Sunday, January 10, 2016

We live in FRANCE!!??!?!

Today is the first day that I have really had time to sit and think (and write) since we left Arkansas over 3 weeks ago!  I can't believe it has been that long already.

Our time passed quickly in Spain, and we kept busy seeing and doing so many cool things (pics on Instagram).  I really didn't know anything about Spain previous to my mom and dad moving there last year as a missionary couple for our church, and I must admit I did not have very high expectations.  Even after visiting them last spring my thoughts we still "The best part about Spain is the low cost of living. Seriously, everything is soo cheap!".  However, after spending the better part of a month there my tune has changed to "I LOVE Spain!  The people are so kind and warm, the landscape is BEAUTIFUL! I could see myself there; eating this food, speaking this language, living this life!  Now to find Clay a job...".  And, as a slight after thought I might add "everything is so Affordable!!!".   I had so much fun enjoying our time in Spain, pretending that I spoke the language (I am definitely going to continue learning Spanish if it is an option for me here at INSEAD), and spending time with my parents and with my little family.  We spent our time seeing castles and beautiful parks, eating delicious food, and celebrating Christmas with new friends and family.

We were also lucky enough to be able to spend a night away in Lisbon, Portugal.  My parents watched the boys so that we could have a little getaway.  The hotel that we stayed in is an old palace (sounds more glamorous than it was, but it was still pretty cool) and we spent out time just wandering around, getting lost, butchering Portuguese (who knew that in Portugal they say "Ola" instead of "Oi", because I sure didn't.  Greeting people was the one thing I felt super confident in doing in Portuguese until I realized I was doing it wrong...).  We attempted to understand the "sh"-ing of their accents, but everyone who who actually spoke to us, spoke in English.  I guess thats what you get for wandering around in the touristy parts of Lisbon saying "Oi!" to every person in sight. All in all, it was a blast, and I'm very glad we got a chance to spend a night away from our kids... er... I mean, I'm glad we got to go see Lisbon :)  We got home on New Years Eve in time to party a little with the kiddos before they went to bed, and then we spent the rest of the night packing and getting ready to leave Spain to travel to France the next day.  I say "we spent the night packing" but in reality, we all just watched Clay pack, and we are all in agreement that he did a spectacular job.

Early the next morning (and I mean EARLY) Ezra decided to wake up and scream his lungs out for a good 45 minutes or so, probably just to stick it to guy downstairs for complaining that we had been too noisy while we were there.  I don't really blame him, Ezra I mean.  Its like people expect kids to just sleep all night long or something, and to be quiet while they are doing it.  Weird.  Anyway, we decided to scrap our plans to leave early, and slept in.  We pulled out of my parents town at about 11 a.m. on New Years day, full of excitement and hope for all the "New" that was coming our way.  New friends, new experiences, new town, new food, new job... new everything!

As we pulled into our first scheduled stop our excitement quickly faded.  We realized what a terrible decision it was to travel on a Holiday in Europe.  NOTHING was open!!!!!  We were lucky enough to find a Burger King that was open, located inside a giant Shopping Center (everything BUT Burger King was closed).  We ate, used the restrooms, wandered the empty mall for a little while to stretch our legs, and then got back into the car to drive more hours to a town where everything was surely closed on this dreary, cold and rainy holiday.  Needless to say the  second leg of our drive was much less joyful than the first.

We finally made it to our destination about 30 minutes later than we had anticipated.  This matters because we were staying in a small studio we had rented on AirBNB and had told the owner to meet us at the studio at a particular time.  The town we were staying in was just over the border into France, and as soon as we crossed the border our phone went out of service so we had no way of reaching the lady in case we got lost.  Which we did.  Luckily our experience as full-time missionaries gave us lots of practice tracking down people and apartments with only a few random clues to go by.  We knew we were in the correct building, so all we had to do was figure out which of the 25 apartments belonged to the lady we were looking for.  After scanning the mailboxes and using some deductive reasoning, we agreed that number 8 was the right door to try knocking on. Success!  She welcomed us into the apartment (whew!), and it was clean (double whew!!), and she had brought over a few Disney DVD's from her kids and had Peter Pan all set up on the TV ready to play for the boys as soon as we walked in the door (HUGE Lifesaver!!!).  I can't tell you how grateful I was for her thoughtfulness. She even drove with Clay over to a Pizza shop (one of the only places open that late and on a holiday) so that we could actually eat dinner that night!  I cannot tell you how stressed out we were thinking we were not going to be able to find food to give our kids (and ourselves) dinner that night in a small French town on New Years Day.  If you are reading this and thinking things are starting to look up for us, I assure you, you are wrong.

