The Pulbrooks French Adventure 2011-12 travel blog

Jackson climbing

Alex watching Rugby

Rugby 3

Tim, Andy & Lew

Saturday 10 September:

At the beginning of each school year in each village there is a registration day at a big Civic Centre Hall – here it is called the “Agora”. There is a whole range of activities for adults and children – tennis, soccer, rock-climbing, judo, horse-riding, gymnastics, cultural activities, dance etc etc. We heard that it is very difficult to get into the rock-climbing club which is what Jackson was desperate to do so we were front of the line at 8am for an 8.30 start for official registration.

HOORAHHH – both boys were accepted ! What this means is that Jackson will learn to climb on Monday evenings 5.30pm-7.30pm at an indoor centre in the village. The class learn technical climbing inside and then next spring they go out and do the “real thing”. Jackson is bursting out of his skin he is so excited. They begin in 2 weeks so it will be a long wait.

Alex is in a different age category so he will learn on Wednesday afternoons 5-6pm. Only hiccup there is he also has soccer training for 2 hours before (1345-1545) and they are very solid sessions so we will just see how he goes. We were able to buy a 10 ticket pass for him to try which was fabulous. Jackson we joined for the whole year.

We met loads of people at the registration morning and everyone was very friendly and helpful. A lot of them had heard about “The Australian family” ...... . It was lovely and several people gave us their phone numbers if we need any help with settling in.

We also met up with a family we have been emailing who also live in Saint Ismier and were very welcoming when we first arrived. We are going for a hike with them tomorrow and taking a picnic so we are looking forward to the day.

Lew headed out to take Jackson to the laser-tag party about 1330. He had the time of his life !! We picked him up about 6pm – a tired, happy boy !!

Sunday 11 September

Sophie, Thiery (sounds like “cherry”) and their 2 daughters Camille and Gail called in around 1030 so we could follow them to the starting point of our hike. We picked up another lady Michelle on the way. Sophie has a big book of hikes in the region and this one was a new one for them. An easy walk to a waterfall up in the Belledonne Mountains. About 1 hour each way and we planned to stop for a picnic lunch once we got there.


5 & ½ hours later we finished !!! The walk was stunning no doubt, but looonnngggg and steeeeep and slippery ! Narrow paths with cliff drop offs on one side. We came to 3 small waterfalls. Each time we thought it was “the one” but it wasn’t so we had to climb across the slippery rocks and running water (and cliff drop off on one side). We finally reached what HAD to be the grand finale and found some rocks to sit on for our picnic. The boys were thrilled and clambered over all the rocks (did I mention there was still very steep cliff drop off on one side ???) Few heart in mouth moments but absolutely stunning and we were so proud of the boys that they managed it. Just fantastic ! They were very good at holding hands with Lew & I almost the whole way because 1 slip and they could have had a very nasty fall ....

I loved it ! Haven’t done any challenging exercise since we arrived so it was exactly what I needed. Have to say though, that if it was “easy”, we might wait a while before progressing on to “medium” in their categorisation !!

Monday 12 September

Today was a big day !! A call from the Estonian Consul informed us that our EU passports have arrived and that we could collect them from his home near Lyon. We dropped the boys off at school and headed off for the 2 hour drive each way. Thank goodness for the latest purchase – my new best friend the Tom Tom GPS unit. No more having to try and hopelessly navigate maps for Lew. Happy days !!! As such, we found the Estonian Ambassadors house on the outskirts of the city and collected our new passports without incident. We didn't get to see Lyon but hope to visit again soon as it is regarded as the best "Food Capital" in France.

On the way back to Grenoble we decided to drive on some of the smaller roads and find a local cafe for lunch. Drove past one and the car park was overflowing with cars and there were a lot of trucks ! Figuring that truckies know the best place to eat on the run, we pulled up and went inside.

Without any exaggeration there would have been at least 80 men inside, all sitting at their tables enjoying their meals. I counted 3 women. We were shown to a table right at the back & had to say I felt a bit conspicuous walking through ! Sat down and nobody spoke a word of English – we made do with a lot of sign language and ended up with a tasty, simple 3 course lunch. We gave ourselves a pat on the back (and shared a few giggles along the way) !

Between the truck stop and Grenoble we came across a racing track in which part was sectioned off for go karts. The rest was true race track stuff and you could pay to do so many laps in flash cars.

It is a competition road race track where you can rent the latest Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche or Lambourgini Gallardo and take it for 3 laps as fast as you can. You have an instructor in with you but you drive it yourself. Lots of happy faces from the middle aged men walking off the track !Lew thought he may like to come back for his birthday.

Made it home, picked up the kids and off to the Doctors. In France if you sign up for any activity you need to have a full medical certificate to accompany your registration. SO we needed to get the kids cleared for soccer and climbing. Alex was all good – Jackson was good too except the Dr picked up that his eyes don’t “track” well together and was concerned this may make it difficult for him to concentrate at school and also contribute to headaches. We have a referral for an optometrist here and see her next Tuesday. It would be great if it could help him because the poor kid does get a lot of headaches, especially lately when school is a long day trying to understand ANYTHING !

Monster day today – finished at the Doctors and back to school for their parent information night. Lew went into Alexs classroom, I went into Jacksons and we both happened to sit next to someone who spoke some English and helped translate so we could follow most of what was happening. It was basically about the syllabus for the year, homework etc.

Alexs year (equivalent to Aussie year 2) has to memorise 10 French poems. They are studying some famous French painters and will have to copy their work. They have an excursion in a week or so to a nearby town and in winter they go into the mountains twice to go snowshoeing. (where they strap things like tennis racquets on their feet and hike in the snow.) They also have swim school in the middle of winter, in January, so that will be interesting !!

