A break from normal

Now that things have pretty much returned to normal since our France visit, it’s time to shake things up again!

We went to Boston Calling last weekend to see Mumford and Sons. We knew it was going to be a late night, and Monkey hasn’t been napping, so we weren’t sure if we should take him. But when the regular sitter said she couldn’t come, we figured we might as well just go for it. He loves Mumford and Sons (this kid is so much cooler than his parents) and it was free to bring him. If the worst thing was that we were all tired the next day (which we were), well, that’s pretty much every day for us!

He ended up taking a short nap around 3, and we got to the Harvard Athletic Field around 5. There was lots of space for him to run around, and people handing out free bubble stuff, so basically, it was kid heaven.

He was one of the only kids I saw, at least initially. I saw maybe two or three crawling babies, and a few kids in the 7-10 year range (free for under 10). Their website said it’s a “family friendly” festival, and while there was the expected flagrant ignoring of the no smoking rule, it did seem a bit calmer than other festivals I have been to. I was worried about being “those parents” who bring their kid, but Monkey’s cuteness charms most people, and we got lots of comments on what cool parents we are. I said later to a friend that it’s funny how much I complained about the negative comments on our parenting in France, but don’t mind comments when they’re positive! A few more kids showed up when Mumford and Sons started playing. We passed a couple with a baby in a carrier, plus two under-5 running around, so I was very happy to just have the one to deal with!

Another recent adventure (this weekend actually) was a trip to Cape Cod.

Last year we went “down the Cape” for just a half-day, to visit a colleague at his beach house. This year, he offered up one of his rental houses to the whole team for a weekend. Initially two other families were coming, but they ended up having other commitments. So we had the whole (giant) house to ourselves!

It was not warm enough to go in the water, but we put our feet in (or, in Monkey’s case, his whole clothed body!) and it was nice weather to walk around. We visited Provincetown and had a lovely early dinner at a restaurant right on the beach. Sunday morning we walked up and down the very calm and lovely road where the house is. Very chill weekend overall, and while the activities are nothing we don’t do on a typical weekend (walking around outside, visiting stores), being in a new place made it feel like a special weekend. The first of what will hopefully many longer visits to the beach that he will have during his childhood!

Traveling around in the area with Monkey has gotten both easier and harder as he gets older. He is more willing to walk, so we don’t always need the stroller (=I usually realize we forget it once we’re an hour away from home). He is getting better as restaurants, and the early dinner thing was a good idea – less people to worry about if he gets loud/crazy.

He listens better, but not always. With him starting to nap less, it means we have to be extra careful about planning too much into afternoons, so he doesn’t get too tired and cranky. The other option is to just put him to bed earlier, which means less time for fun things when we’re out and about.

Despite how tired we’ve all been, overall, the past two weekends have been really fun. We’re excited about what new fun things we’ll be able to do this summer with our (almost) 3-year-old.

Getting back to normal

It’s been a week since we got back from France, and things are finally getting back to normal, Monkey’s sleep schedule being the most important, of course. While we really just bought the cheapest tickets we could find, the flight times worked out so that he was really tired in both directions, so there wasn’t an issue falling asleep when we got there, and when we got home. While we were there, he was on a 10pm-8:30am schedule, instead of his normal 7:30pm-6am schedule, which I think helped make the switch back a bit easier.

He still woke up before 5 two days this week, and before 6 all but Friday. This morning we managed our usual Saturday routine: sleeping “in” until 6:30, all three of us going to the Y, and then an “outing,” today we headed to a local farm to pick up some seedlings for our garden.

He’s been getting more TV this week than he usually does, however, simply because we are all so tired, and waking up before 5 meant by 6pm he was DONE and just screaming about everything. And my husband came back to a huge project at work, which meant I was on my own a lot more in the evenings. The less-than-stellar weather has been hard too, since he can’t go outside and play to let off some of that frustration. This week should be better, as we are all much better rested than we were last Saturday.

I’ll do a few other posts about the trip (Sweden especially), but I did want to capture a few language things about Monkey I noticed.

