in Paris on the Thursday. I eventually messaged back and said that I was sorry, but I had been asleep. She was then on the train going home to Paris.
I packed some more and cleaned a bit and went to bed to read a book.

Tuesday 29th June, 2010
Concert and Picnic Day. We set everything up in the playground and had a practice. It wasn’t very good which I was happy about. I have been telling all the teachers that a bad last rehearsal means a good performance.
My children spent time in the room making small words from larger ones. I helped Sharon to paint the faces. I did the dirty ones, much easier for me than the whole world.

The Concert was ready to run at 12 o’clock. The sun had come out an all looked good. Don’t forget it is France Loretta said, where people never come on time. This was true, but we started about 12.15 or 12.20. All went well, the music worked and the children performed beautifully. This is quite a feat when the youngest is just 3 and the oldest 11.

There was a presentation of flowers for the teachers handed out by a strange collection of children, not all from the school. The only person who spoke was Loretta. Not one of the Board spoke to thank her and Claire for their years there or anyone else. I had a nice box of macarons instead of flowers thank goodness. I remember saying exactly the same thing to Nic last year when I had no part in it, strange that no one thanked the head or teachers or said anything about the holidays etc.
We all moved to Picnic in the castle grounds. There was a trampoline and groups of people sitting around in the shade. The grass had only been mown in a few patches so was quite long. Gray had bought some extra bits for our lunch and we had a nice lunch. He had also been back to La Maison de la Porcelaine to get something for Margot as she wasn’t coming the following day.
When I took her back into school to give her her small present she let fly with a long speech in French, leaving me on about the second sentence. She dragged me off to Sharon to translate and said it all again. She was lovely and almost made me cry. She cried as she had had so much time off she felt cheated of the time that I was there. You would think I had given her the earth instead of a small present. She and Sharon have been very good friends and helped me with my French so much. It turned out that she was coming the next day so I could have waited.
The two “poneys” arrived and children had rides around the grounds. We went for a walk to see them and wandered down to look at what I think was a Dower house years ago. It is falling to pieces, but is another magnificent bit of history just where I happen to go in a day.
We, Sharon, Margot, Claire, Gray and I cleared up everything and put all the chairs back inside and then sat around in the shade until we could go home. Micheline, Victoria and Mrs Pretzel thanked me and I had a long talk with Julia as well. Loretta had an interview so we said goodbye and went on into Chantilly. One last visit to La Maison de la Porcelaine to get teachers gifts for the morrow. We walked around Chantilly looking for a couple of very little things. Bought something nice for Sharon and Claire and had them gift wrapped.
We went home to make dinner and pack some more.

Monday 28th June, 2010
Well, last real day of school! I took in Loretta’s mobile wardrobe and hangers and light etc. She has lent us so much to make our stay more comfortable and she has bought it all in by Metro and SNCF trains in bags. Hopefully Laurent will bring the car to take it all back to Paris.
I had packed up some small things for the children and they were very happy with them. We had a couple of concert practices and they are doing so very much better. The music is much better, but still not quite right. I have the fear that when I go to turn it on it will start before I am ready. There must be a way. Half way through the second rehearsal I realised that the ones I had playing in Audacity never went wrong. Resolution…!?! Put them all into Audacity! My job for the night tonight. The children took all their books home. The room is empty and no-one likes bare walls. We didn’t have much food for lunch as we are winding our provisions down. We have meat, but not many vegetables. Plenty of cheese and wine though.
We made sure all was well for the next day and went home taking lots of bits and pieces of left over stuff.
I spent the night redoing the music and was happy with the result. It rained overnight, but will hopefully be fine in the morning.

