Wednesday, September 18, 2013

News - Paris, Expat blog Contest, Loire Valley Article in Girl's Guide to Paris ET PLUS & some music!!

Morning view of Paris - Rainbows are always great to see!

A little of everything....

It's the third week of school and we are still trying to find the routine of the family.  The juggle of where activities fit in and who has what when - is always a bit of a challenge with having 3 girls.  Needless to say, this has zapped into some of my blogging time.  In addition, I had a wonderful opportunity late last week to visit with my sister-in-laws from Boston up in Paris.  Too good of an opportunity to pass up (I hadn't seen her in over a year)...but again the organization of being away for 3 days takes some time.  Throw in my laptop computer malfunctioning last week - it's been a bit crazy here!  Currently, using my daughter's laptop - thank goodness!!

So briefly - in Paris - I enjoyed some "Girl" time!  We toured the Musee Marmatton Monet (we met up with Nicky from Growing Berries), lunched and then did a little shopping and browsing along the Champs-Élysées.
Enjoyed Musee Marmatton Monet

L'Arc de Triumphe - and walking down the Champs-Élysées

It was fun to just have a relaxing time!  Enjoyed some nice meals - both unique (Tapas) & traditional.  Returned refreshed and relaxed!!  There is just something about girl bonding time!!
Fun Tapas meal - breaded Calamari

Of course - Mojito's are always delicious!

Fell in love with this entree - Fresh Artichoke hearts, Arugula & shaved Emmental cheese

Circle of Mom's Top European Mom Blogs 
Someone nominated me again this year for Circle of Mom's Top 25 European Mom Blogs.  This is a voted ranking.  Readers may vote daily for blogs that they enjoy up until Oct. 4th.  It's also a great place to find new blogs. (Last year, I ended up at #26)  So please - if you are feeling up to it - Click on the link below and vote for me.  Feel free to share the list & recommendations with friends also - All votes count!!  Remember you can vote daily!! (At this point, I'm at #6 ..)

Girls' Guide to Paris - newsletter/article
Wanted to also share with everyone - that I just had an article published in The Girl's Guide To Paris ET PLUS - e-magazine.  This travel website is expanding beyond being an excellent resource for all things "Paris".  They have created a digital travel magazine which will be exploring  Paris, France and many other destinations around the world.  My article - The Loire Valley en Famille is featured in their debut edition.  If you are interested in checking it out and also reading about Vendage in Bordeaux & the area of  Provence - just subscribe to their newsletter (free) and you will receive one free copy of their new magazine!  If you love what you see - you can then subscribe to receive this beautiful magazine - 6 times/year.

Additionally, you can find more information here:  Girl's Guide to Paris - website

Dave Rudbarg Music
 Finally - A little plug for a great musician and friend of mine, Dave Rudbarg.  He lives in NYC and previously produced a wonderful album entitled "Living in the Land of Yes".  He's passionate about music in general and what music is for people in this world.  Take a listen to the video below.

If you enjoy what you heard, read more about him below.  You can see from what he shares - he's up to great things and truly wants to make a difference for people in this world!

So it's off to run the girls around to their various Wednesday activities!!  Thanks again for reading!  Have a good rest of the week!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Marathon des Chateaux du Medoc....What a race!!

Chateau Pichon-Longueville

Pay attention all you runners out there!!  (and even if you are not a runner, this event is not to be missed!).  Last Saturday, the girls and I headed up to the Marathon des Chateaux du Medoc.  Yes, it's a real marathon whose route winds through some of the most beautiful wine country and chateaux in the world.  The 26.2 miles pass through about 59 vineyards situated in the beautiful charming towns of the Medoc-Bordeaux region.  But there are a few unique features to this marathon...

The first unique feature is that this race is a costumed race where runners dress up appropriate to the theme of the year.  This year the theme was Science fiction.  As you can see from the photos, anything one could think of relating to science fiction, super heros, space travel, aliens was covered.  The participants in this race take this part very seriously!  It's definitely part of the fun!

Caped Crusaders & Aliens

Yes, this guy was actually a runner - God bless him!
It was a cloudy, rainy morning, & I didn't feel like braving huge masses at the starting line - so we choose to arrive in Pauillac late morning. Luckily the weather also improved! We got very lucky to find parking on the outskirts of town and walked in to catch many runners hitting the half way mark as they ran through Pauillac headed North to complete the second half of the race.

