Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Les Gorges du Verdon

A bridge across les Gorges du Verdon

Billed as France's little Grand Canyon (how do they get away with that?) the Gorges du Verdon is apparently only second to THE Grand Canyon in USA. Second in what way I'm not sure - size, popularity, beauty? I thought the gorges in Karijini National Park in WA were pretty stunning, and now I would just like to line them up side by side and compare them.

We took the long road home from the coast so that we could take a peek at this spot. Sophie just wanted to get home as quickly as possible, and wasn't keen on the detour.
SOPHIE: I want to get home but all Dad cares about is scenery.
ODETTE: What is scenery?

Sophie at the gorge

Hello Australia!

A message from Sophie...

Sunday, 27 April 2008

On the Beach

Sophie and Bonnie on the beach, with St Tropez in the distance

Odette, Sophie and Bonnie on the beach at Port Grimaud

Beach girls - Odette and Bonnie with St Tropez in the distance

Odette - doing the posing thing

Hugh as a beach dude...

Some pictures of the Prairies de la Mer park

Fun for the Kids

After a day of touring the kids were happy to be back to their temporary home. As a treat for being so well behaved I took them to the fun part of the holiday park while Roger cooked dinner. Our kids wouldn't get to see this type of thing more than once in a year back home, but it was the second time in two weeks that they got a ride. What lucky children!

Hugh on a pink motor scooter on the carousel

The kids, with their friend Luca, on the bouncy castle

Bonnie - the closest she has come to riding a pony in France...


Caro and Bonnie, failing to look like rich and famous residents of the Riviera.

Port Grimaud is on the Gulf of Saint Tropez, on the French Riviera, which is renowned as a holiday spot for the rich and famous. We thought we might have spotted some celebrities while we were there, but they obviously weren't staying at the same holiday park as us.
St Tropez is the most famous holiday spot; so the first day we were there we did the tourist thing and headed to Saint Tropez; and we drove straight through and headed out again because we couldn't stand the amount of traffic and people. We really are country bumpkins and don't feel comfortable in crowds ...
The pretty medieval village of Ramatuelle (see the French tourist website or the English tourist website) was where we ended up. It was marked on our map as "one of the most beautiful villages in France" and it did indeed have some very picturesque scenes. And lots of tourists...
It wasn't possible to photograph anything successfully at the time of day when we were there, but you can see some pictures on the website links above.


Our mobil-home, with kids...

Dinner time...

After a few days at home - to rest, catch up with the washing, answer emails and do some business over the internet - we hit the road again. On Wednesday morning we set off for Port Grimaud, where one of Stef's friends owns some mobile homes in a holiday park - see
We travelled for about seven hours, including comfort stops and a picnic, before we arrived at the park in the evening.
The holiday park was huge, and we were glad of the map we were given on arrival. Our mobile home was brand new, with the packing still inside the refrigerator and the microwave oven.

Brand new, with packing still inside

It is amazing how much you can fit into a small space when you only need the essentials. Like two beds in each of the smaller bedrooms, although I wasn't able to reach the kids to kiss them goodnight!

The bedroom where Sophie and Odette slept

We were very comfortably accommodated, and didn't need to use the air-conditioning or the heater, apart from early one morning. Not that we were awake in the early morning very often - we got into the holiday routine of late nights and late mornings. It will be fun to see if we can get the girls up early enough to go to school in the morning!!

Views of Besancon

A couple of photos of Besançon, with and without Odette.


When we left Dampierre-sur-Linotte we went to Besançon for the night and stayed in everybody's favourite - an Etap Hotel. This time we had to have two rooms, but only because one room wasn't big enough for all of us. (Only three beds and two pillows in each...) Actually it is not Sophie's favourite accommodation but our budget doesn't fit the style she prefers...
Although we went to Besançon we didn't have much time there, and we didn't explore the town at all. But we caught up with Rowena Putland, the daughter of our neighbours back home, who is living there with her French husband Thierry.

With Rowena Putland and Thierry Morel at the zoo in Besançon

We met them at the Citadelle, where there is a zoo, and spent some time browsing there before the rain drove us home. Apart from the outdoor zoo we also saw the nocturnal exhibit, which was all rats and mice, and the aquarium. I haven't got any photos of the exotic animals, but it was fun watching various types of monkeys and baboons playing around. They exhibit such human characteristics; like the mother smacking her child over the head when he teased the baby. And then when I tried to have a close look into one of the enclosures with glass windows all I could see was my reflection!

I am not sure if Thierry was trying to throw Sophie and Bonnie
over the wall, or trying to stop them from falling...

The farmyard exhibit was something we didn't have to travel to a zoo to see (Nan, check out the peacock...) but there is a photo of Hugh and Odette crawling through a tunnel in the rabbit cage.
We went back to Rowena and Thierry's apartment and had take-away pizza for dinner. The kids watched a DVD, we had wine and cheese, and then left before the kids fell asleep (because I didn't want to have to carry anyone down the stairs...)
Thierry had some ideas for excursions the next day, but we had to decline because everyone was very tired and we had to drive back to Ste Marie d'Alloix.

Rowena and Thierry in their apartment (sorry guys,
I know its a shocking picture...)


I still haven't got through all our photos from the first week of school holidays, and already it is the last day of the second week...
Dampierre-sur-Linotte: Stephane described his work for a company that makes bronze statues. They cast the works of sculptors/artists, and Stephane's job is finishing off the sculptures once they have been cast. We were able to see some of the finished works, like this caricature of a lawyer striding towards the courthouse across the street in Vesoul.
He pointed out the technicalities of the process, showing us where the joins were made, and which pieces were cast separately.
We found another one of the statues at the citadelle in Besançon, and another on the street in Besançon.

