Friday, August 30, 2013

Guest Post - Over at Your Expat Child - Back to School & Kid's Routine

Our local Elementary school

Hi Everyone -

Today you will find me over at Your Expat Child - with another guest post.  We have had a busy summer and we are slowly getting ready for "La Rentree".  - School supplies have been bought and new clothes - moving on to final registrations for activities.  I don't think it matters what country you live in - when it's back to school time - there's always lots to do & a shift in day to day life.

So in honor of - "La Rentree" or  Back to School time Here' a post about school routine - this is actually a post I previously wrote back in the Spring of 2012 -  Head on Over to Your Expat Child & check it out on the link below:

Back to School shopping last year

First Day of School - Sept. 2012

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Dordogne Region - Canoeing - Canoe Dordogne-Roque Gageac

A Day on the River!

Roque-Gageac - from canoe base
One of the activities I was really excited about doing this summer during our trip to the Dordogne Region was to go canoeing.  Each summer, I love watching all the canoes descend down this river.  My husband & I had enjoyed this activity years ago (pre-children!) and I couldn't wait for the kids to be old enough to do it all together.

Canoeing has become quite a business in this area on both rivers - The Dordogne and the Vezere.  Having spent many summers in St. Cyprien, my husband has a preference for the Dordogne.  There are many  canoe/kayak companies to choose from - a lot of it just depends on where you want to canoe and how long you want to do it.  We choose Canoe Dordogne - at Roque Gageac.  One of the reasons we choose this company was that one of the routes started further upriver, in Carsac - so one can see Chateau de Montfort and deeper carved out sides of the Dordogne River.  Another reason for us, was Roque-Gageac was closer and very convenient for us to drive based on where we were staying.  Our canoe route was Carsac to Roque-Gageac - 16 Km of the river and about 3 hours by canoe.
Canoe - Dordogne - base in Roque-Gageac
The amount of time listed on the brochure is non-stop canoeing - so you need to factor in a lunch stop, and any other swim or breaks you wish to take.  In our case - we leisurely descended down river - enjoying the scenery, stopping to look at caves and limestone walls now and again, stopping for about an hour for a picnic lunch & swim and a couple other swim stops as it was a hot day.  All & all - our day was 6 hours in a canoe.  (launching at 10 am and arriving back at Roque-Gageac at about 4 pm).

Life Preservers
We arrived at the Canoe base in Roque-Gageac about 9:15 am.  Our reserved departure time was 9:30.  We were all given our life vests and a plastic container with each canoe.  They recommend all belongings get put in these containers - towel, lunch, etc.  This is good to keep in mind when bringing items - no big cooler - insulated sacs/backpack work really well.  At 9:30, they loaded all of us and others into a van with canoes in tow and took us up river to their launch site in Carsac.  This was about a 20 minute drive.
Launch base in Carsac
At the launch site, there were several other companies also launching their customers.  It's quite an operation!
The Canoes on the back of the trailer - before unloading

Happy Girls!
And we were off - There was 6 of us - my husband, his sister, myself and the 3 kids.  I started with my oldest and youngest daughter in my boat.  They were super excited!!
Love the Rocks
This upper part of the Dordogne has beautiful rock sides.  We made our first stop about 30 minutes into the trip.  The girls were already hot and were anxious to get wet.  We just pulled the canoes over onto a flat part of the rocky shoreline and got wet.  These next few photos were taken at that stop!
Canoe & Paddle

Beautiful scenery

Some caves 
After our brief swim stop, we headed further down river - as we came around a bend in the river, we could see Chateau de Montfort protruding out from a rock cliff.  Stunning view from below!
Chateau de Montfort

Looking back up river - Chateau de Montfort
After we descended past the chateau, it was around 11:30 am - we saw a beautiful split in the river - with an island in the middle - We decided this was a great place to stop for lunch and have another swim.

Swim and lunch spot - Love the clear water!

My youngest 

Lunch time
Happy girls - hanging out and eating lunch

Getting ready to launch after lunch

After lunch, we chose the narrower section of the river to head down...This was beautiful and very quiet.

A quieter portion of the river

Further down the river, were limestone cliffs - The kids wanted to stop and check these out.

