April 2011: France!!!

Let's begin with April Fool's Day- where at school everybody came in costume.

Theo as Justin Beiber
Madeline as Rihanna

Chloe's birthday party was so much fun.

Monday morning playgroup

Puzzles and drawing balloons are now a piece of cake for A,

(movie also available on YouTube by clicking here)

A walk in the park:

Theo helps clean up the garage

And then we go for a long awaited trip to France!

The airline company gave us a bassinet to help with Ambroise's sleep. That will be the last time. He has outgrown the bassinet since our last flight.
The time difference eastward is a challenge, but Ambroise adjusted very well to the jetlag.
He was fairly flexible with the sleeping arrangements (including boxing him in with suitcases when the hotel had no cot!)

As soon as we arrived, we couldn't avoid immersing ourselves into the Parisian way of life.

We walked around some of the best-known attractions: Jardin du Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, Louvres, Champs Elysees, La Grande Arche, Les Invalides ("big ball" says Ambroise), Place du Trocadero, Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Musee de l'Orangerie, Opera-Garnier, Elysee palace, the Seine...

The ladies among us had rendez-vous points they could not miss:

We visited the Catacombs, the old quarry under Paris where 6 million bones from all the cemeteries were transferred in the late XVIIIth century.
Ambroise wasn't even scared.

We paid a visit to the Old Lady (aka the Eiffel Tower)

and Notre-Dame of course.

The Bois de Boulogne and its Jardin d'Acclimatation were especially lovely in such gorgeous weather.

Fun for everybody: kiddie rides, animals, and treats.

(movie also available on YouTube by clicking here

We walked down the banks of the Seine, by the animal shops and the flower market.

We enjoyed a boat trip on the Seine

Elizabeth, who knows Paris much better than anybody else in the family, recommended the Sainte Chapelle and its extraordinary glass windows dating from the 11th century. Eveybody was SO excited (see M & T below...).

We enjoyed French food, from the world-famous Bertillon ice-creams to brasseries available at every corner. The portable DVD player was an incredible and irreplacable tool for sitting down. We owe so much to Thomas the Tank Engine and Wow Wow Wubbzy.

Ambroise loved strolling around
(video also available on YouTube by clicking here)

We then stopped for a day in Versailles, unbelievable in sheer size and luxury.

The immense gardens, with ponds and lakes, miles of alleys, mazes, fountains, arenas, statues and forests were an expedition just by themselves and Theo was our map reader.

The flower garden was incredible too

(video also available on YouTube by clicking here)

We then headed for the Loire Valley, where the Rennaissance noblemen built themselves admirable castles. There are so many, there was no chance we could see them all, but Elizabeth selected a few of the best.

Our first stop was the town of Tours, which has managed to preserve its medieval town center. We enjoyed a few hours' stroll in this other time, before enjoying the traditional food markets (covered and open-air).

Villandry was our first Rennaissance castle. It is famous not only for the building itself and its painting collection, but also for its vegetable gardens (yes! lettuce, carrots...).

Azay-le-Rideau, with its surounding moat

We set up camp in a nearby welcoming B&B. Ambroise played with the dog, and kept moo-ing to the goats...

We couldn't miss showing Ambroise the Amboise castle and the Amboise town (too bad they misspelled his name, by forgetting the "r" in Ambroise!) as well as showing Theo le Clos Luce, where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life.

Chenonceau, built right over the Cher river

Blois, famous for its facades, inside court, staircase... and the murder of the Duke of Guise.

The town was also very pleasant to the eye.

Do you recognize Cheverny? It's Tintin's castle! It's also famous for its horse-back hunts with the hounds.

How about Chambord? It is a spectacular castle, known for its double helix staircase, 426 rooms, 77 staircases and 282 chimneys.... It took Francois Ist 28 years and a royal fortune to build it, but the king spent only 25 days in it.

Afew upward viewsfrom about everywhere

After almost ten days travelling around on our own, we took the TGV to join the rest of the Quillacq clan for a big family reunion. Many had never met Ambroise, and we hadn't seen most family members in a long time.

Bon-Papa has rented a four-house property in Ardeche for a whole week. Yes, you need that much to house 35 people!

It's difficult to describe when so many people live together. There are so many one-on-one conversations, so much catch-up, so many activities between some... SO much fun. So here are all the pictures, just posted together by groups.


(YouTube movie by clicking here)

Living Together

A big part of that moment together time was simply eating - cooking and sharing dinner together.

Another big part of our time was spent playing cards or board games. The Quillacqs have been raised up with family games... some would say it made us competitive, maybe too competitive for the non-members! Anyhow, if card games are usually the same (belote, coinche, tarot, bridge), the board games are changing all the time.
The property had a foosball table (baby-foot). It's not a passion shared by all, but there are some good players (and some future good players) among us!
Volley-ball, soccer and some rugby are also parts of the family traditions. Jerome organized a few hikes.

The property had a pool, and we sure did enjoy the nice weather. A few lizards were sun bathing, until the boys arrived.

Easter egg hunt
Couldn't be avoided (but unfortunately only pictures of A !!!???)

Ardeche river
We didn't just stay at the property. Almost every day, we would go for activities - swim in the nearby Ardeche river (near its famous natural bridge), Canoeing, cave visits and speleology, Lavender making...

Some went for a day canoeing down the river. Some went for a cultural visit. We made sure to meet for lunch together in Buc, a beautiful town half down the river.

Grottes de la Madeleine
A century ago, a shepard went searching for a lamb in a small cave entrance, and discovered some exceptional geological features.

Speleo (Spelunking--caving)

A physical adventure for the most courageous of all ages.

Because of its dry and mountainous landscape, the region has been known for centuries for its lavender farming and distillation.

More French culture
During the week in the Ardeche region, more little French things jumped at us, foreigners, like a village main square, a post-office, a church, a school or the village's litte castle.

But then, it was time for us to return home. We didn't look forward to leaving the family or the country behind again. There is definitely a piece of us there...

(video also on YouTube by clicking here)

Thank you Bon-papa and Mamie for having made this fantastic time together possible.

We look forward to the next one!!!!