Sunday 27th June.2010
Hard to believe that this time next week we will be on a plane!
I was up early today as I had to organise and pack. It is a bit difficult as we still need so many things in the way of clothes, books etc. I put all the suitcases around the walls and worked out how to get the plaques in. They could sit in the middle of our clothes with lot of soft stuff packed around them. I found that Nic’s basket was going to be a nuisance as it didn’t fit easily into any of the cases. On its side it did and so was filled with pants and socks and had soft things filling all the hollows around it. I weighed each case when we thought they were nearly ready. We had lots of weight to play with …104kgs… as I was a Silver skywards member as well now. There was still a lot of stuff to go in, but this just couldn’t be done etc. I put everything in and weighed them and then took stuff out that we still needed. I did lots of hand washing. I will be quite happy to return to a washing machine. I am taking a sheet and some towels to Rochelle tonight to do while we are at dinner. We have boxes on the floor to start sorting food for Martine and Rochelle. I will miss the beautiful horses going in and out of the trucks or up the lane to the paddock though.
We showered and dressed and went to Rochelle’s about 7pm Gigi was there with Sam and Harrison. Lovely boys, so very polite and able to have a good conversation with an adult. They are moving to Cires les Mello, a Maison Bourgoise and are very excited about it. We met Joe who comes from Cairns. Joe is partially blind, but gets around very well. Rochelle put the washing on and got ready to go. I also brought back some books.
I parked in the garden, but there were so many cars in there I decided it would be better if I backed out to park in the square in the centre. We left the house very quietly as we were going to the Local in Restaurant de la Fôret. The locals do not patronise them as the current owner is the son of the wartime owner. A collabarateur!!! Rochelle does like to eat there and the food is superb. We walked carefully with Joe and waited for Rochelle to come and then set off carefully down the lane, across the square and around the corner to the inn. Joe had a cane to walk with as he can only see out of the top of one eye. We sat outside on the terrace and drank good wine. Rochelle and I ate lobster and it was nicest lobster ever as it had been taken out of its shell and there were scallops too. Gray had Coquille Saint Jacques. For main course we both had duck and it was tender and tasty. Gray and I left the set menu at this time and had flambé crêpe, that didn’t flambé. The wine was good and the company great and we had a good night. We walked back across the square and said goodnight to them as we went off in the car. It was something to 11 when we left and I have school tomorrow.
When we reached home, I realised I didn’t have the washing with me so I texted Rochelle and she said she would bring it to school the next day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday, 19th June till Saturday 26th June, 2010

Saturday 26th June, 2010
We were up reasonably early to catch the train to Paris to have lunch with Loretta, Laurent and Maeve. Finally we were going to be able to give Maeve her picture birthday present from Nic. We arrived at the station very early as I wanted to park and get ticket without any stress. There was a very pleasant young man at the ticket office instead of the witch I usually encounter. I understood his French and he understood mine. He asked did I have a card and then asked was I over 60 and was my man as well and we got our ticket for 9 euros cheaper than ever before. Bit late to find this out now.
We went for a walk along the street next to the station which was an area I hadn’t been to this time. We bought some magazines and newspapers in the shop and then didn’t have too long before the train was due. I read in the paper that it was the Gay March through Montparnasse today. That was just where we were heading for!
Once we arrived at Gare du Nord we took the metro train to Montparnasse Bienvenu. Once again we were on Nic’s line. We found our way to the surface and discovered we were near The Tower. I hadn’t seen it up close before. It really is as ugly as they say.
I also discovered a Gallery Lafayette and a C and A so we were off shopping. I had no thought of buying anything in Gallery Lafayette as the one at Les Halles is so expensive. I just wanted Gray to see it because he hadn’t been to the other one. When we went in it was just like an ordinary department store, none of the fascinating architecture that the main one has, but the prices weren’t as bad either. We found some nice jewellery for our mums and I received a nice black velvet complimentary jewellery travel bag. This was good as my other one has worn out.
We walked on through to C and A and found ourselves in the menswear. There were thousands of suits and coats and as we had been talking about getting Gray a new coat, we started looking. We found a very nice lightweight suede one and bought it quickly as we were nearing time to meet the others.
The streets were closed in some parts and there were lots of gendarmes around. It was a warm day and we made our way up Rue de Montparnasse to La Coupole Restaurant. Many famous people have dined and danced there over the years. We were shown to Loretta’s table, but we were the first. It was much cooler inside. I sent a text after quite a while saying Well we are here, where are you? After half an hour we decided to order a drink. We were so hot and had been hanging out, but gave in. Just as our drinks arrived Maeve came. It was so good to see her and she looked well; much better than I had expected. She loved Nic’s present, a painting of where they used to sit in The Tuileries. Loretta and Laurent arrived and it turned out I had got the time wrong, 12.30 was what she could change it to if we needed to. We had had a nice time to sit and relax and look at the décor so all was well.
We had a delicious meal once again and I could feel the extra kilos going on. Three meals out in a row and Sunday night to come as well yet! While we were inside eating, the Gay Parade was rolling past the door. It is nothing like Sydney’s Mardi Gras. There were trucks as floats just carrying people and people walking, but no-one really dressed up in costume. There were, however, thousands of people. I took a couple of photos and returned to the table.
After we left the restaurant we walked up to a market which had finished. It was too hot for me and I was very tired so we parted there and walked back down to the station with Maeve. We caught the train together and she got off along the way to catch another one. We were one minute too late at Gare du Nord. We climbed on to the train that it said on the board, but when Gray looked at the stations it was going to stop at, decided we were on the wrong train. We hurriedly hopped off and went to have a cool drink in a Brasserie across the road until the next train came in an hour or so. It was so hot! Strange toilets in that place.
We wandered back across the road to the station and sat on some pipes for a while. The board had been a mystery to us and we still couldn’t work out what had gone wrong. We climbed the stairs to a café outside and had another cool drink where we could see the board. There we sat till the platform number appeared on the board, but when we went down and along the platform to the train; it was just so hot and worse inside! Eventually, it went off on time and there was a tiny breeze once we were travelling at speed. We arrived back in Chantilly much earlier than usual and drove home. The house was warm, but once the doors were all open we got some bits of breeze. The only trouble is each time a car went up or down the road we had to rush to shut the doors to keep the fine, white, chalky dust out of the house. This happened quite often. Each time our car stopped at the end of the lane, all our dust would catch up to us.
We had a text from Rochelle saying that she had a close family friend with her and was it all right if he came to dinner too the following night.
We were really tired and had a light dinner and an early bed. Loretta had brought her scales in to weigh the suitcases when I pack tomorrow.

