Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Connell and I have been completely negligent a bit lax with Finian's vaccinations. We started out great. He got his 2 month vaccination at exactly 2 months, but then he had croup for a while, and then we left Canada, and it has taken us a while to get back on track.

I took him to the doctor last Friday to restart his vaccination program. The French vaccination system is fairly similar to the Canadian system. The doctor gave me a prescription for 2 vaccines and we made a "rendez-vous" for Monday. Yesterday I went to the Pharmacy to pick up the vaccines and then brought them to the doctor's office.

Pharmacies are almost as numerous here as bakeries. Every neighbourhood seems to have their own local one. I have been to the pharmacy just around the corner quite a few times, to get diaper cream for Finian (Mustela - it's fantastic, even better than Sudocream), sunscreen for the kids (yes, it's sunscreen time already), and lice treatment for Ailbhe (we think we're lice-free now), so they now know me.

We brought infant Tylenol with us from Canada but I wanted to pick up some more in case Finian was sore after the vaccinations. I got a Tylenol equivalent as Tylenol isn't available here. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have concentrated versions so poor Finian now has to take 5 times the amount. We gave him some last night, he was not happy. In fact, he screamed a lot more getting the huge syringe of medicine than he did getting the 2 vaccinations.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Broke an Hour

I have been running pretty consistently for the past two months, every Wednesday and Sunday morning. This morning, for the first time in a long time, I ran for longer than an hour. It felt great. I ran to the trails which are about 2km from our house, then did a 5km loop on the trails, and then ran home. The 5km loop is very well marked but I still managed to get lost twice and add the extra distance to make up an hour.

When I left for my run, Finian was napping, Connell, Fiacra, and Ailbhe were doing math puzzles on the computer. When I got back, an hour and 55 seconds later, Finian was still napping, and Connell, Fiacra, and Ailbhe were still doing math puzzles on the computer. Finian ended up napping for over 2 hours, very unusual for him, he generally favours 30 to 40 minute naps.

I probably won't run for much longer than an hour. An hour is a perfect length for me. I would like to add a third run each week, maybe one evening a week as well.

I even did some stretches to celebrate breaking an hour

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Train - Bordeaux to Arcachon

We took the Bordeaux-Arcachon train last Saturday as far as Le Teich, and again today to Arcachon. Arcachon is 50 minutes by train from Bordeaux, with Le Teich about halfway between. We went to Le Parc Ornithologique du Teich last week and to the beach in Arcachon today. 

Train station in Le Teich

Arcachon is a nice beach town with lots of restaurants along the beachfront. I generally prefer a more secluded beach but for a beach in the middle of a town, it's perfect. Fiacra and Ailbhe love being at the beach. We still don't have any sand toys but they don't seem to notice. 

We buried Connell in the sand. There was talk of covering him completely, with just a straw sticking out for him to breathe through, but luckily there were no straws on hand.

Sand Daddy

 A monster emerges

Happy girl

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bought - Philips Senseo Coffeemaker

When we first came to France, all I wanted was a Canadian coffee, preferably a grande medium roast with half and half cream from Starbucks. In the past three months though, I have come round to French coffee. So much so, that after lunch each day, I would crave a French coffee. Enter a Philips Senseo Coffeemaker. I was so excited about it's arrival that Fiacra commented "Mum - all you think about is food and coffee". So not true, I often think about wine as well.

 Senseo in action

 The perfect coffee complete with crema finish

The Senseo is a single serve coffeemaker. The coffee pods are like tea bags so could go in the green bin in Canada. The coffee is delicious. I don't even add milk because the crema finish is so perfect. The current coffee situation in our house - we still have our large Canadian coffee in the morning, thanks to our Bodum, and after lunch 1 (or 2) French coffees.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


There are oyster farms all around the Bassin d'Arcachon and oysters are very popular here. Every Sunday morning, there are little stands set up in squares and in front of bakeries, selling oysters. I usually run on a Sunday morning, and so see lots of oyster stands. Each stand generally has 5 or 6 different types of oyster, depending (I think) on the region it comes from.

This morning, when Fiacra and I went for bread, we talked to the oyster guy outside the breadshop. He showed us how to open them and gave me one to taste. When I tried to buy some to take home, he insisted on giving them to us.

I love seafood and shellfish in particular but oysters aren't my favourite. Pity, since they are so accessible and now I can even open them.

What we brought home from the bakery this morning

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Week in Ireland

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, we are giving our suggestions for a week long vacation in Ireland, should anyone happen to be visiting Ireland this summer. Bear in mind, these suggestions are from someone who hasn't lived in Ireland in 15 years and someone else who has never lived there at all. We suggest flying into Dublin and flying out of Shannon.