He didn’t seem to pick up as much vocabulary as I thought he would, but a few new key phrases are “Pourquoi?” and “Je sais pas.” He obviously got the second one from asking the first too much! We also taught him to count from one to ten in German and Japanese, which he proudly showed off to everyone in the family. He seemed resistant to Italian, however, which I found interesting. Maybe it’s too close to French and Spanish (which he hears at daycare). He seems to prefer imitating “funny” sounds – when we got back from our side trip to Sweden, he was all too eager to repeat the few words we’d picked up while there.

Another new phrase is “pas manger les possions,” (no eating the fish) which I am assuming he learned from his mamie when she took him to the aquarium. I find it particularly hilarious. I’m pretty sure it’s because he likes to be a monster and “eat” people/things/the cat, so she must have scolded him about putting his face on the glass to “eat” the fish! Overall, he seems to be making longer phrases now, which he’s been doing for awhile in English. So the trip was definitely a good boost for his French.

I have a lot of other thoughts and stories from the trip, not all of the positive, but I thought I’d save those for another day. This drizzly May weather is depressing enough without trying to remember all the stress from France!

Feelings in France

We arrived in France Saturday after a 20 hour journey, and I am feeling much happier than I thought I would. I think a lot of my pre-departure emotions were tied up in worrying about Monkey on the flight. We flew with Iceland Air, leaving at 9:30 at night, and since he’s never wanted to sleep on planes, I had nightmares of wrangling a cranky, horrible toddler on very little sleep.

He ended up sleeping about 4 hours on the first leg, albeit fitfully (it was drier than normal on the plane), and then another 2 on the Iceland-Paris leg. I got maybe 3 hours on the first leg and 1 hour on the second. My husband barely sleep at all, but we were still all in pretty good moods by the time we arrived. I was also really worried that Monkey would pull his usual “I hate people for the first half hour of seeing them, even if I know them” routine with his mamie, but he was happy right away! The weekly Skype calls definitely helped, I think.

He didn’t seem confused at all when we got to the house, possibly because of the excitement about the “new” toys here. He did spend a lot of time here during the first 18 months of his life, including living here an entire month, so even though I don’t think he “remembers” the house, I wonder if a part of his brain senses how familiar it is.

He slept for 13 hours the first night, and around 11 last night, with a long nap today, so that’s been a relief. I’ve been having a harder time, but it’s only been 2 days. I’ve had more wine in the past two days than I have had in the past two months, which probably doesn’t help my restless nights!

So far in just two days we’ve seen three different sets of cousins/uncles/etc, and another two are planned for tonight. I drove a manual car again without any problems, which was a relief, especially since it was my mother-in-law’s new car! The weather has been surprisingly nice for Lorraine, almost hot, and I spent a nice afternoon reading in the sun while Monkey napped. I’m feeling very relaxed, and seeing how happy my husband is to be with his family makes me very happy too. Though he seems a bit stressed about finding time to see everyone, which is a familiar emotion for many expats when they visit home!

Monkey was initially less clingy, but I think seeing so many “new” people in such a short period of time is getting to him a bit. He insisted on sitting on my lap at lunch, which solicited some “advice”…Overall though, he’s been great, and has already picked up a few new words.

For now, I am luxuriating in that wonderful “beginning of vacation, we have lots of time” feeling, knowing that two weeks will be over before we know it!

 

Thoughts on returning to France (for a visit)

In exactly one week we will be on our way to France for a 2 week visit. It’s the first time we’ve been back since moving in January 2016, and I have lots of thoughts that I wanted to get down before we leave.

People keep asking me if I’m excited. I guess I am, but it’s more just excitement/happiness to be on vacation! While we’re both lucky to have 3 weeks of vacation per year, my husband can’t carry any over. It’s nice to know his company encourages employees to actually use vacation time, but it means my plan of saving up vacation time and going for longer trips every few years may not really be possible. Last year we mostly took long weekends, and we both took a week when his mom and sister visited. So I’m looking forward to the first long break from work in over a year. However, I’m not excited about France, per se.

