Thursday, 31 January 2013

Beads and the beanstalk

This week seems to have flown by and as we are gong away for the weekend I thought I better blog otherwise I will forget all we have done.
Last Saturday we went out with friends to celebrate James birthday a few days early. It was nice to get out and enjoy good food and good company. Then on Sunday we went for a walk in the rain to the lake and playground I discovered a couple of weeks ago. It will be a great place in summer for a picnic and a play.

I have met lots of lovely ladies from school and church since arriving here and I was invited out to a craft club for Monday morning. It involves making jewellery out of fimo and is held once a month. I went along and had a great time and met some more lovely ladies plus had a nice coffee and muffin. I made the beads just using the main colours I chose although Penelope likes to point out that I did not not make the string! Here is my finished product.

On Tuesday Hannah goes to school in the afternoon as she has speech language therapy in the morning. The speech she is getting here is far superior to alot of the speech therapy she had in NZ which is great but also frustrating that there has been 11 years of wasted opportunity. The SLT actually teaches Hannah how to say the sounds correctly rather then just leaving it to chance or telling us that it will come eventually (which it never did for Hannah). It is so nice to meet a professional who believes that she can get Hannah to talk clearly with the right programme and by teaching her how to make the sounds. Only after four weeks I think it is making a difference. The other nice thing is that I don't have to go in the room with her but she does the therapy just with Hannah. The interesting thing is that because it is making a difference she practises at home anyway without me having to do it with her.

As I dropped Hannah to school at 12.30 it gave me enough time to meet James for lunch. We decided to go to the Chinese buffet just near the school. It was great although since then I have heard some negative comments about it like the food being cold but for us it was great. James even tried frogs legs!

He tried to convince me to have a taste but it made my tummy feel funny just looking at it!

The highlight of the week though was that last night we went to the English pantomime of jack and the beanstalk. There is a large expat community here and the pantomime has grown over the years from a couple of shows to a major production with 7 shows in a week. It started at 6.30pm so the children came too and it was fantastic. We sat in the front row and got to experience it all from the loud bang of the fairies fireworks to the water being squirted out of the water pistol for milk. Hannah didn.t like the baddy Slimeball and told him to go away and he heard her and growled which was funny. Hannah even had her head dusted by mrs mop. Penelope had taken along her soft toy puppy and was concerned that Slimeball was going to steal it.

Penelope's teacher was one of the main characters - granny which Penelope thought was pretty special and her singing teacher was a slave.

A great night although I think the kids may be a bit tired today!

Well it looks like it is going to be a lovely day here so I might go for a bike ride and explore our area a bit and see if I can find any more playgrounds or bakeries close by!

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Saturday, 26 January 2013

It finally snowed

After threatening to snow all last week and James and I telling the kids each night that it might snow and then nothing happened, on Sunday morning we opened the shutters and there it was on the ground!

Much to the kids dismay it started to disappear quickly as the snow turned to rain.  Penelope declared "Mummy I need to go outside now as the snow is turning from white to silver".  I managed to convince her to have some breakfast before she donned all her winter gear and ran out in the snow!  We are going skiing in a week so it was a good opportunity to find out what they need to stay warm and dry and what I need to borrow from friends and buy.  I managed to buy a ski suit from a friend for Jasper which was fantastic and will keep him nice and snug on the mountain!

The kids and James had a great time outside playing in the snow, throwing snowballs and building a small snowman and then by mid afternoon it was pretty much all gone.

We are enjoying our new house and have spent the last couple of weekends mainly at home but have also been into Toulouse for a wander as well as enjoying exploring the park near our house.  Toulouse is a lovely city and we had a great Saturday afternoon wandering the streets.  Our aim was to find the english bookstore and also to go to the toyshop in the Capitol (the kids took their pocket money to spend).  The bookstore was small but had a good selection so we bought them each a book.  Jasper thought this was a great opportunity to buy the biggest most expensive book he could find!  Since then I have been back into Toulouse and stumbled across the most amazing French bookstore that also has an english section, so have a couple of choices now of places to get books which is great!

I am becoming more confident at driving into Toulouse on my own which is great as it is much easier to browse and look at all the lovely shops without husband and children in tow!  I went in two Fridays ago on a mission to buy a pair of boots.  It is the winter sales here or soldes as the French call it so a good time to go shopping! I didn't really have much idea of where to go so headed for the main shopping boulevard and started to wander.  I went to the department store Galleria Lafayette which had an amazing selection of boots but not much in my size.  In the end I found a tiny little shoe shop which had exactly what I wanted in my size - yah!  I took them back to the car so as my hands were free for more shopping!  I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch and so it was lovely to meet up with her and another friend and just relax, have a glass of kir (sparkling wine mixed flavoured with caisse) and eat a lovely French meal.  The restaurant we chose was heaving but luckily it was warm enough to sit outside - just!  Lovely James had taken the afternoon off work to look after Hannah which was a treat and so I had a bit more of a browse then went to school and collected Jasper and Penelope at 4pm.