The next day we woke up, gathered up a sac of dirty laundry and headed off to the laundromat.  The previous night, as we were rushing to meet up with the owner of the apartment we were delayed as were forced to stop several times to deal with one member of the family pooping their pants and another member of the family peeing their pants (no names will be given here).  As if that wasn't bad enough, during the night someone's diaper leaked and their pajamas got soaked, and one other person who doesn't normally wear a diaper to bed, had to wear a diaper to bed. Although I won't tell you who that person was, I will tell you that diapers are surprisingly soft and comfortable...  Anyway,  The point is that we had laundry to be washed, and it couldn't really wait until our scheduled arrival at our new house in Samoreau 3 days later.  So, we gathered up the clothes and spent the morning eating pastries an drinking Orange Juice out of juice boxes in a laundromat in a REALLY beautiful town on the southwestern coast of France.  We were unable to really see much of the town because of the torrential downpour that was going on while we were there.  Apparently it had been warm without rain for 3 months previous to the day we arrived in town... After we finished the laundry we jumped back in the car and drove 30-45 minutes back down the coast into Spain toward San Sebastien to see what all the hype was about,  We arrived in San Sebastian and it was BEAUTIFUL!! It was also freezing cold and quite windy, so we didn't last as long as we would have liked walking around the streets of town.  We also didn't get to sample too much of the gastronomy since we were traveling with two small people who at the moment are only interested in eating peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt.  We did not take any pictures on this day because I forgot to bring my phone and camera, and Clay's phone died after Anders watched youtube videos on it for the 45 min drive down from France.  Oh well.  Google some pics of San Sebastien and then just imagine our faces in the pictures while you are looking at them.