Investigating some limestone cliffs
Onward we went...I love this River and the views were constantly stunning!
Continuing on

Sunny & warm

The wall on the side is the road along the river - very narrow 

Under the bridge
After our final swim stop, we continued toward Roque-Gageac..
Launching again after our final swim stop

More limestone

First views of Roque-Gageac - final leg

Crossing over to the right - ready to finish
The canoe base was located just on the edge of the town - You just pull the canoe into the base and return you life vests, paddles and container.

Back at the base - The 2 green canoes in the distance were ours. An awesome day!
As I'm writing this post, I was just asking my girls what was their favorite part of our vacation - and their answer - Canoeing!  No surprise - it was a great day - relaxing, fun, adventurous and a super activity for our family.  

If anyone is visiting this area and looking for a great activity - check it out. You can find this particular company's site on-line at:

Final look at our canoe...Looking forward to doing another day like this next summer!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Begles Plage et Begles Lac....a summer retreat close to home! - & Life Out of The Box!

Bordeaux - Begles Plage
& Life Out of the Box

We decided not to take a big vacation this summer as we wanted to save money to head to the States next summer.  We do live in a beautiful area, so we decided to explore around here and find local things to do.  One of the neatest places we found was right here in Bordeaux!!  On the Southwest side of the city is a section called Begles - there is a beautiful small lake located in this town.  It's not huge but it offers a lot for families.  It's even accessible by the tram out of Bordeaux.  For us - it's a mere 15 minute drive - Perfect!!

There is a sandy, life- guarded beach available.  It's usually pretty crowded by late afternoon - but the water is nice and there are 2 sections - shallow and deep.  The water is refreshing and not too cold.  We've had a very hot summer here - so it was great just to sit in the shallow water and stay cool!  People come in the afternoons, set up their spots with towels and umbrellas.  There are trees on the side and behind for those who want to find some shade.

Also in this park are other activities - volleyball, fields, a playground and tables and grills for picnics.  There is a paved trail that goes all the way around the lake - great for a causal walk, bike ride or jog.  Great family park!!
In addition to all the regular park attractions - this little lake also offers use of small boats - kayaks, stand up paddle boats, surf boards and a sail boat.  Use of all of these boats are FREE to the public.  Each person just has to register and pass a swim test - basically the equivalent of a pool lap.  This test can be completed in a life preserver.  (This was great - as my 5 year old is still a non-swimmer but is super comfortable in the water with a preserver.) Once the test is completed, you are good for the summer - when you arrive to use the boats, you just give them your name so they can verify you are cleared for use.  This is wonderful - my older girls spent lots of time exploring the use of the different boats.

The boats are just adjacent to the swimming area and are also well supervised.  I could be at the swimming area with my youngest and see my older daughters enjoying themselves!

If too many people showed up to use the boats - the supervisors would paddle out and round up everyone to come in after 15-20 minutes.

Life out of the Box 

I also wanted to share with you a wonderful concept that we recently learned about - a company called Life Out of the Box.  These are two Americans in their mid-twenties who wanted to make a difference in the world - so they moved to Nicaragua and created a business to try to help children.  

Life Out of the Box is a socially conscious "product for a product business". For every handmade product that they sell, they give back school supplies to help educate kids in Central America. The unique aspect to this business is that they actually show their supporters the effect they have by emailing the them a link to photos & a brief description of the exact child they gave school supplies to from their purchased bracelet(s). 

A quote from their site:
"Each bracelet is assigned a unique number so that it can be associated with a unique child that is given school supplies. It's important to us that our supporters get to feel the connection as much as we do when we give the gift of an opportunity to a child because there's really nothing more rewarding than giving a child the tools to help them succeed. It's what motivates us to keep doing what we're doing."

My girls were so motivated by this concept that they each picked out a bracelet and have had tons of fun this summer wearing them!  My twelve year old was also so excited by their idea that she messaged them on her own and told them that they inspired her a lot and now, she wants to do something like that when she's older. 

They sent her a beautiful personal message back  - which excited her even more! We are thrilled to share about what they are doing.  I have always had a passion for children & education - this is such a great way to share how to make a difference in another part of the world, with my kids.  

They mail their bracelets worldwide and ours arrived in about a week.  A couple weeks later, I received the email that matched our bracelets to the kids that were directly affected.  My girls are still talking about "their" children.  It worked out perfectly also that each child was similar in age to my own children.  My girls were fascinated to read their names, ages and current interests.  It's raised many interesting questions in our household about life in Nicaragua and Central America and how it is different than our lives.  (Thank you Quinn & Jonathan!! - Your passion is contagious!)

