Saturday, March 27, 2010

Griffin’s blog

We wrote this when we were a bit early getting to school one day.

Griffin says: “You don’t know about me because I’m the only one who knows about me.  But I love you and you love me too. Once in a land I told a story for people in my family – I don’t remember what I told my story about.  That’s all I wanted to say.”

Then I interview….

Where do you go to school?  I don’t know, in a class, a class…

Who’s your teacher? Agnes

Is she nice? Yes, she’s nice

What do you do at school?  Play

Why don’t you work?  Cause Agnes lets me play.  

What do you do at home?  I don’t know.  I don’t know.

How high can you count?  1, 2, 3…….47, 48, 49, 50….. 58, 59!   To 59!  (In English) 1, 2, 3…..36, 37, 38, 39….. 39! (In French)

Where do you live?  In Besancon

Are you French?  Yes

Are you American?  Yes

Where does your Grammie live?  In Delaware

(unprompted) That’s all now.  Is it time to go to school??

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mount Bart and Baume les Dames

After the GRS competition was over, we realized we had an open afternoon and we were in a new part of France.  So, being us, we had one of our adventures.Le fort du Mont-Bart

Resized_DSC03836 First we headed up to the fort at Mount Bart.  It was yet another snow and ice covered road that Mr. Liberty handled with alacrity.  This fort is big but was only completed in 1877 as a protection for Belfort.  You can see great views of Montbeliard from there.  It’s kind of funny how falling apart it was – even though it is much newer than the Citadelle – guess that Vauban knew how to build them to last. The fort also was interesting since it was the sight of some major battles during WWI.  There was a monument there commemorating the Moroccan forces that had died there.  We had fun walking around and checking everything out.

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Since we had been at the GRS competition, I was a bit overdressed for hiking, particularly my shoes.  André gave  me his arm while I slipped and slid down the mountain side.  At one point there was a sheer drop off at the end of a steep downward scramble.  This crevasse was only blocked off by a strip of plastic – I’m thinking that wouldn’t even be sufficient to stop a sliding Griffin, let alone an adult.   We fearlessly continued on, exploring a few neat powder magazines as well. Griffin and I were stomping around on the top of one of them and Callie and Zander couldn’t even hear our footsteps.

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While we were walking, we noticed several people in the woods.  I thought, perhaps, they were mushroom hunters since it seemed like they were picking something.  When we got closer, however, I realized they were picking snowdrops.  Lots of snowdrops.  While we were driving down the mountain, we passed 3 or 4 other groups of people also clutching giant bouquets of snowdrops, most of them not yet fully blooming.  I am left to wonder if this is a French spring tradition.  Do they eat them?  Put them in a vase?  Don’t they worry if everyone picks so much there won’t be enough left to propagate?   Haven’t they heard of “Take only photographs. Leave only footprints.”?  Anyhow, that’s what we did….  

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We headed back to the car and drove for home.  Since we forgot to bring enough cash to pay for the entrance fee and tolls two ways we took some back roads home.  It took us about twice as long but we got to see lots of beautiful sights along the way.  We couldn’t resist stopping for a few minutes in Baume Les Dames.  This little town is only about half an hour away from Besancon and is famous for its hiking and climbing, the Rhone-Rhine canal and the 9th century St. Martin Church and Benedictine abbey.

There is a famous miracle associated with the abbey – I can’t really understand the French version of it very well and here is how it automatically translates: “there was a miracle that contributed to the reputation of the Abbey. It was actually the daughter of the Duke of Alsace, Odile was blind and as his father wanted to kill her, because being blind, it does not deserved life, her mother managed to hide it in this Abbey. The abbesses occupied it. And at the age of 13, she baptized. The Bishop had called it Odile because it meant "daughter of light". And when he said to him "in the name of Jesus Christ, is now informed eye eye of the soul and the body", it finds the view. This miracle therefore attracted many people to Baume there.”  Hmm… so I think that Odile, the daughter of the duke was blind.  She was saved by her mother who hid her in the abbey.  The abbess raised her and she was baptized at the age of 13.  When this happened, her sight was miraculously restored and many people made pilgrimages to Baume after this.    Of course, that’s still a guess.  Translating is very tricky – at another point in the article it tells me that there are two swimming pools in one of the 15th century churches.  Somehow, I don’t think that is right….

