Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To Market, To Market

There is a weekly outdoor market on Wednesday mornings close to our house. As we were leaving to go to it this morning, Fiacra ran back to grab his camera. He and Ailbhe took lots of photos at the market and really enjoyed it. I had my camera with me but felt too self-conscious to take photos at a small market that I go to every week. Turns out, the kids' photos are great - in the future, I will just get them to take photos of things I want photos of, but don't want to photograph.

Here are some of their photos:

Just one banana, please!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pyrenean Villages

There are small mountain villages scattered around the Vallee d'Aspe, all very picturesque. Most have hiking trails starting from them or passing through them. Our favourite village was Aydius. We had a recommendation for the restaurant in Aydius so we went there for lunch one day. We arrived at the restaurant at 1:30, which is a bit late to be starting lunch. The restaurant was completely packed. The owner said no way could he fit us, but eventually took pity on us as we continued to hang around. We had a huge 4 course lunch, possibly the biggest lunch I've ever eaten. We had the Menu du Jour which is a set menu which changes every day. It was only later that I realized it was Sunday, which explains the big crowd. Lunch is extremely important in France, with Sunday lunch the biggest meal of the week. 

The village of Aydius

I want to own this house and the hiking boots on the step

The village of Sarrance

The church in Aydius

Connell and Ailbhe leaving the restaurant after a huge lunch

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


We have done some lovely hikes in the Vallee d'Aspe. Ailbhe has surprised us with how much she has enjoyed hiking and also her stamina. Not having a car in Bordeaux means we walk everywhere and it has helped her fitness a lot. Fiacra can keep going, it seems, forever.

I have not enjoyed the drives to the trail heads, up winding, narrow, mountain roads. The views I'm sure, have been wonderful, but I haven't been looking. I had to turn back with Finian on one hike, the trail was so narrow, with a huge drop off, and Fiacra and Ailbhe were skipping along so nonchalantly, I just couldn't watch them. I was also leaning away from the drop-off so didn't feel safe walking with Finian.

 Fiacra is well prepared with a walky-talky and a headlamp

 Finian taking a breather

The Throne of the King

We have had a wonderful week, helped by amazing weather. We are all sorry to be leaving tomorrow. As we were driving to a hike today, Fiacra said "the Pyrenees are so much fun, I can't BEAR to leave". Fiacra and Ailbhe are already looking forward to coming back with their friends in July. I am already thinking ahead to a hiking trip to the Rockies.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Vallee d'Aspe

We are spending a week in the Vallee d'Aspe in the Pyrenees. We're staying at les Fontaines d'Escot, an old chateau, which is now a B&B with holiday apartments. The Aspe river runs through the grounds and Fiacra and Ailbhe have been enjoying the rocky beach. We like it so much that we have booked to come back in July with our friends, who will be visiting from Canada.

It's a bit trickier travelling with Finian now that he has nap times and meal times. We have been letting him nap in the morning in the apartment and then he has his second nap on the go in the afternoon. He has been great, and has been sleeping really well at night (I knew the boots were affecting his sleep). His favourite game at the moment is knocking Fiacra's cap off. Fiacra, the most impatient child in the world, actually has a lot of patience with Finian.

There are so many hiking trails here, including some of the long distance pilgrim routes. The Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostela (the St. James Way) has branches all over Europe, all leading to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. One of the original routes, la Voie d'Arles, goes through the Aspe Valley, and passes through the property where we are staying.

This is the marker for the St. James Way. The symbol is a scallop shell, reflecting all the branches leading to a single place

Ailbhe on the St. James Way. We walked from where we are staying to the next village, Sarrance

Ailbhe and Fiacra arriving in Sarrance

Sunday, April 17, 2011

En Vacances

Bordeaux is the capital city of the Aquitaine region of France. Aquitaine has a long Atlantic coast to the west and borders Spain to the south. Aquitaine is made up of 5 departments - Dordogne, Gironde (where Bordeaux is located), Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, and Pyrenees-Atlantiques.

This trip is the first time we have been outside Gironde. We drove south from Bordeaux, through Landes, to the Valle d'Aspe in the Pyrenees. We are about 30 km from the Spanish border.

