All Posts By

Christine

Our Adventures

Alsace

October 6, 2019

From Champagne we travelled east and descended into the Rhine Valley, where France meets Germany. This part of France changed hands four times between 1874 and 1945, and again in the preceding centuries, so there are strong Germanic influences in the architecture, wine, cuisine, customary dress, and village names. We began with a visit to Haut Koenigsburg Castle, a medieval fortress perched high on a rock looking out across the plains to Germany.- We stayed in a campsite just outside…

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Epic Trip Planning

Choosing our village in France

September 16, 2019

Choosing the town where we would live our French dream was a bit like sticking a pin in a map. Where do you start? From the beginning, my husband Simon told me that I should feel free to pick any town or place, in any part of France I wanted. This was my dream, and he didn’t have a personal preference, he wanted me to have freedom to choose.   Trouble was, I didn’t have a particular preference either.  There was no…

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Epic Trip Planning

French school, one week down: La Rentrée part 2

September 11, 2019

Last Friday I was sneaking in a little rest after a busy morning unravelling la paperasserie (red tape), when I heard Tom’s feet resounding up the stairs. He burst through the bedroom door and pounced onto the bed, perching astride my knees to pin down my attention.  “Mum, Mum, MUM. So today, we had salad, with olives and egg and dressing…” “I had rockmelon!” yelled his younger brother, sticking his baseball-capped head around the door frame. “Shhhh I was telling!!”…

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Epic Trip Planning

Preparing for school in France: La Rentrée

September 10, 2019

As August faded into September, I found myself waking in the early hours. The children would soon be starting school speaking very little French, and the enormity of what we were asking of them loomed out of the 2am darkness. I felt sick with anxiety. Of course, we had tried to help them learn French for months. We engaged a tutor before we left New Zealand, we played language learning apps daily in the car while travelling and we had…

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Our Adventures

In the trenches of Verdun

August 30, 2019

“Many of us here use writing as a means of staying alive…” So wrote a French commanding officer, holed up in the underground citadel of Verdun, during the longest battle of World War I. The subterranean tunnels of the citadel were the command post, the ammunitions store, the place from which troops were dispatched or returned  from the front, where bread was baked for the soldiers’ rations and wounds were tended. I was a little apprehensive about visiting Verdun, where…

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Our Adventures

Of Champagne and Birkenstocks

August 20, 2019

When you’re so close to Champagne, how could you  resist stopping by for a glass or two? Yet again… we’re travelling with kids.  So rather than drag them around a series of vineyards, we decided to head into Épernay for a stroll down the Avenue de Champagne, home to dozens of champagne houses and their magnificent mansions, some of which have been transformed into elegant hotels.  Think Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger, Perrier-Jouët. Beneath the streets lie over 110 km of underground…

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Our Adventures

You came all the way to France and you missed it?

August 9, 2019

Everywhere we go in France we find ourselves thinking – gosh this is lovely – should we have based ourselves here for the longer part of our stay? Each region unfolds some new and unexpected loveliness and so it was with Burgundy.  We passed through pretty if a little more rustic villages, and rolling fields of sunflowers, corn, and golden wheat scattered with wild poppies. We’d booked a gîte (apartment) through AirBnB and thank heavens for the SatNav or we…

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Our Adventures

Exploring the chateaux of the Loire

July 25, 2019

In the Loire Valley, there are more than 100 chateaux open to the public. So if you only have a few days, or even a week, to explore the valley, how are you to decide which chateaux to visit? It’s interesting to observe how the chateaux owners have attempted to differentiate their pads and entice visitors through the gates. It’s simply not enough to rest on your historic, majestic, or elegant credentials. So there are classical concerts, jousting displays, incredible…

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Our Adventures

The incredible Puy du Fou

July 19, 2019

When we planned our trip, my French friend Laurette insisted there was one place that should be on our itinerary: historical theme park, Puy du Fou. There are no rides, no amusements. Instead the park hosts a series of historical “spectacles” portraying different periods of history, complete with special effects and stunt actors. Laurette and her kids were visiting France at the same time, so booked tickets for the same day. We met them there in the morning, and our…

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Our Adventures

Le Mont St Michel and other old haunts

July 17, 2019

One of the most magical places I visited as a 17-year-old AFS exchange student in Normandy, was Le Mont St Michel. This walled village, snaking up to an abbey at the top, was built on a rock in a tidal bay over several centuries beginning in 708. The bay has the greatest tide variations in Europe, rising as much as 15 m over six hours. The surrounding countryside is completely flat, so the village rises like a mirage and is…

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