(pictured above: Grace holding her caterpillar)
(pictured above: birds from the observatory windows)
(pictured above: look closely - frogs!)
(pictured above: walking the trails)
(pictured above: many of the snails we saw on the hike)
(pictured above: the cows)
(pictured above: the girls looking at the flat-bottom boat)
Today I tried to find something new and interesting to do with the family. We have this great book that Suzie and Peter have donated to our tiny library collection. It is about Normandy and I often refer to this book when in need of inspiration. I began my search with some two criteria: under 1 hour driving to get to the destination and nothing through windy roads in small hilly towns. This criteria has been derived from months of trial and error while going on adventures with the girls. Not abiding by this criteria will result in the following: 1) whining 2) vomiting 3) whining 4) dry heaving. Now, Andrew and I are ready and able to deal with all four outcomes. But I think we have learned that dealing with those outcomes are only worth the effort when traveling out of town for a few days - not just 2-3 hours.
So taking the above two criteria into account, I stumbled upon the commune of Saint-Côme-du-Mont. Here you can find a nature preserve with lots of walking trails with a focus on bird watching and other creatures you might see in this natural habitat. I had also read that you could take a trip on a flat-bottom boat through a marsh and see all of the creatures in the marsh below and that sounded exciting to all of us. So after 40 minutes of nice, flat highway driving and a vomit-free zone we arrived at the nature preserve.
First thing we did upon arrival was have a picnic, of course. Today's gourmet eats consisted of baguette with peanut butter and jelly, cucumber slices with hummus, and fresh cherries. Dessert was a heavy dose of bug spray, much to the girls dismay! By the picnic areas was the flat-bottom boat that we had read about. The fine print revealed that this boat was not departing for 3 more hours and the actual ride took 3 hours. Andrew and I knew right away the flat-bottom boat was sailing without us...for obvious reasons.
After the picnic we went to the visitor center for a quick preview of the walking trails available. We choose the shortest trail of 1 km which took you to a large bird observatory. The hike itself was fine. But the twins were a bit distracted...meaning they were unable to follow rules, instructions and walking so slowly they were almost going backwards. It might have taken the five of us 1 hour to walk 1 km. Which would be fine if there were interesting things to look at along the way. But there wasn't! They were just wandering off the path, touching every plant and object they could get their hands on. They were sneaking into little wooded areas that wild boars probably inhabited or were decorated with poisonous mushrooms. They were just dilly-dallying to the nth degree. And as I stated before - this was a pretty uneventful hike. We did see some frogs and some cows and some birds that were very far away - but these sights were far and few between.
We arrived to the observatory and watched some birds in the distance but the majority of our time was spent frog-hunting. They were just so darn cute and hanging out in the lilly pads that we couldn't resist ourselves. Mia and Grace were continuing to be their disobedient selves.
About an hour later we arrived back at the visitors center where we saw a short film and an exhibit on how houses were/are built around the world as well as in Normandy, out of earth's materials, such as clay. That didn't captivate for too long so we went just down the road where we had seen a little restaurant. Andrew and I split some french fries and the girls had chocolate crepes. But again, listening skills not so apparent from the twins during snack time.
After snack time, we started back to the car. On the way, Grace and Mia spotted a caterpillar so we had to stop and cuddle with this 'pillar for a while. Then we started for home. I tell ya, it wasn't 5 minutes into the drive before I fell asleep. And I'll bet that Andrew wanted to sleep the whole drive home. We were exhausted! I am not sure what is more tiring: hiking uphill for 2 hours straight or twins that won't listen for two hours straight. For some reason, today it was the twins not listening. It just wears on your energy.
When we arrived home, we willingly let the girls watch a few TV shows while Andrew and I took about a 1 hour nap. I know it sounds lame, but we were just worn out! The girls were happy as clams, had no clue what tired meant.
I guess overall today, we had a nice time. Maybe if the surroundings had captivated Grace and Mia more they would 't have been so ill-behaved. Personally, I could have stayed out and hiked another 5 or 6 km had the chance arisen as I really wanted to get some close shots of the unique birds in the marsh. But Grace and Mia were not having it. Whether it's their age or their attention span or what they had for breakfast, you just can't guess what you are gonna get from a pair of 4 year olds on any given day. So all I can say is, on the days when you get more than you bargained for, take safety in slumbers. A nice slumber can reset your energy levels and get you through the next few hours before your children take their nightly slumbers. And the next day is just around the corner...