The drive time was about 4 hours but we took most of the day. We stopped for lunch in Dax, which is in Landes. Dax is the spa capital of France because of its thermal waters. The restorative powers of the thermal waters and mud was supposedly discovered by a Roman legionnaire who was stationed in Dax. He attempted to drown his dog, who was suffering from rheumatism, before leaving for battle. On his return, what did he find - a completely rejuvenated (and muddy) dog.
Oh puppy - the mud can't save you now

Le Fontaine Chaud - the water is 64 degrees Celsius

 The water was too hot for the kids to put their hands in

This guy needed a bit of help getting around, I guess he hasn't made it to the thermal waters yet

Dax Cathedral

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Finian's Update

Finian had his second appointment with the French pediatric surgeon on Tuesday. He had x-rays taken of his feet and hips. The surgeon thinks everything looks good at the moment, but is concerned about the risk of over-correction with continued use of his Dennis Browne boots and bar. So, he has recommended to discontinue use of the boots at night.

My first thought was, hurray, FINALLY he will sleep again. I am a bit concerned though, because Finian's orthopedic surgeon in Canada had said that he would need to wear the boots at night for as long as he would tolerate us putting them on him. This is the difficult part of switching doctors in the middle of treatment.

Finian can only put weight on his feet for a few seconds, and when he does, his right foot rolls so that he is standing on the outside of his foot. His feet are really flexible which is the surgeon's concern. He said to buy leather boots with a flat sole, that they would help him start to put weight on his feet. We have another appointment in two months.

We will leave France when Finian is 17 months old. I hope he starts to walk in France.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Easy French Cooking

I have been trying to cook more French food recently, it seems the best way to discover the food that's readily available here but that I'm not necessarily familiar with. I found a great website Easy French Food and I'm working my way through the recipes.

I've made Chicken Chasseur a few times. The kids love it. We serve it with rice, green beans, and bread of course. We had Beef Bourguignon yesterday and and leftovers today. I asked Connell if he liked it, "very much" he answered emphatically. These are both winter foods so we probably won't have them too many more times until fall.

I'm looking for recipes that will be good during the summer. In Canada, during the summer, we barbecue almost every day. I don't think we'll get a BBQ here. We're trying to keep in mind that everything we get has to be gotten rid of when we leave, and that keeps purchases down.

I made Quiche Jambon Fromage at the weekend. I used the recommended Compte cheese cut into cubes, so you can really taste the cheese. Fiacra seemed to like it, at least he ate a large slice with no complaints. Ailbhe ate some. Connell was surprised how much he liked it. I loved it. We will have this a lot during the summer. I will also try the other quiche recipes.

Our Friday lunches are helping with our French food discovery. Since the last school break, we only missed a single Friday lunch when Finian was sick. We will resume when the kids are back at school. Both Connell and I look forward to them, I'm not sure about Finian.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Home Alone

It's 28 degrees in Bordeaux today. Connell, Fiacra, and Ailbhe are gone to the beach. Just three of us left at home - sick boySenseo, and me.

The kids now have two weeks off school. We leave on Wednesday for the Pyrenees for a week. I hope Finian is better by then.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why Don't We Have a TV?

Ailbhe asked me that yesterday. For the record, we did have a TV in Canada, the kids just never watched it much. Every so often, they would watch a movie or a Magic School Bus DVD, but more on a monthly rather than a daily basis. In France, they have watched an odd show on the computer, thanks to iTunes -  usually the Pink Panther, the Smurfs, or Tom and Jerry.

I asked Ailbhe why she thought we needed a TV. "How can we check the weather if we don't have a TV?" was her first reply. I told her that we always check the weather on the computer. "Well, how do we know if there's a soccer game on, that we might want to watch?" Okay, I am detecting a strong Irish influence here, the weather and soccer - Grandad!!!!!!!

Why don't our kids watch TV? Well up to now, they have never really asked and we don't suggest it. Why do we let them watch the Pink Panther, for instance? Because it's hilarious and they get the jokes. I have to get a video of Fiacra laughing at the Inspector and Deux-Deux.

Sick Boy

Finian had a bad cold last week, I think he picked it up from Fiacra. I took him to the doctor on Friday because I was a bit worried he might have a chest infection. The doctor prescribed a steroidal nasal spray, a Ventolin inhaler and suppositories. They seemed to help a lot.

Yesterday afternoon, he was very out of sorts and had a temperature so I took him to the doctor again. Now he has a throat infection. We are giving him paracetamol every 4 hours to keep his temperature down, two prescription medications in the morning and 3 at night, for a grand total of 52.5 ml of medicine a day. He hates it, and is getting very adept at spitting it out. If we had infant Tylenol, which is 5 times more concentrated than the paracetamol here, this would be down to 28.5 ml, a bit more manageable.