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We were lucky that one of the churches was still open since it was past 4 pm on a Sunday.  In fact, we were the only ones in the entire building whiResized_DSC03873ch made for a change.  It was very quiet and beautiful.  Smaller than many of the churches we have visited but with graceful arches and perfectly preserved Resized_DSC03870stained glass. 

André found a camera in a field while playing paint ball with co-workers recently and we got a new battery for it.  This is our first try with using it instead of our other camera.  It is a bit tricky but we think it will work out well.

I kind of like having 2 cameras since he and I are always thinking to take such different photographs.  And, of course, it is always nice to have a backup in case one breaks.  Since they are both old, that might be any time!

  Resized_DSC03874  The last thing we saw before hopping back in the car and heading home was this ancient building.  It is known as The Turret House and was completed in 1574.  The bench I was sitting on is almost 500 years old.  Pretty awesome, right?   Also, the turret features Latin Inscriptions around its base.  TheResized_DSC03875y had the French translation of the Latin on the sign near the door (photo right).

A rough English translation

  • May peace be on this house

May it remain standing until an ant drinks up the waters of the sea and a turtle walks around the earth

  • The times change and we change with them

Well – so far they have been right.  The house still stands, 500 years later, and heaven knows, times have changed – and us with them.  But we can still enjoy sitting on a bench, and learning something new.  So some things never change.

Callie – SUPERSTAR!!!


Callie has been going to rhythmic gymnastics (GRS) since September and, at last, it was time for her competitionResized_DSC03791.  I’m not really sure why they called it a competition since there were no winners or losers.  I reminded me more of what we used  to call (in danciResized_P140310_10.02[03]ng) a recital – except there were judges.    Here are some shots of her getting ready for her big performance.

I would be remiss not to mention how different this is from the US version of these events.  First off – there were no extra costs to parents.  The entire class (running every week the whole year) cost us about 125 Euros.  Then, at the competition, they provided the girls with their costumes and medals for free.  The adults did have to pay 2 Euros each to watch from the bleachers, but that was it! 

Callie was so nervous for the competition.  She was worrying about it from the first day it was mentioned at the beginning Resized_DSC03805of the year and, as the day grew closer, Resized_DSC03792got more and more anxious.  She ended up hysterically crying on my lap 2 or 3 times the week before the competition.  On the other hand, she had times where she was very confident, telling me. “Mom, I’m a bit scared for my competition, but that’s only natural.  Everyone is scared before their first competition!” and another time, this: “Mom, the other girls in my group are really lucky to be with me.  Since I know the routine better than them they can look at me if they get confused or stuck on what to do!”   She also told us how she was imagining how great things would be after the competition, when she had her medal and could show it to her class.  In all, her feelings seemed pretty normal to me.  I told her some stories about when I was little and got nervous and she really liked that.  Once we got there she was ready for action – I love her ‘game face’ and super straight posture shown at the photo at left.

Each group did 2 routines, one a dance and one a dance with balls (OK, I’m sure there is a more technical GRS term for those things, but I don’t know what it is).  I have videos of each below – and then some photos. 

Of course, I am a prejudiced mom, but when you watch, look at how great she is!  She is on the music, has all the moves perfectly memorized and does them correctly.  She has such a graceful body and even manages to look like she is having fun.   No wonder they put her in the front.





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There were 2 other groups of performers from her class including her good friend Lilou (plus other groups from other quartiers) They were wonderful as well!

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Time for another note here on French culture.  French parents are much calmer than their US counterparts. Yes, families were there, clapping, cheering and taking videos – but all very calmly.  When everyone clapped for the opening of the competition, they started out random but quickly became syncopated – just like the kids do during spectacles.  There was no jumping up and down, yelling to your kids, screaming after they finished their routine etc… etc….   The hysterics just are not a part of the French attitude, I guess!  It was hard for me to hold back to be more in line with my counterparts.

After they finished, the kids came up to the bleachers to watch the older kids and wait for their medals.  We were all so proud of how well Callie had done!


