Sunday, July 12, 2020

Announcement - American Mom in Bordeaux is evolving - Changes are happening

Bonjour tout le monde!!

If you have been following me on my social media (instagram and facebook) you will have noticed that big changes are happening!  American Mom in Bordeaux will be becoming My Bordeaux Tours with Jennifer Poe.

Why the change? Evolution and growth.  Originally American Mom in Bordeaux was started back in 2012 (wow - 8 years ago!!) as a blog to share my experience as an expat and our family experiences as we adjusted to a new culture, new systems and life in general in a new country.

As a family we have grown, we have changed - we have evolved.  My daughters who began their life here in France at 4, 7 & 10 years old  are now 19 (having finished her first year in a French Prepa University program in Physics & Chemistry), 16 ( currently attending high school with specialties in Literature, History and Politics with 2 more years left) and my youngest is 12 will be entering 5eme or 8th grade at our local middle school in the Fall.  They have moved through the French education system - each in their own way, each with their own experiences.  

As a family that initially arrived here as one unit, and we have divided into two.  Yes, although I didn't share much about this aspect of my life, we too like many couples  separated and divorced.  It was not easy on the family but we have evolved, we have all moved on.  The girls spend every other week with me and now that they are getting older - of course they spend a fair amount of time with their friends.

For myself, I have happily met someone new and between us we have 4 teenage girls.  Needles to say with 4 teenagers - the house can be very dynamic at times between all of them and their friends.  But then we have quiet time too - a benefit of being a recomposed family.

I have been happily working as a local & regional tour guide for the past 6 years.  Our seasons normally run between March and November and this opportunity has given me such an appreciation for this beautiful area that is not just about the wine!!  Yes, the wine is great too - but this area is so rich and dynamic in history.  This whole experience has peaked my love of history and wine.  I have even taken Wine & Spirit Education courses (WSET 2 & 3) to enhance and broaden my general knowledge of world wines.

Through my work, I have met so many wonderful and interesting people.  I have mainly worked for the river cruise companies (Viking Cruises, Ama Waterways and Scenic Cruises)  that sail along the Garonne & Dordogne Rivers.  I have so enjoyed my ongoing learning about this area and all the small towns surrounding Bordeaux in addition to fully understanding Bordeaux wine and it's special blends. 

I will be continuing my work with the river cruise companies - I adore all my clients and we have shared some great moments together.   I am complimenting this work with these small group walking tours in Bordeaux and recently I have chosen to pair this experience with a wine tasting at one of my favorite local wine bars. You can read more about my tour on the website.

Given the evolution of my life, the girls growing up and a more refined career focus, I have chosen to recreate my blog into the new site My Bordeaux Tours with Jennifer Poe and bring the blog along with it.  I will be continuing to share like before - photos of this gorgeous area and articles about what there is to see and do both in this area and in France, along with some of my experiences here in France.

Please come follow me & add yourself to my mailing list at My Bordeaux Tours to stay up to date on posts and news.

For those who come visit Bordeaux, you will see what I directly offer for tours - but of course there is always the opportunity to customize a tour to your liking.  

I look forward to this new chapter and new beginning... and hopefully see you in Bordeaux sometime soon!!!

Please feel free to follow me through my social media

Facebook - @mybordeauxtours
Instagram - @mybordeauxtours
Twitter - @MyBdxTours

My best to everyone!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Coronavirus -Post Lockdown France - Phase 2 & Acceleration to Phase 3

So here we are mid June - life is definitely returning to normal...along with new rules. It's funny to realize that it's only been a few weeks since lockdown was lifted, as it's been progressive.  Even during phase 1 - businesses and stores began to reopening progressively.  We all laughed as the first day after lockdown it rained - mother nature's way of reminding us to take it slow.  Honestly with all the regulations in place, it's reassuring but takes a bit of thinking to go and run errands.

Just to get a haircut (and believe me after 2 full months in lockdown -I badly needed and wanted one!) - meant deciding if I was going to brave public transportation or pay to park in Bordeaux center- mask on both in the tram and at the hairdresser - 2 hours with mask on and then returning home... it's a new life.  I wear my mask and feel protected but it's still different and not feeling normal at all.

So back on June 2 - France entered phase 2 of deconfinement.  France was divided into green and red zones indicating where the virus was still circulating at different percentages.  Green zones were good and ready to begin reopening and red zones had to take things a bit slower.  Paris & ile de France was still identified as an orange zone...(better than red but still not green).

As France entered this new phase, earlier rules began to relax for all.

Bars, cafes and restaurants could reopen fully in green zones but in orange zones only outdoor terraces could reopen.

Reopening of schools was accelerated with all schools aiming to reopen in all zones, although maximum class sizes of 15 still remained in place, so most pupils would be attending part time. 