I went back into Toulouse on Tuesday after dropping Hannah at school.  She goes to school after lunch on a Tuesday as she has speech language therapy on Tuesday mornings.  I discovered via the Internet that there was a whole section of Toulouse shops that I had not discovered so felt it was  my duty to check them out.  Unfortunately as I arrived in town at lunch time all the expensive boutiques like Armani and Chanel were closed as the staff were off to lunch!  I did find the most gorgeous gift shop though which was so full of stuff that I could barely get through the door.  Things were not so much displayed as just placed on top of each other.  Will have to try and remember where it was so I can go back when I need to buy birthday gifts.  I had a great wander around and bumped into a Spanish friend and her daughter who were at park and suites when we were there.  Her daughter also has Down Syndrome and was also struggling to get her accepted into the international school.  In the end they gave up and have moved into central Toulouse and her daughter is attending kindergarten no problem.

Looking forward to the weekend as James is going out to the rugby tonight then we are going out with friends tomorrow night to celebrate James turning 40.  I'm sure James will manage to squeeze a bike ride in somewhere and hopefully the sun will come out and we will be able to get out for a walk or family bike ride and enjoy this lovely place we live.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Back to school already

I have found it very unsettling that after only two weeks christmas holidays the children are back at school. It seems completely foreign to wake them up on a January morning and hurry them through their breakfast and get them to get dressed to go to school. Needless to say they weren't too thrilled either! Jasper told me that the holidays were too short and Penelope just said that she doesn't like Mondays! All of course while everyone back home is enjoying beautiful summer weather and at lakes and beaches around the country. Just as long as this time next year when we came home for christmas the weather is just as good.

As James takes the children to school it is very easy for me to waste my mornings away doing not much so I decided than rather then moping around I would start some new routines and habits. One of these new habits I want to establish is to exercise more so even though it was cold and overcast I headed off on my walk. I went down to the river and walked along the cycle way towards Plasaince de touch. It was so lovely walking along the river. France is a country of two halves though as off in the distance I could see a gorgeous huge old chateau and then I walked past a shelter made from sticks and tarpoline. Very hard to get your head around. I walked a bit further and came across a lake and playground. A great place to cycle to with the kids at some stage.

I then headed back home stopping at the bakery for an au pain raisin for my morning tea.

The other habit I want to establish is to do some quality things with Hannah in the afternoons rather then just me doing housework and her watching movies. So this afternoon she did some reading on sunshine books online then we made an apple crumble for dessert for tonight. She's currently singing along to barbie on the tv while I'm blogging. Hopefully though, soon she will be staying at school for lunch and doing some full days.

Now I just need to get on and sort out our medical cards, Hannah's disability allowance and appointments for the ENT specialist. Oh well there is always tomorrow.

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Friday, 4 January 2013

Sharing the local knowledge

This morning we farewelled our friends from Christchurch, Anna, Malcolm and their two boys Zachary and Tobi. To be honest James farewelled them as they left our house at 4am to catch a flight. We have had a fantastic four days of talking, feasting, sightseeing and just hanging out. Our aim was to show them the best that the south of France has to offer and that is cheese, castles, gorgeous old villages, wine, food, friendly french folk and more cheese. I think we did justice to all of the above! The highlight for Jasper though was having two buddies to laugh with, chat to and create pranks with.

On New Year's Day we headed into toulouse city and even though most shops were closed we did manage to find an ice cream shop just in time for when the heavens opened. We also went into a cathedral where Hannah got to try out the acoustics. I have done a walking tour of toulouse so I got to try out all my newly learned Toulouse an knowledge - I may need to brush up on my accuracy of dates! We then walked to our favourite carousel where the kids all had a ride.

The next day we decided to do rural villages of southern France but first headed on the motorway to Albi. This was my first time on the toll motorway and after a bit of a false start - I took off before getting my ticket and Anna had to run back and get it (I ended up not needing it but better to be safe then sorry) we arrived safe and sound. Not for long though as the boys decided it would be great to dodge the water fountains which as they got closer to the large fountain in the middle they got wetter and wetter. James had been concerned about Hannah getting wet but no it wasn't her!

