Monday, June 1, 2009

The Call....






Hi - it's Andrew again, if you can believe it...

Today, I received a call from America - Coyote's CEO nonetheless - asking, "what's going on today in Europe anyway?!?!". What could my response be, other than, "another Bank Holiday, what else?".....

Yes - Today is June 1st and it's a Bank Holiday in most of Europe. Countries that don't celebrate whatever holiday it happens to be today are striking in protest, so they are closed also. Let's put this in perspective: Americans get jobs out of college and are given about two weeks vacation plus Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Sure, there are some other localized ones in there (Casmier Pulaski Day, anyone?), but mostly these are the big ones. In Europe, the same graduate would get five weeks vacation plus sixteen bank holidays - yes, sixteen! Add in things like the optional three years maternity leave, unbreakable work contracts, and a 35 hour work week (for France at least), and you get a pretty different work landscape as you may find in America. Even though I don't really mind hour-and-a-half lunches, I still can't really get used to them.

So, what's a guy to do with a Bank Holiday scheduled an no plans? I say, Road Trip....

Kate and the girls get to go on so many road trips without me (4 day school week, bank holidays, and my work travel make this so), I decided to take Ella, Grace, and Mia on a trip of my own. My first idea was to go outside and walk around town - luckily for all of us, Kate suggested Chateau de Vendeuvre which is just outside of St Pierre sur Dives and only thirty minutes from town.

The girls enjoyed taking the glass recycling to the recycling bin before we left (you can drop the bottles into a deep container and hear the bottles smashing) and they even helped me unlock the gates. Unfortunately after that, all they wanted to talk about was their desire to watch TV, play Leapsters, and eat more breakfast as we drove out into the countryside. In their defense, I did have them up, fed, and dressed with teeth brushed and pee in the toilet by 8.30am, so maybe they felt a bit like they were in a time warp (in my own defense, it was the 3 of them that decided to wake up at 6.30am and talk about the buses driving by outside).

We arrived at the Chateau (basically a big mansion in the middle-of-no-where) about ten minutes before it opened. This gave us enough time to put on a lot of sunscreen, in light of the still hazy sky. Yes, you can get sunburned out here - just check the backs of my legs - they were burned while I was at the beach yesterday wearing shoes, socks, shorts, a T-Shirt, and a sweater (because it was so cold). Fully lathered, we marched into the gates.

The first thing we saw was - of all things - a park! They love parks here and they seem to be everywhere. There were only two implements in this one - a teeter-totter and a swing. To my amazement, both Grace and Mia are now both heavy enough that they can teeter with Ella (as long as she sits forward on her seat and they sit further back on theirs). With the teetering and swinging going on, I went into the office to buy some entry tickets. With kids being free, my six Euros was surely on the plus side of a cost-benefit analysis.

After the mini-park, we proceeded to roam the grounds and check out the gardens. This is kind of like a mini-mini Versailles. Very nice, very green, and tons of water and fountains. Many of them are somehow triggered to go off when people come near. For example: a Gazebo spouts water that seems like rain when you go inside, a bridge has birds that shoot water when you walk over, a turtle spouts water from his mouth when you walk in front, and a naked woman spouts water from her nipple when you look at it! Yes, the last one is completely real and I envy the gall of the designer who built it five hundred years ago....

We experienced some tragedy on our way exiting the park. You see, in light of all the fun, the only thing the girls could remember was the teeter-totter. Problem is, there are three of them and only two will fit. About twenty minutes away, Grace called "I'm the first on the teeter-totter!". Ella was an immediate second, and because of our new weight issues, there was no arguing from me. Mia, being left out, began to get her brain churning as to how she could right the situation. Being at the back of the pack, she started bolting to the park - unfortunately for her (and really, the rest of us) she ignored the change in terrain from grass to gravel and also ignored the difference in consistency. Yes, she bit it, bigtime (see picture above). Sans first aid kid, I had to rely on the community cloth towel in the community boy-and-girl bathroom to wipe her cuts - knee and elbow - which could have been worse. I knew she wasn't to far gone when she began to ask what was for lunch...

I asked the lady selling the admission tickets if she had any band-aids (yes, in French), and she directed me to the nearby town of St Pierre. This place was literally banging for a bank holiday - all shops seemed to be open and there was a big market in the town square. I bought some massive band-aids (which amused everyone and really did the trick for Mia's cuts) and we found a place for lunch. A couple of grilled cheeses later (OK, fine, they were really two croq madame's and two croq monsiure's [grilled cheese with ham, cheese sauce, toasted bread, baked cheese outside and an over-easy egg on top {the other sans egg}]), a few milks, and some french fries and we were good to go. Luckily the town park was nearby so we could lick our lolly pops and play on the spinning-around-thing for the next two hours. All combined with the beautiful weather made this an amazing afternoon.

Our return to Caen was met with the usual procession of bath taking and giving; pajama putting on and helping to put on; dinner eating and food from the floor picking upping; Kids Bop dancing and singing along to; dishwasher unloading and re-loading; and finally not wanting to go to bed along with insisting upon so.

Tomorrow I head to Belgium and The Netherlands after spending my first full day back in the office in almost two weeks (except it's not going to be a full day as I have to drive about six hours before bedtime). My office has some new faces (two joining the team in Caen after their office in London was closed and two interns who are closely becoming full-timers) and it's losing some old faces (some returning to the US, some fired, and some becoming tele-commuters after moving away to new towns). The best news is that we're still in business during these rocky economical times and I look forward to this being the case for the short and long term future.

Kate has officially purchased our tickets back to the Crested Butte for a visit in August - we'll be there for three weeks. Before that trip we have the visits of my parents, followed by her parents, and we might even fit in a trip to Venray NL for the 70th anniversary of the town.

One last thought - check out www.storyofstuff.org and watch the 20 minute video on the website - it's pretty interesting. Also, if you're in a jam and can't find a good book to read, pick up The Omnivore's Dilemma - probably the best book I've ever read. I don't get paid by either the site or the book - but I really like both and think you might like them also.

Take care all!

Andrew

3 comments:

  1. Another great bog, Andrew!! Loved every word! XXXXOXOXOXOX!!

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  2. Thanks for letting me sleep in AND taking the kids all day, honey! That was a great break. Glad you guys had a great time at the Chateau.

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  3. great blog "A" - hope this comment will go through! I will bring a cake for Kate and decorating gels for the girls to fancy it up!

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