Day 1 - Fly into Dublin, arriving early morning. Check into a hotel near the Temple Bar area. Explore Dublin on foot. Go for an afternoon pint.

Day 2 - Continue exploration of Dublin - Christchurch Cathedral, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, Dublin Spire, St. Stephen's Green, Grafton Street (spouses of shoppers beware here), O'Connell Street Bridge (guess who suggested this one), Museum of Modern Art. Go for an afternoon pint.

Day 3 - Take a train or bus to Galway in the morning. Stay in a hotel close to Quay Street. The House Hotel is nice (we stayed there accidentally once). Wander around Galway, including Quay Street, the Cathedral, University College Galway, the Claddagh, Salthill Promenade. Go on a pub crawl in the evening (try and find someone celebrating their 40th birthday and join them)

Day 4 - Rent a car and drive to Connemara, passing through Oughterard, Maam Cross, and Clifden. Alternatively, take a ferry to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, rent bikes and bike to Dun Aengus. Alternatively, recover from pub crawl. Back to Galway for the night.

Day 5 - Drive to Dingle in County Kerry, passing through the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Go for a late afternoon pint in Dingle.

Day 6 - Rent bikes and bike the Slea Head Loop - beautiful scenery and beaches along the way. Reward yourself with an afternoon pint back in Dingle. You won't need to go to the same pub as the day before. There are many many choices.

Day 7 - Drive to Ennis. Explore Ennis on foot. Have a final afternoon pint.

Day 8 - Fly home.

Quay Street in Galway

 Tigh Neachtains  - best pub in Galway

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ce N'est Pas Grave

I hear this expression a surprising amount, almost on a daily basis. It means "it doesn't matter", "it's not a big deal". It's always said quite sincerely.

I heard it today at the grocery store, when I had left the stroller completely blocking the aisle while I looked for the particular baby food I wanted (Finian has decided to eat at last): "Oh I'm sorry for blocking your way". "Ce n'est pas grave".

I heard it yesterday when I picked Ailbhe up from school and her teacher explained patiently to me that Ailbhe had lice: "LICE - are you sure", "Oui, mais ce n'est pas grave".

I heard it a few days ago when Ailbhe scooted straight into a perfectly dressed, elderly French lady: "I am so sorry for the multiple breaks your brittle bones have just received". "Ce n'est pas grave".

We're currently in lice crisis mode. Pour moi, c'est grave.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Off to the Beach

It was raining this morning and the forecast for the day was showers, but we decided to go to the Bassin d'Arcachon as we had planned. The Bassin d'Arcachon is an almost fully enclosed bay on the Atlantic Ocean. You can drive, bike, or hike, right around the bay, it's about 80km. There are beaches, oyster ports, towns, and villages all along the way.

Bassin d'Arcachon

We went first to the Dune du Pilat, the biggest sand dune in Europe. When we got there, Ailbhe asked if we had packed her swimsuit. I said we hadn't as it was March and it was raining. She then declared "Well I won't leave the car unless I'm wearing my swimsuit!" Fiacra, Finian, and I left Daddy to do battle.

As soon as we got close to the dune, Fiacra started to run, and rather than taking the established slightly less steep route, he just went straight up the side. It was very steep. I have acrophobia and hadn't realized that it could be triggered by just watching your kids on the edge of a sand dune. Amazingly, Connell had won the battle and arrived with Ailbhe, so he followed Fiacra, while Ailbhe, Finian, and I took the less steep but still very unnerving route.

Fiacra, on his way up the Dune du Pilat

Fiacra on the dune

Ailbhe on the dune

It's much more fun to run down

We drove a few kilometers along the coast to Pereire Beach. The rain had passed over and it was a lovely afternoon. We stayed at the beach for over two hours. We had no sand toys, just a plastic bag to collect shells. The kids were very reluctant to leave and want to go back to the sand dunes and the beach again soon.

 Pereire Beach

Collecting shells

Unbelievable - kids on the beach in their underwear in March, what are their parents thinking? Oh actually, it's okay, one of them has a helmet on

Ailbhe is very happy with the picture she has drawn in the sand

Ailbhe's picture of the 5 of us in a car

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Life of Leisure

What a year I am having. It is so nice to not be working. I am not packing up our house, packing to leave the country, doing renovations, preparing for renovations or doing yard work. I am just hanging out, often just with Finian, but also with Fiacra and Ailbhe on Wednesdays and all five of us on the weekends.

My day today - walked Fiacra to school this morning, came home and put Finian down for a nap, cleaned the kids room, played with Finian, walked to the grocery store and then by the school to collect Fiacra for lunch. Had lunch with Fiacra and Finian, spent an hour trying to forecast the winner of hypothetical battles between Darth Vader, Obi Won, a viking, a cop and a robber, all of whom could be armed in many different ways and could call for help from various sources. I managed to pick wrong almost every time. Walked Fiacra back to school, continued to the coffeeshop, had a coffee, looked in the bookstore, bought two books for the kids, came home and put Finian down for a nap, started this post, played with Finian, and walked to the school again to collect Fiacra.