Friday 25th June, 2010
Loretta and I left for school at the usual time. The house really isn’t set up for non-family visitors so Gray was up early too. It was the last Friday that we would be in France and so Gray’s last sport!
We did a big concert practice. The children are doing well and although it is still a bit messy, it will be fine on the day. Arthur and Hector sit either side of me and sing the songs and do some actions. They are more secure there and don’t run around.
Music is coming but still has problems.
We skipped a bit at lunch, but the weather is too warm to do it for long. I had the Grande Section girls for the last time. Gabin was away in England so I won’t have him again. The girls have made some good progress and Paolina is the most surprising as her reading is really coming on well. She and Alex are going to French schools next year which will be hard for Alex as she has very little French. Hopefully Paolina’s Dad will keep her English going as well.
After school we packed up and went home to Avilly for a couple of hours. We went back into Chantilly for dinner at Giorgio’s. The food is so good and the service is friendly and the wine is costeau. The grumpy waitress hasn’t been there the last couple of times and the others are all friendly.
Bruce, Coralie’s American Airlines Pilot husband came in with Cole and another Dad and son. Well what a dreadfully behaved little brat the other child was. Poor Cole kept being blamed and was very good considering.
The food was delicious as usual and we made our last Friday night drive home from Chantilly. It all seems very strange that it is coming to an end.

