We set-out one morning recently to introduce ourselves to our new neighbors….but we didn’t get past the first house: there, a lovely elderly couple invited us in for a chat/drink, and after tasting but a small selection of his- 40liters of home-made aperitifs (using 40degree alcohol from a ‘secret source’): which is then macerated with fresh quince, raspberry, walnut… we stumbled back home. The next day a second couple – equally lovely – sent us home, after a chat, with a delicious homemade flan and the following neighbor insisted that we join her for an aperitif. Several days later we have finally introduced ourselves to our immediate (and very nice) community – none of whom failed to mention ‘c’est calme ici’ 🙂 Indeed it is calm, which is a nice change from Shanghai.
Last week we went to the local amusement park ‘Puy du Fou (which) is a bizarre phenomenon: a rural theme park without any rides. It’s trademark is spectacular history extravaganza shows – where thousands of actors and animals recreate high drama, from Roman gladiators to King Arthur, with mind-blowing special effects’. (The Guardian May 6th 2015)
Our 5yr old was thrilled to see plenty of ‘real’ Knights in shining armor and plenty of sword fights. Many locals had told me that it was voted the ‘Best Theme Park’ in the world, but upon a little investigation I discovered that it was actually given one of the ‘Worlds Best Park’ award…..not quite the same thing.
And so the summer vacation has come to an end… an end to knights in shining armour, to ‘Perrier tranche’ (Perrier with a slice of lemon) on the beach, oysters eaten at the oyster farmer’s cabin and an end to the walks around the ‘marais salant’ (salt marshes) which connect our town and the beach.
Below: very dry ‘marais’ and some salicorne which is a plant that grows on the banks of the salt water and which is preserved in vinegar (not very edible raw as I discovered) and typically used in place of the more well-known cornichons to accompany charcuterie (pork products).
The first of September is ‘La Rentree’ – when everything in France moves into action ….including school. I was surprised to find that our children’s school week consists of 4 very long days (8:45-16:45 Mon,Tues,Thurs and Fri) despite the government ‘imposing’ 4.5-days since 2013: Actually in the not so distant past all French schools had one school-free weekday (the Wednesday) – opting to add classes on Saturday mornings instead. In 2008 the schools abolished Saturday morning classes and squeezed the curriculum into 4 days (not daring to change a tradition of a ‘free’ day which dates back to the 1800’s). In 2013 the government re-introduced the 4.5-day week (principally because kids are able to concentrate better in the morning….and because the standards in French schools appeared to be dropping) – but this time they included….(gasp!) the sacred Wednesday. Apparently the move was met with much opposition (probably because there is a general resistance to change and because many extra-curricular activities benefited from it) and as I discover, has not taken effect in all schools.
Anyway, the kids slipped into their new classrooms happily and it was nice to see Antoine’s teacher give him a nice kiss hello (which sadly would have probably ended her up in trouble in any anglophone country…….no physical contact allowed!).
Now the serious stuff starts….such as having a routine, working my way through paperwork and making professional-type telephone calls, which is something I dread…especially the inevitable little pause that the person on the other end of the phone makes after hearing my request (I always hope that this pause is simply an adjustment period to my accent and not shock/disgust at my destruction the French language nor complete incomprehension).