The 100 km distance rule from phase 1 requiring certificates for a journey of more than 100 km from their home ended.

All beaches and lakes reopened ( with sanitary measures still in place - i.e. for walking,swimming, physical activities in the sand but no picnicking or sunbathing yet).  Theses were called - active beaches.

Gyms, swimming pools and leisure centers  could reopen in green zones but not in orange/red zones - again with health protocols in place.

Theaters and museums reopened in green zones but not movie theaters/cinemas or large stadiums.
Tourist accommodations (hotels, motels and rentals) could open in green zones - again with proper protocols in place.

One could socialize with family but not in public in groups bigger than 10.

All of this was good news, it's been nice to slowly return to living life.  We started to enjoy getting out and about but, for the last week it's been rainy again - so it slowed things down a bit.  although,we were able to head out to the coast to enjoy the Atlantic and a lovely sunset and we are hoping to do more.

My work as a guide is still on hold - as we are waiting for foreign tourists to be able to safely arrive and it's looking like maybe September. We will see how the virus continues in other countries.  This allows me to enjoy the summer.  With European borders opening up, we are hoping to take our vacation that we had planned back in January - but nothing has been confirmed any case, this region is so beautiful and we can certainly enjoy a bit of a staycation if we need to.

Last night President Macron spoke to the country and thanked all the citizens for their patience and the acceptance of the lockdown rules for these past months.  Together we all helped to control the virus and he announced that it's controlled as of today (June 15) but not gone.  We still need to be aware and take precautions.  Everything is now open fully in all zones and cinemas can open across the country.  Only large stadiums and concert venues remain closed until mid-July. 

Additionally, President Macron announced the opening of all childcare centers, preschools, elementary schools and middle schools as of June 22 and it's an obligation that all students attend (up until now, it's been the choice of parents is their children physically returned to school).  There will still be health measures and guidelines in place, but will be more relaxed.  They are using the models of other european countries (German and scandinavian schools)  that have fully opened schools within the last month and they are showing no increase in new covid-19 cases from children.  I'm happy that my daughter can see all her classmates and finish out the school year for some closure.

For high school students they are still doing distance learning from home but as high school class instruction is generally finished by early June to make way for the State exams beginning mid-month - this makes sense.  The government has previously cancelled all Baccalaureate exams for seniors and the exams taken at the end of Premier (or 11th grade), so high schoolers are getting to enjoy a bit of a longer summer, except for those who have classes or instruction to make up if their grades were not sufficient enough to pass.

France is moving in the right direction in any case.  Borders with many European countries opened June 15 and very soon ( in a week or 2 for many others).  There are still some countries that we can't travel to without a mandated 14 day quarantine - UK, Iceland, and Norway to name a few...but this could certainly change in the coming weeks. There has been no talk about travel to Canada or the US at this point.

As I said earlier - it's definitely a different life.  No "faire les bises" (kissing on the cheeks) when greeting friends - we have adopted elbow bumping with some of my friends - others it's just a big smile and a gesture.  One has to remember a mask when going anywhere....washing and rotating of the masks is an ongoing process.  

So life continues as we head back to normal and as we head into summer.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Day 73-Coronavirus-Post-Lockdown-Phase 1 France - the first few weeks after

Easing out of Lockdown - Opening of schools - living a new kind of life

I'm not sure if time is passing quickly or slowly these days.  We are eager to return to normal life but at the same time cautious and concerned about the spread of Coronavirus.  Since May 11 - we have had more freedom here in France but to be honest, returning to a "new" normal has taken some time. 

If you read my last post, we were eagerly awaiting for May 11 to see if the government would give the green light of lifting many of the restrictions.  And yes, - due to a very small percentage of the virus still circulating, our region of Nouvelle Aquitaine,  as with many other parts of France - the restrictions were lifted and new protocols were put in place.  Yes, life isn't exactly like it was before, but we do have more freedoms.

We can go out and about when needed without documentation & travel within 100km. Many stores and businesses reopened but with new sanitary measures put in place.  Stores reopened, most requiring masks when you enter.  Public transport - masks are also required.  Hair salons reopened - again - mask wearing is required of both the hair stylist and the client.  To walk outside, masks are not required, but social distancing is required.  Masks are required outside in areas that are more crowded - like our Pedestrian shopping street in Bordeaux - St. Catherine street.  Stores are asked to limit the number of people inside and to provide hand sanitizer at the door for people to use both coming in and going out.  It's definitely a new style of living and being more aware.  We can socialise and gather with friends, but for now it's limited to 10 people. Some parks are reopened but not playgrounds.  Beaches are reopened but in an active version - meaning one can swim, surf or run/walk along the beach but no sitting, picnicking or sunbathing.  (Trying to minimize crowds)  Restaurants, bars and cafes are not open yet, nor hotels.  It's definitely strange to go to Bordeaux but not be able to stop for a drink, or coffee.