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We had a packed lunch after the medal ceremony and stayed a bit into the afternoon to watch some of the older athletes.   Zander and Callie were both fascinated by the entire thing and didn’t want to leave.  Callie was very proud of how she did and brought her medal to school the next day.  When I asked her if she wanted to do it again, however, she said no, since ‘It would be even harder next time.”  C’est la vie!

Something tells me it’s all happening at the Doubs…

I do believe it.Resized_HPIM5290

I do believe it’s true!

(and here is the youtube link to that wonderful Simon and Garfunkel tune if you now want to listen…)

Behind is simply an inadequate word that does not express how many blogs I have in my heart and soul just waiting to burst out!

Business first.  We went to the Saut du Doubs about 3 weekends ago!  We had visited the Doubs last summer with Regis and family but wanted to see it in the winter as well. We were particularly interested in how much bigger the waterfall would be due to spring melting.  It had been a warm few days and all the snow in our area Resized_HPIM5270was gone.

Little did we know it was only an Indian spring.  (If we have Indian summers, why not Indian springs?)  It got cold again, very cold and even snowed a bit.  Did we let that stop us?  Of course not!  Off we went, anyway.

We did make a stop along the way since, horror of horrors, we had run out of Comté!  We found a shop open until 12:30 on a Sunday (very unusual) and got the goods. I also got some Montbeliard sausage.  The production of this sausage goes back at least to the 14th century. At that time, the region's farmers were already filling pig guts with pork lean and fat, and seasoning it with garlic and cumin. Today's craftsmen have maintained the tradition, using prime quality meat from pigs fattened in Franche-Comté only.   It is very delicious to eat with potatoes and cheese and was quite affordable at this particular location.  They had a variety of items and were even offering fresh frogs (grenouille) which we passed on purchasing this time.  I do want to eat them out one day before we leave France.  As usual, we got a bit lost getting there and ended up on a road we have never traversed.  It was a beautiful drive, winding along the river and we eventually passed a place that had some gorgeous rock formations.  While driving along this section of the road we passed signs including a reported ‘treasure cave’ and a ‘church in a cave’ as well. Obviously fodder for yet another one of our future adventure day trips.

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Finally, we got clResized_HPIM5281ose to the place where you can park and walk a short 2.5km or so to the waterfall.  By close, I mean about a 10 minute drive away from the parking lot.  It was at this point that the roads became a bit more…interesting.  There had been a large snowfall and, though the roads had been plowed, the wind was so strong that many sections of the road had drifts across them, even on the highway.  There had been a few sketchy spots but we had been fine.  At this part of the more rural roads, however, no plow had yet come.  Although Mr. Liberty is equipped with snow tires – he is by no means a 4WD vehicle!  So it was with great trepidation that I began to traverse hilly and windy roads that looked like this…. (see left)  Keep in mind, that I am the only one driving the vehicle at this point since my international license is good but André’s has expired.  Until he gets his replacement, I am behind the wheel.  Most of the time this is fine, but in slippery situations, my skills are not that great, to say the least!   It was quite an adventure….but Mr. Liberty once again proved his worth.

When we got there, it was all worth it! 

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The trails were totally deserted – we only saw a few other people the entire walk.  Perhaps that was because it was freezing cold and the wind was blowing.  Wimps….    We even had a picnic in the building that Marie had designed that wasn’t finished at our last visit.  Looks great, and blocked most of the wind.  Poor Griffin nearly froze to death by the time we got back to the car!

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We headed home and made dinner for a new friend – Adeline!  Callie told me a story about how one of her classmates in her rhythmic gymnastics team will not be able to compete in the upcoming event ever since “her arm broke off”.   She insists she is not confused and does not mean the girl broke her arm.  She literally doesn’t have an arm any more.  When I asked her how this happened, she was unable to provide more detail for me.  Sometimes that is the most frustrating part of talking to my kids – they give me pieces of what are surely fascinating stories – but then can’t fill in the blanks.  How, in 2010, did a little girl’s arm break off?  The imagination runs wild… was it a car accident?  A slip of a saw?  I guess I will never know….


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