Friday, February 28, 2014

Atlantic Beaches in France - Hendaye & Saint Jean-de-Luz

Off to the Beach...
Beach in Hendaye
There is just something about a matter what matter the weather (although, sunshine is nice!).  I'm not sure if it's the sand, the wind, the just feels natural, just feels free and open.  For me, standing at the edge of a beach and letting the breeze blow against my face is just plain relaxing!  The smell of the salt air, the waves rolling in, and the vast openness of the landscape - it's peaceful and always puts me in a great mood.

My children are no different ...They LOVE the beach.  LOVE might not even be a strong enough word.  As soon as they know we are close to the Ocean - they want to stop - they want to head there - first to see it and put their feet in. Always, no matter what weather - off come the shoes & socks and the toes just start wiggling in the sand.

Now remember - it's February here.  It's still Winter - it's still chilly.  Yes, there are the "die-hards" out there surfing - in wet-suits.  But my children - all they want is to breathe the air and get their toes in the water. 

These photos were taken a week ago - as we toured the beaches of Hendaye & Saint Jean de Luz. I love looking at these and seeing how relaxed they are - I love that they each do their own youngest loves to still play in the sand, push it together, and build.  My oldest loves to take photos of the water, sand and her sisters.  My middle one - loves to run, walk and even draw in the sand. It's like they can't get enough....

They ran down to the beach - I'm standing up on the wall taking this photo.
Digging & playing
Enjoying the surf!
Taking in the salt air
A cartwheel is always fun in the sand
She loves to build
Sand snowball?  It is February remember?
When your hands have had enough, time to use your feet.
Love this photo!
Another photographer in the family!
My middle daughter and I

The next day we headed to Saint Jean de Luz - yes, we enjoyed the town (I'll write about that lovely Basque Country town in another post) but of course, we had to find the beach there too!  It didn't matter that they had done the same thing the day before - it's like the sand and the water just call to them!!  To me too - again it just provides this peaceful, tranquil atmosphere!

The beach - Saint Jean de Luz
The beach is more protected with breaker walls - still beautiful, but calmer.
Love footprints in the sand!
Note the fleece sweater - but pants rolled up and bare feet!
Waves rolling in - Fort Socoa in background

More building
jogging along

As I sit here typing, and it's pouring rain outside- it's enjoyable to look back at our photos from last week.  It wasn't perfect weather - but we had enough sun and warm(ish) weather to really enjoy ourselves.  We were all happy to get away for a couple days and get refreshed.

I hope for those of you who are dealing with the snow events in the States can enjoy these photos and that they help you to remember your fond memories of the warmer ocean air and know those days will be arriving soon.  

Will be sharing another post shortly describing the beautiful Basque Country towns of Saint Jean de Luz & Hendaye - beautiful destinations in Southern France on the Atlantic Coast.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Parc Bordelais - Bordeaux - A Spring-like Afternoon

Parc Bordelais

Parc Bordelais - Signs of Spring

Yes, it's been a while since my last blog post - don't worry - I'm not abandoning my blog - life just got really busy for the past few weeks.  First, my oldest daughter had some synchro competitions, then a good friend from College visited for a few days, then the kids started break and in the midst of all of that - I'm studying to be a tour guide starting at the end of this month.  All of these things have kept me quite busy! I'm presently working on several different posts from our mini-vacation near Saint Jean du Luz, and our life currently.  If you follow me on Instagram, twitter or facebook - you will have seen some photos from our past few weeks.

I have to say that one of the things I do like about Bordeaux is that we have Spring!  Coming from New York State - I'm use to lots of snow, then rain and freezing cold temperature.  We often joke that it goes from Winter to Summer - but not usually until June!  So it still amazes me that the daffodils begin to bloom her in February, life is renewing itself.  We have had a rainy January and it's still raining from time to time - but over the past couple weeks - we have had also had more sunshine!! 

I love these moments - moments to sneak out and be outside in the sun.  It's great to get our Vitamin D!  These photos are from Parc Bordelais located in Bordeaux Centre.  My youngest daughter and I had an hour and a half together one afternoon after we dropped off - one of her big sisters for a sycnronized swimming competition.  This is how we spent an hour and half before her competition began.  

The interesting thing here is that it had rained all morning - and then the sun came out for a few hours in the afternoon before the rain returned later.  Perfect timing if you ask me!!

I think what amazed me most was that this was early February - everything was green, and flowers were coming out, life was renewing itself.  It looked and smelled like true Spring -we even loved watching all the animals!

Rabbits - running through bushes


Loved the flower beds


My daughter enjoyed  taking photos too!

When you are 6 - you find the playground!


Hanging out!

Snack time!

I love a cup of coffee and enjoying being outside!!

Renewing life...

Remember it's February here- Love Spring!

Photographing the flowers!

More flowers & green grass

One of the entrances

This is one of my favorite parks in Bordeaux.  There is so much to do here - walk, stroll, jog, bike, scooter, roller blade or just sit and enjoy!.  It's big enough to enjoy in any way one desires.  

