more southern comfort

We spent about 5 days down in Pezenas.  Good times were had by all. We went to the sea a few times, we went to the wine festival, we went to a flea market, the weather was great the whole time we were there.  Pretty tough not to love that part of the world
One day at a park we noticed that Alma had a personalized bench just for her. That town really knows how to make people feel welcomed!
Before we went down this time – the kids had only three things that they wanted to do: swim at the sea, go to the ruin (the big old house my aunt and uncle are restoring), and ride in Uncle Milton’s Deux Chevaux.  So happily for them it was a successful trip – and fortunately for us, our kids have quite reasonable expectations.
One day we drove out to a neighboring town for their weekly flea market -but it was not happenig as the carnival was in town, and had the rides sitting right on the parking lot that is normally home to the fleas. We ended up just driving to a lake – and having a picnic lunch. With such beautiful surroundings, even second best plans are usually pretty nice.
We did hit the beach a few times. Out kids absolutely love the water. They will normally stay in a pool until their lips are purple, and they stay in the sea until they are exhausted or have consumed so much sea water that they need a break, which ever comes first.
Alma loved the sand. She practiced her front crawl on the beach – it seems that she was anticipating some serious distance swims once in the water.
However, the kids all loved building castles, pools, seats, baths, etc for her in the sand – so they all played for quite some time.
The first day we went to the sea there were some really significant waves.  Every once in a while the life guards made an announcement – but between the noise of the wave crashing and the wind it was impossible to hear exactly what.  It sounded like “attention…something something…strong wind….something…waves…something something children….”  I assume that the intended message was “hey everyone, there is some awesome strong wind making great waves that are strong enough to surf for small children, enjoy!”  So we did

Pezenas – our southern-France home-away from home-away-from home

After we left Nîmes we continued to head south. To get to Pézenas from our place you basically head south until you hit the Mediterranean, turn right, and if you get to Spain you’ve gone too far.  My aunt and uncle have had a place there for probably 15 years now, and it’s probably one of our favorite places to go as a family. (As evidenced: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here)

One day we drove out to a 500 year old mill on a river for a picnic. Sandwiches from a local boulangerie taste especially good on a half-a-millenium old stone table


One afternoon while  I stayed at the house and worked as Alma slept Susan took the other kids to the Pezenas  toy museum.

This is my girl in an Olive tree.

 

We took the kids to the sea two times – but once we went to a local swimming hole.  It was a great place to cool off and was a great time not far from Pezenas.  Well, except for the part where Jonah was swimming right across to the other side, got his feet in some fairly thick and frightening feeling seaweed and stared to panic so I had to dive in with my clothes on and papa-adrenaline-front-crawl over to to pull him back.  Other than that part – it was quite fun.  

We let the kids pick out some ice cream to try to cool down when we were walking around town one day. Unfortunately Alma felt a bit left out- so we found a way for her to cool off as well.

Pezenas is  an artisan town.  It seems like every street you turn down there are silversmiths, potters, glass-blowers, bakers, leather-workers, olive growers, ceramic artists, painters, hat makers etc. Matea was glad to go back to the same bead store she was in last year – and spent time picking out a few beads from the thousands that are in 
On Friday night we went to the Pézenas wine festival.  We were just describing it as sort of a Southern-French-county-Fair.  Instead of deep-fried-everything-on-a-stick, we had plates of local olives and tapinade (olive paste) spread on slices of artisan bread. We bought a sampler plate of chèvre cheese from a local sheep farmer, we bought fresh local cherry tomatoes, a melon and basil chilled soup and a few other things. There are a bunch of local vineyards who come and set up along the street sampling their

six

Micah turned 6 on Saturday.
We had a fantastic time together celebrating another year with our funny boy.

He had a great time on his birthday – family and friends – lego – playing in the yard which turns into hide-and-go-seek – turns into head-lamp and flashlight games – turns into bike riding with headlamps down the road in the dark.

Of the three older kids Micah has definitely had a harder time adjusting to the language, school etc – but he has not let all that affect his sense of humor.  He is still a very funny kid.

This birthday also seems like a bit of a turning point for all of us, as Micah was the first to celebrate a birthday after we moved to France, so this is his third birthday here. So that means we’re now starting on our third time around on things. Third start of a school year, third autumn, third everything

Nîmes


On Tuesday we headed down south on a last minute trip and stopped on our way in Nîmes.



The city is about halfway from our place in the Alpes to my aunt & uncle’s house down south. Nîmes has history that goes well back to the Roman era – with some significant physical reminders of those times.  The enormous aqueduct Pont du Gard (which we visited on our first trip down south 2 years ago)  was part of the system that brought fresh running water to the indoor plumbing systems of this city about 2000 years ago.



The amphitheater is apparently one of the best preserved in the Roman world. While not the same size as the colosseum in Rome – it is impressively intact for what its been through over the past 2 millennia   



The arena first served obviously as entertainment for the Roman citizens and their guests (the ‘circus’ part of ‘bread and circus’), and over the following centuries was used as a fortress, a miniature walled city, then was then turned back into an arena in Napoleon’s time – and is now most well know for its bull-fights.


how NOT to win a bull-fight




The city also has an amazing Roman temple, again one of the best preserved in the Roman world  (I guess Nîmes is like the pickle of antiquity).  Susan and I visited Nîmes years ago, and I remember the inside of the temple – it was rather baren compared to its previous glory – but impressive none the less.  Now the entire inside is a movie theatre that plays a 3D MOVIE!  Unfortunately – the day we were there due to technical difficulties the movie was shown in 2D.  When you see in 2D a movie that was specifically shot for a tourist board in 3D – you realize how much of the footage is pointless waving / pointing / thrusting / and otherwise moving-at-your-face-motion of various forms.  When it’s in 2D – it just seems like your watching scenes that they forgot to edit down and then add in the sound, dialoge, and tie them to the rest of the plot.



However, it was quite warm (34°) to be walking around when we were there at noon – so the movie was a bit of a nice respite from the heat.




It was a nice break on the way down and is basically just off the autoroute – pretty amazing that we get to experience these kinds of things during an unplanned stop along a drive.