If I am honest with myself, I am not sure that I really miss France. I miss the cheap food and childcare. I miss travelling without a small child. But I don’t wish I hadn’t left, which is what “miss” really means to me.

To be fair, I don’t think that I missed the states when I was living in France. I missed familiar foods, family, and friends. But I didn’t have an adult life here to miss. If I missed anything, it was the (mostly) carefree days of college, which would have been the case no matter where I’d spent my twenties.

I reread my post talking about why I wanted to move back, and I think I’m on my way to accomplishing what I wanted from the move. Someone new started this week at work, and it took me a few days to mention my time in France. It used to be the first thing out of my mouth when talking to people. To not have “expat” be the first thing I identify with is a relief. I have said it countless times in the past year, but finding this job is what has made this move feel like one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am feeling more “myself” thanks to a job I do well and my awesome colleagues who support me and make me laugh every day.

Part of the reason to move was to “see if I could do it” on this side of the ocean. And I feel like I definitely can. Probably because of the confidence living abroad for an extended period of time gave me. I know I definitely wouldn’t be in the happy place I am today if I hadn’t lived in France, and I’m not saying I regret it in any way. But I don’t miss the life I had there, not in a regretful or painful way.

For me, it feels like the way I miss life in college. There were awesome things about it, I learned a lot, and made some great, lifelong friends. But it’s in the past, and I’ve moved on. I do feel like this is kind of harsh, like breaking up with someone after 8 years without a backward glance. To stay with the college theme, I like to think of it more like getting a PhD. Some people stay in academia, even stay at the same university. Others move into other fields and put that knowledge to other uses.

When people ask me though, I usually just answer with “yes, very excited!” since I know that’s what they are expecting. I really am excited about visiting Sweden while we’re there, where my brother-in-law is doing an internship. So perhaps my lack of excitement about France is just because it’s not something new. And when people ask if I’m excited, it’s because for them, it would be something new.

This has gone on a bit longer than I intended. The wine with dinner (French, of course!) probably has something to do with that. This seems like quite enough introspection for a Friday evening.

Sick and tired

With fall weather comes fall colds! The past few weeks have been rough on everyone, bébé especially, who had bronchitis, along with the regular sniffles thanks to the changing seasons.

Things were better last week, so bébé and I headed to Springfield with a friend who came up from New York. This was to give my husband a little break, since he took care of (sick!) bébé for almost an entire week while I was at a conference in July. We know it will never be a 50/50 split between the time we both spend with him, but we do try to give each other breaks like this when we can. And we both need lots of breaks these days, as bébé is getting more and more . . . opinionated (=insanely frustrating). He even won a raffle at work for Red Sox playoff tickets, so he had a perfect sports/video games weekend all set.

The weekend with my friend was pretty nice too, eating and drinking, exploring a part of the “revitalized rust belt,” and making plans to move there once we saw at how cheap the beautiful old houses are. (These plans were abandoned, however, upon researching the quality of the schools system.) It was nice to not make any particular plans, but just go by what we felt like and how bébé was acting. That’s one thing I’ve gotten much better at the past two years. I used to plan trips down to the second, not wanting to miss anything a new city has to offer.

But this weekend was a good example of my new “non-plan plan” of writing down a few parks and family-friendly restaurants and seeing what the day brings. Day one it brought us to a corn maze with ice cream, the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden, the public library, and some excellent barbecue. Day two it rained, but we got in a quick walk in Forest Park, before heading north to check out a big Yankee Candle store (that sells way more than candles!). It was a very different pace for both of us, used to bigger cities, that I think we’re getting to the age/life stage to really start to crave. Definitely a bummer the schools aren’t better. So we’ll just have to keep exploring the small cities between Boston and New York to find that perfect one to live out our next-door neighbor dreams.

I wish I could say the sick and tiredness was cured by a weekend away, but as often is the case, coming back from a break means you’re even more tired than when you left. Both my office and daycare were closed today for Columbus day, so at least there wasn’t the usual morning craziness to deal with. But I decided I needed to cook all the fall things today (butternut squash soup! pumpkin spice cake!) and bébé has been coughing all day, so we’re both not in tip top shape. At least I won’t have to worry about cooking the next few days while we’re all sitting around sniffling!