We then headed to a restaurant to warm up and had a traditional lunch which included steak hache (meat pattie), Toulousian sausage, and cassoulet. We then headed to the cathedral. It was a lovely church from the outside and Apparently the largest brick building in the world but we were not prepared for the beauty of the inside. Every available service was painted, including the floor and it was spectacular.

After leaving the church we went for a walk over the bridges of albi.

We decided to take to the country roads and go to Cordes-sur-Ciel which we thought sounded like a nice village from our map and the guide book. We were not expecting much more then a pretty village but we turned the corner and there was a medieval village on top of a hill - magical. After trying to find a way to drive up we ended up having to park at the bottom of the hill and walking up. It just kept going up and when we finally arrived at the top there was a lovely village and square. A great place to come back to in the summer.

We then headed home feeling very satisfied and got ready to go out for dinner in Toulouse! James has been wanting to go to Meet the Meat after some of the other guys from Air NZ who were over recently raved about it. It did it fail to live up to its reputation with yummy French fare, and great service.

The next day we had a quiet morning at home then headed to Carrassone. It was a bit more stressful journey for some reason with Hannah being quite difficult in the back seat, plus the GPS taking me on maybe the quickest but definitely the most indirect route possible - right through the city with Ferris wheels, skinny one way streets and everything. By the time we arrived at the car park that the GPS selected which as it turned out was a hotel one and I couldn't use I was at the end of my rope. Thankfully a bit of fresh air and James taking over Hannah duty I started to feel better.

I think I was the one that needed to sit and meditate!

All is forgiven after coffee and hot chips!

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Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Sun, sand and sangria in Spain

James and I both felt like the need for some sea air so decided to go to the Mediterranean coast. As we had left it a bit late with booking accommodation the town we had wanted to stay at, Collioure, was full so we decided that we would go to Spain! One of James workmates recommended the coastal town of Roses so after a bit of research on google we found an apartment near the beach.

We set off on Friday morning and headed east to Perpignan. James wanted to stop at the memorial for the New Zealanders who died in the Air NZ plane crash four years ago and pay his respects.

We then continued along the coast to Collioure. It was as beautiful as we had heard it was. With a fort and castle on the waterfront and lovely cafes along the beach. we had a packed lunch from home so sat on the beach and ate our sandwiches.

We had a great explore and then carried on along the coast through numerous gorgeous towns.

We crossed the border into spain and drove on to Roses. The outskirts of the town were pretty rundown with graffiti on the walls but the esplanade and beach made up for it. The best way to describe Roses is that it looks like Kaiteriteri on steriods. golden sand, hills, lovely bays, yachts in the inlet but then apartment blocks, hotels, cafes, high rises everywhere! The whole coast line was just dotted with high rise hotels and I can imagine in the summer when all the hotel rooms are full it will be insanely busy. As it is low season here very few hotels and restaurants were open although it still seemed like there were lots of people around.

Once we got settled into our apartment we walked down to the beach. Poor wee Hannah fell over so is looking a bit sad in some photos, but was very brave.

We woke to a beautiful day on Saturday so decided to go for a walk around the headlands. The hills were covered in housing and they reminded James of Mt Victoria in Wellington. We got to the end of the built up housing and found the walkway. We came in at the far end and it was a bit rough with climbing over rocks but we eventually made it down to the beach.

It was starting to get hot so the kids had a bit of a play in the water. We then continued on the coastal walkway enjoying the scenery and the sunshine and having to remind ourselves that it was winter!

We then headed back to the beach as we had seen a nice cafe. It was great to sit and eat our lunch while the kids entertained themselves on the beach - bliss.

We then headed back to the apartment and the kids got into their wetsuits and walked down to the beach. The wind had got up and it had cooled down a bit but the kids didn't seem to be bothered and were jumping in the waves having a great time. We did get some very perculiar looks from people with their kids in their winter coats and wooly coats though!

Once we were home and settled I decided to head back out for another walk. It was a beautiful evening.

Another beautiful day today and we decided to have a look around the old city of Roses.

The roman remains of the old city.

St Mary's church which was partially destroyed in the invasion of 1795.

The medieval village.

The three musketeers.

The horse in the stable!

Patting the donkey.

We had the whole city to ourselves and the kids had a great time running around the old city playing with sticks pretending to be the three musketeers.

We then walked into the new city along the esplanade and found a great restaurant on the beach. Love the restaurants on the beach where the adults can eat and drink while the kids play on the beach!

Before we left Spain Penelope pleaded for a flamingo dress and of course I finally gave in!

We departed for france and arrived home 2 hours and 50 minutes later!