The next morning we slept in and attended church in Anglet, France.  People were not particularly friendly, but its probably because they are French.  Or because they thought that we only spoke English.  We stayed for 1 hour only of church, and then loaded the boys in the car and drove off to Bordeaux.  We were both very excited, as we have heard many good things about the city.  When we got there, it was pouring rain (no surprise here), and as we were getting out of the car I realized that I had forgotten our only adult sized umbrella at the church (we do have 2 child sized umbrellas, one paw patrol and one Mickey Mouse, but they aren't quite big enough to share... we have tried).  So, we decided to shorten our stay in Bordeaux from a few hours of sight seeing to a 10 minute potty break.  We loaded the kids back up in the car and drove for about 15 minutes around the city center of Bordeaux so we could at least get a feel of the city, and it was BEAUTIFUL! Too bad we were unable to experience more of it.  As we did not have a long stop in Bordeaux, we took a longer than usual dinner stop a little ways down the road.  We have been eating a lot of Burger King and Pizza (since these are the only things that have been open and available to us on our very poorly timed trip over new years) and so we decided to try something different.  Flunch.  Its kind of a cafeteria/buffet style place.  The kids were very excited about it.  Of course, when we arrived it was not open.  We asked if they had just closed (since there were people inside, and they looked like they were open).  They said they didn't open for dinner service for another 30 minutes.  We opted to stay (after yelling and each other loudly in English and making a big scene in front of the other 5 or so guests and the staff).  Can I just say that moving is hard and stressful? And kids double or triple the stress, I'm sure of it.  And moving to another country has got to be the hardest kind of moving, and taking a long road trip while its pouring rain and everywhere you could possibly stop to take a break or enjoy yourself along the way is closed!!!  I digress.  The point is, after getting our dinner (which was another story in and of itself.  Even though we speak the language and are familiar with the culture we still very often find ourselves playing the part of the dumb American who doesn't know whats going on, ever) we got back in the car, and drove to our destination.  Another AirBNB apartment.  Adorable as can be, and clean, and perfect.  We were all too happy to have arrived.  Anders ordered us to unpack his toys immediately since he had decided that he wanted to stay in that house forever.  The owner had left us a cute welcome note with a few recommendations, etc.  He said the bakery that was just 20 feet away from us happened to be the best in town.  We were so excited to wake up the next morning and buy yummy pastries for breakfast, leaving all the bad behind us, and starting french and new (Typo. I meant to say fresh and new, but somehow the mistake seems more fitting, so I'm leaving it).
The next morning we woke up, got dressed and hurried over to the bakery in the rain, full of anticipation, our mouths watering as we walked the 15 steps or so to the bakery door, only to be slapped in the face with disappointment.  The bakery was closed.  It was a Monday, and many bakeries are closed on Monday.  Of course. Just our luck.  So, we loaded up the kids in the car (again), much to their dismay, and started driving.  We weren't entirely sure where we were going, but  we figured we would eventually find something to eat, and we could kill time while we drove around and saw a few sights.  We decided to head toward the water. We were after all about 15 minutes from the shoreline of the atlantic ocean, so might as well take in the view.  We drove to a small town, Royan I think, and actually found a couple of bakeries that were open.  We picked the one that had a table inside (since we didn't really want to eat in the car, or outside in the rain) and in we went.  It was delicious.  For just a few minutes while we munched on our pastries, all was right in the world.  The rain even let up enough for us out take a quick walk down to the dock to check out the boats and take in the view for a minute.  And then it started to rain again, so back into the car we went.  This time, we pulled up the map and saw a little town/city/who knows really on the other side of the village we had stayed in.  It was called Rochefort!  We thought to ourselves, there is no way that we spend a day this close to Rochefort (I always thought it was spelled Roquefort...) and don't take the opportunity to go and taste some cheese, and maybe even go on a little tour of the cheese caves!  What better activity could there be for a grey, rainy and cold day.  Things were definitely looking up, and we couldn't help but feel a little giddy about it.

Off we went in the car to taste some cheese, and experience a place we have heard of our whole lives!  We arrived at the little tiny tourist office, parked outside, and I waited in the car with a sleeping baby while Clay ran in to get the scoop on Cheese town.  Not very many minutes later he came back looking a little sheepish.  He said "Remember how we mentioned to each other that we had aways thought that the cheese was spelled R-O-Q-U-E-F-O-R-T, and not R-O-C-H-E-F-O-R-T?  Well, thats because it is.  Roquefort, the place where they make cheese is somewhere on southern France, and I just sounded like a complete idiot walking up to lady in the tourist office of ROCHEFORT, France, asking her about cheese tours."  Guys.  This is actually really hilarious.  Super embarrassing, and super disappointing, but also totally hilarious.  Very fitting for the day (I mean week) we were having.  So we decided that we would just forget about trying to enjoy France for what it has to offer, and head on over to La Mi Caline (A chain bakery. Nothing special about it, except they do sell chocolate chip cookies... not very good ones, but chocolate chip cookies none the less) and drown our sorrows in some sugar.  We told the kids that we were going to get cookies, and it made their day.  They were soo happy.  Ezra was chanting in the back seat of the car "cookie! cookie!" although it probably sounded a little more like "goo-gee! goo-gee!".   We arrived at the counter chez La Mie Caline and Anders saw that they offered a little kids snack pack that came with a cookie, a drink and a toy.  Clay ordered 2 of them.  As the girl at the counter went to get the snack packs I smiled at Clay and said, "Truly, the worst is behind us.  We are getting cookies, the boys are happy, what else could possibly go wrong?"  As soon as my mouth closed after having said these words, the girl came back to inform us that she was sorry but she couldn't give us any snack packs.  They had no more.  Clay and I both lost it in a fit of giggles.  It was ridiculous.  We couldn't even buy cookies!!  They were right in front of our faces, sitting right in the window of the counter, and the girl wouldn't give them to us!  (Ok, so thats a lie.  She said we could have cookies, just not the kid snack pack.  But lets be honest here.  The kids were never going to eat the cookies, I was.  They were more excited about the drink and toy.)  Anyway, this whole cookie experience sealed the deal for me.  I had tried and tried to remain optimistic, denying the fact that a bad luck cloud was hanging over our heads, and following us everywhere we went, but as we stood there in the rain, in front of a cookie store that refused to sell us cookies, I felt sad.  All I could do was pray that this week wasn't a precursor of the year we have ahead of us.  Anders has been asking on a daily basis "Mom. can we please go back to Arkansas? Mom, I really want to go back to Arkansas!".  It kind of breaks my heart and I don't blame him.  I have been having the same thoughts.  Sometimes being adventurous isn't quite as glamorous as the pictures make it out to be.

