We spent seven weeks last summer in Northern France. Man it was an awesome
time. None of us wanted to leave! Well, almost true. The thing about Normandy is
that the weather is very much like Portland—except that Juneuary lasts through
July and August. We were so desperate for sun that we spent a week in
This summer will be different. Much warmer. No, not Portland, but two months in
Arles, in Provence. Yes, we are once again doing a home exchange, this time
in the city in which Vincent Van Gogh famously spent his final years. Nice,
warm, Mediterranean weather.
We arrived Ã Rouen just over a week ago. This is our second extended visit, a
house exchange with a lovely French couple who’s daughter lives in Portland. We
loved our six-week visit in 2008, and were excited to do it again, this time
in summer. We will be here another six weeks.
In 2008, I was still an independent consultant. I did a bit of work for Etsy
during our visit, but for the most part did not work. For this visit, I’m
grateful to my employer, iovation, for putting up with my absence and allowing
me to work remotely. So far it is working quite well, I think, especially since
most of my time is going into Sqitch, an open-source project.
So I spend my mornings with my family, walking around Rouen, or teaching Anna
Scratch, and my afternoons and evenings most days working. And because we’re
here, we can travel around Europe, too. This weekend we go to Bruges. Never
been there, but look forward to learning more about it!
Summer is a nice time to be here. We see many more people, and like Portland,
people seem happy to see each other on sunny days after a long, wet winter.
(Also like Portland, it rains a lot in June.) We’ve also shifted Ms 7’s schedule
so that she can be up late with all the other kids.
A few other items of interest:
Julie is blogging our trip on her blog. Read it if you like travel and
good writing. Her slice of life stuff is much better than mine. :–)
Anna now has her own blog, too. Check regularly for her photos.
Man oh man is the cider good here. Along with Calvados, it is the regional
drink of choice. Even the cheap grocery store stuff is amazing. It’s
especially good for lunch!
I’m mostly taking pictures with Instagram; see my Tubmblog to follow
along. I will also get out my DSLR some, though so fare I haven’t.
I asked via Twitter and via Facebook: “Pop quiz: How many devices
does a family of three (parents, 7yo daughter) take for a 7 week house
exchange in France? #”. I know many of you are waiting on the answer, so
here it is: 7:
2 MacBook Airs
(Although Darth thinks we should have brought an iMac in the kid’s
backpack, it did not seem practical). The TV was a last-minute purchase,
because I knew ahead of time that the house had an HDMI projector and
optical-ready surround-sound system, so it seemed the best way to keep up
with our shows. Haven’t used it much, yet. Everyone is reading on the iPads,
though; Ms 7 has a very expensive reading habit!
A few years back, we spent six weeks in Rouen, France. I blogged about it a
little and took a lot of photos. It was a terrific experience, and we always
knew we wanted to do it again. So you can imagine our delight at being asked to
swap houses with the same folks again. Last time it was late November to early
January: cold, cold, cold. This time, though, it will be the middle of summer.
We leave mid-June and will return in early August. Seven weeks of awesomeness.
Well, we made it. Things went pretty smoothly, all told. The flight was fairly
empty, so Anna, at least, was able to lie across two seats and get a few hours
of sleep. Julie and I enjoyed the free cognac and dark chocolate. Those European
airlines sure know how to take care of their passengers.
The Frankfurt layover was uneventful, if a bit on the long side. We did get a
bit confused, going to the wrong terminal only to discover that our connecting
flight was in the terminal we arrived in. But it was no big deal; good to move
around a bit. The novel part for me was customs. Even though we were flying to
France, we went through customs in German. Hello EU!
Arriving in Paris, we fetched our bags from baggage claim and headed for the
taxi stand. We were approached my some random guy offering us a ride into town
in his “taxi” for €80, and then €50, but I would have none of it. We got a
standard tax at the stand allocated for that purpose, and arrived safely at hour
hotel 20 minutes later for around €35. Right, you don’t just go along with the
aggressive dudes who approach you uninvited in the terminal anymore. Yay
At the hotel, Julie and Anna napped for a bit (it was mid-afternoon, and I
wouldn’t let them have more than an hour), and then we went out for a bite. The
hotel is in a great part of town, just a few blocks from le Tour Eiffel in the
7e arrondissemont. We were tired, though, so just hit a local brasserie, where
we had pizza and salad and, for Anna, at the suggestion of our server, french
fries (yes, the server called them that; must’ve assumed we were stupid
Americans!). Then we walked around a bit and hit the hay by 8 pm.