Probably the most controversial change has been the re-opening of schools.  As I explained in my last post, they did make it optional for parents, but at the same time encouraged children to return with new health precautions put in place.  This opening was for regions of France where the virus was minimally circulating.  The elementary schools started progressively returning the week of May 11 and the 6th &7th graders at the middle schools started back the week of May 18.  They will make the decision about 8th & 9th graders and high schoolers in the beginning of June.

For schools to reopen, classes had to be limited to no more than 15, schools had to decide how the students were returning.  Many elementary schools chose to split the classes in half and each group returning 2 days/week - Mon/Tues or Thursday/Friday. (For elementary schools - there is no school on Wednesdays).  Masks were not required by elementary age students and each school could decide what worked best for their school.

For my daughter's middle school - they defined the new protocols based on 5 fundamental goals:
To maintain physical distance between all people.
To respect each other's personal space - min. 1.5 metres
To limit the flow and the crowding of students
To clean and disinfect the whole school.
To send information and communication to all families and school personnel.

The 2 entrances of the school will be divided to enter only and exit only.  
Students when arriving will go directly to the center court and find their groups (already marked out for appropriate social distancing).  

There will be hand sanitizer available in the halls & at the entrance for all.  It's recommended that students also bring their own and wearing of masks is required by all (students and staff)  in the hallways and in class.  Classes will be divided into half  (Group 1 & Group 2) -with a max of 15 students in each group.  Each group will attend school for a 1/2 day (morning or afternoon) and follow their normal school schedule.  When they are not physically in school, they will follow the distance learning curriculum.  The first week, Group 1 will do mornings and group 2 afternoons & the following week it will switch.  Each group/class will be assigned to one room and the teachers will come to this particular classroom.  The student's don't move until the end of their classes.  The groups would be escorted from the courtyard to their designated rooms and back again at the end of their classes.  They would then be dismissed by small groups to again limit the flow through the halls.  All school personnel helps to supervise the halls and flow of students for entering and exiting in addition to the courtyard.

Lunch is optional for the group that has morning class, but if they stay - the cafeteria has been arranged so students sit the appropriate distance apart.  Only cold lunches will be served.  

In addition to publishing all of these new protocols, the school, teachers, counselors and the director called all parents to review the new rules and also ask if our child was returning to school or not.

Even though how the school functions is very different and much more regimented than before - it ensures safety  and protection for students and staff.  As a parent, it's reassuring to see all that they have tried to do to help all of us begin to return to "normal" life.  

Obviously, for various reasons some parents chose to continue to keep their children home on the distant learning curriculum.  But for many others, they have sent their children back to school.  As students are restarting school essentially part time- the government has asked employers to continue to prioritize telecommuting for their employees where possible.   
My daughter returned along with 80% of her classmates.  Her half of the class is actually 11 students.  We are now in the middle of the second week - she did mornings last week and is on afternoons this week.  Her day varies from 2 hours of instruction to 4 hours maximum.  This will schedule will continue until the school year - for France - last day of school is Friday July 3.  We are beginning to return to living life...

It's been strange to slowly return to normal.  After 2 months of being confined to the house except for necessities - to have the freedom to go out was actually strange at first.  On day one - May 11 - it actually rained all day...Mother Nature's way of reminding us to take it slow.

We still need to think about bringing a mask out with us.  The town provided all citizens with washable masks and I have made some too.  With my youngest back at school, it means washing masks almost daily - new activity for post-lockdown life.  As far as work, for most life is slowly getting back to normal.  Companies are starting up again, stores are opening and soon hopefully restaurants and cafes will be opening soon.  Yes, there will be some businesses that couldn't handle the shutdown, other companies needs to lay off personnel.  France is slowly waking back up.

It's been nice to be able to go out.  Last week, I had a strong desire to put my feet into the ocean - so my youngest and I went off to Arcachon - my favorite little seaside town - located about an hour from us.  It was great to walk in the sand - breathe the sea air, and take in one of my favorite spots.  Luckily for us, ice cream shops are open - so what a treat.  It felt normal, it felt good and it felt like we are finally moving in the right direction - returning to living life.

We wait to begin Phase 2 next week.  The First minister - Edouard Philippe will speak this afternoon and announce when & where restaurants and bars will open, discuss 8th & 9th graders along with high schoolers, & parcs, gardens and pools.  Will they lift the 100km limit of travel?  So many questions.
In any case, France is waking up slowly and carefully.

