Bonjour Mes Amis, Bonjour

Bonjour mes amis, bonjour. Those words (courtesy of a Playschool tune) were roughly the extent of my French language knowledge.  I think you could say we spoke Jacques shite French! And I know the reputation the French have for welcoming non-French speakers – we were hoping our kids were cute enough to make up for our bad French.

That being said, we left Spain and headed toward France.  I had so many questions that would need answering whilst in France, I just didn’t know where to start.

Is French mustard just called mustard, what about French fries or a French kiss?

If I put two slices of bread in a toaster, have I just made French toast?

Is a French bulldog just called a bulldog? If so, what is a normal bulldog called?  Or is a French bulldog actually the normal bulldog?

Don’t even get me started on ménage o trois….oh, ok do.

I’ll be honest we never really had a great desire to go to France on this trip, it was just in the way whilst getting to Italy.  We had changed our mind a few times on what parts we wanted to see as we really didn’t know too much and hadn’t bothered to do that much research (that part was probably me).  Evie had said she wanted to see the “Evil Tower” (I believe the frogs call it the Eiffel Tower) whilst Piper had wanted to try frog’s legs and snails.  However, they would need to wait until another trip.  With only 2 weeks we stuck to the bottom part of the country exploring Carcassonne, Lyon, Provence and the French Riviera with a few decent drives in between. 

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France didn’t start with a bang as I spent the last night in Barca and the next morning with a dose of the voms (Pipes and Ez would later get their turn) but we proceeded on nonetheless.

Here is a rundown of where we went:

Carcassonne

Accommodation – A house in the old town right underneath a huge castle. Piper loved it as she had her first top bunk experience.

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Food – Average.

Attractions – We visited a pretty sweet castle and went bike riding along the Canal du Midi with the kids on the back.  Evie demanded she be called George (after George Pig who was once in a bike seat in Pepper Pig).  If you ever called her Evie, she corrected you.  She yelled she wanted off for the first 10 minutes and then didn’t want to get off for the next 2 hours. If you don’t know, she yells a bit.

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Lyon

Accommodation – french chic apartment (Ez wrote that bit – I don’t know what it means), 4th floor, 101 stairs!  Missed that minor Air BnB detail!

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Food – Average (apart from the divine sweets, including a Lyon praline speciality). We also visited the famous Paul Bocuse market which was great. Pastries, macarons, one thousand cheeses, truffles and jambon. My kind of heaven.

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Attractions – Old buildings and stuff. Looking back, we didn’t do too much in Lyon, might have something to do with me being too tired going up and down the 101 stairs, have I mentioned them yet? We searched half a day for the secret passageways through the city called traboules. They may have been a bit too well hidden because I still don’t know if we have seen them or not.

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Arles (Provence)

Accommodation – A farm house with a beautiful couple Patrice and Carole and plenty of animals including goats, chicken, sheep, donkeys, a horse and 2 crazy geese. Piper loved it as she got to collect the eggs every day. Pipes would so gently place each egg in the basket. Evie chucked them in breaking most on her first day! Piper wanted to do farm chores and was excited that there was a rooster to wake her up in the mornings. Evie loved it as there were 5 cute new puppies that ‘love her very much”, her words. We even got to have a horse and cart ride around the farm.  I pretended my beard was long and I was part of an Amish family.

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Food – Some good local fresh produce markets and plenty of croissants. Unfortunately two of the party were sick so we needed a few nights in with comfort food (our family comfort food is normally avgolemeno – the Greeks out their will know what I’m talking about!)

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Attractions – I was underwhelmed with the supposed beauty of Provence, nice enough but nothing to fall in love with.  We visited plenty of small towns, a bamboo forest with maze (Piper loved the maze), a Haribo lolly museum (my idea – I loved it),  and an amazing Marc Chagall art light show inside an old quarry – seriously one of the most amazing things I have seen and I wouldn’t describe me as either an art or classical music lover! Even the kids loved it, it was a highlight in Provence. 