August adventures

While we had originally thought about going to the states this summer, we weren’t sure if we’d both be able to get off work at the same time. We knew the nanny was taking three weeks (though technically we could have decided the dates for her, since we’re her only employer, but we’re cool like that) and my mother-in-law was leaving for two of those same weeks, so I asked for those weeks months ago. My husband recently changed teams, and only found out about a month ago that he’d be able to take a week. With just a week together and less than a month to plan, a visit to the states wasn’t looking likely.

It turned out really well though, and we managed to get in two trips, including one without bébé! MIL took him overnight for the first time ever while we went to the north of Luxembourg. Other than a major bath time freak out, bébé did great and we are excited to be able to roam a little freer on the weekends now. We still woke up at 6 out of habit, but then we got to go back to sleep until 8! It was amazing!

View of Vianden
View of Vianden

Before leaving, people at work told me “bonnes vacances, repose toi bien!” (have a nice vacation, rest up!), and I was like, uhhh, parents don’t get real vacations. But the weekend in Luxembourg really felt like one, thanks to all the unscheduled time we had. When people say having a kid means no time for yourself, I think what they really mean is, deciding freely what to do with your time is over. A few hours here and there every week is always possible, but 36 hours all at once is something different. We went to a few different castles, saw a photo exhibit, took a nice long apéro without having to say or do anything other than sit there and drink and people watch. It was the break we needed to get ready for the rest of the week.

The chairlift up to Vianden Castle
The chairlift up to Vianden Castle
Vianden Castle
Vianden Castle

And the rest of the week was spent in Annecy, where my husband’s uncle lives. While he goes pretty frequently, I’ve only been twice back in 2009. In the winter to go skiing and in the spring to do the half marathon around the lake with a friend. We didn’t have much planned, just hanging out with family and walking around town. Though they all kept telling me I was going paragliding, since my husband loved it so much when he did it a few years ago.

Lac d'Annecy
Lac d’Annecy
View from the balcony
View from the balcony

Unfortunately, the weather turned stormy right before I was supposed to head up the hill. But that morning, we had done a tandem bungee jump with a rolling sled, so we still got our thrills in. My parents always told me I could do crazy stuff like that (parachuting, bungee jumping, etc.) once I had given them grandchildren, thinking I would of course not want to do anything dangerous once I had a baby. And while normally their tactic would have worked, the jump had so many cables involved, it was probably safer than a paddleboat on the lake.

The jump
The jump
The weather an hour before I was supposed to go paragliding
The weather an hour before I was supposed to go paragliding
The weather during when I should have been paragliding
The weather during when I should have been paragliding

Bébé stayed at home for our jump, since we didn’t want to give him any ideas! This was different from past trips with him, since we could leave him with family and go out on our own to explore.

We did lots of fun stuff with him too, like going to the outdoor pool with a view of the lake. We also visited a few different playgrounds, definitely not your typical travel hotspot! But it was nice to explore areas we wouldn’t normally see, and as he gets more mobile (his first few steps were taken in Annecy!) I can see how our travelling will adapt in the future, and I’m pretty cool with how it looks. If we want to take a trip that’s really relaxing, then it’s best to leave him with mamie. And if we want to explore a new city, we can definitely take him, but it will be on his schedule, not ours.

We’ve used up our travel budget for the moment, so no more travelling for awhile, but we’re looking forward to more of both family and parents-only vacations in the years to come!

Blois and Bordeaux

Exactly a year ago my husband and I went to Poitiers and Bretagne, for a relaxing break before a busy summer welcoming bébé. This year’s trip was actually pretty similar in spirit, despite having bébé along with us to visit Blois and Bordeaux. We took things slow, had a “no car” day, and even got in some time at the hotel’s pool and spa in Blois. Sure, we slept (much) less than during last year’s vacation, but we came back on a Thursday again (well, technically very early Friday morning), giving us a few more days to chill at home.