So, I hope you enjoyed a little preview of Spring!  I know it's February and for many of my friends they have plenty of snow to deal with and will be for another month.  I do miss the snow - sometimes!  But what I love about living here - is that it's very easy to drive 2 hours away and find the snow - plenty of it!  I call it the best of both worlds!

So here's to Spring and Sunshine as we head very quickly to the beginning of March!! Do you love Spring - what's it like where you live?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Turning 10 - Double Digits!! Birthday in France

A kid's Birthday party - 10 years old

Cakes from the local Patisserie

Joyeux Anniversaire to my middle daughter - Wow!!  Double digits!  10 years!  How the time has flown by...I still remember when she was a baby - she was the heaviest and the longest of all three of my girls - weighing 9 lbs 6 oz and 22.5 inches long. She was and still is my cuddler, she loved watching her older sister, she was shy, she was calm and always very sweet.  She has always been tall - always towered over her friends -she was born long and off the growth charts in height and still is. Her height is a great asset but she's still waiting to be convinced.  It's hard to stay coordinated when you grow so fast. She's always enjoyed her friends - always a few very special ones.  She's caring, sensitive, loyal and very curious about how things work.   Oh, the stories I can tell about her curiosity - but that would be for another post!!  Let's just say - she may study engineering one day or become a veterinarian.

Her birthday fell on a Thursday this year.  We did the family celebration that night - her request - hamburgers and French fries for dinner and cakes from the local patisserie for dessert.  (Yes, dinner may be American but dessert -bien sur -French!).  She received a fun Molly Bracken sweater, a bracelet and a BD (graphic comic book) that she requested.  These books have become her newest love and France has many different ones to choose from.  

Her new BD

Fun Molly Bracken sweater

Special bracelet for turning 10
So what does one do to celebrate such a special day - a milestone in birthdays?  Ten years old - my daughter wanted her first slumber party! She invited 5 special friends and they all enjoyed an evening of pizza, cake, crafts and of course a dance party!!

Making the house a bit festive!
Parties seems to be getting a bit easier as they get older - at least right now...but I'm thinking as they get even older - there will be other concerns - but for now- it's a great age.  Figure out food, activities and at this age, they pretty much take it from there.  The friends arrived at 7:30 pm - by French time - this meant I had to be specific if I was going to feed them or not.  (Here's a cultural difference - 7:30 pm in the States would mean after dinner - but here that's dinner time for the most part.).  Knowing that many families work and often don't eat until then, I served the girls pizza soon after everyone arrived.

We then had delicious cupcakes for dessert. (Back-story here - I bought them from a wonderful cupcake baker in Bordeaux & since I was in Bordeaux for the day - I picked them up instead of having them delivered to our house.  Needless to say - a crowded tram and a box of cupcakes are not a great mix.  Even though the baker had put them in a wonderful individualized box - I got bumped as I was exiting the tram at my stop and all the cupcakes bounced over to one side of the box.  I cringed at the disaster of frosting and cupcakes molded together as some sort of sculpture - but knowing there was not much I could do, I waited until I got home and refrosted each cake - cleaning off frosting from the paper cups.  The finished product ended up looking great - with an addition of some sprinkles that I had - one would never have known - but I share this here as life is not always perfect and the final result doesn't always tell the whole story!)

The super yummy - Red Velvet/Cream cheese & Chocolate Rapsberry cupcakes - after being repaired.
We then cleared the table and made room for the craft activity - decopaging little boxes.  This was a great activity for this age, as they had the patience to take their time and create something original and at the same time it took about an hour or so to complete.

Even my youngest did one (with my help)
 Their finished products came out very nicely - each one unique.

It was then gift time.  For any child - this is their favorite part of the party - who doesn't want to be the center of attention and receive gifts? It's funny to see how gift opening goes at French birthday parties.  I've watched this now for 2 years and 3 kids and numerous parties - and it's always the same.  Each guest picks up their gift from the gift table and then they all gather around the birthday child.  They then hand their gifts to the birthday child - all trying to get theirs opened when they want.  Some children want theirs opened first, others wait until last. They cluster and crowd - It's a bit of a frenzy but it seems to work.  There are often no cards to open, just the gift themselves.  Kisses and "merci" are giving to each child.  (It's not customary here to send thank you notes for kid parties - one less thing to worry about.). Now, if you are French and you are reading this - the contrast is in the States - a gift pile is placed next to the child, who opens them one at a time and guests are sat at a reasonable distance, so everyone can see equally.    

Enjoying her new art books!

She loved all of her gifts - most of them fashion styling art books which have been a great hit in this house since the party!

Finally it was time to dance - Keep in mind it's about 11 pm now!!  I figured let them dance and get their energy out and maybe, just maybe they will sleep!

After they danced, we set up the living room with air mattresses and settled everyone in for the night.  The girls overall were pretty quiet.  They watched a DVD movie (or 2) - and most apparently nodded off to sleep.  In the morning, we were told a couple of them were awake until around 3 am - but hey, what are slumber parties for anyway?  It's also the reason I chose to have this one on a Friday night - they could all catch up on their sleep on Saturday!

Happy 10th Birthday to my beautiful middle daughter - may her year be full of happiness, love and light!

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