Aviatar, Trekkies & a Cavewoman?

Pirates of the Caribbbean.

COLA Construction workers

Running with their space ship!

Even Aliens have a space ship too!
We kept moving along the streets - finding our way through Pauillac.  The end of the race was located on the Eastern side of Pauillac along the Garonne River.  We wanted  to evenually make it over there.
French Supermen!

More Avitar, Wonder Woman and school girls?

Mr. Incredible, Superman & various others.

The second unique feature of this race is the drink stations - At this race, one is asked if they want "Red or White?" that is!  Essentially this marathon is run between all of these chateaux or wineries and the participants get to taste each special blend.  It's a giant tasting party, with some excercise built in! In addition to the degustation of the wine, local food can also be sampled by the runners along the route- there are cheese, meats, oysters, ham, all the local specialties  Just imagine how picturesque and beautiful this course could be, running and jogging through gorgeous vineyards, enjoying the rolling landscape, being able to view some of the most beautiful Chateaux in France. If you are a runner, this marathon is definitely one to check out.  (Almost makes me want to take up running!)

The more traditional part of the water station at Chateaux Rose-Paulliac

The more interesting part of the stop

Red wine anyone?

Love the wine in one hand and the water bottle in the other!

One of the ghostbusters modeling his lovely glass!
We found our way over to the river and stopped less than a 1/4 mile from the finish line.  It was the last curve as the runners entered back into the town.  We grabbed some sandwichs of saussison, fries and drink and proceeded to watch the runners hit the final stretch - looking a lot more tired now.
Roadside lunch

Almost there....
My younger girls decided to give high "5's" to the runners and cheer them on to the finish!  It was nice to see so many runners interact with the kids!  After eating and watching for awhile - we walked on down to view the finish line.

Little green men do exist!

The beginning of the finish line
This is a very international run - it is limited to 8500 runners.  Listening to the announcer at the finish line - both French and English were spoken.  We saw runners sporting flags indicating their nationality - French, British, USA, Spain, Italy & many more - I'm sure the runners came from all over!  I loved this house near the finish line..they definitely embraced the international sense of this race!

Decorated to support!

More International flavor!
At the finish line, I was able to congratulate several runners.  It was a delight to speak with fellow Americans.  Several of them had never run this race before, but said it was one of the most fun races they had ever done!
2 American runners

Marathons are not for the weak, they are for the hard-core runner - after all 26.2 miles is quite long.  I mean let's look at that distance for a moment.  If one was driving a car at 55 mph, that mean it would take 30 minutes to arrive at your destination.  30 minutes of sitting in a car, letting your engine drive you there.  But imagine if you were the one burning the energy - a person causally can walk a 20 min. mile.  If one was to walk this  - 524 minutes - or between 8 and 9 hours to complete.  If you were to begin at 9 am  - you wouldn't be done until 5-6 pm and that's without stopping! 

So imagine running this length, and then imagine stopping to enjoy some of the local fare and of course, the wine!  Yes, the wine - and now you can see why this marathon has been dubbed "The Longest Marathon in the World!"
Love the Poster!

Downtown Pauillac

Even some of the spectators got into the fun spirit!  Love the squirt gun!
The girls and I thoroughly enjoyed watching this marathon.  It was a little bit like watching a parade!  Downtown Pauillac is also a beautiful town, located right along the Garonne River.  They have a nice port and are in the process of renovating their riverside into some parks and gardens.  When the work is completed this waterfront will be stunning!

Girls enjoyed some time on the playground near the waterfront

A lot of fun! 

Love the totem at one of the roundabouts near St. Julien
As we drove back home, it was such a pleasure to enjoy the rolling hills and fields of grapes.  It's almost harvest time, so the grapes are almost at peak and they are beautiful!


Investigating the grapes!

Don't they look delicious?

Almost harvest time!
One final note, since we were up in the Medoc , I know a very special store in Margaux, that is a "must" visit.  It's my favorite chocolate store!!  Of course, we stopped there to picked up some of their delicacies   They even let you sample before you buy!! In my opinion no visit to the Medoc region is complete without going there - I mean who can resist wine and Chocolate!! We will definitely be returning again to see this marathon...even being a spectator was a great experience!!

Chocolate from Mademoiselle de Margaux - Delicious!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

C'est La Rentree - Back to Routine & Start of the Academic Year - Schools in France

It's Back to School Time!!

