Saturday, 26 May 2007

Un petit peu de Martinique en Valence

Day 9: From Chablis we were on our way via Dijon to see Monette and Michael in Valence. We stopped off in Dijon by the side of a tres jolie lake (in which Moses swam unrewardingly after geese and swans), had a gorgeous picnic wetting ourselves as we continued to talk Pink Panther Clouseau at a completely inappropriate volume. Although it’s been loads of fun to take the piss out of the French speaking English, it’s actually proved a surprisingly productive exercise. The English talk with wide vowels and mainly with our jaws. French is spoken in the back of the throat with pouting lips. So Clouseau-speak is great training. And, as we’ve found now on several occasions, the French seem to understand English better when spoken in a Clouseau accent. Who’d have thought?

After bike riding and skating round the park, we booked ourselves into the campsite next to the lake and took a far too ambitiously long evening stroll with Mosie along the river into the centre of Dijon – a delightful old town in the centre but disappointingly no mustard to be found. However ice cream galore so Ellie was satisfied.

Day 11: Vonnie and I read some more of other people’s home schooling stories from the “Free range education” book. One example of structured school type learning programme with lessons in morning, text books and visits in the afternoons. Then another espousing the virtues of autonomous learning where you take the lead from the children’s questioning – they learn what interests them when it interests them. Both forms – structured and autonomous – seem to be inherently good and fruitful, so we’re gonna try both (and probably everything in between on that spectrum) until we find the right style to suit Josh and Ellie (and us). We stopped off before Lyon at another one of those “time to stop so let’s take that turning over there and see it where it goes” destinations and found ourselves by the side of the magnificent Rhone river 4km outside Marcon. I kicked the kids out to go on a long bike ride by the river to burn off the days drive and Von walked Moses to do the same while I had fun cooking up another morsel watching the fish jump as the sun set over the river running beneath us. It’s hard to describe just how it feels to park up by the side of somewhere so beautiful knowing you have everything you need in a home on wheels and not to have to pay anything to anyone. Experiences like that so far in our lives usually have a charge attached. But I guess from here on in on our journey they will be commonplace and free.

In the morning we packed up and set off to Valence to see Monette’s garden in Valence! So wonderful to see her and Michael again after so long. What a warm welcome. Treated like royalty and rested deeply for a couple of days, sharing stories, kids playing from dawn to dusk with Michael and his neighbouring mates. Monette is a spiritual person who has spent her life fighting and praying for reconciliation issues dealing with the world’s wounded history. Her home felt like we were stopping off at Elron’s house in the Lord of the Rings. Von’s dodgy stomach from Dehli began to ease a little in that healing sanctuary and we would have slept long if it wasn’t for Moses throwing up each night at 3am.

Coincidentally Monette and Michael were on their way on Saturday to see their friend Christienne in Nimes and we wanted to visit the old Roman aqueduct at the Pont du gard. So we took Michael and had a beautiful afternoon swimming in the river upstream to the old bridge, skimming stones and watching Moses swim with the fishes. That evening at Christienne’s house Ellie slept very little as she had an allergic reaction to the 4 long haired cats in the house. A reaction that lead to a severe asthma attack by the following evening after reaching Aix en Provence, where she would stay 2 days in hospital with Von.

Day 16: The site at Aix was superb. Massive and intimate at the same time, it’s built on a hilltop with over 700 sites cutely designed with hedges and trees in the grounds of an old chateaux. And a decent swimming pool that Josh and I made the most of while waiting for Eliie to recover. We also took the opportunity to cycle into town and fill up provisions at the Provencial street market in the town’s centre.

Rushing Ellie into hospital like that was scary. It was touch and go there and I thank God for Vonnie who remained very calm and sang to Ellie massaging her chest while we sped through the narrow town streets to the emergency department. And also for the staff of the hospital who were so patient to deal with my crap French spoken in desperation trying to explain the series of events that had lead to the attack and Ellie’s potted medical history. One thing that emergencies do do, is force you to communicate by any means necessary. If you are misunderstood the consequences could be serious.

Eventually Ellie was released with Ventalin, medication and advice to get allergy testing as soon as we were able to. What seemed to help her more than anything though was the yoga breathing that Von taught her in the hospital. It will be imperative that we do yoga regularly from here in – for so much more than just well being. We really saw with Ellie’s attack how not being able to breathe properly could kill you.

We’re just about to leave this pretty site and head off to our next destination – probably St Tropez (as you do) – but not before we spend the evening in this vivacious little university town of Aix en Provence. Off to cafĂ©’s, shopping and hopefully an evening meal overlooking fountains and watching the French do their thing. We’re not far away from Italy now, I can hear her calling me, but I will miss France. A lot more than I ever thought I would. Her food and wine, her endless ancient villages and towns, her history and art, her people with their little dogs, little dresses and shoes, and jumpers thrown over the shoulders and their little cars. And most importantly of all, her joi de vie. But not time for au revoir just yet. Still life by the sea to taste and share with all those rich playboys in their yachts. The French Riviera and St Tropez here we come. Hopefully we might even get to pop into Cannes on Friday to mix with the A list celebs on the final day of this year’s film festival.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Dear Winter Family!

I miss you all so much! how is Europe? how is life?

We are all enjoying nice sunnie weather here in Washington USA and I think about you alot!

When are you coming to visit the USA?

Anna Lienau:)