Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Heading home

It's official, flights confirmed, handed in notice on our rental accommodation, we are coming home.  We leave France on the 1st of August and head to LA where we will tour around California for a bit before arriving in Auckland on the 10th of August.  Hard to believe that we have been here almost two years.

We would have loved to have stayed in France given the choice but Air NZ has the policy where they swap their overseas workers out after two years to give someone else a chance.  I can understand the policy to a degree but not sure how realistic this is when families are involved.  We have invested soooo much time into being able to live here and have spent hours filling in paperwork for everything.  We had to exchange our NZ drivers licence for French ones and seem to have had to get several different visa documents  - more hours spent at the prefecture (immigration/licencing office) then anyone should have to experience in a lifetime!  All that is behind us now and it would have been nice to have had a few months where we could just relax and enjoy our surroundings but instead we are now having to close all the accounts and organise freight and pack to leave.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with leaving but am now feeling happy about going home - maybe the fact we have had flooding the last two days (while James was away) and our street looks like any street in Chch is helping.  Also, James is away alot - 2 or 3 days most weeks so I am looking forward to him not going away so much if at all!  The other huge benefit for us going home is that Hannah can get back into regular schooling.  I have enjoyed homeschooling her and it has strengthened our relationship but France is not really a homeschooling friendly country and I did not find any homeschooling network or down syndrome support group to connect with.  I have been very blessed though with wonderful friends here who have welcomed Hannah with open arms and she has always been welcome at craft group, ladies lunches and Bible study and has helped me look after the babies in the fortnightly creche group (MOPS) which I volunteer at.  She has also been welcomed into Girl Guides and Jiving Juniors dance class which she has loved and she will miss!!

As we look to the future I think of all the wonderful things about moving back to NZ especially friends and family who we can't wait to see again.   It is exciting to see what this next stage of our life holds.  We have been offered full settlement for our house and can rebuild it if that's what we want to do.  I am also looking forward to the relaxed kiwi attitude and the proximity to the outdoors and the beach and my children being able to walk barefoot again.  The children are looking forward to a much shorter school day and the freedom of being a kiwi kid.

So now the countdown begins.  Sue and David are our last visitors and leave next Thursday, which is also the last day of the French school year.  Then we have three weeks of summer to enjoy and spend time with our lovely friends here - bbq's, sleepovers and pool parties may just take priority over the endless packing and cleaning.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A long weekend in Toulouse

The French love their holidays and they seem to have a lot, especially in May. This last weekend was a long weekend and as Thursday was a public holiday most schools and businesses took the Friday off as well - a bridging day (faire le pont) they call it in French. James had been in Naples from Tuesday till Thursday night so we decided that rather then go away we would just do some things around Toulouse. Plus the weather forecast for the places we wanted to go wasn't that great.

After a rather lazy start to Friday we headed off into Toulouse after lunch. We wanted to go to the Musee de Augustins and luckily for us for some reason it was free - maybe because it was a holiday. We had a great time looking at all the statues and the beautiful paintings. I love how the French are so good at restoring and using their old buildings. This beautiful museum had originally been a monastery and each room has been lovingly restored and used to exhibit parts of Toulousian history.

The cloisters.

Being photo bombed by Hannah!

My favourite statue in the museum and Jasper's feet!

The Romanesque sculpture gallery.

We had a lovely look around and then headed to MacDonalds for a drink and an icecream.

One of the things we have wanted to do while living in Toulouse is to cycle part of the canal du midi. We had picked up a map in Toulouse and worked out the section that we would like to do. Saturday was quite overcast and grey so we headed to the coast as it was suppose to be sunny by Carcasonne. It was still raining at Carcasonne so we kept going. We eventually came out into the sun so stopped at a rest stop for lunch and had our sandwiches. We decided to head to the coast and ended up going all the way to Narbonne. The med is renound for its strong winds and today was one of those windy days. We studied our map closely and headed for a little town on the canal called Capestang. It was windy but tolerable and best of all it was warm and sunny. James unpacked all the bikes and put them all together and then we set off.

Waiting at Capestang for James to unload the bikes.

About to set off.

The beautiful Canal du midi.

Stopping for a rest.

We stopped at a little village and found this lovely cafe under the trees. The owners had a very familiar sounding accent and yes they were from Auckland. So nice to chat to some kiwis again and they made great icecreams and really good coffee!!!

We headed off again feeling refreshed. We had decided that we would cycle for about ten kms then James would cycle back and collect the car. We ended up cycling just over 11km and we found another cafe and a perfect place to stop and wait. Jasper hadn't had enough cycling so jumped on the third wheel and went back with James.

Boats on the canal.

A good place to stop and wait for Daddy.

A long day of exercise and beautiful scenery and totally worth it.

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