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The most delicious French pastries

So this morning we woke up with a bit of determination. Hazel had a meeting planned with someone from the international school her uncle asked her to check out. Right now his son is going to a school in Hong Kong, and apparently he does very well in his academic studies. He is currently taking French classes, but he would like to study French in France. So we were off to an area around Marseilles starting out from Aix on a shortbus. Well, it was a very short bus, kinda cute.  Anyways we traveled for a while, and finally came closer to where Hazel had approximate directions for. It was an international school, and she described this to the driver, asking him to let us off there, so after a while of traveling through some really nice, green neighborhoods reminiscent of Illinois, we came to the stop, got off and walked towards the school…  however, it took us a while to figure out that it was the wrong one. heh. So we were late for the meeting, and Hazel was freaking out, so we got directions from someone inside that school that told us where it miiiight be. So we started walking back towards the town, over an interstate, traffic circles, where finally the woman with whom Hazel was supposed to meet called her cell phone. So after describing where we were, the woman laughed and said we were not close. Very polite of her, she offered to come get us or give us directions to try one last time, walking. I thought Hazel was going to suck it up and try to walk (she has a lot of pride and doesn’t like to be an inconvenience) but thank god she obliged. I feel like such a wimp around her sometimes, ha ha. So The woman pulls up to us in a traffic circle (looking back on it now, methinks we should have moved away from a traffic circle to be picked up from. ha.) and is very polite, even to me whom she needn’t try to impress. The dirt road winded around for a while through the french countryside before arriving at the school. The school seemed new, yet full of character – something that I don’t usually see so quickly. The woman gave us a tour of the facilities, and knew many of the students by name – there were certainly not as many as my high school had. However, during the visit I was able to see the appeal of a private school, when compared to a public high school. The visit really made me start to think about how I would raise my children. Schooling affects a certain amount of what the child learns (and aside from actual educational material). I made a few mental notes that day based on what I saw, experienced. I don’t think I would homeschool my children, I believe that they need more structure and complexities, interaction with others (social intelligence of sorts). Basically, I couldn’t give them everything they needed. Public school can be harsh sometimes – some people have very good experiences, some have some really bad character-altering experiences. I’ve seen some people change so drastically because as children they soak in so much – good and bad and all the in between. They are so easily influenced without always having the experience to understand everything they are taking in. I know, it is a risk that every parent has to take, and you can only do so much… and I know that it will better prepare them for the world and the complexities of it.  However this… the idea of a sort of “in-between” school, it has its upsides and downs. For one, it is a great learning experience to have a great ratio of teachers to students to help foster creativity and focus. They have a lot of choices for extra-curricular activities and teachers who won’t have too much stress because they are overloaded with students teaching the same thing to five different classes a day. I have seen kids be able to form tighter-knit groups, too. Although some of the children who attend private schools tend to rebel against their parents (sometimes the situation at home is not the best, therefore they act out in ways meant to attract attention, not always the good kind)… and if my children were to become friends with other children who rebelled, etc… they might get into some not-so-great activities or take on some unfortunate characteristics. The funny thing, or maybe ironic? is that you never know how things will turn out – sometimes you worry for nothing. Sometimes a child might have a very grounded moral, or clear-minded personality to begin with that they can carry with them throughout their whole lives, sometimes. Then again, sometimes people don’t get rounded out as they get older, more mature- they can get worse, further down the road that you can’t follow… that others can’t follow. And that must be one of the worst situations… but you know, that’s stepping waaaaay ahead of everything. Of course any loving parent wants the best for their child, but I believe that you have to be able to know when to take a step back, when to let them make their own decisions, and when to play a part in them … but most of all, to just be as loving and supporting (knowledge, experience, actions, character, morals) as you can and know how to accept… many things. Change. Wow. Watching your children throughout all the stages of their lives. That will be a very wonderful part of my life, when it’s time.  So… Here’s to the future, come what may.

P.S.     I’m totally gonna rock those maternity clothes.