Hope everyone is doing well.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Day 49 - Confinement in France - The easing up on the lockdown-plan...update

Bonjour tout le monde 

Here we are on day 49 of confinement or lockdown in France. If you're like our cat above - we are just tired of all of it.  But we continue with hope and with our ongoing human spirit.  There is a light forming at the end of the tunnel...we are beginning to see it...but we still have a ways to go. 

Last Tuesday afternoon - April 28 - the Premier Minister - Edouard Philippe spoke about the potential next stage for La France, if numbers continue to go down regarding the virus, new cases and hospitalizations alike.  This is a summary of his speech given to the National Assembly - (France's version of the US Congress).  
Watching the number of  severe cases decrease as we moved through April
Translation and resumé of Edouard Philippe's speech to National Assembly - April 28, 2020

Post confinement plans
The country cannot be forever confined. This plan's objective will be debated by the deputies and put to a vote.

(Here are the conditions regarding the virus)
- If the numbers don’t show a decline we will not deconfine on the 11th May or we will be under more strict terms than originally planned. The uncertainty is around the number of new daily covid-19 cases or the contamination chain for instance.  We must push the French people to be at the utmost discipline until the 11th May and to fight against any risk of laxity that we are feeling around us at this moment in time. (Simply put - we need to continue to adhere to the strict lockdown procedures.)

- After an initial phase of de-confinement on 11th May, a new stage will follow on the 2nd June for 3 weeks, with new measures that will all depend upon the level of this epidemic at that time.

- the deconfinement will be differentiated on 11th May between various regions: ‘green’ where it will be applied widely and ‘red’ where there will be more restrictions.  (They began reporting the status of each region by a map last Thursday April 30)

For this 3 different criterias will be studied up until and on the 7th May to determine within which regions:
1. the virus is still actively circulating (number of new cases being observed)
2. How hospitals regionally are coping in terms of capacity and pressure within intensive care units
3. In which region(s) the volume of local testing & detection kits are not quite ready

Regarding Transport
- wearing of masks will be compulsory on all public transport
- the number of people allowed on public transport will be reduced to respect social distancing (in carriages etc)
- interregional transport will be reduced to maximum level
- NO MORE need for an ‘attestation’ (signed honor statement) from the 11th May, unless for any travel further         than 100km from your home
- Ask that those over 65’s continue to limit their contact with people and the outside world

Events and Gatherings
- All large sporting/ cultural or any events with more than 5000 people will not go ahead until September earliest
- Cinemas/ Theatres/ Large museums and concert halls will continue to stay closed post 11th May for now
- Gatherings will be limited to 10 people from the 11th May on both public or private areas
- Beaches will stay closed until at least 1st June
- The professional sports season for 2019-2020 will not be able to resume
- no religious ceremonies before the 2nd June
- Funerals will continue to be limited to 20 people with cemeteries reopening as of 11th May

Schools and Crèche
- Progressive reopening of preschool and primary schools as of 11th May decided by region. 
  Parents may chose to not send children as long as distance learning is followed.
- Crèche will also reopen from 11th May with groups of max 10 children
- All workers within these establishments need to wear mandatory ‘grand publique’ masks
- Under 3’s not obliged to wear masks
- From 18th May and only in regions where the virus circulation is low (green) they may envisage opening
   collège (middle  schools) - starting with 6eme & 5eme (US equiv- 6th&7th grade)
- Wearing of masks will be mandatory in ‘collège’ secondary schools, these will be distributed to those who have     not been able to acquire their own
- A decision will be made at the end of May with regards to ‘lycée’s’ (high schools) along with 4ème & 3ème (8th     & 9th grade ) in the middle schools reopening starting with lycée professionnelles beginning of June

- Working from home must be continued where possible for at least the next 3 weeks (after 11th May)
- Flexible hours to be put in place where working from home is not possible
- Wearing of masks at work mandatory when physical distancing is difficult to have in place due to nature of work
- The partial unemployment’ offers by the govt to stay in place until 1st June

About masks
- It is recommended (as scientists and experts have suggested) to wear a mask whenever possible in many
- the PM promises there will be enough masks in France to face the needs on the 11th May
- They strongly advise companies to equipe their staff with the necessary safety protection required and for 
   members of the public to make their own masks using the various practical guides, online wherever possible.
- Nearly 100 million surgical masks received per week
- Collective regional support for the purchase of masks taking 50% charge of reusable/ washable masks
- Pharmacies and supermarkets are invited to sell masks (single use or reusable)
News on testing
- widely test people who have covid19 symptoms and those they are in contact with them.
- a ‘team’ has been put in place in each region to identify these people who may have been in contact with 
  someone presenting symptoms
- Their objective is to have done 700,000 virological tests per week starting 11th May
- Those tested positive will self isolate at home (which will mean everyone in their home too) for 14 days, or else 
  housed in accommodation put at disposition by the govt (requisitioned hotels for example)
- Health insurance to cover 100% of these tests

- Shops to reopen on 11th May except restaurants/ bars/ cafés. Masks recommended to be worn by personnel 
   and clients alike
- All outdoor food markets will reopen 11th May apart from some exceptions - & are too follow social distancing
- Commercial malls will not reopen if they are over 40,000 square metres in order to avoid the vast movement of 
   the population

END OF MAY they will evaluate the conditions and announce a new phase of de confinement. In particular a decision on how/ when to open up the possibility of restaurants, bars, cafés and summer holidays.

