Kim guest-blogging here. Isn't the burning question everyone wants to know this: "Is it really that great for the Haverkampfs in Caen?"? I came here to visit with Kate, Andy and the girlies; but also to scope out the 'story beneath the story'. So ... allow me to share my observations thus far.
1) Caen is much bigger than Kate initially described it to be. Her earlier blogs pretty much showed how much (or how little much) she had ventured out when she first started blogging. Just so no one is surprised when you come visit (and you all MUST COME VISIT), it's probably the size of Indy. I envisioned this small little French town that has a few restaurants, a couple of markets and a nice place for pastries. Um, not so much. Let's just say Kate took me to a little nook over at the other end of 'the castle' (William the Conqueror's that is) and it had no less than 15 - 20 of them. The choices are endless. Lucky for Tom, we haven't done any shopping yet; but there are more places to shop for clothes and shoes than in the Mall of America.
2) The noise isn't as bad as Andrew says. Well, that's coming from a girl who has airplanes flying over-head; but so far, so good from the light sleeper. The first night I did sleep like I haven't since having kids; but awoke around 6am to the cooing of pigeons. Ear plugs perfectly address that issue. The second night I did not sleep as soundly; but that's normal for me. I was bewildered as to why Kate kept 0pening and closing doors last night; but then realized it's the movie theater next door letting out. Nothing a little Bordeaux can't fix - no ear plugs necessary.
3) Ella, Grace and Mia are doing GREAT! When I first arrived, I asked Ella how many words she knew in French. She said she thought about twenty. Not - even - close! Tonight I played stupid and was asking her what the French words were for many things - breakfast, lunch, dinner, feet, head, nose, you name it I asked it. She knew it. What she didn't know, I opened up my French-English book and she even read the French translation for the English word. So - not only is she speaking and understanding, she is reading. Grace and Mia thoughtlessly sing French songs they sing in school and say Oui! instead of Yes! without even thinking. And - how can a child be bad if they like playing at 'the castle' (refer back to #1).
4) Kate and Andrew are doing GREAT! Kate has settled into being a full time mom so much that I can't even imagine how she's fit salaried work in. Here's an example - her freezer is empty. How many of you back in the States can say your freezers are empty? I would bet my next paycheck the answer is none. You may ask why; but the answer becomes clear (WHEN YOU COME VISIT). There's no need to buy in bulk or buy frozen. You wouldn't even want to. The fresh pastries, meats, breads, fruits, vegetables are there for the taking. When Kate says she shops every day or every two days she means it. It's all on the way to/from the girls' school and around the corner from their apartment. No driving to the grocery store, no clipping coupons, no pre-fab, fast-frozen, corporate-owned stores. It's amazing. We bought two types of fois gras as appetizers tonight that would have cost upwards of $20 at home. It was 5.20 Euro.
5) There ain't no real French food in Chicago. Ok, so I've only been here since Wednesday; but I have not seen a menu with Steak and Pomme Frites yet. I have to be honest and say that when I go to French restaurants at home I'm not all that excited because I don't like what I see. Apparently that's because I haven't had French food before. Maybe it's because I'm in Normandy and not in Paris, so just another reason to COME VISIT. You read about our amazing lunch yesterday which admittedly isn't typical fare; but I have yet to have difficulty finding something to order. I usually hope Kate orders what I didn't order so I can try it.
Kate and I visited the American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach today. It's one of the famous D-Day landings. The weather was crappy; but as Kate mentioned, you can't let it stop you. (If I did, I wouldn't have run on a horse-race track this morning!) It's an amazing place to visit and makes you so proud to be an American.
Tomorrow brings us some leisure time with the girls, hopefully less rain, and a BBQ later at one of Kate's friend's homes.
Pictured above: American Cemetery and the girls after school playing red-light green-light.