Friday, April 25, 2014

France, Part 1

The first four nights of our trip were spent at Sylvain's Dad's house in St. Florent, about two hours south of Paris in the heart of the Loire Valley.  We call him "Papi," the traditional French title for a Grandpa, and I could tell he enjoyed hearing the girls chant "Papi! Papi!" after a couple days of getting to know him.

When he picked us up from the airport, we were all exhausted and nervous and cranky (or maybe it was just me).  Once we got to his car and the girls were strapped into their car seats I felt much better.  In eight short weeks, he and Nelly managed to find a car seat, a booster seat, a pack-n-play, a toddler mattress and a stroller for us to use!  I quickly realized that they worked very hard to make us comfortable and I spent the whole first day feeling nothing but gratitude and love for this side of the family that we never get to see.  We all took a nap on that first day, and when the girls napped well in their new sleeping digs, I could finally relax and enjoy our time there.  

Our room, where we slept with Margot.

Dining room and family room.

Aunt Dorinda's room - Sylvia slept on a mattress on the floor.



Papi in the kitchen.

Front yard fun!

Aunt Dorinda!  She's all grown up!

Three generations - I was so happy to take this picture!

Front gate.

A walk down the street.

The morning routine involved lots of coloring.
I'm glad I packed Sylvia's slippers, because I forgot that in France, everyone wears "house shoes."  I remembered to take off my shoes at the door, but I started to walk around barefoot and was quickly handed a pair of slippers to wear so I wouldn't get cold on the tile floor!  Oops.  

I had to take Margot for a walk in the stroller as soon as we arrived because she wouldn't stop crying.  I think she was just overwhelmed and tired and the poor thing couldn't figure out what was going on!  Why are we here?!  When are we leaving?!  Who are these people?!  Mommmyyyy!!!!  It was a little rough for that one.  Sylvia, however, was perfectly happy to pick flowers and color pictures.  In fact, I think she picked every dandelion in the front yard on day one.  

After naps on Monday, we went to Sully Sur Loire, a real castle only minutes from their house!  The Loire Valley is known for it's castles, so......a certain four year old was in heaven!

There was a great playground nearby, where Mamie Nelly and Dorinda were more than happy to play with the girls and I found a bench!  A place to SIT!  While someone ELSE occupied my kids!  I felt spoiled and pampered and happy as a clam.  Sylvain and his dad went to a beer shop then met us there before we all headed home.  It was the perfect afternoon trip - close, short, but absolutely beautiful!

Tuesday was Sylvia's birthday and I woke up that morning to a raucous symphony of birds outside the shuttered windows.  When Margot woke up we pulled her out of her crib and into bed with us, which was a special treat.  Then we all went to Dorinda's room to sing Sylvia awake for the day!  I spent the day holding back tears from the sheer joy of watching my happy, healthy, beautiful four year old run around FRANCE.  What a dream come true!

We took Sylvia to another castle for her birthday.  It was called Chambord and it was an hour away from Papi's house.  We drove to Chambord and had lunch at a cafe before touring the castle together.  Sylvia loved the "swirly staircase" and insisted that we climb it as soon as we saw it.  So, we started our tour from the top and worked our way down!  It really was a beautiful place and she kept saying, "Wowww....this is magnificent!"  Or she'd giggle and say, "Ohhhh, I just love this place!"  It was fun to watch her get so excited.  I hope she remembers it!

The Birthday Girl!

All Margot wanted from the gift shop was this bathtub book about forest animals!  She crossed her legs and read her book all the way back to the car!
Next, we drove back toward St. Florent and stopped at an ostrich farm for a little hiking.  It was a beautiful day and the girls loved being outside!

Next it was back home for naps and supper.  This was our first real experience with French meals.  They eat SUPER late there and we decided to feed the girls early so they could go to bed at a decent time, especially since they were so busy that day. We let Sylvia stay up late so she could enjoy her birthday cake with us, and while we ate supper she sat and colored or played on the iPad.

Two great cooks!

The "apertif," or the pre-meal snack, was champagne, chips, cheese and PRESENTS!

Dorinda's birthday is also in April.  She just started driving.  She got her first car!  Haha!!

Waiting patiently for dessert.

They tricked her with candles in a lemon!  She said, "That's not a cake!" and looked very worried.

They brought out the real cake with sparkler candles that spelled "Happy Birthday!"
It was an amazing day.  I went to bed with a warm heart and a smile on my face.  That girl.  She's mine!  So lucky...

On Wednesday, Mamie Nelly took me and Sylvia to Gien, just a few minutes away.  Gien is known for their "Fiancerie" or as I like to call it, "The Plate Place!"  They make the most beautiful fancy china sold all over the world (turn over a fancy plate around here and it might say "Gien" on the bottom).  Since they make it RIGHT THERE, there's a sort of outlet store in Gien with discounted prices on all of their patterns and styles.  We decided to leave Margot at home because she didn't sleep well the night before and we knew she'd be like a figurative bull in a literal china shop.  

A little morning coloring.

"Balance beaming"

The church in Gien.

The chateau - we couldn't go inside...sadness!

Grocery store around the corner from the plate place.
 After lunch we took a walk by the boats a few towns over.  I forget what it was called, but we should have put Margot in the stroller because I was a nervous wreck watching her walk that close to the water!

Thursday was our last full day with Papi and Mamie, so we made the most of it and drove a couple hours to Vezaley - a beautiful old town on top of a giant hill.  It's hard to believe that almost every building in these rural areas of France is older than our entire country!

Hung a blanket in the window as a sun shade for Margot.  Whatever works!

Fields of yellow flowers as far as the eye could see!  They make cooking oil out of them!
 I snapped a couple pictures of the towns we drove through:

Here we are in Vezaley.  Walking or resting or playing in the park.  This is also the only place where I got any decent pictures of myself!  Proof that I went to France!  With my family!

This house/restaurant is for sale.  I want to buy it!

The church at Vezaley.

After our day trip, we returned to Papi and Mamie's house for one more night.  In the morning, we got up and drove to Sylvian's cousin's house, but that's the beginning of another blog post.

While our whole trip was fantastic, our time with Sylvian's dad was my favorite.  There is something special about his house and seeing the girls play there was a real treat.  I often wanted to pinch myself because I couldn't believe I was there.  I wanted to run back to my 15 year old self on my first trip to France and yell, "You think THIS is fun?!  Wait until you visit this beautiful country with your KIDS.  Wait until you watch your four year old daughter spin around in circles in the front yard under the blue sky.  Wait until your baby digs through every pile of rocks in front of the stone churches and castles.  Wait until you have to say goodbye to your father-in-law and the girls shout 'au revoir' and blow him kisses from their car seats.  Just wait.  You think this is amazing now, but it gets even BETTER!"  


Brigitte Fasciotto said...

Beautifull writting, can't wait to read part II. <3

Jennifer said...

I love all the pictures, France reminds me of Germany! Oh, and whenever we visited our family in Germany as kids we HAD to wear house shoes (we even called them that) at all times. I'm so glad you all got to go!