Saturday, May 10, 2014

France, Part Deux

Our four nights in St. Florent flew by much too quickly, and before we knew it we were on our way to Lagnieu to visit Sylvain's grandparents and extended family for the weekend.  It was roughly a five hour drive and the girls did a better job in the car on that long drive than they've ever done on long drives here in the states! 

When we finally arrived in Lagnieu, we stopped for an apertif at the Grandparents' house, where we met Lara for the first time!  Sylvain's cousin, Loredane, has always been amazingly kind to me on our last couple trips to France, so when I found out she was pregnant a couple years ago and that her daughter would be close in age to Sylvia, I was over the MOON!  We were planning to stay at Loredane's house while we were there, so it was nice to have the girls meet ahead of time at the Grandparents' for a little play date before we showed up with our bags and ransacked their house!

The girls ran back and forth through his grandparents' garden and let me tell you something: I think this is the place where my soul will rest when I die and go to heaven.  Ever since my first visit in 2005, I've dreamed of this backyard garden, patio and upstairs porch at least three times a year.  I am absolutely taken away with the beauty and history in that space, but Sylvain has as especially soft spot in his heart for it.  He has very fond memories of picking raspberries (on our last visit, his grandmother made everyone wait until we arrived and she let him pick the first one!) and of sneaking "bon bons" from his grandma's candy jar.  The house is made of stone and I'm told it was one of the first houses built in the city.  All of this is to say that I was once again brought to tears while I watched our kids play there with their cousin.  The laughing and the smiles....I felt like such a big part of our family history was being soaked up into their tiny bodies!  I could write a book about that space. 

This is the spot I dream about.  This picture needs to be framed in my bedroom!

After the apertif at Mamie and Papi Fasciotto's house, we walked across the street to Uncle Joel's house.  He is Sylvain's godfather whom Sylvain adores beyond anything else!  He is an artist and his house is full of paintings and sculptures and amazing things to see.  His wife, Roxanne, is always the first with a hug and a kiss and a pat on the back to ask, "Are you happy here?"  I love them to death.

However, by the time we got there to eat dinner, it was getting really late and the girls were really cranky.  We gave the girls dinner before the rest of us, then let them play with Loredane and Renaud's old toys while we ate dinner.  Considering how exhausted we already were from traveling all day, the girls held up pretty well, I think!  It may have had something to do with Uncle Joel's "new" instruments, which he found in the trash and brought home.  His LOUD serenade was just the laugh we all needed to make it through the night!

Roxanne also played the accordian.  Sylvia didn't quite know what to make of it!

"Loud music?!  There are my kind of people!"

Playing with Renaud's farm toys and legos
We finally had to leave their house and head to Loredane's for the night.  She and her husband, Vivien, live about 15 minutes away and we were very happy to arrive in the house where we'd spend the next four nights!  They are currently renovating, but they were gracious enough to give us a double bed and two pack-n-play's in their upstairs loft.  Sylvia hasn't slept in a pack-n-play for a very long time, but I didn't mind because our beds were at the top of a narrow staircase and she's been known to wander in her sleep!  Sleeping in the same room with both girls, while a two year old slept in the next room, proved to be a challenge.  Naps were non-existent and I finally had to bust out my ear plugs on the last night. By the third night we had learned that the girls could NOT be put down to bed at the same times, so we did Margot first, then once she was asleep, we did Lara, then finally Sylvia!  (Should have done that from the get-go!)  Here are some pictures of our time at her house:

Morning cartoons with the Daddies!

Love their new kitchen!

Lara, the sweetest!

Movie night!

Except they decided to play outside instead.  Whatever!

Aunt Dorinda came with us (thank goodness!)
Dinner on the patio

Dorinda, Roxanne, Joanna (another cousin), and Renaud

Reading books and singing songs!  Loredane is expecting baby #2 in June! Another girl!!
 On Saturday, we drove for an hour to spend some time with Sylvain's mother's side of the family.  We had an amazing afternoon at his Uncle Michel's house.  Michel trains Newfoundland rescue dogs, so you can only imagine what kind of bliss those giant furry creatures brought to Miss Margot!  There were also two little boys there, Killian and Alex.  They were probably the sweetest kids I've ever met!  They played soccer with Sylvia, and then they lowered the handle bars on their scooters so she could learn how to ride.  They also led her on an imaginary hunt for treasures through the backyard.  She was smitten by the time we left!