So we eagerly wait for May 11 - that light - it's not the end of the tunnel but it's the light that we can see.  France has consistently chosen to move in 3 week intervals -lockdown, extension of the lockdown...and now we wait for May 11...

None of these conditions are too much of a surprise.  Most businesses, stores and restaurants are all eager to re-open.  But there is also fear - fear of a second wave - fear that the virus will spread more as people are out and about.  The French government is constantly telling us that we are NOT returning to life as we knew it.  We are taking initial steps to ease some of the restrictions for those regions that are ready.  But we haven't had the green light yet....

As of today - France counts - 168,693 cases of Coronavirus with 24,895 deaths. For the past 10 days the number of  deaths and the number of patients in ICU has steadily been dropping.  Now in certain regions of France - they are still over bed capacity in their ICU's but in other regions - are well within normal limits.  It's a waiting game - the same as it is world wide.  In our region of Nouvelle Aquitaine - we were not hit as hard with the virus (fewer cases, hospitalizations and deaths) so we have more hope that come May 11 - we will be one of the regions to experience this first step - first phase of deconfinement.

My biggest concern is the kids returning to school.  I'm waiting to see what the town is proposing.  As my girls are older - I have a slightly different perspective than a parent with elementary age children.  At this point, my youngest (12.5 years old) would be starting first.  She will be required to where a mask.  She is also old enough to know how to keep her distance.  No hugs, no kisses on the cheeks with friends - no touching!  She needs to see her friends, she needs interaction - but she is also old enough to know the rules and follow them.  There will also be a lot of hand washing!
The schools are suppose to limit the classroom size to 15 kids.  But we are not sure how this will happen - half days? half weeks?  A weeks and B weeks?  I would chose to take me daughter to school or to have her ride her bike.  She would not be taking public transport at this point.  We just don't have all the information yet.

But I'm waiting to see what is proposed for our town and her school.  I know the teachers and the schools in general are having a hard time figuring this all out.  So it's another waiting game to see if returning to school is really going to happen.  I know for the High school students they have postponed the decision until June 1 - and for my oldest - she's not returning.  (Yes, a trip will need to be made to get her stuff out of her room...oh joy!!!).  

So it's still wait and see here in France - with a hope toward next Monday - the magic date of May 11!!!  We continue to live in our limited confined state at home.
Seafood delight!!  Reaping the benefits of living near the Ocean!
lots of  reading going on...

Paella - made by our wonderful neighbor!!

And really missing this!!  I miss my clients, my job and showing off this beautiful area on a daily basis.  This is what I was doing one year ago today!!!  A fun little trip to the Sauternes region with my clients from Viking Cruises!  So looking forward to seeing my clients again!!

Chateau Rayne Vigneau - Sauternes

Hope everyone is well & taking care of themselves.

A Bientot - See you again soon!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Day 42 - Confinement - Lockdown in France - Update on life and when we might slowly return to normal...

Update - Confinement/Lockdown- 7th week

It's now been 6 weeks that we have been in strict confinement here in France - I know the last time I wrote - we were waiting to hear about a possible extension & yes, as we thought- the confinement was extended until at least May 11.  But they very quickly added that on May 11, we would not be returning to life as it was - it will be a progressive return to life and definitely different than before.

This state of strict confinement is definitely getting long.  We all have good days and bad days.  Often all feels okay, it's fine and in other moments - it's just so very tiresome!!  How many times can I rearrange my cupboards, clean the refrigerator, search new recipes to try or pull weeds out of the garden?  .  We choose to go out as little as possible, in France the saying is "Restez chez vous" (Stay home).  Yes, I take my walks but for this past week, it's been rainier and colder and frankly, I have had little motivation to go out and even though the days pass - it's frankly getting quite long.  I miss getting out and about.  Socializing or even just wandering around the city.  The big outing last week was to shop at our local warehouse store and I picked up items for my neighbors.  This meant I could deliver and talk to them for a few minutes outside - keeping our social distance.  It's amazing when you are so use to interacting with people, how much you actually miss it when you can't.  I adore my neighbors - we are all around the same age with children about the same age - so it's nice to catch up and chat a bit.  It's different in person versus Zoom or messaging.  I am a social person - I enjoy interacting with people, it gives me energy.  I miss my job, I miss my clients.  I miss showing and touring the region.