Next morning, after a nice light breakfast of rolls, croissants, and home-made
jelly, we walked over to the Eiffel Tower for a quick look around. The sky was
grey and things a bit wet, but we enjoyed it. Anna rode on a nearby carousel. We
walked under the tower, currently undergoing some major maintenance, and watched
the boats go by on the river for a bit. Then we grabbed a cab back to the hotel,
got our stuff, and headed to the train station.
We were nice and early for the TGV, but the train itself was late. The quai was
announced only a few minutes before the scheduled departure and then, once on
the train, we waited 45 minutes to actually leave. Once we did leave, however,
the trip to Rouen took only a bit more than an hour. Anna fell asleep in Julie’s
lap while I consumed The New Yorker.
In Rouen, we took another taxi to our house, only a few minutes away, and were
warmly greeted by our hosts. For the next 7 hours, Julie struggled with
translations, our hosts speaking nary a word of Anglaise, as a parade of friends
and neighbors came to call: The friends of our hosts who are also going to be
staying our house in Portland, along with their car, which we’re borrowing; the
graphic designer tenant in the flat next-door, who dropped by with a bag of
fresh-baked breads. The two neighbor girls, aged 4 and 6, along with their
mother; the baby-sitter and her parents, and probably other people I’m
forgetting. Jean-Paul also gave us a quick driven tour of Rouen, including their
plot in the local community garden, where we can go pick fresh carrots, brussels
sprouts, cabbage, leeks, beets, and other yummy stuff. The town looks nice, too.
After a lovely dinner, Julie and I headed to bed. Anna awoke a few times in the
night, but did pretty well overall. Our hosts left at 6:30, and we got up
shortly thereafter to start our first full day in our house in Rouen. After
breakfasting on the fresh bread, Neufchâtel cheese, and home-made jelly, we took
the loaned umbrella-stroller and hit the streets to get to know our new town a
bit. We’re up on a hill north of the downtown area, and getting around with the
stroller is a bit of a drag, but the town is quite nice, if cold this time of
year (that was expected). Over the next few days, we walked to the open-air
market downtown and bought some produce and fromage, hit an incredible
children’s bookstore on Rue Jeanne d’Arc, and, today, le Musee des Beaux-Arts.
Anna has complained a bit, but has been willing to go along with our exploring
plans so far. We’ll see how things go in the next few days.
The house we’re staying in is pretty nice. It’s actually three very narrow flats
combined into one moderately-sized house. The first floor has an entry way and
bathroom, a media room and dining room, and a kitchen and laundry room (no
dryer; we hang our laundry here). The second floor has a den/guest bedroom, a
large bathroom, and our host’s bedroom. The top floor, which is a converted
attic, has three bedrooms: ours, Anna’s, and a third room with lots of toys in
it (“the toy room”). The size of the space suits us well.
Jet lag hasn’t been near the problem we’ve expected, although J and I have had
trouble staying awake between 2pm and 5pm. Anna has awakened a few times each
night, but down to only once last night, around 1:15. Hopefully she’ll sleep
straight through tonight! I (mostly) skipped the nap yesterday and today, and J
didn’t nap today, so I’m thinking that tomorrow we should be pretty near fully
acclimated to the time zone.
Well this has been pretty boring. For a more interesting description of our
travels, see Julie’s blog, Six Semaines en France. I’ll see about blogging
here a bit more regularly, too, to try to avoid these long boring posts, though
your best luck to learn about our visit to France from me is via my Flicker
Meanwhile, up next: A visit to Paris Tuesday to Wednesday this week, and
planning another visit for December 10th, around a possible visit to the Paris