We had originally intended to go abroad, to see how bébé does on a short plane ride. But my husband has been wanting to go to Bordeaux for ages and since last year wasn’t really ideal for lots of wine tasting, we decided to go for bébé’s first road trip instead. Since he’s also never visited any of the châteaux in the Loire valley, we broke up driving the first day to stop in Blois. I figured if bébé got grumpy and we couldn’t visit anywhere else, Blois has a château so we could at least see one.

Château de Chenonceau
Château de Chenonceau

We ended up being able to see another in Chenonceau (which I’m pretty sure I visited in high school – FIFTEEN years ago, what?!) because bébé is turning out to be a pretty good traveller. He’s just so into anything new, and the weather was so nice, he was in a great mood almost the entire trip. We tried to plan our outings so he could take his morning nap in the car/carrier, and get back to the hotel for his afternoon nap. He never slept much in the mornings, but longer afternoon naps made up for it, and it meant we could have some much needed downtime at the hotel as well.

Bordeaux
Bordeaux

 

 

Plus it was very hot in the afternoons, so it worked out well that we mostly visited things in the mornings. We’re all up between 6 and 7, which meant we visited Bordeaux and the Dune du Pilat with zero crowds. An unexpected upside to travelling with a baby!

Dune du Pilat
Dune du Pilat

Our last day in Saint-Émilion was maybe the hardest, since it was the one rainy day, and bébé was pretty grumpy. My husband got to taste and buy lots of wine, and I got to visit some really old stuff, so it was still a pretty good day. Bébé was in a better mood by lunch, and charmed the pants off everyone in the restaurant. He kept looking around at everyone, like he was following their conversations, and even laughing when they laughed. Just adorable.

Saint-Émilion
Saint-Émilion

Unfortunately, adorable only lasted so long, and he threw a pretty big fit about having to go to bed in the car, since we wanted to drive the 8 hours home without stopping. But all things considered, he did really well, and we seem to have worked out a good routine while travelling with him. No other trips planned for the moment, but with more and more sunny days ahead, hopefully we’ll be able to explore close to home this Spring and Summer.

 

Traveling with a baby in Paris

Traveling with a baby in Paris was perhaps not the most relaxing way to spend a weekend, but it turned out really well. I knew any plans I made would depend on the weather and his mood, so I kept things very basic (= see stuff, eat stuff, take cute pictures.)  The main reason we went was so that my husband could take an exam, so I was my own on the train, since he went up Friday night, and for most of the day on Saturday.

I know Paris pretty well, having studied there for a summer in college (which included studying the history of the city, old street maps, and lots and lots of walking around), and we’ve been a few times together as a couple. There was no rush to see everything or disappointment when timing didn’t work out. While it would have been nice to make it into a museum or two, there will be other trips, both with and without bébé, that will be more culture-focused. This weekend was mainly about getting away and navigating a big city (and public transportation!) with a baby in tow.

Transportation

The TGV ride up went very well, though bébé was obviously very interested in everything about the train, so he didn’t fall asleep until we were halfway there. To get everything to the station in the morning meant putting him in the baby carrier, and our bags in the stroller. I picked a hotel close to the train station so we wouldn’t have to deal with bags + baby on the metro.

I didn’t want to attempt the metro on my own. After reading other posts about bringing babies to Paris, I tried the bus. I think before this weekend I’d taken the bus maybe twice in Paris, and I was a little nervous. But the routes are well indicated on the bus stops, and since I know the city pretty well, it was just a matter of finding one that went in the general direction of where I wanted to go.

1-paris1

For example, I had planned on meeting my husband at the Champs-Elysees metro station, and originally I was going to take the metro to Concorde and walk from there. But then I found a bus that went from the train station to the Louvre, and then walked through the Tuileries Garden instead. Much more enjoyable than hauling the stroller up and down a million stairs.

2-paris2

So bébé didn’t get his first metro ride until Sunday, when my husband took him in the baby carrier and I was on diaper bag duty. In general I prefer the carrier, but he’s just so curious now (and big!), I only use it on my own for short trips, when I won’t need a diaper bag. But with the two of us, it meant we could take the metro and explore a little easier and faster than I had the day before with the stroller.