I have done projects that I have put off for years - cleaning out personal papers, re-arranging cabinets, cleaning numerous times.  I have enjoyed trying out new recipes.  Lots of people have said that they have had confinement projects, and yes, I made some masks and I've organized things - but it's getting tiresome.  I am so ready to return to life.


But they say here, life won't be as we knew it before.  The government is working on a deconfinement  plan - phasing in re-openings and returning to work/normal life.  Returning to school for the children is also part of this plan...but all will be phased in slowly. Slowly.. They have already announced that most stores can re-open on May 11 with safe sanitary measures in place - social distancing, anti-bacterial gel,  & masks (if needed). But restaurants and bars will remain closed for a while longer.

The wearing or not wearing of masks has been a big debate here in France.  Is it really that helpful in the general public, especially if you keep your social distance?  Do people know how to appropriately wear them?  As there has been a shortage, how does the country insure that all people have them?  We have listened and watched the media reviewing all of these questions and more.  So far in France, they have announced that masks will be required when riding public transportation. Cities and towns have ordered reusable masks for their populations to be distributed within the next weeks or so. 

May 11 also marks the re-opening of schools - but this is still to be organized.  This is a very heated topic in France as many parents, teachers & doctors are not in favor of this and would prefer that schools wait until September to re-open.

But here is what has been laid out so far by the government regarding schools:

All schools will be thoroughly disinfected before opening.

Class sizes will be limited to 15 students with social distancing measures put in place.

The details on what this will look like or how this will be done will be up to each School. Not all schools will open at the same time - levels and grades will be phased in:

May 11th
The date when children in three year groups - grande section (US-Kindergarten, 5-6 year olds), CP (first year of école primaire, 6-7 year olds- US-1st Grade) and CM2 (last year of école primaire, 10-11 year olds-US 5th grade) will return to school.
May 18th.
From May 18th secondary school pupils in 6e (11-12 year olds-US -6th grade), 3e (14-15 year olds- US 9th grade) and lycéens (high schoolers) in the second and third years (Première and Terminale- US- 11th& 12th grade) will be able to return to school.
May 25th.
The week the remaining classes go back to school.

Parents can choose to keep their children at home as long as distance-learning modules can be maintained.

Universities and Post-Secondary studies will remain closed until September.

Use of masks are probable but no firm decision has been declared yet.

There are still many questions from many parents and teachers as to what this will really look like in each school.  Normal class sizes runs between 30-35 students in many establishments. Class sizes in the lower grades are also as high as 25 - so how will the limit of 15 be met?  Can we really expect children, especially young children to keep proper social distancing from their friends?  Again so many questions and not a lot of answers yet.

The girls are anxious to return to school, see their friends and get out of the house.  All of this is normal but life will not return to what it was - not yet in any case.  Still so many questions.

In any case, we continue to receive information regarding exactly how things will work when the lockdown is lifted.  Early on we watched a lot of news regarding the epidemic and especially how it affected France and the United States.  But recently it's been media overload and we have cut back on our viewing.  We listen for the highlights and read papers/news when we want.  In these days and times, my phone will send notifications when a big news happens.  This allows me to relax and enjoy my days and not get too worried about what is to come.

We still have a 2 weeks before the magic date of May 11, but I know May 11 will not mean life as it was - it will not be the same as will be different.  This date may also be pushed out further depending on the statistics of the virus.

So we wait to get more information.  In the meantime, it's life confined at home.....
I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe.

Score some oysters from Cap Ferret - delivered directly to the house!! Yum!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Day 21 - Confinement in France - the uncertainly, the waiting & my beloved Bordeaux

We have finished our 3rd week of official confinement in France.  Still waiting for the situation in France to improve healthwise with this virus.  Still too many deaths, too many people in Intensive care and still new cases each day.  I try not to worry too much, but this is the daily news.

