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.

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