Almost. What a better way to start the morning off than to come out of the shower seeing a room filled with smoke. I mean, THICK smoke. I mean, first I’m thinking This is a lot of smoke. Right after that I am thinking Do I really have to run out of here in my shower towel? Hope not. Haaaaazel???! “It won’t STOP…”  O_O  What won’t stop?? “The microwave is forever spewing out smoke!” What did you DO?? “I tried to cook breakfast.” Translation: she tried to reheat the leftovers – Au Flambé. Lol. Don’t know why I was laughing, considering this may very well set off the fire alarm soon and I don’t really wanna know what happens to people who force-evacuate a hotel. And I didn’t want to stay long enough to find out. So we opened the windows all the way, turned on the fan, grabbed our stuff and headed downstairs real quick-like. By this time the smoke had started to roll out into the hallway of our floor and it smelled really really bad.  So as we ventured downstairs. Actually. You know what? Let me tell you about some great customer service. No I am not being sarcastic. Yes, this was  in France. So the guy at the check-in desk had tolerated our amazing Frenglish and helped us to find a place to go to for the day, train times, routes, etc – we decided on the Mediterranean seaside town of Cassis, south of Marseille. The main attraction here are the Calanques – these great, huge cliffs against the water that you can view from boats in the water, and where people climb.  It is supposed to be beautiful, so we all discussed times in which to head out and take the train, which train, which way. We also needed a place to stay for the night but this place we had just stayed at was just a little more pricey than we would like, and we mentioned this to the man but there was not much he could do… so we said Merci and bid him farewell and started heading down the road with all our things when we hear behind us “Excuse meee! Mademoiselles!!” And we see the check-in man (who in all the kindness in the world, is not very fit) running after us. Lol, so we stop and listen and he says that he has just spoken to his boss, and explained that we were two young ladies on a budget and he was able to procure us a low-price room for another night! Which means we could put our stuff back in our room and not have to carry it around at the very least, and we were grateful. He explained that this was his last day working for the hotel, and he showed us the hotel that he would be working for next, very proudly. It was gorgeous and we were very happy for him, and said that although we would love to stay there, it seemed a liiiiittle out of our price range.  So as his last day/request he called in a favor as he was going out- and how many hoteliers do you know would run out after you to make your day with a sweet bargain price? Not many. Okay and yes he was also trying to make a little more money on his last day, but his efforts were appreciated.

So! We head off to the TGV (superfast train) station in the Aix village and head about an hour or so to get to the Marseille switch-over station. Trains are actually pretty fun, especially when you get to pick up some pastries to take on the train before you head out (and almost miss your train for sake of snacks). hmmm.. what happened on the train ride… Hazel and I talked and I defended marriage. It is pretty interesting to talk to someone with such a differing viewpoint, on a lot! We have fun, ha. They become more like debates, not extremely heated ones, but fun ones. So finally we reach Cassis, and step out… walk a little out of the station and think we have made a very wrong move. There is… nothing there. One dirt road, some brush, a few little houses here and there… where ARE we. So we think for a little bit, walk along the road playing the “smell this plant – is it a spice?’ game – which was fun. I brought back a bunch of wild rosemary for dinner that week. Anyways, we decide to not go towards the direction of the dark tunnel with no pedestrian walkways and head down until we come to an actual road! From there we are starting to feel a little more hopeful, ha ha. We end up passing by a vineyard and walking to the house where we think it says they sell their wine. But, no… we get very weird looks indeed when these people wonder why we are coming up to their house (sorry! maybe you should take down your sign if your vineyard is not functional anymore!) but we saw some olive trees and a few grapes – not sure what varietal. There was this pretty cool pathway between two rows of trees for a while that we followed until we got to an actual vineyard where we got to taste the wine (and buy a bottle!). From there we figured we were very close to Cassis as we came across more and more evidence of civilization (cars, a small store, some bigger houses… SIGNS!). Cassis has a lot. In the way that as you walk through it, the atmosphere changes as it goes from flat rustic vineyards, up windy hills to bigger houses with views of the village below, then down to the fishing village by the water, where you can see the high cliffs right up against the water nearby.  Another thing… it was very cold and windy once you got closer to the water when the sun was just beating down on us as we walked through the vineyards. The fishing village was beautiful, boats docked right up against each other, and the little shoppes lined up in a similar way. Hazel and I decided to take an hour boat tour to see the calanques as we were told that it was “the only way” to truly see the high cliffs was from the water. We took space at the front of the boat (I love speedboats) and felt the refreshing breeze blow by us as we headed towards the calanques. What was really interesting was how we were able to see the people climbing the cliffs! crazy. The calanques were magnificent, they make you feel so small, yet so great to be able to witness such a marvelous creation so much bigger than yourself. By the time we were back on land we were chilled, so we stopped in this hot chocolat place … they had every. flavor. Sooo… so good. It’s like the hot chocolat from the movie chocolat, with the extremely thick, delicious… that just poooours into your mouth… hit the spot. There were these really delicate candies, and assorted colorful gift boxes, very cute.  After that it was out the door and a race to get to the train… so we hiked up the hills, over the mountains, across the vineyards, and back on the train to Aix just as the sun was setting.

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July 2010
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