Thursday 24th June, 2010
Up very early this morning to get Shell to Chantilly station to catch the train about 7.30am. She is off to Patti’s and then to JA in York and after that Ingrid in the Canary Islands.
She went across to the Station and I went in to school. When I turned the computer on the first message was from Sammi saying Australia had a new Prime Minister and it was Julia Gillard!!! What is happening to our country whilst we are away? I texted Shell and Gray to tell them the news and had one straight back from Shell saying Goodness she had caught a train so that was good. I had one from Gray too. This was good too as it shows he can do it when he needs to. Lots of concert practice. It is getting better and should be good.
We worked our day as usual and then we were in for a big treat. Sharon had prepared a Tunisian Feast for everyone. Catriona hadn’t been sure if she could stay, but she did and Sharon cooked her a special vegetarian one.
What a delicious feast we had! Sharon had brought in all her hand painted Tunisian bowls and serving bowls and they were just beautiful. The tables were set up in the playground and we sat down to wine and pretzels in the cool evening weather. Broad daylight of course, as it is till light at 11pm. It was Yann’s birthday ( Margot’s husband) and she had made a special Polish cake and I gave him one of our Australian Map Merit Awards. He is a lovely person, but very quiet these days as he has recently had a stroke at 32! A big scare for them. Nolan, their 3 year old son, is a delight and sat up at the table with everyone and then drew each person a picture. Sharon had made Couscous and meat and vegetables.
Coralie had been at school with Loretta interviewing someone and she stayed for the first course of the meal. I was working on her computer and we took it home to finish in the night.
We then had a delicious entrée of, followed by lots of couscous and chicken and vegetables and meat. Oh dear I ate a lot of food, but only had a peche plat for dessert. I love these and I am going to ask Tim and Jane if they could grow them. I am sure they would go well in markets here as they are always so juicy and yum! They come from Tunisia evidently. Dessert was melon, peche plat and Green mint tea. I had a coffee later on. It was a very pleasant evening and everyone seemed relaxed and happy. In the middle of dinner Loretta asked was shell with us or could she come back to sleep the night. Catriona looked a bit miffed when I said no and Loretta could stay the night. We all helped pack up and then the three of us drove home to Avilly. It was a great night, but the weight is starting to creep on.
Wednesday 23rd June, 2010
Early to school to set up projector for slide show and Loretta’s room with chairs for all the parents of the regular kids and the Wednesday kids. Loretta busy fighting political battle with you know who, so we organised all the room.
We were down a few Wednesday children, but all mine were there and they had all bought food. There were lots of parents and they all enjoyed the songs with many chuckles heard at times. The Maternelle sang Kookaburra sits on the Old Gumtree (Just as well it was then and not now or they might have had to pay royalties!) and a couple of other songs. Then it was food time. Goodness me! Doesn’t matter how often I said “Parents first please”, nothing happened as it was only me! What a schmozzle! Fortunately there was enough food so parents had some as well. It was an interesting table, one like we used to have several years ago, mostly rubbish and no healthy stuff! The children had all gone by 12 o’clock and we were free to go after that. Shell was on a train from Paris and had messaged to say she had missed one because the ticket queue was too long and would be late, but that was fine with me I had plenty to do.
When she arrived we went off home and collected Gray and went to Cora for lunch. As we were eating I spotted Coralie in a bunch of loudly English speaking people with lots of children. We had a chat about what she was in for, but I don’t think she will have big problems; she is strong and capable.
We did our shopping and went home via Chantilly as we needed some more presents. This time Shell had her gift specially gift-wrapped for Patti and Alehandro so we were there for a while. We decided not to go to Château Chantilly as I was too tired. I was a bit concerned that Shell had come back for that, but she was quite happy to spend time with us.
Oh dear! Shell is needing to go to Paris by train early in the morning, but Guess what!!! There was a strike! Each time she travels in this country, poor thing. We looked it up on the internet and there seemed to be quite a few early morning trains for people to get to work. The constant strikes at the moment are all about the Retrait in other words Retirement. The government has said people will have to work a lot longer to get their money, but there is a lot of fraudulent things going on with the unions as well.
We had a pleasant night together and dinner and wine at home.

Tuesday 22nd June, 2010
Drove to school rather early, passed the little man with a motorbike getting ready to leave. We are at smiling stage now. Avilly is always fairly deserted in the mornings, but occasionally there are one or two people setting off to somewhere. The gates were open at school thank goodness. There was only the once in the morning when they were shut and when we came back from Provence. WE had a singing practice for the French children’s concert tomorrow and a run through of the slide show I had created so that they wouldn’t be turning around to look behind them in the concert.
Got a lot of work done in my time off, but still struggling with Music for Climate Concert. Also tidied and cleaned classroom thoroughly as the party food was to be in my room the next day. The scene through my windows is amazing as it is so green and lush. If I stand on the tables and peer over the wall I can see a beautifully laid out stables.
Home reasonably early in the afternoon which was a change from the previous day. Gray had had success with Post Office today and had brought some afternoon tea back with him.