It's funny this week - the weather seemed to know that Fall is arriving - nights have gotten cooler, there's a crispness in the air.  Even though the days are still warm, mornings are cool.  We had a beautiful, sunny, hot summer - full of fun, relaxed play, pure enjoyment - went to the beach, went to the river...well, went all around.  I look back at our "stay-cation" summer and realize it was loads of fun!

So now - we shift gears -and start the regular school year.  The girls go back to school, my husband off to work and I...well, the taxi driver service starts again, I have new projects to complete, exercise classes to start and new ventures to explore.

This last week, the girls got eased into school.  On Tuesday, my younger two daughters began - one starting CM1/fourth grade and the other CP/1st grade.  Now for all my American friends and readers.  CP/1st grade, here is the big move to Elementary school. (Kindergarten is still held at the public preschool). The move to "real school", they are no longer so little, it's more serious, there's more work to be done.  Whenever we share that she's entering CP, all the French "oh and ah" over the fact that it's real school - very similar to heading off to Kindergarten.  So she's feeling pretty special, pretty "grown up".

This was our second start to a new school year (even though it's our third year here, we arrived in late October our first year).  We learned the hard way last year, that parents are actually suppose to come with the students on the first day of school. My kids usually ride a school bus each day, and last year we were a bit surprised that they were the only ones on the bus that first day of school!- My middle daughter then came home a bit miffed - that she didn't have her parents there for the first half an hour of school!  All I can say, typical French communication, how would we know this?  Nothing was sent out, no where was it written that this is what one does.  On a normal day, if you drop your child off, you are not allowed passed the first gate into the courtyard.

So this year, we knew better and I had 2 children to take to the elementary school.  The girls were so excited on the first day of school - so happy to reconnect with friends.  The were also anxious to meet their teachers.  Here in France, they don't find out who their teacher is until the first day of school. Class lists and teachers are posted on the walls when you arrive at school.  I have heard of some schools who post these lists outside the day before, but our school waits until the first day.  Our school is relatively small, so there are generally 2 sections of each level - one solid level and one mixed level.  For example there is a CP and a CP/CE1 (Or 1st grade and 1st & 2nd combo).  We had a little heads up, that my youngest was in the CP class, as the mother of her best friend was the teacher of the CP/CE1 and she knew she didn't have her daughter or many of  her daughter's friends.
After the majority of parents arrived, the Director of the school begins to speak and welcomes everyone to a new year and introduces the teaching team.  It was great to be able to put names to faces.  My oldest daughter was thrilled to find herself in class with her good friend and she was placed in a CM1/CM2 (4th/5th grade) combo class.  Coming from my education background, it will be interesting for me to learn this year, exactly how this type of class works here in France.  (What is separated by grades and what is combined..).

My oldest daughter got really lucky this year.  As she is entering 5eme (7th grade), she didn't start until Thursday morning.  (So, we actually ended up with 2 sets of back to school photos!!) She only had a half day -just getting her schedule, books and team section.   She will start fully on Monday with her schedule - and it's pretty full this year - She has the typical classes of 5eme - French, History, Math & Physics/Chemistry, English, Music, & Technology along with an additional language class in Spanish (some students might choose German instead of Spanish).  She also choose to begin Latin. this year.  

So this weekend, we are getting back into routine, getting organized and starting that thing called homework!!  My younger 2 daughters had some assignments this weekend .  Below, I have shared the first homework assignment from CP/1st grade.  (Yes - they learn cursive in 1st grade for all my American readers).

(The translates to - For Monday Sept. 9th - I will know how to recognize the letters of the alphabet and I know who to write the following letters in cursive:  a, c, o, e, i, r, s, u, v.
I know my poetry (memorize) "It's Back to School time".
I write my name 3 times in cursive.
I have the information about the parent meeting signed.
I have thought to bring a bag with my sports clothes (t-shirt, sneakers) as we are going to the gym room on Monday at the stadium.)

All of this sounds simple enough, but my lovely almost 6 year old is definitely adjusting to the concept of homework and writing is not fun for her - It doesn't help that she is left handed!  The French school system & teachers have high expectations about neat, beautifully written work.  It's extremely important to learn to stay in the lines and follow the guides perfectly.  I think this might be a long year when it comes to homework for her!!  

So goodbye relaxing summer evenings, bye warm breezy nights, so long to the ease of vacation.  C'est La Rentree!! 

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