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(Ez disagrees on the above regarding the food, she enjoyed the food a little more than me but I am fatter so that means my food vote counts more. I found the food pretty heavy and old fashioned in a way (maybe too similar to myself) but the patisseries were out of this world. The French can do desserts.

Road Trippin’

Ever wondered what it’s like road trippin through France with a 2 and a 4-year-old (I know you haven’t but thought it was a good way to start a sentence). Firstly, dad plays boot Tetris getting our gear into the Peugeot whilst mum secures the senoritas in the back seat.  The most important thing is what to play in regards to tunes. The kids often argue over kids or adult music.  When I say argue, Evie will just say the opposite to what Piper has suggested.  If it is adult music (and I don’t mean the elevator music from an adult movie) it’s Spotify but I don’t really have a choice.  The kids both have a favourite song:

Evie – I’ve got Bills by Lunchmoney Lewis

Piper – Cheerleader by Omi

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These two songs just get repeated.  Evie will complain as soon as Cheerleader comes on as she wants I’ve Got Bills repeated.  Once adult time is over (the music I’m talking about) it’s then kids time.  We rotate between Disney princesses, a Wiggles/Playschool combo and an Emma from the Wiggles CD. At least Emma sings a few songs in French so we thought it was a bit of a cultural experience. Hopefully Evie then falls asleep and it’s then time for an audio book – The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (read by Kate Winslet). It’s weird but Piper can listen to it for hours and loves it.  I just love that I recently found out that two of the main characters, Rick and Frannie, in the original book were named Dick and Fanny! They changed them because immature people like me couldn’t handle two names like that. Dick and Fanny, Dick and Fanny – just doesn’t get old.

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Ez sits there responding to the 527 request from the backseat – change the music, a drink of water, something to eat,  the same question repeated 17 times by Evie (Am I 2 or 4? How do you say horse in French? How do you say… etc. etc. I tune out and dream of when we didn’t have kids. 

Highlights of France were some of the comments from the girls

Evie – ‘My cupcake feels cold on my ear!’

Evie – After Ez responding to her 1000th question of the day with a ‘yes’,  Evie corrected her and said ‘No you say oui in France’.

Piper – Can I have a turn of the great cheeser? (she means the cheese grater)

Piper – When singing along to Alicia Keys ‘Empire State of Mind’ to the words ‘There’s nothing you can’t do, now your’e in New York,..’ she asked ‘If there’s is nothing you can’t do then can you do a poo in the middle of the street?’

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Upon leaving I look back and I’ll give France a pass mark.  Whilst still enjoying it, was my least favourite country on the trip so far.  It may have something to do with starting with a little sickness, no football, the bleak weather, probably not doing enough research, Sydney prices, Frenchy’s not being as big of kid’s lovers, road tolls and the food (apart from the patisseries).  Apart from those things I quite liked it.  I’m also off the language a bit too.  I always had a vision of French being all romantic.  I think it just sounds as though you have a cold and are grunting.  For instance, one water is ‘une eau’ – it is really just two grunting noises.  I played my bogan card and didn’t spend too much time learning the language but instead just repeating words in a French accent -Patisserie, Charcaturie, Boulongerie.  I do love baguettes though.  I’m not sure if the Frenchies actually eat them but they sure do carry them round in the streets a lot!

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The girls (probable) thoughts of France

Piper – I loved staying on the farm and doing my chores. I never  broke any eggs unlike a certain someone else.  Not enough ice creams or playgrounds in France but plenty of croissants. Dad could probably do with skipping a croissant or two.  We go to  Greece in a couple months and bags not going to the beach with that body! p.s.  Someone control my sister

Evie – I am starting to exert some dominance in the family. I’m definitely the queen.  If I scream and yell I get what I want.  Chubbs and his wife haven’t cottoned on that a little discipline can help us all.  I’m not suggesting anything though, they can work it out. France though was good. Oui oui! 

We left Arles and headed South to Nice, the start of our time on the French and Italian Riviera, places I was looking forward to. I’ll report back soon…

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There are more photos from France on Ez’s gallery of Carcassonne, Lyon and Provence

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