Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 8: borderless (a one sided conversation)

Hello? Belgium? The door was open so I thought I'd just come on in.
Oh, cool, I guess that was the idea.
Feels a bit weird helping myself to a beer though. Then again, if it's Belgium beer.

Day 7: an excerpt

I've been home, alone, with a grumpy and not-very-well baby all day. No surprise, I'm short on bright ideas for fresh material... but I did write a few lines of my novel draft. And this is part of it.

"Are you free to work the day after tomorrow?" Thomas got to the point.

"Yeah, sure, of course." I hoped I didn't sound too desperate, too available, though perhaps the impression, if he got it, would be accurate. I laughed, from nerves or something, and then felt the need to keep talking, to explain my laugh. And it was odd that another teacher had called me to arrange relief work. I said, "I'm beginning to think this principal is a figment of your communal imagination."

"He'd have called you himself but something's come up."

Vacances, the finale...

Monday afternoon, after our swimmingly good day-so-far, we headed into Argeles-sur-Mer for a bit of exploration.

Pokey little streets and fun coloured buildings all packed together, the ancient beside the just plain old, balconies and street lamps, guttering and window boxes... all very cool and quaint.

So we wandered around a bit.

Found a cool old church.

The town of Argeles-sur-Mer is a little way off from the beach, so we consulted our handy dandy GPS and found Argeles Plage... the beach.

Ah, the Mediterranean.

The palms kept reminding us of Florida... not so much the temperature, malheureusement.

We had pizza for dinner, with a view of the beach. Louis was a bit over it, unfortunately, and we had to pull out the bubbles. Problem is: once they're out you're not allowed to put them away.

 Unless you offer something better... like sand. And for want of a bucket... my shoes.

A family photo, which will very soon be out of date.

Tuesday dawned cool and not-so-clear. With our hopes high we packed our togs, thinking we could turn toward the Mediterranean and make the most of a hot day, if one showed up. Meanwhile, we had another funky town to explore: Elne.

Wonder if this guy owned this car before being allotted this parking space...?

Saw these green bamboo-looking pipes on loads of buildings, including on the castle at Collioure. 
Strange but cool.

Elne boasts an abbey, which we decided to visit.

The courtyard was like the garden of Gethsemane in a movie... or that's what it made me think of.

We climbed these well-worn spiral stairs,

up to the roof,

and the view. Then down the pokey stairs, slow and careful, to the courtyard.
You can't actually go in the courtyard, but the galleries were interesting - beautiful architecture and, for something else, a few sarcophagi. 

Inside the cathedral.

That's quite the organ. 

And in the basement... an archaeological exhibition. 
There was also pottery from the 4th century! Kind of blows my mind, how old these places are.

It was sunny but blowing something of a gale, so we headed to the beach, and then, toute de suite, found shelter... 

Shelter that served fabulicious ice creams, coffees and crepes!


Unfortunately Louis woke half way through a nap when we stopped driving and was not at his best. He perked up a little bit when I started shoveling strawberry ice cream into his mouth, but even that didn't last long.

So we took Louis back to camp for a proper nap. The boys went off to get some groceries. Michelle and I hung out and had a good, long yarn. After a delicious dinner we played Carcasonne all evening (cough-again-cough). In the morning it was clean-up time.

We had to catch a train from Argeles-sur-Mer, but not until after one last stop for pastries at/near the beach.
The park over the road from the beach... no sand in our chausson aux pomme, but unfortunately the park had a bit of a pong. A doggy pong. Probably. Yuck.
Beach was gorgeous. 

And Louis was happy.

Farewell to the Mediterranean, for now.

Adam and Michelle had to get on the road so they dropped us off at the train station. We grabbed some lunch then took an earlier train than planned. 

Waiting, briefly, for the train at Argeles-sur-Mer

Louis playing with Luuk's face: a game which lasts longer than you'd think.

Unfortunately we couldn't take our next train earlier than originally planned. So we ended up in Montpellier for a couple of hours. Didn't go far from the train station, laden with luggage and all. 

First impressions of Montpellier: beautiful but rough, but perhaps because of our proximity to the train station.

Louis wouldn't sleep on the first train - why, oh why? - and we were feeling past it as well. 
Therefore, first priority: coffee.

And next, to find a play ground. Which turned out to be very easy: the park right across the road from the station! Handy.

One more long train trip - 3 hours by fast train to Paris...
We ate dinner, played games, read and relaxed.

Louis slept!

And Luuk played with the settings on the camera.

Voila! Fini.

And tomorrow we're off to the Netherlands for four days. I've finally finished doing all the laundry and have started packing again. We're driving this time, so don't need to be quite so compact: don't need to be able to carry everything through a bustling train station. Also, we're staying with Luuk's family, so we don't need to take sheets and towels. We're going north and have no expectations of swimming, or even sun really, so that narrows down the outfit selection.

I think, after this trip, it'll be time to slow down, to rest and nest... in the necessary rather than superfluous sense, i.e. should find this soon-coming baby a bed, something vaguely girly to wear, a car seat, and some new born size nappies. I'm trying to think what else we'll need. I suppose I could pack myself a bag for the hospital once I've unpacked from the Netherlands. That'd be awfully organised, wouldn't it?

I painted a huge mural for Louis just before he was born, speaking of nesting. We brought it with us, folded up like a sheet. It's still folded up, but I keep meaning to unfurl it and put it up. Perhaps I'll paint on some new things, some more birds and animals, for the new baby and we can put it up in the bedroom. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vacances, part 2

The second day of our holiday came with sunshine! Took a while to get warm, so initially we weren't stripping off and making a dash for the pool, but we did relocate the games to the great outdoors.

Oh, so this is what the glasses are for... I must look as cool as my mum.

Adam, strategising.

Tantrix (the game) and morning tea of fresh croissants and coffee. Nice.

Just hanging out.

Eager to make the most of the weather, but still a little wary of the likely-cold pool and definitely-cold sea, we headed to the Tennis courts.

Luuk and Adam had a game, of sorts.

Louis enjoyed the show (almost as much as he enjoyed throwing the stones around)

Then it was the girls' turn. 

This was obviously such a remarkable sight that Louis lost interest in the stones.

In many ways similar to our games of hackey by the lake: the actual rules were abandoned...

and any rallies of more than three shots together were celebrated with gusto.

Not that there weren't some definite signs of potential.

What we lacked in tennis nous, was made up for in creativity,

and commitment.

It's possible the audience were less committed.

After all that hard work it was well and truly time for a swim! The water wasn't too cold - it was fine if you dived right in and took the shock straight up. A minute later and us hardy adults had adjusted. Little Louis on the other hand, with less experience of such things, took his time: stood on the step and splashed happily for most of the time. Was in fact drenched for quite a while before he went any further.

Hold on tight.

Time to get out.

This is the look for sunbathing.