Monday, 23 September 2013

Hula hula

Today's the day we went on a gondola ride on a subterranean lake, deep down in the earth....
and Alf learnt to hula hoop!!!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Learning on the road

Well it's been an amazing few days and I just wanted to write a little about learning on the road, and some observations I've made about the kids in general.

Our trip has been centred around variety, and exposing the children to as many different scenarios, activities and sights as possible. Being children, they have a strong need for rest and playtime, so we don't drag them round too many sights, and always balance intense city/town trips with chill-out days. No matter where we are or what we're doing though, they're soaking up the whole experience like the big sponges that they are!

The skills and language they are acquiring seems so easy and natural, and completely in context. Confidences slowly gained in different activities. Dots joined up in their understanding. Whether we are doing ordinary and mundane things, or really exciting trips out, they're learning. They're learning by playing, by living, by exploring, by asking questions and discussing many possible answers. By trial and error. By accident. When we're not trying.

I have been quietly despairing for a few months that after spending a lot of money on swimming lessons, that Finn and Herbie seemed to only mess about in the pool, and both boys were doing doggy paddle every time we went to a pool. I had visions of them never learning to swim 'properly'. And suddenly, through no real effort, this last week, they are swimming lengths using the front crawl as if they'd been doing it their whole lives and I simply imagined there was a time when they couldn't do it! My jaw literally dropped as I have watched them swimming about with such strength and confidence, and it's been another one of those moments when I realize that I should have had more faith in them, and trusted that they would do it when they were good and ready and not a minute before - like everything else!

Herbie went off to a Boulangerie on his own yesterday and bought us a couple of baguettes and went off to do the recycling asking the campsite owner where to go, and wandering off quite some way to do it.

Alfie has learnt to ride a scooter on this holiday, and to whistle, and has been doing both with such delight - at every opportunity!

Indie has been showing more independence and testing his skills to the max in tree climbing, scooter-riding, and wandering off on his own.

Finn has been playing Civilisation on his DS, and conquered all of Alexander the Greats lands, which I gather is no small feat,, and has also been playing a Farm simulator game, where you have to manage and run your own farm. He absolutely loves it, and has has taken great pride in building up his farm and improving it over the seasons.

They've learnt some simple horsemanship after each having a pony trek ride throught the forest, and watched the beautiful and sad black and white film from the 1950's called White Mane about a wild white horse, in the Camargue region, whilst we stayed there.

Finn used his birthday money and some from our educational fund to buy a genuine leather repo Centurion helmet for his museum, after a visit to a very impressive Roman amphitheatre in Orange. His knowledge of the Romans has come from so many fun and interesting sources - we try to keep things light! We've learnt a lot of really ordinary everyday things about the Romans from Asterix, and after visiting the amphitheatre, we watched Life of Brian, which went down a storm. All dots joining up - using comedy and humour along the way.

After going to the Louvre in Paris, we bought The Da Vinci Code on DVD and the older boys watched it, which prompted of course, many discussions about, religion, conspiracies, the Knights templar etc etc. And revisiting the mediavel fairytale citadel of Carcassonne (where they filmed some of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves) has highlighted yet more religious history - relating to the Cathars, Knights, the Holy Grail and Franco-Spanish history.

Playing Yahtzee has taught the children to count quicker in units, tens and hundreds - all so easily and non-schooly and no workbooks involved. Ditto working with money, or discussing the relative depth in cms of this swimming pool or that - such ordinary everyday parts of life we take for granted, yet they all make up an understanding of the world.

Regular, ordinary life on the road, whether we're rolling or stationary, teaches all of us so much. Every day is a new adventure. One day we learn about sweet production, the next Flamingoes. It's all just so beautifully, beautifully random. I love this lifestyle on the road, and I know it will be over again soon. We sail home next Monday. Then we'll be adventuring in a new way. Catching up with friends, signing up to new activities, day tripping less often but day tripping none the less. It's hard to imagine pumpkins and soups and brown leaves and October whilst here in the beautiful Lot and Garonne region, in 26 degrees heat, but my thoughts turn to our winding journey northwards, homewards. Our adventures here may seem extraordinary, but back home there will be different adventures to be had. I'm looking forward to them already!

Sunday, 15 September 2013


I can't believe how much we've been doing this holiday so far. After what has felt like a fairly quiet, and fairly at-home (for us) summer, we've been out and about and doing things non-stop it feels! There are stressful times as with any holiday with six people all in one bus, but there tends to be a common factor on those days that are less than fun: bad weather. Bad weather tends to make us all a bit grumpy as we aren't so free, and the dog hates it too!

We took a look at the weather forecast and made a decision after Park Asterix to head south. Who in their right mind would go rainy caravanning when they could head for the sun? It was a no brainer. So here we are in the South of France. We like it here. A lot. We had planned to explore Brittany, but it is so close to England really, and it's not running away anywhere! We figured that we can go for a couple of weeks some other time.

So what have we been up to? As I mentioned before, we went to Park Asterix - It was absolutely brilliant, so much better than I could have imagined, partly because of all the rollercoasters and proper rides, but even moreso because they know and love the books and characters, Herbie in particular.

and after the busyness of a day there, we camped up in a beautiful wild spot in the forest about 45 minutes from there. It was lovely to walk and smell the mushroomy september smell of forest and wake in the night to absolute darkness, the kind you only get when you're totally off grid. Perfect.

