Well, last Tuesday was a field trip for Callie’s class. There were lots of parents who wanted to chaperone (including me) and they had to pick names out of a hat. Luckily, I was chosen and got to attend. Daddie had to come home for lunch a bit early to pick up the boys and Cecile came early to take care of Griffin for the afternoon. They don’t seem to have as many field trips in France as they do in the US. Griffin had 2 (a horse stable and a circus) Zander has had about 3 (afternoon trips to see shows) and, for Callie, just this one – it was very very important to her that I come along so I was grateful it worked out.
We got to school very early as the bus was supposed to leave by 8:15am. Unfortunately, it actually didn’t even show up until 8:30. This gave the teachers time to put the students into groups with the chaperoning parents. My group was to be Callie, Timothe’, Rohan and Camille. (I knew them all but Rohan). We got on the bus and we were off.
Well, folks, it took over 2 hours to get to Parc Polaire. That’s right, about 60 kids between 5 and 6 stuck on a bus for over 2 hours. Needless to say they got bored, and more unfortunately for everyone involved, at least 6 of them got sick enough to vomit. It reminded me of that scene in Goonies where Chunk is telling the Fratelli’s about the worst thing he ever did. (thanks to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089218/quotes)
[the Fratellis are interrogating Chunk]
Francis Fratelli: Tell us everything! Everything!
Chunk: Everything. OK! OK! I'll talk! In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max's toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs and I blamed it on the dog... When my mom sent me to the summer camp for fat kids and then they served lunch I got nuts and I pigged out and they kicked me out... But the worst thing I ever done - I mixed a pot of fake puke at home and then I went to this movie theater, hid the puke in my jacket, climbed up to the balcony and then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa - and then I dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then, this was horrible, all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other. I never felt so bad in my entire life.
Luckily, my group all had strong stomachs. I also discovered a few things that were fun about kids in France. One, they clap in syncopation when they are excited. Hands straight up, clap, clap, clap. Eerie…. Two, they like to sing – it was amazing to hear Callie singing along with the other children in perfect accent and harmony.
Parc Polaire (http://www.parcduchienpolaire.com/) is a place to go visit wolf dogs (huskies) and deer in their natural setting (or not, since this is not in a polar cap). The kids have been studying wolves all year so they were very excited to go see the dogs. It was actually a pretty tiny place. Once we got there we spent about half an hour going to the bathroom in small groups and then got to walk to this enclosure (about the size of a football field) where they kept two packs of dogs. Some of them were friendly, others weren’t but the kids got to pat the friendly ones. It seemed a bit dangerous – apparently if we were to accidentally cross into the wrong territory, we would most likely be attacked. (I believed it seeing how some of the dogs started growling even if you looked at them). The guide leaped in front of a group of children interested in what looked like a small cave at one point. Apparently, there was a pregnant mother dog in there – who would bite if we got too close as well. The whole set up seemed a bit dodgy considering these are 5 and 6 year old kids – excited to pet doggies - but none of them got bit so I guess they know what they are doing. This part of the activities took about 1/2 an hour. Here’s lots of shots!
Then we left this enclosure to head over to where the reindeer (I think they were caribou) were housed. It was a giant field. First we all waited at a gate and got to see the deer from about 20 feet away. They quickly scattered as soon as the gate was open and we followed them around the field for a bit – never getting within a stone’s throw again. Callie had a great time picking up caribou fur that was scattered on the grass – she got quite a bunch! Pictured below are Callie (with fur), Ambre, Callie (with Caribou), Michel Alexandre, Timothe, Camille (who was chewing on string all day) and Callie (with antlers) and 4 kids I don’t know gazing at the grazing animals. It was a gorgeous day.
Then we headed over to a field nearby and had our picnic lunches. The kids had fun running around, playing tag, looking at giant black slugs (limas) and picking all the cowslips they could find. You could tell we were up in the mountains since the wildflowers were a few weeks behind what is blooming in Besancon. My group and I had been doing pretty well, with the exception of Rohan who was very sad. Finally Valerie switched him with Alicia – which thrilled Callie to death (as you can see).
OK – so now it is about 1 and we have been out of the bus about as long as we were in it and have finished seeing all Parc Polaire has to offer. So, we hop back on the bus to go over to the Source of the Doubs. The Doubs is the large river that rings the centre of Besancon. It is our ‘local’ river – much like the Schuykill in Philly so I was excited to see the source of it. The bus ride wasn’t too long, but I lost my daughter as a seatmate – she was having too much fun with Alicia to sit with boring old mom!
The source of the Doubs was, frankly a bit of a disappointment. It consisted of a pool of water (no gushing bubbling spring) followed by a waterfall and a nice little stream. It was beautiful and the kids loved playing around the water, of course. Also there were these giant buttercup shaped flowers growing near the water that I have identified as marsh marigolds. I found it strange that they could just decide to ‘add’ this stop to our field trip. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be allowed in the US. The driver would have to only stick to the destinations on his plan – and the parents might be angry that we took their kids to an unauthorized location! But, we had fun, anyway. Here are Callie and Alicia in front of the ‘mysterious’ source of the Doubs. They were in love with the winged mermaid figure pictured on the information board. I am fascinated by mythological creatures so I tried to do some research and came up empty. Finally I typed the legend, in French, into a translator. Here is a great example of how these tools are less than perfect. Here is what it translates into:
It is said in open source that count are sometimes live for Vouivre, legendary personnage bearing a precious stone, the carbuncle on his forehead. Mouth of a man who was afraid to put anything on the advice one Sorciere take the carbuncle of Vouivre when she drank the neck of beif but it would not share anything changed the sorcerer stone in horse dung…
Hmmm…. I don’t think that is quite right. I would say it should be more like…
It is said, in an old story of Franche Comte that this spring was the home of the Vouivre. A legendary figure, part woman, part bird and part snake she bore a precious jewel on her forehead. A greedy and fearless man, living in the town of Mouth, wanted the carbuncle for his own. He took the advice of an evil sorcerer who told him to slaughter a bull and steal the carbuncle from the Voivre while she was busy drinking it’s blood. He did this, but once he had the jewel, he refused to share its riches with the sorcerer or the people of the town – and it turned into horse dung in his hands. It was said he smelled of dung for all the rest of his days, and the Voivre, whose power was diminished without her magical stone, went into hiding. The local people say, sometimes, you can still catch a glimpse of her in this pool, searching for her the carbuncle, and you can always smell the dung, wafting over the fields.
OK – so I embellished – and made some stuff up too. Sue me.
The shots below are: Callie and Alicia at the waterfall, Timothe and Sully wanting to go for a swim, Marie playing in the water, Callie with her teacher Valerie, Evan crouching by the stream, a shot of another part of the river that looked more like a source to me (see how the water is just seeping out of the ground) a shot of the fun playground the kids played on for a few minutes and, finally the attempt at a group shot!
We headed for home, took about 1.5 hours but there was no vomiting. Most of the kids were exhausted and simply fell asleep. Others (like Timothe, below) played with their seat mates and I was fascinated by the beautiful lake we drove by for at least half an hour. St. Point Lac, I guess. It was immense! Must return….