Monday 21st June, 2010
Happy birthday Shaun.
Up at the usual time and full of life because of our amazing purchase the day before. Today was going to be a long day. Had an email from Loretta last evening saying there were two meetings after school and we needed to be there.
My friend was his usual self. We are working hard to try and finish all electronic things up, but they are slow and only three computers makes it even slower. They absolutely love BTN and it is an interesting process as it has to be watched several times to know that they all have the meaning. Report writing is interesting and by now a couple of them can write good notes, but all have difficulty writing a report out of points. I worry about my English sometimes as I try to sort out another French construction sentence written in English. We have large grammar charts around the room of I am she is etc and with French children they always leave off an “s” for a plural because you don’t say it in French and they always put an “e” on any consonant which needs pronouncing because in French, if it doesn’t have an “e” after it, you don’t say it. It took some weeks to realise these things, but many more to get some sort of message across and only a couple remember it sometimes. Mind you only 4 hours of English a week for 9 weeks isn’t very much to get things like that into heads after a life time of their own language. Their English cracks me up sometimes as I am sure my French does for them. However, they are very helpful and explain things well to me.
We practise our songs a lot and I am still struggling to get all the music happening at the right time. Thanks to Shaun and Sian, I am getting there slowly.
The first meeting due to start at 5 didn’t get underway until about 5.15 as the board members hadn’t all arrived. They explained what would happen next year with Loretta, Claire and me all leaving. Coralie, the new principal is Canadian and enthusiastic and I think will be very good. Her biggest problem is her French, but it will come. It was a very open meeting for once and all talked about their problems with Admin. They even asked me! Loretta said I could speak in English, but I did most in French and told them it was “incroyable”, in my 40+ years of being in schools I had never experienced anything like it. After about an hour and a half, Coralie and Kate, the new upper class teacher, arrived to be introduced and to answer questions. Poor Margot wasn’t so very happy because she has no English. This meeting lasted a long time and I set off for home and arrived after 8. I was happy that I had lasted through meetings all in French for about three hours and had understood most of it. I only had 12 words written down that I didn’t know. I just wish the speaking was as good as the listening. I was hopeful at this late hour, that there might be some dinner cooking away, but didn’t really expect it as the cooking conditions are a little difficult. There wasn’t! Gray had been having Post Office troubles and hadn’t got what he wanted at all. We had a glass of wine and a late dinner.

Sunday 20th June, 2010
Up reasonably early so that we could catch an earlier train than usual to Paris. Gave Gray his presents for Bonne Fête de Père’s Day and he was most surprised. We caught the 10.45am train and being a Saturday, it was very crowded. Shell and Gray scrambled into seats and I was on an aisle with all the bags. When we reached Gare du Nord, Shell and I went off to find a locker for her bags. Well we went along, and down and round in circles and up again and off down the other way. I had seen a sign, but the arrow wasn’t very clear. In the end, having left Gray by the top of the stairs and passed him again and again, we asked someone and walked back the whole length of the station and down again in a different place. It was very cheap and there didn’t seem to be any time limit for how long it could be there. They did x-ray everything that went through.
At last we returned to Gray who was beginning to think we had been swallowed in a Metro tunnel and caught a train to Port Clignancourt. We walked along the street towards the market, being accosted by men selling watches…”Genuine Rollexes you know” and into the tourist market where I found more gifts to take home. As we came out through there to go into Marché aux Puces, Shell was surprised as she thought that was the Flea Market we had been in. We walked along the street, looking at all the old thongs and then went down into one of the alleyways. It is a fascinating place and you can find almost anything you want there. I looked for the place where I had bought my blue and white egg holder last year and bought a small tin urn for 1 euro. Alleyway leads to alleyway and it was beginning to rain. We had umbrellas, but shop keepers scrambled to cover up their good with materials. We were heading down the back towards where Gray thought he had bought some stamps last year. I thought I saw some blue Deft on a chair and Gray was standing there. All I could say was “Oh wow! Aren’t they beautiful!” I love the plaques Mum has and they are a part of my childhood. There were two of these rather large blue Delft plaques on 2cm thick stone in wooden frames, each standing on the seats of two antique chairs. They spoke to me! I very rarely want to buy anything that isn’t useful for us or the house. I peered around the back of the large antique cupboards to find the seller sitting in the shop next door. He was talking to someone, but left him and came straight to me. The price was enormous, out of the question until we discovered that that was for both of them not just one. He said that they had been bought in the market around 1913 and that they had recently just been resubmitted for sale. Oh boy, what to do? We had a long discussion with the man about them and the weight, which was awful and how to get them home. They were still telling me they belonged to me! We said we would think about it and walked on where we found a stamp collection for Gray. He said we should get them and I knew we would regret it forever if we didn’t. Shell and I wandered back and in French in my best sad voice, I said my husband said I could only have x amount to spend!!! He said “No!” straight away. I came up a bit and he said “Yes!” Shell was very bemused as Gray had said no and then had agreed we should get them. She couldn’t understand why he had capitulated so quickly. She asked him and he said that I never really wanted or asked for anything and I was so sure we should have these. It was cash only! Gray found some really good stamps and Shell and I fled down to the nearest ATM where I took some from both bank accounts. There was quite a crowd behind us as I was surreptitiously filled my bag with cash. Back we went and he packed them carefully and put them in big carry bag. We had estimated them at about 3 to 4kg each! They were very heavy and we set off then to have lunch in the nice area Shell had been talking about.
I said we should still go, despite our heavy load as she had made it sound so good. We caught a train and had to change at Chatelet for Place Monge. This was difficult as the bag was so heavy and the trains rather crowded as usual. Gray had the other bag with coats umbrellas and bits and kept saying he should have a go. He was having enough difficulty keeping up speed with us already, but in the end we gave in and it was delightful not to feel the weight for a while. We took it back at the end of the street as it was far too heavy for one. By this time we were in La Mouffetard and we chose a restaurant nearby. It wasn’t quite in the main area, but meant we could sit and rest! It was a grand choice as the food was out of this world. If there is one thing the French do very well it is food!
We headed back on the train to Gare du Nord and to catch a train back to Chantilly. Shell came to the train with us and then went to collect her luggage and go to Patti’s after 6.
We drove home from Chantilly still a bit shell-shocked because of our purchase, but at the same time, very happy. We unpacked them and left them propped up on the floor to look at all the time. Today’s activity was one of those called “spending the kid’s inheritance”!
Spoke to Shell later and they were having a picnic on the riverbank. Alehandro had proposed to Patti the night before and she had accepted.