3-paris3
Getting silly at the Grand Palais

 

Eating

I only breastfed in public once, in a café near the Musée d’Orsay, and no one said anything. I was a little more self-conscious than usual, since bébé was being so fussy and popping off every two seconds to whine, thus making me feel quite exposed and drawing attention to us. I also fed him on the train on the way home, but I had the window seat with my husband next to me so I was a little more comfortable.

Though some of the pictures are quite grey, Saturday afternoon turned out very nice, and bébé got some applesauce in a park. I don’t think he’s ever eaten outside like that, so yay for bébé’s first picnic! I even changed him on a park bench, which he just loved for some reason.

I originally wanted to eat at a Korean Barbecue place for lunch, but it was so tiny, and they just weren’t that friendly. So we left before we even sat down and went to Hippopotamus instead and got both excellent burgers and excellent service. They had a high chair and a coloring book (which he mostly just tore apart, still too little to color!) and waitresses who just loved him. He even got a kiss from one, he was being absolutely adorable.

I know we won’t be able to go to certain types of restaurants for awhile as a family, but I didn’t fully realize it until this weekend. At first since he was so small and slept so easily, we go almost anywhere. Now that he’s bigger, it’ll be more of a challenge finding places that will work for all of us together. Just another reason to look forward to our date nights – grown-up restaurants! But if everywhere can be as nice and welcoming as where we ate this weekend (with good food no less), then I don’t really see it as much of a sacrifice.

The café we went to Sunday morning had a high chair, though it would have been fine if they didn’t since we didn’t stay that long. Bébé managed to grab a croissant off the table when we weren’t looking and started gumming it to death, so this was a trip for firsts! First picnic, first croissant, first metro ride . . .

4-paris4

Thoughts

I always expect him to be cranky and difficult when we go out for long periods of time in public, but I think I am just anticipating toddler tantrums. Babies are easier I think, or at least ours is, since he loves anything that’s new. Nothing scares him, not loud noises, not dogs, nothing. The only times he cried or fussed was when he was tired. We’ve done a little too well in the “get baby to sleep in his own bed” area, and pretty much anywhere else is a play zone (including our bed, so even if we wanted to cosleep at this point, it would never work). He eventually napped in the baby carrier, and in the stroller, but for much shorter periods, and much later than usual, once he was totally exhausted. This made nighttime sleep a little harder, but not that much worse than usual.

I think the only thing I would have done differently is not taken our portable cot. It’s not that heavy, but it’s larger than an average suitcase so getting it on the train was a little awkward. The hotel had one, but I was worried about safety and hygiene. But we can always bring out own sheets, and I don’t have any good reason to think the hotel’s cots are less safe than ours, since I’ve never tried one before.

So our first trip to Paris as a family of three can definitely be called a success. I’m happy he seems to enjoy exploring France as much as his parents (trips to Beaune and Strasbourg also went well), and it will be exciting to see how he reacts to each new place we take him.

Luxembourg is a foreign country

I attended a workshop last week at the Abbaye de Neumünster, which is in the Grund area of Luxembourg city. It’s a really lovely area, down in the Petrusse valley, and a short walk from my office.  It’s hard to capture in pictures just how cool it is to be down there, standing in front of a 17th century building, walking around the winding streets, looking up at a sheer cliff face, trying to imagine what it looked like back then.  grund4 grund3 grund1

grund2

For some reason, while riding the bus back up after the workshop (walking down is easy, but getting back up is quite a hike!), I was suddenly struck by how very foreign Luxembourg still feels to me, even after working there for almost two and a half years. I only ever really see the little stretch of streets between my office and the train station, and I only go to the city center occasionally (the last time was with my parents in September). So it’s easy to forget where I am most days, when working in a building built less than 20 years ago, surrounded by McDonald’s and Sephora.

