Feb 27, 2009: It felt so good, finally getting out of the apartment to do something cultural today. After Suzie and I dropped the girls off at school, we headed home to meet Peter. Our first stop was the Caen Town Hall or Caen Hotel de Ville. Suzie had promised Andrew that she would research how to get garbage cans and garbage pick-up for our apartment and the Office de Tourisme (Office of Tourism) had said Town Hall was the place to go. Peter and I decided we wanted to take the 45 minute tour of the Caen Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). With all three of us with the same address on our agenda, we started off on our way. This magnificent building is something like you have never seen - above and beyond any town hall you may have visited. The landscaping is beautiful, even in late winter. The architecture is outstanding - the walls of most rooms we saw were ornately carved out of wood and quite smartly designed. For instance, a dressing room/bathroom of this once home of William the Conqueror turned town hall, had wooden steps that slide out from underneath the wash basins for the shorter folks but that pushed right back in and blended into the whole wood wall motif. The murals that were painted were so detailed, large in scale, and scattered through each of the rooms we visited. Attached to the Hotel de Ville is the abbey church of St. Etienne, which connects a Men's Abbey and a Women's Abbey. William the Conqueror used to be buried in the Men's Abbey (Abbaye aux hommes) but I have read that only his thigh bone is there or maybe nothing at all - not really sure about all that. Regardless, St. Etienne was magnificent. After the tour that was in all French and the self-led tour of St. Etienne, we sure were freezing and starving. We walked back toward the apartment and stopped for a very tasty lunch along the way. The actual meat I had for lunch I am unsure of, but the french fries that came with it were the crispiest, hottest and tastiest ones I have had in a long time. Yummy.
After our tasty french fries, Peter and I dropped Suzie off at home and we then went to the Caen Memorial. It is a vividly described depiction of World War II and the events leading up to and after D-Day in 1944. Also, this memorial is one of the only places that displays remnants from 9/11 outside of the United States. Having Peter's perspective was very helpful, as he had read a lot about World War II, had relatives in World War II and cumulatively many different opinions and stories about this war. I felt, after seeing the memorial, that it was very well done, very comprehensive, and painted a very postive picture of those nations outside of France that were part of the World Ward II efforts - such as Great Britian, Canada and the United States. I won't lie to you - I was on the verge of a deep sleep once or twice during a few movies and displays...but not because of the content. I was just tired in general. And no one was running me down to give me my afternoon espresso!!
After the memorial, we started for home. Tonight, we were celebrating Andrew's 37th birthday and Andrew had been out of town for 2 days. We had lamb and stewed carrots and potatoes and a dessert supplied by a co-worker/friend/tutor of Andrew's from work. Ella and Grace and Mia had made really neat cards for Andrew. We ultimately ended the evening with some heated games of backgammon (the only game I managed to pack) and some Calvados.
Tomorrow, Peter and Suzie leave for Paris. We will miss them, as their company and assistance has been SO helpful and appreciated. Andrew and I do, however, look forward to getting our schedules back on track - less eating out, less hot chocolate, less chocolate croissants, less ice creams treats - the typical stuff that comes with grandparents visiting. After a certain amount, kids and adults begin to forget how special some events should be when they occur too often - such as ice cream after every dinner and hot chocolate before every meal. Andrew and I have always treated those types of tasty things as rewards or treats for special occasions and now they are demanding these at every meal! But, we have learned there is a slight retraining required after grandparent influence for many days at a time - and I bet you all know what I am talking about!
I expect the next few weeks will bring us ups and downs at school for the girls, retraining for us all as we try to eat out less and eat better food, and hopefully bring some further feelings of being "home." Recently, all five of us were driving in the car and I was singing very silly, as I often do. Typically, I try to sing obnoxious opera to a modern-day song on the radio. This particular day, it was Hot and Cold by Katy Perry. Ella loved this rendition of the song (she is my greatest fan, God love her) and asked that I sing it in French. So I switched the words the best I could from English to French and I tell you, we were all laughing really heard. Laughing because the words did and didn't sound as good as English and laughing because I actually knew the words to say (well, most of them). It felt good to laugh, all of us together, doing something that we always do. It didn't matter what country we were in or where we were going, it just felt normal, silly and quite necessary.
Pictures above: The card Ella made Andrew for his birthday (I wonder what you will look like now) with steal your face, Andrew and Ella holding hands. Pictures of St. Etienne and Hotel de Ville. And by the way..The title of today's blog: Vous avez chaud alors vous avez froid" means, "You're hot then your cold" in French : )