Life last week the girls returned to my home and fell back into their routine of schoolwork.  We did add exercising to the mix.  By French confinement rules, we are allowed one hour a day to venture out for exercise.  The State stresses that this is for exercising not for just being out wandering.  So on Wednesday afternoon, the older girls headed off on a jog for an hour and my 12 year old & I went off on a brisk walk....well I walked briskly, she followed on her skateboard!  (Children have a bit more flexibility with the rules, they can go out with their parents on bikes, skateboards etc...)   As adults we can't ride our bikes except for either going to work (if approved) or to run the necessary errands. In any case, it felt really nice to venture out beyond our walls.  It felt so nice that I have begun a new routine of a power walk each day.  It does feel good.  But it is for exercising, not just to get out - it feels good to exercise & work out that underlying stress of this whole situation.
To be honest, it's still stressful even to go out.  I've realized that there is a feeling of safety to be home, staying at home.  We have control at home, everything is clean, no one is sick.  I'm a not a person who is fanatic about these things, but this virus is definitely something serious and it makes you think twice about how germs are transmitted.  It's important to keep things clean & stay healthy.  I do believe that exercising daily helps our immune systems and I believe that this was the true intent of the 1 hour a day allowance of exercising.  
Each night we watch the news to see how everything is going.  We are somewhat lucky here in our part of France - we are one of the areas lesser hit - fewer cases in total for our region.  But the virus is still here none the less and still increasing.  We watch to see how many new cases, how many new deaths - both as a country and as a region.  We watch for the number of cases to lessen, the number of deaths each day to lessen..we wait & we hope.  It didn't help this last week that France was originally showing numbers of deaths in just the hospitals but not in the nursing homes & they finally added them all in and are now appropriately counting them both.  This means that our numbers took a bit jump all of a sudden.  It's important to understand how each country is counting their deaths.  I just learned this morning, that in the United Kingdom, they are just counting like France was doing before - confirmed cases of Covid-19 who pass away at the hospital.  But there seem to be other deaths, outside of the hospitals where Covid-19 was listed as the cause on their death certificates and these are not in their offical numbers.  This makes it harder to compare countries and situations.

Of course, I keep a close eye on the United States too.  So it's actually a bit of a double stress for me as I follow our life here in France, along with the mess in the United States.  I definitely have to limit my news information, it gets overwhelming too easily & too fast.

As of yesterday, as we started our 4th week in confinement - here in France, like elsewhere, there is the debate about everyone wearing masks in the general public.  At this point, it is not mandatory, it's seems to be highly recommended and this might change in the immediate future.  It's been reported that the city of Bordeaux has ordered reusable fabric masks for everyone that can be worn and cleaned for a duration of 30 days.  New details keep emerging but like many other areas, many people are making their own and using them when out and about.  

In all of this sadness, sometimes it's necessary to laugh.  The following was a comic sent to me by friends.  It translate to:  Trump's advisors have advised him to wear a mask. But they were not precise enough.
There is definitely the concern here that people are getting tired of being confined and are going out more.  Especially in Paris, where this last weekend, there were many photographs of people out and about "doing their shopping" or "exercising" - but many more than before.

I just read an article from here in Bordeaux about the stupid excuses that people gave our local police here in Bordeaux to justify their ventures out and about.  Like the woman who was wandering along with a pet carrier under her arm & told the police that she is allowed to walk her dog...a stuffed dog!!  Or the man who tells the police that his dog just ran off the leash...  For exercising, the woman who tells the police that she has the right to exercise her infant son in a stroller because isn't it the same as exercising her dog?  In Paris, it's worse, there are just more and more people venturing out.
You can see it's starting to get long for people...

In Paris, today they have started new controls that indicate that you do NOT have the right to exercise between 10am & 7pm.  All in an effort to get people to think twice and stay home.  Some cities have installed curfews that no one is to be out after certain hours.  We protect ourselves & we protect others.

They have just announced that President Macron will be speaking on Thursday evening.  Will he extend our confinement until the end of April? There is so much uncertainty, so much that is unknown....from my single perspective, I think the confinement will be extended as France has not started seeing a consistent decrease in the number of deaths or the number of cases admitted to the hospital.  We have good days and bad days.  There seems to be glimmers of hope from Italy and from Spain - but remember both countries have been locked down very strictly for the past few weeks..
So we will wait and see.

In the meantime,  as I have done before, I wanted to share a little corner of our paradise.  Here's a few photos of my beloved Bordeaux - the city that has gone very quiet over the past month.  I long to return to the keyside, to the center and enjoy it's charm.
The Grosse Cloche
The Stone Bridge - Le Pont Pierre

Winter skies along the Key side
More views along the Garonne River

Wishing everyone well and I hope you are staying safe.  Until next time....

Monday, March 30, 2020

Day 14 - Corona Virus in France - Staying Protected, Family time & Solidarity in the country

We are starting week 3 of homeschooling/distance learning and we are finishing our second week of strict confinement.  The girls have returned back to my house, after spending a week at their father's house and life continues.. or our new Corona virus life.
Not sure if the cat is thrilled to have everyone around 24/7 ,,
Our days are filled with cleaning the house, cooking meals, sharing jokes among friends and neighbors and various mini projects.  The garden looks lovely and neat - rooms have gone through a big Spring cleaning.  We all have probably received those ideas, those videos of all the fun things one can do as a family during lockdown....the reality - no one is too overly ambitious.  There is a fair amount of surfing the internet, hanging on the couch and watching films or TV series.  