Luxembourg in general still seems like a foreign country, despite going there every other week for the past seven years to get gas (my mother-in-law lives a kilometer from the border). The colorful houses, the supermarkets, the bus stops . . . I just can’t seem to get used to it. The roadsigns are even a little different. It’s very unsettling to live so close to a country, to work there every weekday, and yet still be surprised by the foreignness of it.

Maybe part of it is the language. Hearing Luxembourgish instead of French while pumping gas means I can’t chalk up the unusual architecture or funny street names to a regional difference, the way I can when visiting the rest of France. Once when I was lost, I could not find anyone who spoke French to help me. So not understanding/being understood certainly adds to the overall foreign experience.

To have such beautiful and historic sites so close by, yet to never have the time visit them, is one of the sad realities of living abroad long-term. Once warmer weather arrives, I’ll be able to explore more during my lunch breaks. And maybe for one of our date nights we can go out in the city center. My mother-in-law took a trip to the northern part of the country and said it was really gorgeous, so that would be nice for a weekend away. I don’t know if Luxembourg will ever stop feeling totally foreign, but hopefully seeing more of it will help (and maybe cracking open one of the many “learn Luxembourgish” books we have lying around . . .)

Poitiers and Bretagne

We were able to both explore and relax during our little vacation on the other side of the country. So often when we visit new places, we feel the need to do and see everything we can as quickly as possible. This time, we really took it slow, in part due to my physical limits (hello third trimester!) but also because we knew we both needed to chill out as much as possible. Visiting  Poitiers and Bretagne in the same trip was maybe slightly too ambitious, since it involved a lot of driving, but I’m glad we saw both, since they offered totally different experiences of France. (It also allowed me to check off two more regions for my goal to visit all of them!)

Poitiers has lots of great medieval architecture, and is easy to visit on foot. Our hotel was right next to the Préfecture and Hôtel de Ville, so we were well placed to explore. The weather was sunny, if a bit cool, so perfect for walking around.

Poitiers

 

We also visited the Futuroscope, a multimedia theme park, which is a short drive from the city. I couldn’t do everything, but my brother-in-law was with us, so he and my husband went off to do things while I enjoyed the sunshine and fairly reasonably priced snacks. And there were shows and films I could see, which were fun and interesting. The activities and films were pretty well timed I think to see everything in one day, but again, we weren’t trying to go at a crazy speed. Also, a lot of things were really more interesting for kids, in terms of theme and technology. So maybe in a few years we’ll go back when bébé is a little bigger!

After an Easter brunch in town, we spent Sunday with my husband’s uncle and his family, who he hadn’t seen in a very long time and I hadn’t met before. Even if they don’t celebrate the holiday, it was nice to spend Easter with family, chatting and eating and getting to know the little cousins. And since the previous day had involved lots of walking, it was definitely a good idea to just sit around all afternoon.

Then is was off to Bretagne! I say that like we visited the entire region, but we were only in a tiny part of the Côtes-d’Armor département. I kept calling it the “Côtes d’Amour” by accident, but I don’t think I’m the only one who makes that mistake . . . We stayed in Pléneuf-Val-André and visited the Côte de Granite Rose (Pink Granite Coast due to type of rock you find there). So this part of the trip was more about natural beauty than architecture, though there were a few megalithic structures to see as well. The weather was a little cooler and rainier, but still nice enough in general to enjoy being outside as much as possible.

Bretagne

 

Since we drove so much the previous days, and were looking at an eight hour drive home the next day, Wednesday we stayed in the hotel for most of the day. It was very rainy, so it wasn’t the best weather for exploring anyway. And as you can see in the top two pictures, our view was pretty great, so even if we were being lazy, at least it felt like we were being lazy somewhere special!

We drove home Thursday, which gave us another three days to relax at home, which we usually never have when coming back from a trip. It’s usually a Sunday return trip and then back to work Monday. Even coming back a Saturday is hard, because you have to try and cram grocery shopping and other things into one day. So this way, the easy pace continued through the end of my two-week break. I still feel like I got everything done I needed to, while not stressing myself out even more by trying to do everything in just a few days.

Now just 18 (!!) more days of work until my much longer, much more action-packed “break” . . .