The girls were showered with gifts when we arrived!  Princess crayons were the clear favorite.

Sylvain's Grandpa Bedeau!

Uncle Michel

Sylvain's cousin Maxime, Aunt Patricia, Aunt Odile, Great Aunt Marie-Jeanne

Charlotte, Grandpa, Michel, Adrien and Sandy

Margot's love affair begins.

Uncle Michel took her into the dog pen and he thought she'd be scared, so he laid the dogs down...

He didn't know she would want to SNUGGLE THE HECK OUT OF THEM!

Those dogs were gentle giants!

Brioche for dessert!  I had to take a picture.

She was scared, but he was SO nice, so she gave it a try!

Before long, all the kids were in the dog pen having a dandy time!

Margot napped on the pull out couch!  It was epic, too.  Ahhh.....
After lunch at Michel's, we returned to Loredane's house and had dinner there, followed by another giant meal on Sunday.  It seems that all we really did for that entire weekend was EAT!  I did not mind.  The food was delicious and the girls kept themselves busy (for the most part, there was a lot of lap sitting, especially for Margot).  Sunday night's dinner was another special treat for all of us.  For some reason, whenever Mamie and Papi Fasciotto are around, I feel like a kid in their family.  I feel like I grew up there, perhaps because Mamie is so much like my Grandma Neltner, and the rest of the Fasciotto family is just like mine.  It feels peaceful and right and then all of a sudden it feels PRECIOUS beyond measure because I remember that these special days with his grandparents might not happen again for us.

Pretty table!  The tree is decorated with eggs for Easter and there were chocolate treats in the vase for the kids!

Girls having fun!

Sylvain and his grandma

Sylvain's dad and grandpa

Loredane and Roxanne

Renaud and Joel

Nelly, Joanna, Dorinda and Renaud

 Sylvain's Grandpa is one of the only family members that I cannot understand!  He speaks French with an Italian accent (he was born in Italy) and I try so hard, but I usually have no CLUE what he is saying.  When he realizes I don't understand him, he switches to ITALIAN to see if maybe I'll understand that.  Still no dice, Grandpa!  So then he just laughs and laughs and gives me a punch in the shoulder!  He is the world's cutest and hardest to understand old man.

This was about as close to Sylvia as he could get for a while.

Cousins.  How happy does Sylvain look?!

Oh yeah, there were more birthday cakes for these two!

"Happy Birthday Sylvia, 4 years"

"The Band" made another appearance.

Her new favorite person!
 After dinner we walked up a beautiful trail behind Loredane's house.  The weather was gorgeous the entire time we were there and this little walk was exactly what I needed to keep myself from taking a nap after eating all of that delicious FOOD!

By Sunday evening, the girls were making it pretty clear that they were spent!  Margot was having an especially hard time understanding everyone and she wanted nothing but to suck on her paci and sit on my lap.  In fact, I couldn't pull myself away from her without a meltdown almost all weekend, so by Sunday night I was about to lose my mind!  Luckily, Loredane and Joanna had planned a ladies-only shopping day for us on Monday, so Sylvain and Vivien stayed home with all three girls and I got a much needed break!  It was nice to practice my French with two other girls, one of whom was a mama, so we had a lot to talk about!  They reassured me that my French really is good and that everyone was very happy we were there.

We had our last family meal back at Sylvain's grandparent's house on Monday night, and when we walked into the street to head to our car, in the dark, we had to say our goodbyes.  It was heart wrenching.  I managed to hold it together long enough to get in the car, but the girls hugged their great grandparents and waved goodbye like we were going to see them again soon and I knew that we weren't.  I hate leaving beautiful places and special people.  Hate it hate it.  We will try our hardest to get back there as soon as we possibly can.  Heaven knows I'll probably dream about it a dozen times between now and then!

Next up: our jaunt in Paris and our flight HOME! 

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