Our friends, (well, technically our kid's ex-half cousins, ya got that?) are traveling throughout Europe this year and homeschooling their children, ages 10 and 12. They started off in Portugal, then Spain, Italy and will now finish off their time here in France and then England. The list of countries they had planned to visit was cut a little short due to problems with their Visas. Ugh, the paperwork and legalities of living abroad can be a drag but a necessity. We too had an issue with our kid's Visas so they are not allowed out of the Schengen area. Unfortunately, that means no trips to Marrakech or London like we had hoped.
They rented a gite from a friendly and well traveled French couple near the seashore an hour and a half south of Bordeaux in a small town called, Escource. The barn conversion was extensive, meaning well insulated and warm! Warm, a luxury we will never take for granted. Central heating is practically unheard of in the French countryside and although parts of our old stone farmhouse are always warm from our wood burning stove, other parts are always chilly. We do use the wall-mounted heaters sparingly but when necessary because of the big electrical expense. Utilities are more pricey in France than the U.S..
Road-tripping in France can be quite different than the U.S. too. There are far less major highways with multiple lanes and when you do use a major highway, it will often have tolls. The rest areas have hardly any food options, usually only one, and it often is not fast food but a proper sit-down restaurant. The one we stopped at also had air-hockey, a few arcade games, and a play structure for the kids outside. The recycling containers are not at all unusual. As a whole, France is as green as Portland, Seattle or San Francisco. People here seem to buy less, waste less, and conserve our precious resources. While the kids were outside playing on the structure, I noticed a motorist picnicking in their car. When they had finished, the woman walked over to the trash to shake the crumbs from her tin foil and then brought the foil back to her car to reuse I presume. Love that thriftiness!
All 9 of us live near the beach in California so it's tough going days/weeks/months without seeing the ocean. It has been 5-1/2 months since our family had been to the beach so despite the cold, I was determined feel the sand in my toes and snap some photos of the winter sea. Well, our outing was eventful and memorable and perhaps even life threatening to those in our group who weigh less than 60 pounds.
The little seaside community of Mimizan, a surf spot in the summer, along the Atlantic coast of France was a ghost town at this time of year. We neglected to pay any attention to the guard rail that had been knocked down at the entrance to the beach or to the construction workers who yelled, "faire attention (be careful)!" The kids quickly kicked off their shoes and got their toes wet in the surf. Isaac grabbed a stick and wrote "SLO" in the sand. We innocently snapped photos and set down our sack of lunch into the dry sand. And then...Eero had a premonition. He clung to the flimsy fence at the top of the bluff and looked out at the fierce sea and felt scared. He refused to get any closer. Next thing you know, the sea rose and a shelf of water was coming towards us. The big kids ran towards higher ground, I grabbed Wilder's hand and dragged him towards safety. Susie went to save the precious picnic she had just prepared and packed. We lost 5 shoes and the bag of sandwiches to that wave. We retrieved all but one of Wilder's boots and we even managed to salvage half of the sandwiches, thanks to the ziplock bag.
Once we were back on safe territory, Eero would not turn his head away from that loud and angry winter ocean.