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.