Friday, 13 May 2016

Vide Greniers (Car Boot Sales)


Vide Greniers are fast becoming our favourite weekend family outing. The arrival of Spring also marks the arrival of vide greniers, and one can easily be found every weekend till late in the year. Some are bigger and better than others and at the bigger ones there is usually food so you can easily spend the whole day there. Though the longer you stay the more you usually come home with!



We each have our own things that we look out for. Reuben is a keen collector of 'fèves', the little ceramic figuerines you find in the Galette des Rois. We always manage to find someone with boxes of their own collections. He is very particular about which ones he collects and has already amassed quite a few. They're a great thing to collect as they're cheap, as little as 20 cents for each one. Jacob, who is also starting to collect fèves thanks to his big bro, likes cars. We don't often leave a vide grenier without a few new (old!) cars, but again they're usually really cheap. 



Andrew can often be found browsing record boxes. He's on the lookout for that one collector record that he can sell for a fortune on Ebay! The only thing is most record collectors know the value of their records and they are usually priced accordingly. But he'll keep looking and you never know...one day. I like pretty things! And there are always pretty things to be found, from scarves and bits of fabric, to trinket boxes and jewellery. At the last vide grenier I came away with this fabric sample (1€) and these two decorative boxes (4€).

The only thing about vide greniers is that it really makes you realise how much stuff people have and how much we could probably live without. It's making me take a good look at what we have in our house and trying to make sure we really want, love, and use all the things we have.

What do you look out for at car boot sales?

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Book A Month - January/February

I've been reading. That may not seem like a revelation to you but believe me, after reading nothing but magazines since my boys were born it feels good to finally have the time to pick up a real book and read it from start to finish. I've given myself the challenge of a book a month this year and so far, bar one blip, I'm doing well. I'm interested to see where my reading takes me over the year, I don't have a list to take me through the year, I simply finish one and then decide what to read next. I thoroughly miss browsing the big bookstores in London, though when we were last there in February I must admit that the choice available in just the children's section overwhelmed me! Please do comment if you have read any of the books, or if you have any recommendations. I'm no great book reviewer but here is what I thought of my choices for January and February...

The Room by Emma Donoghue
I read this basically because I wanted to see the film but felt like I should read the book first. I shouldn't have. I didn't like the film at all. They changed too much and I didn't think the relationships were as in depth as they were in the book. It was all wrong and it annoys me when you spend an entire film going 'wait a minute, that didn't happen in the book.' The book however I did enjoy. As a mother I liked reading about the relationship between the mother and boy, especially as their relationship is confined in such a small space, it was interesting to see their everyday routines. I also enjoyed reading from the point of view of the boy as well as the adults. Although the subject matter was pretty dark you become engrossed in wanting to know if they ever eventually manage to escape the room. Towards the end I would have liked a bit more from the mother's perspective but understand that overall it was coming from a different angle. Have you read the book or seen the film? What did you think?

Our Islands Story by H.E. Marshall
I was on a roll. Having finished my first book before the end of January I quickly started my second book of the year...Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall. I did like this book but I got stuck and have yet to finish it. As you can see from the cover the book is about the history of Britain. Each slice of history is broken down into very small readable chunks (it is aimed at kids after all.) I think I got stuck at the beginning because it's pretty repetative. So many battles, so many invaders, so many people wanting to rule. Reading the early history of Britain did make me think a little about the world today and all the conflicts that are going on. So many nations were built on battles between people wanting to rule, ordinary people fighting and dying for a country they believed in, and I guess for many that idea of violence hasn't changed. I will get round to finishing this book before the end of the year and will do a full book review when I do!

What have you been reading recently? (Book cover images taken from Waterstones.)

Monday, 2 May 2016

Narbonne - The Alphabet Adventures

I'm back! I know...it's been a while, but hey that's life. I'm not going to make any excuses. I'm just going to carry on as if January (when I posted my last post) was yesterday! So here we are with another instalment of The Alphabet Adventures. Our Adventures are not in alphabetical order so here we find ourselves at N for Narbonne. This time last year we were camping in Bordeaux. We thought if we headed South this year it might be warmer, and it was, but it was also a whole lot windier. Take-the-kids-breath-away kind of wind that was pretty relentless all day. We found this campsite just on the edge of Narbonne and having been pre-warned about the wind we decided to rent a mobile home instead of pitch up our tent, which was the best thing we could have done.


We couldn't visit Narbonne without heading to the beach. If it wasn't for the wind it would have been glorious. The kids didn't seem to mind and were soon running in and out of the water as we sat huddled together, backs to the sand storm that was whipping up around us.