Jacksons year here (equivalent to Aussie year 4), are expected to WRITE a book of French poems (???). They have 3 excursions to the theatre. They study architecture and visit the main museum of Grenoble. They also visit a Chateau (Castle) instrumental in the French Revolution.

Both classes have sport twice a week. In addition to that, for this term, they practice running on the 2 days they don’t have sport in preparation for a competition coming up. All children have to run for at least 12 minutes without stopping. Combined with soccer for 2 hours on Wednesdays and the big hike last weekend, Alex’s calves are so stiff I’ve been rubbing them 3 times a day !

Tuesday 13 September

The weather has been so hot that we’re running out of clothes for the boys so we made a mercy dash out to a shopping centre today on the hunt for shorts. Because it is the end of season here, they are few and far between and we didn’t have any success. Will have to get a needle and thread and fix some holes in the ones we’ve got !

Happened to walk past one store that looked divine so I HAD to have a quick look. Hallelujia – I bought a DRESS ! Have not worn a dress in many years as those of you who know me well are aware. Just love it ! With a belt no less !! Got myself some funky tops too so feeling a bit more in the groove than I have been so far.......

We decided to brave a “Thai buffet “ which actually wasn’t bad. Was more Chinese / Japanese than Thai but funny to see Asian served with baguettes and hot chips ! Whisky and French champagne were cheaper than coke ! Settled on a nice Rose and had a lovely afternoon.

Wednesday 14 September – No school

Quiet morning this morning followed by soccer training. An American lady sent us an email inviting us to afternoon tea after soccer so we met up there and headed back to her place. She has been here for 3 years but her children go to a different school. She has more figs on the trees in her yard than they can manage so we picked a container full on our way out. Have never really enjoyed them before but they are so fresh they are just delicious !

Thursday 15 September

This morning we grocery shopped and got ready to welcome our first visitors from Australia, Janine & Craig ! They are here on a European holiday and their itinerary happened to bring them our way. We had a fabulous night and really enjoyed the food, wine and company. So nice to chill out and just “be” without worrying about being understood.

Friday 16 September

Bit of a rough morning this morning with Jackson digging his heels in about going to school. We had to peel him off the gate in tears and push him through. Of course, my tears followed, but at the end of the day he came home smiling and told us how much fun he’d had. Stomach churned for most of the day though – it’s so hard for them at the moment. They are both doing so well. We promised we’d go to an indoor climbing centre tomorrow as a reward.

Saturday 17 September

This morning was the Australia /Ireland Rugby match at 1030 local time. We had arranged to meet our American friends, Doug, Genay and their 2 kids Harrison (10) and Victoria (9) at local cafe to watch the game on their big screen. It was great ! Alex was in his wallabies beanie & Jersey, Lew in his beanie and Jackson had a scarf ! Unfortunately it wasn’t a win for us but we enjoyed watching the game. Afterwards we decided to stay on for lunch so we left there about 3pm. Off to the climbing and Jackson did well. We weren’t allowed to use the ropes as we hadn’t booked a lesson in advance, but there were some challenging areas above soft mats that the boys enjoyed and had a lot of fun.

Sunday 18 September

Today we had a fabulous lunch with some lovely families we have met through school. There were 3 families and it was a “BBQ”. Unfortunately we woke up to a cold rainy day BUT there was snow in the mountains so it was very exciting ! It’s a real privilege to be invited into a French families home on a Sunday so we were really looking forward to it

Lunch began at 12noon with drinks and nibbles (nuts, chips, salami). We then sat at a formally set table (big glass for water, small for wine – lucky I wasn’t pouring or I would have done it the other way around) . We had a slice of this amazing tomato tart and a salmon terrine. After that we had kebabs from the BBQ. Now, before leaving Australia, Lew & I bought this book on “French culture and etiquette” so I was paranoid about holding my glass the correct way, not drinking my wine too quickly (difficult at the best of times ) etc etc. The company was so fabulous and conversation was very easy.

BUT after the kebabs, the host cleared the table and asked me to keep my knife for the cheese. That’s fine – I knew about the cheese – was proud as I had already read about cheese etiquette - never cut across the point, only take 3 small slices at the most, blah blah blah. Our lovely hostess put the platter down in front of me to start and NOTHING HAD BEEN CUT YET. There were 2 hard cheeses with 2 flat edges and 2 round soft cheeses !!!! ARGGHHH. I was to start.

Sigh .... had a moment of staring at the plate wondering what to do. Luckily they were all so lovely I was able to ask Jean-Luc next to me what the appropriate etiquette was and he was so happy to show me. If it is a round cheese you do as we do, cut a wedge from the middle and work around the circle. If it is a big wedge of hard cheese that is wide enough, you put it on its side and cut along the edge (keeping the triangular shape). In this case, it was a hard cheese but a thinner slice so I had no choice but to cut across the (flat) “point”. If it is a blue cheese, even if it is a rectangle, you cut at an angle. So much to learn !! It is very important to get this right in France.

The dessert course was supplied by the Pulbrooks and went down very nicely – phew ! (we made a raspberry impossible pie with ice cream !)

We enjoyed this wonderful afternoon together so much and learned another great French tradition. After the long Sunday lunch (it was now 1630) everyone goes for a walk together ! Even the elderly people join their families for a leisurely walk. Much better than our tradition of an afternoon nap after a big meal.

We walked for about 1 hour and then Lew received a message from some friends who have planned to spend tonight with us. They had arrived so we farewelled our generous hosts and made our way home for us to have our turn of entertaining.

Tim and Andy are great old friends of Lews who we haven’t seen enough of over the years. We had a fabulous night with them – they are very good company and great story tellers. Really enjoyed it.

A VERY big week though – time to slow down a bit now and settle into real life again.

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