Saturday 19th June, 2010
A slower kind of morning thank heavens and it was nice not to have to leap out of bed at 6.30am. Eventually climbed out of bed and had breakfast; the horses from the stables across the road were late that morning too. I did some hand washing. That is one thing I won’t miss at all and I am very glad I was born in the age of washing machines. Shell packed up all her bags as she was going to Patti’s in Paris on the Sunday evening. She had lots of stuff and had a small pile for us to take home and two bags. She eventually heard from Patti that she would need a sleeping bag so it had to be added to it as well. After much discussion she decided to take both her bags of luggage and book them in.
We made and ate lunch and headed in to Chantilly to get some more presents and a couple of items of shopping. Claire had told me about “La Maison de la Porcelaine” and that it had nice smaller gifts. There were lots of people at the chateau as usual on a weekend. It had been market day in Chantilly and as one car park was still closed off; we had some difficulty finding a park, especially since I still can’t back into a car parking space. I don’t know whether it is because I can’t turn my head far enough, but I think that the back view is very limited with seat headrests and narrow rear interior. Whatever it is, I don’t even try! No scratches remember!
We followed some signs and found a free parking area down on the river flats so were quite happy to leave the car there and walk back up the steep hill to Patrick Noppe. We looked there and decided to return after we had visited “La Maison de la Porcelaine”. We found it and entered through old fashioned wooden shop front portal to a magnificent collection of porcelain, big and small and many other things as well in a small 3 roomed cave-like shop. There were people at the counter and the shop madame was packing beautiful gifts which seemed to take forever. When you enter a shop in France you are always greeted with Bonjour and when you reply, all the other customers in the shop say Bonjour as well. We found some very nice things to bring home, both for us and as gifts. I just kept taking more and more to the counter, trying to find room to leave them as she was still packing up the special gift. She finally finished packing up a thing of beauty and dealt with the other customers and it was our turn. She looked, and looked again and asked, “C’est tout?” I think she was quite relieve to know I didn’t want them all gift wrapped. I kept finding things to add to the collection and then Shell started collecting too. The madame was very friendly by this time and had a magnificent day’s takings. I farewelled her in French with “I am sure we will see you again!” and she shook her head and smiled.
As we left there, Shell went back down to the car with all the parcels and we went up and around the corner to the Papietrie for Gray to get some postcards and me to sneak a card for him. Instead I found small travelling clock and had a great secret laugh with the woman behind the counter as I went quietly towards her with my finger on my lips and said “Mon marie” as I handed over the clock and pointed backwards. She called someone else who came and sat on the floor to pack it. Gray at this time a still looking at cards, oblivious to all and Shell was somewhere down the back. On the way out quite a bit later, I spotted some tiny, free books that were a promotion and we gathered a few each as an extra little gift.
We went to the supermarket and got a couple of things and then back to the Patisserie, Patrick Noppe. As with everything in France, presentation of bought items is beautiful and we ended up with various delicacies in a hot pink and black box. We walked back down the hill and went back to Avilly where we ate, yet again, checked Shell’s luggage and had an early night.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Tuesday 15th June to Friday 18th June, 2010

