Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Last Wednesday James kindly offered to pick the kids up from school so Mum and I could have a whole day out. We decided to make the most of our free day and drive to Carcassone. We got there at about 10.30 and made our way to the closest cafe for a coffee. After our pain au chocolate we headed for the castle. Even though this was my third time to Carcassone I had not actually been into the castle part and museum. We joined the short queue trying to avoid the tour groups! It was great finally getting to walk the ramparts and seeing inside the very well restored keeps.

Preparing for a music festival.

A view from the ramparts.

I also really enjoyed the museum and learning about the history of this fairy tale castle.

We then headed back out into the old city with the aim being to have cassoulet for lunch. We dined at one of the old restaurants in the square and had the traditional cassoulet of haricot bean stew with a Toulousian sausage and a duck leg - very tasty!

We then hit the shops and mum managed to find lots of lovely things for gifts and for herself and I got some lovely end of school year gifts for Hannah's teacher aide and Penelope's singing teacher. I discovered though that after hunting everywhere for a soft toy with a carcassone theme for Penelope and eventually finding one that there is an untapped market. There were so many boy toys - swords, daggers, knights, slingshots, shields etc but very little on the medieval theme for girls - princess dolls, magic wands, crowns are just a few thoughts!

After a big day out Mum and I decided to just take it easy on Thursday and head to Ikea. We arrived before it opened so headed to the Ikea cafe for a coffee. We both got a coffee and a cinnamon scroll still warm out of the oven and Mum offered to shout me. We were both shocked when the total price for our morning tea was €1! Yummy and a bargain - perfect. I soon made up for it though by filling my trolley with bargains!

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Friday, 21 June 2013

Auch, Albi and Airbus

I thought that the last week was summed up very well by the three A's - Auch, Albi and Airbus!

James had his first airbus A320 delivery starting last Tuesday. A team from Air NZ came over to help James. Normally delivery week involves four full on days and then the plane leaves on the following Saturday. This time was to be a bit different though as Air NZ is the launch customer for the A320's with sharklets and it was due to head to the Paris air show. James and the NZ team were all to go with it on Saturday to Paris for the official handover. Unfortunately things did not go as planned with the aircraft and early on in the week there were issues. Eventually after some very long hours the problem was fixed at 7.30pm Friday night. So James had a very quick dinner and headed back to work to sign off the aircraft and do all the final paper work. He eventually got home at 2am only to get up at 7am the next morning, pack and head to the airport. In the end it was all worth it and the airshow went well and the Air NZ A320 had lots of interest shown in it.

James' plane looking smart with the sharklets!

The official handover.

James got back on Tuesday and had a great time - he may even blog about it...

Meanwhile back in Toulouse Mum and I continued our sightseeing tourof the local sights. Last Tuesday was a beautiful day and as Hannah didn't have school we decided to head west to Auch. I had not been before but had heard that it had a great Cathedral (don't all French villages!). It is known for the musketeers so Hannah was hooked - although she prefers Barbie and the Three musketeers.

The approach into Auch was lovely as we drove through a valley, terrocota coloured French villas and then saw the cathedral on a hill. Auch is very provisional with no ugly modern flats on the outskirts of the town to spoil the view.

We found a park and as this was the first time I had used a meter in France (normally use car park buildings) was very surprised when I put in 2 euros and it gave me 4 hours! I then realised that it did not charge me for lunch time. Even the car park meters get a two hour lunch break in France. We then headed along the river and walked up the monumental staircase which has a statue of the fictional muskateer d'Artagnan. It was a very grand staircase and they are currently restoring the steps and the fountains so excuse the cranes! It will look lovely when it is finished. One of the things I have noticed about France is that they are very good at looking after their historical sights and are prepared to spend the money in order to keep monuments and public spaces looking great.

We were starting to get hungry and as the cathedral was closed for lunch we decided to find a cafe. After wandering the alleyways we eventually came upon an Irish pub with a lovely deck and outside seating area. Even though it was an Irish pub it still served French fare! Hannah had her traditional steak hache and chips with a coke and mum and I had a flan each. Love the flans here as they are as big as a dinner plate - yum!

We finished lunch then headed to the cathedral. It had a beautiful choir room and Hannah had a great time taking photos!

On Thursday night Penelope and her singing group had her concert. It was great to see the children preform and listen to their gorgeous voices. We were very proud of our wee Penelope - what a great Billy Bones she was! She did especially well in the dying scene.

On Friday IST had a global awareness day so the kids headed to school in dress up. Jasper went as an all black, Penelope was a black fern and Hannah was dressed in clothes from NZ.

For Saturday the plan was to head to Albi and yah the sun was shining. We got there nice and early, found a park (again the parking meters had a lunch break!) and headed for the cathedral. Albi cathedral is beautiful and one of my favourites. It is huge but quite plain from the outside and then inside every surface is painted - even the floor. We went up to the treasure room and looked at the gorgeous historical treasures. Hannah once again got hold of my phone and took lots of lovely photos.

We found a great cafe for lunch which had a cheeky, loud parrot in residence who loved to drink coke - Hannah's sort of bird!

We decided to jump on the little train that drives around Albi to have a look at the sites rather then walk - the kids were pleased about that.

A wonderful day out!

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Sunday, 9 June 2013

Exploring the south of France

On Friday the children's school had sports day which the kids were all excited about. Hannah went just for the morning as per usual but interestingly enough some of the teachers remarked to the teacher aide that they thought it would have been nice if she could stay for the whole day. Her team were also a bit disappointed that she was going home as she is such a good runner and climber! It was such a hot day that I think Hannah was quite happy to come home for a couple of hours. We went back at 2.30 to watch Jasper and Penelope in their teams.