We woke up to hard rain and decided to head south. Our next stop was Troyes. Troyes is a beautiful mediaeval timbered town....

and we stayed at a campsite nearby, with red squirrels darting here and there around us. So beautiful to see them. The most amazing thing in Troyes was also the most unexpected - for the first time in my whole life, I saw a hummingbird! In a pretty herb garden. It was the kids who named it - I was like, "wooooh that's awfully big for a moth.... and how come its wings are beating so fast?" It would never occur to me that it could be a hummingbird - they live in tropical places, right? And yet it was. I got to see up close, for a brief moment, tiny downy feathers, and the unmistakable way they sip at nectar with that long sucky thing (must look up proper word for this), I can't tell you how completely and utterly excited I was. I feel so privileged to have seen it! Such a delicate thing, such a tiny and perfect creature. Wow.

After this we made a stop at Lyon - to visit the building where the Lumiere brothers made the first ever film, although when we got there most of the building was closed for renovations - thankfully there was lots of visual stuff in the park all around it and in the street, so it wasn't a totally wasted journey...

We freecamped that night in a hillside village spot, and moved on early next day. Next stop: a lovely chilled out, remote lakeside campsite near Montelimar. - Montelimar is the 'Capital of Nougat' and the signs on the motorway say 'Nougat' with a huge arrow - what's not to love? And what a sweet place it was. Nougat factories lined the road going into Montelimar, and one place our trusty DK France for Families book recommended was the amazing Palais de BonBons - a nougat factory where you could see the production line up close behind a glass screen set within a fantastic multicoloured eye-popping museum and shrine to all things candied, chocolate or sugared.

It struck the right balance between being fun and educational, with an indoor working beehive, artworks made out of sweets, and the World's largest nougat plus Guinness World Record Certificate to prove it.

Whilst we stayed here all the boys went to a really fun outdoor go-karting track as an early birthday treat for Finn, who has wanted to go Go Karting for ages, and even Alf had a go, who drove on a petrol powered one with his helmet on, going about 20mph! He loved it. The other boys went on a bigger track with more powerful cars, lots of fun.

I've so much more to write, about ponies and amphitheatres and forest exploits and photos to attach, but am tired and the laptop's about to run out of juice, so au revoir for now!

Love and baguettes,
xX Le MF Xx

Saturday, 7 September 2013

La vie est belle...

Last time we  went on a trip we kept a diary but aren't bothering this time, so I'll do the odd blog instead.

So here we are in Huttopia - a lovely leafy woodlandy eco-friendly campsite near Versailles in Paris. Indie has been in his element zipping around on his scooter. Him and Alf have made pals with some English kids, so they're off playing with them. Today we hung out here after a busy day yesterday... Pete took the young'uns to the Chateaux of Versailles, and I went with Finn and Herb into Paris on the Metro. It was loads of fun! We went to The Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa (She really does seem to look at you wherever you stand!) and The Last Supper ( Peope tell you it's huge, but it's really really huuuuuuuuge) , and ambled around a while in the museum - wow, so glad we went!

after admiring the glass pyramids, we took a walk along The Seine, and hopped on a water bus that dropped us right next to the Champ de Mars, and its stunning monument - The Eiffel Tower - which we didn't go up - the queues were very very verrrrry long, and we were tired already. So instead we walked around the park and admired it from the ground!

Tomorrow, we're taking the boys to Park Asterix after teasing them by driving past it on the way into Paris and shrugging our shoulders when they said OH pleeeeease can we stop??? 


since they are big fans of Asterix and packed all their Asterix books for this trip, along with their fave Tintin's too!

Can't wait to go visit 'Armorica' and 'Obelix's Standing Stones' later in the trip ;-)

A bientot for now xxx

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Summery snapshots!


I was going to do a 'Wahoo we're going to France in our 'Bago' type post as that's exactly what we are doing tommorow - for three weeks...ish! - but looking through some summer pics, I realize I've barely blogged about our summer, so thought I'd do that first!

Here's some snapshots from Pete's phone.... must find mine and upload some more....if only I could find where I left my phone!

dressed up smart for a friend's wedding....

beautiful boys :-)

with pals at a dr.who exhibition. the others really need to lighten up!

the one on the left looks like he's desperate for a wee!!!

don't blink!!!

indie admiring the sunflowers he grew from seed

indie is 8

a rubbish photo of his amazing cake!!!

the beautifulest baby girl that I caught earlier this year

mel and co from the foolhardy circus - what a lovely bunch o peeps they all are

my lovely friend knitted me this to say thanks for being at her birth...go with the flow.... :-)

homegrown always tastes best :-)

and we have been blooming in other ways too!!!!

I had meant to post more pics.... there's all sorts from over the summer but they're on all different computers round the house (and I'm too lazy to move my pregnant ass n go to it) .... so you'll have to wait for another time for more!

Will keep in touch as we travel in France anyhoo - for now, au revoir mes amis!

Big love

xX MF Xx