We have enjoyed a couple virtual aperos via zoom with our neighbors and friends - it feels so nice to catch up!!! Zoom seems to be our new best friend - allowing video conferencing between friends.

With teenage girls - they enjoy their time in their rooms, watching Netflix movies and series and exchanging with their friends.  We do hang out all together but I also know they enjoy their private time too.   Meal times  are our together time and this has always been our favorite time as a family.  Maybe because they are all in the same place at the same  Saturday night, I decided we would have "make your own pizza night" - I made pizza dough and put out toppings and off they went....

It was definitely a fun time and lightened the mood a bit.  The weather has turned a bit colder.  We have had a very mild March and this week it has been forecasted to be cold and rainy.  But it's back to routine today. Classes and school work for the girls.

Our strict confinement has been officially extended until minimally April 15.  Again in France, we can only go out of our homes with our official statement and only for necessities.  The idea is to stay in - stay at home.  Protect ourselves and protect others, only exit when totally necessary.  We did go out food shopping again last Friday - back to our supermarket.  It's still surreal - so quiet and orderly.  It was less stressful this time, as we knew what was going to happen, how we would have to wait, how they only let a certain number of people in the store at the same time.  Little conversation, and everyone keeps their distance.

The reality of this is we all live with a certain level of stress - watching the number of cases increase each day, hearing unfortunately about the number of deaths per day. France has not hit the peak yet - they are predicting that it will be in about 5-7 days - but that's just prediction - we will see with real numbers.  For me there is added stress of watching this whole epidemic play out in the US where all my family and friends live.  Every country handles this differently and in the US - every state is handling this differently. It's all very overwhelming at times.

Here in France - the hardest hit areas are the "Grand Est" -North East and Eastern France and now, Paris.  Where we live, it's been one of the less hit areas - we still have cases, they are still increasing but other areas of France have many more.  Hospitals in the harder hit areas are filling up - patients in severe distress.  There is a shortage of beds in these areas.  In the town of Mulhouse, the French army has installed an army hospital to serve more patients.  They are also moving patients by a military medical plane across France to areas like the Nouvelle Aquitaine or other lesser hit regions.

We actually had the military plane fly over our home last Friday. (We live 10 minutes from the airport) - It was huge and very loud as it brought the first patients to hospitals in our area.  France has also chosen to medicalized and equipe 2 TGV trains for transporting patients from these hard hit areas to other areas of France.  We also had one of these trains arrive yesterday in Bordeaux.  The coordination efforts of these maneuvers is huge and the medical teams that travel with these patients - dedication.  It's amazing to read about, but sad at the same time.  

Like other countries France is facing a shortage of masks, hand gel and even respirators.  Companies have gone into 24 hours production to turn out more masks for health care professionals.  Other companies have altered their production from one product to start making sanitizing gel and even respirators.  One has to look beyond the drama of everyday news to find inspiring stories like these.  People and companies who are helping out in their own way.  

We have farmers offering baskets of food to hospitals and health care workers, Oyster farmers delivering trays of Oysters to hospitals.  Grocery stores that have dedicated lines to give these professionals priority.  The towns offer school and child care for children of health care professions. Companies refitting and reorganizing production to help with the medical supply shortage.  Designer houses - changing their production - all towards helping during this crisis.

As there is more and more concern about how contagious this virus really is -some health care professionals are choosing not to return home to their families out of protection.  Many hotels have offered free rooms.  There is definitely an outpouring of humanity.  To watch the country come together in solidarity is humbling.  As in other countries, each night at 8pm, people gather at their windows and balconies to applaud these hard-working health care professionals.   (Where we live, it's harder to hear - as we are on a residential street in the suburbs with houses and yards -and many lots are deep with one house sitting in front of other.  It's not the same as living on a city street).

It's these acts that give hope, hope to all of us that we will make it through this time.  News from China indicates that they are now able to exit their homes, go to work and now shops and restaurants are re-opening.  They are the hope, the model, the place to look - but remember - they built new hospitals, they had to generate new materials also.  We didn't necessarily pay close attention, but we are all living the same experience now.  

As we look at minimum another 15 days of strict confinement, I think toward the future - to a month or two  from now when this will be behind us - when life returns to normal - or perhaps a new kind of normal.  

In the meantime, I want to continue to share our lovely area - so full of life and beauty.  Here are some lovely scenes of the Dordogne River - at the port of Libourne one morning last Fall.  I love the fog - a nice symbol for our experience now, it will eventually lift and our life will return again.

Wishing everyone well -  Stay safe.

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