Saturday, July 28, 2007

We'll always have the South of France... Days 1 & 2

We are finally home from 10 days in sunny warm France. We're exhausted and very happy to be back despite the record breaking rain happening here in England. I've been dreading blogging about this trip because each day was full of new experiences and places and we were gone for 10 days. That's a lot of blogging! So, with an effort to overcome inertia before memories fade, here is part one of what is sure to be a bit of a mini-series.

We went to France with our friends Anthony, Lizzie, Sophie, and Darren. Anthony goes to church with us and has nearly completed his PhD in Astronomy at Sussex Uni. We left with him on Monday morning and flew from Gatwick to Montpellier. Anthony snapped this shot of us at Gatwick.

From the Montpellier airport we rented a car and drove to the tiny village of Laurens which is about an hour away. On the way we got lost searching for a Toys R Us. Yes, you read that right. We flew to France to go to Toys R Us. I wanted to buy a baby gate in France so I didn't have to take it with me on the plane. Besides, I have been told by multiple people that things on the continent are much cheaper. I've been told this so much that I persisted in believing it despite having been there twice before. I'd just like to set the record straight. Things cost just as much or more than they do here! Ok, now that my massive readership of European-bound travellers are informed, I can proceed in peace.

Long story short: The cheapest baby gate was 60 euros ($82, £40), so I bought something I hoped would work for 16, unfortunately it didn't. I tried to return it and ended up with 16 euros of credit that could only be used in France. Meanwhile, Iain, Anthony, and Brian are all waiting for me in the car! After chatting it over we decided to visit the house we were staying at and see how necessary the baby gate was. I must say that I don't speak any French and everyone at Toys R Us was very kind to me and graciously used the English they knew to help communicate. After that detour, we picked up some groceries for the week and headed off to Laurens, the village where we were staying. The house that we stayed in belongs to our friend Sophie's parents and is part of the old chateau (castle). Here is a picture of it.

And here is the view from the front door. Mairie means town hall.

And here is the clock tower. All the villages seem to have these. They strike the hour twice, the half hour once, and on working days ring like mad at 7:30am and 7:00pm. So they rang pretty much all the time!

This is to the left of the picture above, and the house that you see in the left of this picture is part of the row of houses that ours was in. I'm wishing I'd taken better pictures of where our house was because it is hard to explain. There is a walkway running in front of the house, but no roads because it was part of the chateau.

That evening we unpacked, cooked dinner, and went to bed! Upon awakening the next morning, this was the dawn view from our bedroom window. There were birds flying everywhere, and they throw themselves against the walls of the houses and thrust their beaks into cracks and crannies searching for a bit of breakfast.

Sweet moments in the morning.

We decided to drive to that city of glamor, Monte Carlo, on our first day. It turned out to be a longer and harder trip than we bargained for. Iain developed a fever and vomited multiple times throughout the day. I still am undecided as to whether it was carsickness or a cold. He was miserable the whole time he was in the car unless he was asleep. Here we are stopping for a break in Aix-en-Provence. I can't remember if Iain had been sick at this point or not.

Playing ball in the park with Anthony and Papa was definitely the highlight of Iain's day.

After a long and winding road (literally) we entered the Principality of Monaco. The next shots are from breath-taking Monte Carlo. Grace Kelly married the Prince of Monaco and reigned her for 30 years before her death in the 80's. Monaco is chiefly known for it's Grand Casino, wealthy populace, and the annual Grand Prix which takes place in May.

We had a picnic lunch and then toured the Exotic Gardens which, disappointingly, turned out to be mostly cactus plants! It was blazing hot, but we had plenty to drink and didn't spare the sun screen. Iain loves to touch plants (definitely not a kid friendly garden!) and Papa did manage to find a few that Iain could touch although Brian got a handful of prickers in the process. Poor Papa!

Brian and Anthony admiring the view.

After we toured the garden, we had a quick drive around the city before we started the long road back. Here is the Grand Casino. It is so profitable that the government does not collect income tax.
Poor baby. He still manages a little smile for Mama, even when he is feeling yucky.

We drove back through a very scenic route which took us along the coast and through Nice and Cannes.
Here's Brian, happily driving. Even he was tired by the end of the day though. I think it was about 1 am when we got in. Despite the long trip, I'm so happy that I got to see the French Riviera and Monaco.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Iain sleeping

The older he gets, the more bizarre the positions in which he sleeps. A couple examples from just 15 minutes ago:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thank you, dear Jesus

Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior's name.
He has hushed the law's loud thunder.
He has quenched Mt. Sinai's flame.

Let us love the Lord who bought us
Pitied us when enemies
Called us by his grace and taught us
Gave us ears and gave us eyes.

Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy's store.
When in grace our Christ our trust is,
Justice smiles and asks no more.

Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high
Here they trusted him before us
Now their praises fill the sky.

He has washed us with blood
He presents our souls to God.

An Expatriate Fourth

Last week we popped up to the capital to have a visit with Dr. and Mrs. Reymond. He was speaking at a conference at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which is the church that Spurgeon pastored. Here are the boys posing for a quick photo op outside the building.
After visiting with them over the day and sharing dinner, we parted ways and the Douglas contingent went for a bit of a roam. We wandered through Covent Garden which has lots of shops, street performers, and people hawking tickets for all the West End theatres. It's a great place to people watch or have a bite to eat. Behind Covent Garden is St. Paul's Church (not the cathedral) and there is actually a garden there on the church grounds. We took time to stop and smell the roses.

After that we had a bit of a wander through to Leicester Square which is where many of the UK's movie premieres take place. We decided to take the scenic route back to the train station via Piccadilly Circus. (Remember the recent failed car bombs? They were just around the corner from Piccadilly.)
That was great except we were planning to take a bus from Piccadilly which wasn't stopping there due to road works! So we headed back on foot. Brian knew I was quite tired at this point, so he kept 'shortening' the distance. "Just down this street." Um, and 10 blocks further! Whereupon he said "Only three more blocks." But I knew better! He's never gonna live it down. 3 more blocks, huh? :) His spin? "I'm just trying to encourage you." Ha!

But our route took us right by Buckingham Palace, which was fun. We've seen it before, but not at night. Plus, you feel like such a native when you see the sights on your way to someplace else.

In true London fashion, it was drizzling. But as we walked on in the rain, fireworks shot up over the Houses of Parliament and we stood under the umbrella sharing kisses and the view.

Lost in Translation

We were at Asda (a grocery store) the other night and we were chortling as we strolled the aisles. Even after 10 months of living here, there are still some things that can surprise, startle and amuse us in our local grocery store. We thought we'd share:

There's nothing like some authentic American style hot dogs...

Or even better, in a can! Yes, hot dogs in a can. Brilliant! Now you can keep them for years.

Believe it or not, the dish pictured below is a true English specialty, though not when bought in the frozen food section.
And the uncaptionable...