Enough of being depressed.  We finished off the night with Delicious Pizza from a cute place down the street, slept well, ate pastries from the amazing little boulangerie next to the apartment the following morning, and set off to Fontainebleau!  Other than being a few hours further away from our destination that we had anticipated (for some reason neither of us did any real planning on the little trip... let that be a lesson to you...) I seriously couldn't wait.  Every time I thought about arriving at our little house, and our new little life here in France I would get butterflies.  Clay and I smiled and laughed the most of the drive and the boys started screaming and whining after about 5 mins... but that was quickly remedied by handing them each an iPad playing the show of their choice (Mickey for Ezra, and George for Anders).  We took one short potty break on the way there.  We could have possible made it the entire way without stopping, but Clay decided to say something a little too hilarious, and we ended up making an emergency potty break for me. I was on the verge of a number 3 accident (1+2) because I was laughing soo hard at him.  I wish I could remember now what it was he said... I'm sure it was one of those "you had to be there" moments, but I about died laughing about it.  Or rather my undies about died because I was laughing so hard about it.  It had something to do with "100%" and as soon as I would calm down the hysterics I would try to talk to him and for some reason, without meaning to, everything that came out of my mouth contained a "100%".  For example, "I'm 100% sure" or "I believe you 100%", etc.  The hysterics would start all over again, along with the threat of a number 3 (1+2) accident.  Remember when I mentioned earlier that someone who doesn't normally wear a diaper to bed wore one?  Well, all I'm saying is that we found a gas station just in time and I was able to run in and take care of my business without having to reach in the back seat and grab and one out of the diaper bag :)

We made it to our house about 1:30 pm.  I'm sharing this detail merely because Clay is sitting next to me while I am writing this, and I'm thinking about how much he likes to share details while he is telling stories.  I thought I would follow his lead and throw in a few more details, just to make sure I am adequately painting the picture for you (whoever you are).  We got out of the car slowly, just taking it all in.  Seriously, it was perfect!  I couldn't believe how adorable everything was, the last 30 minutes of the drive were just breathtaking, driving through the forrest, gazing at the cute french houses and streets and everything!  I was in Heaven.  We are renting a guardian house (like a guest house) on a larger property.  The garden is perfect and the houses (both the big one and the ours) are equally adorable.  I couldn't be happier!  As we walked up to the gate to the house we met our landlady (she must have been checking the mail right as we pulled up).  She is from London and so she addressed us in English.  She opened up the gate, and welcome us in.  She came in for a bisous saying "I guess we should probably French kiss since we are in France" (you know, the kind where you kiss each other on the cheeks).  About two seconds later she realized what she had just said and apologized for how weird it sounded in English.  I had a hard time holding in the giggles.  I think it was a nice ice breaker for my landlady to offer to make out with me the first time we met :)  She took us into the house, showed us around, and everything was perfect!  The house was even better than I had imagined.  This is impressive since the pictures made it look so nice, and it seems that houses, hotels and such never quite look as nice in reality as they do in pictures.

Anyway, here we are.  Living in France.  Its perfect.  I'm happy.  Life is good.