When it came to the medal giving ceremony and the adding up of team points Hannah's team came in second. She was very proud to go and receive a medal with the rest of her team. Penelope's team got fourth and jasper's seventh - so they all did very well.

I do find it very frustrating that the school has no flexibility where Hannah is concerned and I do not understand why she could not have been allowed to be there for the whole of the sports day. The way the management treat Hannah is quite appalling and they don't seem to have any idea as to how inclusion works. Last Tuesday the year 5 and 6 classes went into toulouse and both Hannah's teacher aide and I had to go with Hannah - not sure what they thought she was going to do! Worse though is that this Tuesday the yr 5 and 6's are going rowing and Hannah is not allowed to go! Mum, Hannah and I are going to go to Auch instead which will be lovely.

As it was such a hot day on Friday when we got home we got into our togs and jumped into the pool - finally it was hot enough!

The hot weather was short lived though as we awoke to rain on Saturday. It was a busy day of ferrying kids to and from different activities - Penelope and Hannah had dance, Hannah had her girl guides cupcake challenge district day and Penelope had a birthday party. I find it ironic that trained professionals seem incapable of having Hannah at school unsupervised yet the lovely girl guide leaders are more then happy to have Hannah without extra supervision! On top of all that running around James was busy helping friends move so thankfully mum was here to hold down the fort.

We awoke this morning to yet more rain but decided to carry on with our plan to drive north to Albi. James had been on a bus tour when he came over last July and so wanted to retrace his footsteps and go back to some of the lovely towns he had seen. The first town on the route was Caylus which is a lovely little town on a hillside with a gorgeous Cathedral. We met the lovely local French priest who gave us a bit of history about the 14th century cathedral.

We continued along the road heading for Najac but were all starting to get hungry so were on the look out for a nice restaurant for lunch. We drove through a little village called Parisot and saw a sign in the middle of nowhere pointing to a lake with a restaurant open sign. We thought we'd give it a go and found a purpose built wooden cafe by the lake with plastic chairs and tables plus a few benches outside. The kids were thrilled that there was a trampoline and a playground and went off to play while we ordered. Mum is loving the French plat du jour which includes an entree, main, dessert and coffee plus bread and our little cafe by the lake did not disappoint.

We loved this restaurant - beautiful food, great service and a beautiful setting and will definitely be going back.

We got back in the car after our two hour lunch (am embracing the French way) and headed to Najac. Najac is gorgeous - a medieval town tumbling down the side of a ridge - describes this town very well.

We walked along the road leading to the castle and the cathedral. Yet another beautiful cathedral. We all went in and admired the gorgeous floral displays and met the man who had done them. Hannah had a wee pray quietly in the pews and Jasper and Penelope lit candles for Grandad Bill who would have loved visiting his Grandchildren on their French adventure.

We headed back to the car and the heavens opened and the rain came down. As it was now 5pm we decided to leave Cordes-sur-ciel and Albi for another day and head for home.

A lovely day out yet again!

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The sun is finally shining in toulouse

The forecast for today was for sunshine and 26 degrees and as the forecast for the last few months has pretty much been rain every day and has been correct mum and I were banking on it being right about the sun too and it was!

The plan was to pack a picnic and collect the kids up at the end of school which is 12.30 on a Wednesday and head to a lake where the kids could swim if they wanted to. We had been to lake Samatan a few months ago in the winter and knew it had a small man made beach and slides into the lake so decided to head there. The slide wasn't open but there were a couple of other families on the beach. We had our picnic then the kids got into their togs and headed into the warm water. The kids had a great time splashing around. I am unsure how clean the water was but the kids loved it.

After the swim we walked around the lake then jumped into the car in search of a much needed ice cream.

We couldn't find any dairy like shops so ended up going to the supermarket and getting a box of magnums. We wandered across the road to a bench and discovered upon a p├ętanque game and a lovely little walk way. The perfect end to a lovely outing.

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The weather in Toulouse has been awful and it has rained for weeks on end so we decided to head where the sun was shining! We looked up on accuweather and saw that sun was forecast for the med and as we wanted to take mum to collioure anyway decided to head there.

We drove through rain and clouds but once we hit the med the sun shone and the wind was blowing! I think the rest of toulouse decided to escape to the med as well as Collioure was heaving! James eventually found a park while the kids played on the beach. We then headed around the fort to the town.

Last time we went to Colioure it was at Christmas time and not many shops or cafes were open so it was great to see Collioure with all its shops and cafes open for business. We walked around in search of a nice cafe for lunch and found a great little place that did a plat de jour (lunch menu of entree, main and dessert) for €14.50, so us adults were all keen for that!

James entree - whelks not snails!

Mum is loving the food in France and our lunch did not disappoint! We decided to pass on the coffee - which is the traditional way to finish a meal in France and go and look around the village.

I had read that the walk up to the castle on the hill was lovely so we decided to walk off our lunch and head to the castle. The path was quite steep and it was so windy that it made the walk a bit of a challenge but we made it and the view was worth it!

Halfway up!

The windmill on the path up to the castle.

A view from the top.

Protecting ourselves from the wind by leaning against the tower wall!

By the time we got back down the hill we were all pretty tired so decided to head for home stopping via MacDonalds at Carcassoone on the way for some dinner.

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