A big man or a small boy? - or both?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Off to the Riviera

We are heading off for a few days to stay in a "mobilhome" in a park near St Tropez on the Cote d'Azur. Sounds very romantic, but with 4 small children we won't be going to any clubs!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Sunday on Wednesday

Gaby and Georges on their balcony with a foggy view of Grenoble in the background

Today it felt like Sunday because we went to Georges and Gaby's (Stef's parents) place for lunch. It was the first time we had visited them at their house, and Georges was a bit concerned that we wouldn't find their place (if you read our post "No School on Wednesdays" you will know why), so he was standing out on the street to welcome us. He had no need to worry, because we had Tom-Tom to guide us!
We had a nice lunch, although the girls weren't too keen on eating the radishes. (They had been served them one day at school cantine and they didn't know what they were - it took me a while to work out that the little red and white balls they described to me were in fact radishes.) When Hugh grew restless of sitting at the table Gaby did the good grandmother thing and got out some Lego blocks for him to play with. All the kids ended up constructing a house out of the blocks before we left.
After lunch we had a walk to the village church and Mairie at Venon. The picture shows Gaby pointing out landmarks in Grenoble to Roger from the forecourt at the church.
Then we had a look in their garden where Gaby had found a special mushroom (called a "morille" in French, but known as "morel" in English). It is prized for cooking but apparently can be confused with poisonous mushrooms so I probably wouldn't be game to eat it.
In the garden Hugh found something much more exciting - a ladder! Roger had to hold onto his feet to stop him climbing higher...

Monday, 21 April 2008

Hugh's New Bike

Hugh is always wanting to ride a bike, so I decided to buy him this cute little one, with a steering handle accessory at the back. The handle can be taken off, but with the busy roads and steep hills around here it will make riding much safer. I had visions of him riding his little bike down to pick the girls up from school, or to buy our bread at the kiosque in the mornings.
He rides it well, and fast, but he hates the handle being attached. He threw such a tantrum when I put it on yesterday afternoon that it took us half an hour to get from the basketball court at school back to the house (about 200 metres). I hope he gets used to the idea...


We visited our first chateau while we were with the Viennet family (pictured below). The chateau at Champlitte was open as a museum, with rooms recreating scenes from the 18th Century. The girls and I have decided that we would like to live in a chateau, so we are looking out for suitable real estate. If you have the same desire you could look at the Prestige Property Group's list of 120 chateax for sale in France, or or

Built in 1782

These are some photos of the cottage that Roger and I stayed in in Dampierre-sur-Linotte. It belongs to Stephane's aunty, and it used to be his grandma's house. It was built in 1782, which makes it older than anything in Western Australia. I loved its thick stone walls and heavy furniture. The most fascinating thing about it was the sinuous quality of the thick walls. Nothing was straight, which you may or may not be able to see in the pictures. The walls seemed to get thicker as they got higher, and one end wall, which was not able to be photographed was quite concave at the top.

The story behind the house made it all the more interesting, and helped to explain the less than perfect building skills. (Were spirit levels invented in 1782?) Apparently the house was built by the women, while their men were away at war. My French history is not up to scratch, but I am sure any French readers would probably know which war it would be - was that the time of Napoleon? The Revolution?? Maybe I need to do some more reading...

New Fashion in Nose Rings?

What looks like a punk accessory for fashionable cattle actually has a less glamorous purpose. The young cattle when they are penned together start to try to suckle on each other. If the suckling is enough it can cause lactation in the heifers, which ruins their udders for milking. Hence the accessory which discourages the behaviour.
And if you think the nose ring looks uncomfortable you could consider the other, more traditional, method of discouraging suckling in young cattle.

This photo probably isn't clear enough to show that this heifer's tongue has been cut into a point so that it can't physically latch onto a teat.

In the Barn

Although the cows in the last post were pictured walking in from their grassy field to be milked, they were not going out again to sleep in the field. That can only happen in summer when the night time temperatures are warmer than freezing. Until such time they will stay in the barn overnight. Their calves stay permanently inside the barn. Bull calves get fed for about 20 months before going to the place that cattle go to when they are nice and meaty. The heifer calves will probably go on to be milking cows.
The food was meant to be for the cows, but Hugh thought it looked good enough to play with (and it did smell quite tasty...).

Sunday, 20 April 2008


During our travels through the Franche-Comté region we saw lots of land with young crops - mainly cereals. Here is a picture of some canola growing in a field, and some silos (which I snapped through the windscreen as we drove past). There were hundreds of hectares of crops, but usually in small plots, with no fences - so I presume that these fields are continuously cropped.

Cows coming in for milking

The area is also famous for its cheeses, and both Stephan's and Annick's fathers had been cheese makers. There were many dairy farms. Most of the cows we saw were brown and white, a local breed called Montbéliard.
(Click here to find out more about the
Montbéliard breed.)

Our hosts organised a visit to a dairy farm for us. The farm was only small, with about 30 or 40 cows being milked. The milk goes down the road about 5kms to a fromagerie where it is made into cheese.
The by-product of cheese-making is whey, and Annick works for a company that dries the whey into powder and exports it around the world. In her job distributing the products she speaks both English and German, as well as French, and she is currently learning another language (I can't remember if it was Polish or Russian). However Stephan only speaks French, so he and Roger (who only speaks English) had quite interesting chats!