To learn more about Life Out of the Box, check out their website
To shop LOOTB, check out
To see the children you impact, check out LOOTB Gives
Follow them on FacebookTwitterInstagram, & Pinterest!
Happy end of the summer for everyone.  We are still enjoying the sunshine and warm weather.  We just returned from a mini vacation visiting family in the Dordogne region and I'm  will be sharing more posts about that trip soon.  Have a great day and weekend!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cauterets & Pres du Pont d' Espagne

Off into the Pyrenees!
Heading out from Lourdes

This post is about our drive into the Pyrenees- one afternoon when we were visiting Lourdes.  I have been meaning to finish this post for a while now, but other posts kept sneaking in.  This little trip was actually on the day we left Lourdes.  We had to check out of our hotel, and my husband still had some meetings to attend, so I decided to take the girls on a little drive into the Mountains.  A good friend of ours had recommended the town of Cauterets as a nice place to walk around - and you can see the drive there was stunning too!

These first few photos were taken by my eldest daughter as we drove into the Mountains...This was mid-May and it was amazingly beautiful - there was still snow in the peaks!  After our long rainy Winter/Spring in Bordeaux - I'm not surprised the mountains got all snow!

Looking into the Mountains from the highway!

Another view from the highway.
The road twisted and turned and around each bend there was more beauty to behold and I loved all the little waterfalls and creeks flowing out of the mountains.
Even the small cascades coming off the sides were stunning!
We arrived in the resort town of Cauterets and it was stunning!  A beautiful little ski town nestled quaintly in the mountains.  This town is located about 20 miles (32km) Southwest of Lourdes. It is the center for many excursions, both skiing and hiking.  Cauterets is also well known for its thermal Springs, which date back to 1843 and are still functioning today.  This particular day, the town was very quiet as it was not only off season (between ski and hiking season) but also a Sunday when everything is closed.  It was nice to just walk around peacefully and take in the beauty of the area.

View looking from the Center of Cauterets

More Mountain views

The high peaks were stunning!
Below you can see where people in the town can take lifts up into the slopes & peaks with skis or hiking gear.  Wonderful concept!
The lift from the center of Cauterets

Some colors of Cauterets
I adored all the colors in this town - Pink buildings, yellow buildings, brightly painted shutters.  It was just so pretty and joyful.  I could definitely get a feel of how lively & vibrant this town could be during Winter and Summer seasons.
Love the colors and the style!

More colors & style of the town
Note the flower boxes with greenery ready to bloom - Spring was in full force - even though we had a long cold Winter.  My girls had fun wandering the streets - they too found the buildings very colorful.  It almost became a game to see how many different colors we could count.
Pink, yellow and the window boxes ready to bloom.

Having fun exploring the town.
Train station in Cauterets
We left Cauterets and head further into the Mountains toward the Pont d'Espagne.  This bridge is suppose to be stunning and very beautiful - with lots of hiking and snowshoeing trails around it. Pont d'Espagne is a stone-built bridge that spans the Gave de Marcadau at the point where it meets the Gave de Gaube, near one of its sources high in the French Pyrenees.
The Pont d'Espagne is at an altitude of approx 1500m. The name translates to Spanish Bridge. Unfortunately, we were running a bit short on time as we needed to head back to Lourdes and pick up my husband as he was finishing his conference.
Cascade du Lutour
We made it to the Cascade du Lutour - about 8 km from the Pont d'Espagne - this little stop has obviously become a great viewing area, as many cars had stopped here, along with a tour bus.  There were also a couple of restaurants and shops nestled on the side of the road.
More waterfalls

At Cascade du Lutour - relais Pont d'Espagne

Now of course, being the photographic mother that I am, my girls posed for some portraits - I loved how they just laugh with each other!

Having fun!
An ice cream was the final treat before we headed back to Lourdes - full tummies in the car are always a good thing!
Ice Cream!

A few final photos taken from the car as we drove back to Lourdes - again I give my 12 year old daughter photo credits for the next 3 shots.
Heading back to Lourdes - looking down into the valley

Up in the Mountains

Some curvy roads!

I look forward to enjoying this area again.  I would love to go back in the summer - when we can hike and walk around in the mountains.  A little spa time wouldn't be too bad either!

During this hot summer, I find it refreshing to look back through these snow-capped mountain photos.  This is such a beautiful area and truly not that far from the Bordeaux area.

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