Summer visitors, please bring us some infant Tylenol.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Last Friday was Carnaval at the kids' schools. Fiacra's class had a theme for their costumes, the seasons. So like a good Canadian boy, he dressed up as a snowman. Ailbhe's class was thankfully themeless. Ailbhe picked a bunny costume to wear.

Fiacra had brought a note home from school describing the carnaval activities. The kids would leave the school at 2:30pm, parade around the streets and end at the park close to the school. At the park, Monsieur Carnaval would be judged and burned. We were intrigued.

 Monsieur Carnaval waiting at the school to lead the parade 

 Fiacra in the parade

All the kids had bags of confetti for throwing at each other and at the spectators. Fiacra loved this part. Once the parade reached the park, one of the older classes had a mock trial for Monsieur Carnaval with a judge, lawyers and witnesses. The witnesses each listed crimes (generally food related) that Monsieur Carnaval had committed. After each witness, the jury (the rest of the school) would chant "burn him, burn him". And once he was declared guilty, that's exactly what they did. 

 Monsieur Carnaval's trial

 He burns - there were firecrackers in him for added effect

After Monsieur Carnaval was no more, Connell, Finian, and I went to Ailbhe's school. There was a performance for the kids and then an open house for the parents. Again, all the kids had bags of confetti and weren't shy about using it.

 Ailbhe in a confetti fight

Bunny Ailbhe

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Big Bore

Today we went to the small town of Saint Pardon on the Dordogne River. There is a tidal bore that comes up the river at high tide. As the tide comes in at the ocean (about 80km downstream), there is a funnelling effect. By Saint Pardon, there is a big wave that comes crashing in, followed by a bunch of others. Today it was about 85cm; sometimes it's higher. It moves at 12km/hour. Before the bore arrived, the water was completely calm.

What do you do with such a thing? Surf it. Or use a kayak. About 15 tried today. The success rate was low.

Combining the picture with the words, I think it is forbidden to be 
one-legged unless you're surfing

This guy paddled from where we were down to the curve in
the river, where the others were waiting.

Here they come. Only three made it as far as us.

Looking cool as can be.

There they go.

Grosser than gross

I had to give our baby, Finian, a suppository. (Google it.) I decided that this had to be the definition of gross.

After it was in, he flexed. It came out. I had to put it back in. Remembering the definition of gross, it was clear that this was ... grosser than gross.


It was forecast to be 26 degrees today so when we were trying to decide where to go for the day, the beach topped the list. We went to Lacanau Ocean, which is north of the Bassin d'Arcachon and on the open Atlantic. This is supposed to be one of the best surfing beaches around, and today I could see why.  It was windy and the waves were huge, there were lots of surfers out there.

We set up the beach tent to shelter Finian from the wind. The tide was coming in, we were keeping an eye on it as it could quite quickly gain a few meters up the beach. We thought it was getting a bit close so we moved the tent and all our stuff back away from the water. I was trying to get a photo of Ailbhe so wasn't watching the waves. The waves suddenly surrounded us, surprising us all. I grabbed my purse and the picnic basket out of the water, and saw all the sand toys, my sandals, and the kids crocs disappearing into the waves. I focused on my keen sandals (no way was I losing these) but it took a few minutes and a good soaking for me to get them. The surfers who were on the beach all rushed into the water to help us and I don't think we lost anything. When we got to the beach, I did wonder why everyone was sitting so far from the water, now I know.

This was my last attempt at a photo of Ailbhe, I guess I moved the camera when the water hit

Friday, April 1, 2011

First Run

I went for my first run today since I hurt my knee at Oktoberfest - nearly six months ago. I had to pick up a rental car for the weekend and Fiona suggested I run instead of taking the bus. Then Ailbhe chimed in, "Yeah, Dad. You should run. It will be good for you." It felt like an intervention.

I had thought about making a New Year's resolution to run 100 times this year. Luckily, I didn't say it out loud. Nobody knows.

So, I ran 3.5 km. It started with a hill. An uphill.

At first I felt strong. Then I felt fast. Then I felt slow and weak. Once when I stopped for traffic, the driver let me go ahead. Jerk! I ran by a lovely church with a double steeple. I stopped to enjoy the view - and breathe.

99 more runs - 274 more days. Don't tell anyone.