Pretty leisurely, and that's fine by me.

Tomorrow is Friday. Fiacra and Ailbhe will both be staying at school for lunch. After lunch, Ailbhe's school is going to go to the opera. Connell and I will go out for lunch. I'm looking forward to it. We are going to rent a car for the weekend and go to the beach.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pancake Tuesday

Fiacra has been eagerly anticipating Pancake Tuesday and has asked many times over the past week, "is it Pancake Tuesday yet?". I always had crepe-style pancakes growing up on Pancake Tuesday, and that's what we had after dinner today.

We tried three versions of the crepes, Irish, French, and Canadian. The Irish crepes were served with lemon juice and sugar, the French crepes were spread with nutella, and the Canadian crepes were smothered with maple syrup. Actually, Connell was the only one who tried all three, I had only the Irish crepes (the far superior variety), Ailbhe had only the French, and Fiacra declared "I don't like these craps at all".

We now have half a jar of nutella in our fridge, a previously unencountered substance. I'll bet that Ailbhe asks for it for breakfast tomorrow.

Connell does the flip

Fiacra trying the "crap"

Ailbhe on her second crepe


Finian with his sunhat on today. It was 17 degrees

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Carnaval des Deux Rives

Ash Wednesday is in a few days, preceded by Pancake Tuesday - also called Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. In Bordeaux, to celebrate the occasion, there was a big parade this afternoon - Carnaval des Deux Rives (Carnival of the Two Banks). It starts on one side of the river and finishes on the other.

I've never been to a parade like it before. At home, the people at the parade can be split into two groups - the ones in the parade and the spectators. If you're a spectator, then you watch the parade and occasionally clap. Today, I didn't clap at all - but it was a hoot!

Waiting for the parade to start

Lots of people attending the parade, including most of the kids, wore costumes. We brought our Viking and Helmet Head. We bought some balloons, bags of confetti and, eventually, a couple of those spray bottles that shoot out strings of foam. The spectators throw confetti and shoot foam at the people in the parade - and each other.

Viking defending himself from neighbouring confetti thrower

Giant marionettes

Free refills

A short battle ensued

This was a huge float

Fiacra and Ailbhe spent most of their time throwing confetti (and scooping it up again). Finian found it loud and frightening. After a while, Fiona took him off to a cafe for a bit of peace. Then the parade ended and we couldn't find each other. I didn't have my phone - since I wasn't expecting any calls - so we couldn't meet up until we got home. That was quite a while later since we hunted for each other and then had to walk three stops back along the tram to get to where it was running, get on, get off and walk home.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bought - Drying Rack

We bought a 2-in-1 washer-dryer a few weeks ago. The washer works well but the dryer takes a long time to dry a load. So we bought this drying rack. It's great, we put on the washer at night during the low rate hours, then hang the clothes on the rack in the morning, and roll it outside into "the courtyard" when it warms up a bit. If it rains, or the clothes aren't quite dry in the evening, we just roll it back inside and they are dry by morning.

We are still working on resisting the temptation to make slingshots from the clothes, to tie them to the rack using complicated knots, and to whip them off the rack with sticks, but we'll get there.

Friday, March 4, 2011

On The Menu

It was Ailbhe's turn to stay at school for lunch yesterday. When she came home, she said she liked everything and ate everything and wanted to stay again today. Friday is Fiacra's school lunch day but if they both have lunch at school then Connell and I can go out for lunch, so sure, she can stay.

Fiacra and Ailbhe's lunch menu:
Endives aux pommes (endive and apples, cooked I think)
Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stew)
Jeunes carottes persillees (baby carrots cooked in some way)
Yaourt Bio au citron (lemon yougort)
Gaufre liegeoise (a waffle-like dessert)
St Paulin + pain (cheese and bread)

Connell and Fiona's lunch menu:

Connell and I went to a restaurant in the square in front of the university. We both had the menu du jour above, which includes an appetizer, a choice of two main courses, dessert and coffee.

Appetizer - Belle assiette de crudite

My main course - Dorade 

The fish was served with this unidentified vegetable. It might be celeriac

 Connell's main course

Dessert - creme brulee, plum in chocolate sauce, and some unidentified yumminess

Finian slept in the stroller until just before dessert. He stirred when the waiter dropped beer mats on him and woke up when he apologized loudly.

This was the most delicious lunch. Can you believe it was 13 Euro? If Ailbhe wants to stay at school every Friday for lunch, Connell and I will manage somehow.