Friday 18th June, 2010
Off to school as usual. The trip is easy now, but I still get a thrill each time I come around the corner to see the roundabout and the Chateau Chantilly just there.
I had a headache during the day today so didn’t turn rope as I usually did. The children didn’t seem to understand that the rope turner just couldn’t do it for that day.
Gray came in for sport and I had the Grande Section children for reading. Catriona keeps asking me how I am going with the scripting for the book she wants. I grow closer to telling her to do it herself as I have been doing reports and writing the concert and these days trying to organise the music. I have resisted so far and tell her that she will have it before I leave.
I went home quite early after school as I had such a headache. Michelle went for a walk to the bottle disposal unit along the back lane. While she was there Loretta rang to say she had lost her wallet. I looked in the car and there it was. It must have fallen out the previous night so we all took it in to her and came home to have our aperitif and make dinner.
It is getting dark very late these nights and it is strange to be still in broad daylight at 11.30pm.

Thursday 17th June, 2010
Another tired start to the day. We practised songs and words in class time. We had to shop today as we hadn’t yesterday and were running out of food again. Shell wanted to go early to St Maximin by bus so that they would have been nearly finished by the time I got there, but Gray wasn’t keen. I whizzed home and picked them up. We went to Cultura first for blue face paint for the concert and to see if we could get tickets to Les Mis in Paris to take Loretta. The days we could go were pretty well fully booked so we didn’t get tickets. We went on to Cora and shopped and then had to hurry as I was going to the Parents Dinner at Le Conde de la Ferme. shell and i had popped various bits of chocolate into the trolley for Bonne Fête de Papa's day on Sunday. I took them home, changed and then went to school to pick up Loretta and off to dinner. Poor Stephanie had organised it and 4 people had cancelled in the last half an hour before we arrived. There were only about ten, but it was an interesting night with great food. Loretta assured me that we paid for ourselves so I had a lobster dish for entrée and steak and dessert and a couple of glasses of wine. Glorious food! Imagine my horror when they said the bill would be split amongst us all! I protested, but lost and ended up paying 37 euros for my 70 euro dinner. Embarrassing, but nobody seemed to care!
I drove Loretta to Rochelle’s and on the way saw an animal out of the corner of my eye in amongst the trees. “Cow!” I said automatically! “No” said Loretta, ”Deer!” It was an enormous stag, as it was the size of a cow on its rump. We had texted Rochelle who was going to meet us at the Avilly turnoff, but when Loretta checked, the message hadn’t gone through so we just kept driving to Montgressin. Rochelle had a houseful as there was world Cup Soccer on.
I drove home carefully in case there were more deer around.

