The Pulbrooks French Adventure 2011-12 travel blog

In our school yard

Monday 5 September

School !!! Jackson woke excited and happy to start school today but the fact that he had to be forced to eat ½ a weet-bix (normally has at least 3 or 4) was a sign that the nerves were there. Alex was not excited about the prospect at all and was very emotional. He stated that if we made him go he was NOT going to use his manners !

We can walk to the school (about 15 minutes each way) but today being the first day and overcast we decided to drive there and walk back this afternoon. The school has a high wire fence and you pass through via a gate. The gate opens at 0820, the bell for school rings at 0830 and the gate is locked at 0832. If you are late you have to wait until the lunch break at 1130. Parents are not permitted to set foot beyond the gate.

We, of course, did set foot beyond the gate as we had no idea where the boys had to go. A lovely lady we met last week spotted us and came to help with introductions. The teachers were lovely, took the boys by the hand and off they went. They speak very very little English but told us through our helpful friend that they are making arrangements for an English speaking teacher to come and help the boys with their French during school. We are not sure when this will start but how wonderful !

Lew & I were both feeling pretty anxious about how they would go so went for a drive into Grenoble to do a bit of shopping and have a look around. It was nice but we have also now learned that a lot of small shops are open Saturdays and not Mondays, so it was a bit quiet. Still, we know where “downtown” is now and where to come back to. Most shops here also close between 11.30 and 2 or 3pm for lunch so it is all about timing !

At pick up time (1630) we were prepared for unhappy faces but they were both thrilled ! Jackson declared it was “ the best day of my life” and Alex said it was “fantastic”. We couldn’t have hoped for a better start !

A lot of children go home between 1130 and 1330 for lunch but we have enrolled the boys in the “canteen” so they have a 3 course meal at school each lunchtime and then a 90 minute play to help them meet other kids and learn the language. I wish we had this system in Australia. The rule of the canteen is that you must TRY everything you are given. So far their first courses have been salad based, the second course has been lasagne / fish, rice & vegies / chicken, rice & vegies / quiche and dessert has been yoghurt or fruit. In the canteen the kids sit 4 or 5 to a properly set table and must use knives and forks. They must wash their hands before they are seated. They are served by 2 staff members and can ask for seconds if they like. They also all have a piece of baguette. Once they have finished their lunch they scrape any leftovers into a “table bin”, wipe their faces with their serviette before using it to wipe down their setting, stack their dirty plates and put them on a trolley. Nobody is allowed to leave the table until everyone at their table has finished. It’s pretty impressive !

A big thing we have noticed in France is the shortage of convenience and takeaway food. It must be a big part of why French people are so healthy (and thin !). Obesity has begun to rise in teenagers here so the French Government has banned all vending machines in schools. They don’t have our versions of canteens at the schools. You cannot buy anything.

We have found 2 pizza restaurants that offer takeaway. Nobody delivers. It is so good to see. We had to resort to McDonalds one day when we got caught out and no shops were open – it wasn’t a cheap meal so not something people do too often. Most lollies and chips in the supermarket are free of artificial colors etc too. And no MSG to be found anywhere. The only multi-pack item we have seen is plain potato chips. Why can’t we do it in Oz ?? Anyway ...... very interesting to experience.

Tuesday, school was great, Wednesday is a free day and Alex joined the local soccer club. Training was at 1.30 for 2 hours on a magnificently turfed soccer pitch. He scored the only goal for his team so was pretty pleased with himself (and a reflection on the great coaching he had in Australia – thanks Brownie !)

Thursday / Friday: 2 more great days at school with terrific lunches each day. Jackson said he loves school because there are no silly kids misbehaving in class and that it’s easy to learn. The teacher is strict but very fair and kind. Tomorrow is registration day for all the other activities (rock climbing, karate, hockey, basket ball etc etc) and Jackson has been invited to a classmates birthday party at Laser Tag on Saturday afternoon, so he’s pretty thrilled about that.

Sorry to ramble on so much - until next time, Au revoir.

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