Wednesday 16th June, 2010
I climbed out of bed early as usual while they both slept on. We had French children and we practised their concert singing items. They are singing all Aussie Campfire songs and it is a scream when we get into lesson time after the break and these French voices are still singing the catchy tunes of a Ram Sam Sam and John Jacob quietly almost under their breath. Loretta says that in the French traditional schools there is not much freedom; it is still very traditional sitting in desks learning by rote and copying notes so these kids loved the freedom of the music and one of their favourite games in music was Musical Bumps. They also learned to play heads down and thumbs up.
Micheline had given us tickets for the races that day; so after school at 12 o’clock I went home to have lunch and to go to the races. We didn’t have to dress up as it was a weekday. She told me that on the two previous Sundays when we had been busy, there were 35,000 people for the big Chantilly Race Days, but on the Wednesday there would only be about 500 people. Sounded much better to us.
As usual, with anything we went to do for the first time, we had no idea of protocol or where to go etc. I spoke to Martine and she was horrified to know that we weren’t ready to go yet as it started at 2 o’clock and she was rushing off. Micheline couldn’t go as the girls had dental appointments.
We eventually set off and I was just exhausted and thinking it was really the last thing I wanted to do. I needed to experience it, but not right then. We found a parking area and were surprised to find that parking was really expensive!!!! Ha ha! 1 euro, bit different from home. We found our way through the forest tracks to the gate and showed our France Galop invitation tickets. Through we went and then had no idea so I had to go back and ask him where we should go as we had never been before. We had a programme now and saw that a Collet horse was running in the second race that was due to run very soon so we hurriedly went to a Betting booth and Gray put a bet on it. We watched the horses parade around and then went into the Pavilion and through to the course itself. It was an amazing site with the Castle on one end and the Horse Museum and a beautiful green track. It was awfully windy and unpleasant and there wasn’t really anywhere to sit, so I wasn’t feeling very good as I was still so tired. Shell had never been to the races before so she was quite excited and interested in everything around her. The horse lost!
We chose something each for the next race and then went through the Pavilion to get a seat for me, watch the parade and then to see if we could get upstairs to the Restaurant we could see from the bottom. Eventually we found our way to the lift and right up the top had the most magnificent view of the whole track and Castle from a window seat. A very snooty waiter explained that if we wanted to eat something in the dessert line, the kitchen was closing in 10 minutes. As he tried to take our order, the race was on and we were barracking for Shell’s horse that won. He took our orders and we discovered that there was a betting booth right next to where we were sitting. The afternoon improved rapidly for me with a comfortable chair, out of the wind right up high where we could see everything, a betting booth and red wine and coffee. The waiter discovered we were Australian and the snoot disappeared at once. His best friend had gone to Australia 35 years ago and had only been back to France once. We were suddenly his best friends. It is amazing how people’s attitudes change immediately when they discover we are Australian and not British or American. It was a funny afternoon. I, who am such a large punter with my $1 each way bet on the Melbourne Cup once a year, was handing over 2 euros each way to have a bet on each race. After Shell’s win, she and I shared a bet in the next race and it won and we collected 15 euros something each for our win. In the next race I chose the horse being trained by the Giselle’s husband, A Royer Dupre. He had trained the winner of the Prix du Diane and one of the Arc de Triomphe races, but that information didn’t help my cause and it lost!
For the next race, I chose something for its name. I wavered a bit between a couple of things, but in the end went for California Dreams. It won and I collected 67 euros for my 2 each way! I was shellshocked and so was the betting lady. Meanwhile we drank good red wine and ate interesting cheese and then dessert. Gray wasn’t very happy by this stage as he is the won who knows about horses and races and he hadn’t won a thing. He shared the next horse with Shell and it won too. We had won well over 100 euros and for people who bet once a year, this was a lot of fun.
We went home to dinner and a reasonably early night.

Tuesday, 15th June, 2010
Off to school as usual. Had some time off as usual on a Tuesday. We had a staff meeting and Gray was coming in so that we could leave at a reasonable time to collect Shell. We wanted to go to Beauvais in plenty of time as we hadn’t been there before. As we were just starting the meeting my phone messaged so I crept out to read it and found that Shell was still sitting in Barcelona, delayed for at least an hour. I tried to call Gray, but he didn’t answer of course. I went back to the meeting and he eventually arrived and waited in my room till the meeting was finished. We were still waiting for a message from Shell so we decided to go home and have a coffee. She messaged and said it would be about a quarter to 8 before she arrived. We decided to go anyway so that we were there on time. The Tomtom did a good job and we followed its directions carefully this time. It didn’t however tell us that we were good that time. On the way to Creil we came across massive fields of spinach, epinard! None of the fields are fenced and I was thinking it would be good to return at night and pick some. We didn’t of course, but it is extremely expensive in the shops and the first time we saw it, it was 2 euros something a piece! Needless to say we didn’t eat much while we were there. We reached Beauvais with plenty of time to spare. The problem was French Air Traffic Control. Some of them were on strike again. Each time Shell travels there seems to be a strike!
It was a funny countrified sort of airport, but had lots of international flights. We parked the car and had a coffee while we waited. The board said the plane had landed so we duly stood by the door, peering in each time it opened. No Shell! I then heard an official tell someone else there was another terminal! We were in the wrong place! It was only out the door and round the corner and as we went out we met Shell coming towards us, wondering where on earth we were because she knew we had arrived quite a while before.
Parking was cheap! Three euros for all the time we were there! We headed off again on Tomtoms directions until we had to find petrol in a hurry. This we did and had difficulty getting out of the garage. None of them ever have clear signs and we creep carefully out hoping nothing is going to come flying at us. Tomtom led us back and we went into Chantilly and had dinner at the Tomassi Pizzeria about 10 o’clock. The food was very nice and the waiter was a scream. I thought it was Carla and Faustine’s Dad who used to pick them up at the gate. Turned out to be the Julia’s uncle, but he had never been to the school, it was his twin brother who did the picking up! I was very sceptical but it turned out to be true.
We were all exhausted and drove home very carefully to bed.