The following day at the campsite we wrapped up warm for a game of mini golf and with a dip in the wind in the afternoon we headed into Narbonne to explore the city. We're not a family to turn down train rides and having arrived just in time we climbed aboard for a little tour of the city. Narbonne is not a huge place but it is pretty, and compared to the country life we are now accustomed to it was a welcome city visit. The train took us along the canal, past the cathedral, Les Halles (big indoor market hall) and birthplace of Charles Trénet (a famous French singer. I had no idea who this was when we went past his house but thanks to Google I realise I do actually know some of his songs!)



Whilst driving around we kept passing billboards for Réserve Africaine de Sigean. With a day left of our holiday and the weather not good enough for the beach we decided to go. The entrance price was pretty steep and we could only hope it was worth it...luckily it was. We started off in our car and were quickly stopping to get a better look at zebras, springboks, animals with the most gigantic horns, and for ostriches crossing the road. We tried to not get too worried about the cars that had stopped in the lion and bear enclosures when we had specifically been told to keep the car moving AT ALL TIMES! On foot we were feet away from elephants, giraffes, flamingos and so many peacocks including the most beautiful all white ones. The boys loved it and we recommended a visit if you're in the area.



On our last morning we shopped at Les Halles in Narbonne for local olive oil, honey, and wine, before hitting the road. Our route took us past Carcassonne where we stopped for lunch and had a quick walk around the old city about before heading home. Carcassonne is an amazing place and I can't wait to head back there soon to explore properly.

Have you been on any adventures recently?

Lou Messugo
Seychelles Mama

Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year!


Happy New Year! I love New Year. I love fresh starts. I love new a new diary, making plans and seeing them through. As always I have plans for this coming year. Plans for family, work, travel, and plans just for me (with a whole load of crafting thrown in!) Plans to focus and to challenge. It's exciting! My first plan to implement is work related and I will reveal all in my next post. I'm basically focussing in on what I'm already doing but it's time to expand a little. But for now I'm sat at the computer, printing off choir music for tonight, making phonecalls and sending emails before I'm off to teach a piano lesson this afternoon.

How is your Monday going? I'd love to hear what your plans are for this coming year!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Time For A Christmas Party!

As the countdown to Christmas continues we can't wait for school to finish this week and for the real Christmas celebrations to begin! We have family arriving at the weekend with a car packed full of Christmas goodies, presents, and of course mince pies! We're looking forward to going to the last of the Christmas markets before retreating into our home by the fire and getting ready for the big day. Christmas is the best excuse for getting together with family and friends that you haven't seen over the year. Here are some of the parties we'll be having over the Christmas period...

Musical Parties
Being a member of two choirs means 4 church concerts and a whole load of carols to learn! This year I've been learning arrangements of traditional Engligh carols such as 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' and as well as some new (to me!) French ones such as 'Petit Papa Noel' and 'Noel Blanc'. There are so many carolling services around but why not just get together with a few friends and sing your favourites? If anyone plays an instrument get them to learn a few well known carols. I've been learning some on my ukulele which I'm going to pull out on Christmas Eve!

Crafting Parties
This week I have some friends coming round for a Christmas crafting coffee morning (which may just run into lunch with mulled wine!) I'm pre-making decorations with air drying clay which we'll be decorating with paints, glitter, and sequins. We'll have a go at making lip balms with a Christmas inspired essential oil, and we'll be felting some mini stockings! Crafting parties are great for all ages and everyone can take a little something away to decorate their own homes with.

Food Parties
Everyone has their own favourites when it comes to Christmas food. Though we live in France we can't resist the British mince pies (which we have brought over by the box load!) gingerbread houses and mulled wine. However we also like to try new things. I'll be attempting Christmas Cranberry Mojitoes on Christmas Day and we've become big fans of oysters which are in season and everywhere at this time of year in France.

This post was written as part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs 'Christmas In Different Lands' series which we love taking part in. You can catch up with all the posts here. We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year and I look forward to getting my blogging mojo back in the new year, continuing to document our life here in South West France!






Monday, 14 December 2015

Spain - The Alphabet Adventures

Way back in January this year we made a list of family goals for 2015. On that list Reuben expressed a desire to travel to Spain and so over Toussaint (the October school holiday in France) we packed up the car and made the long journey down to the South of Spain. Our destination was Fuengirola, a little town just next to Malaga which for us is a 13 hour drive. As Andrew was the only one driving thanks to me tearing my Achilles tendon back in September (I know...ouch!) and with two young boys in the back, who constantly reminded us that 'it's taking a long time', we made two stop overs on the way there and back in Barcelona and Alicante.




During our two week stay we got out and about as much as we could. We took a trip up the cable cars in Benalmadena (so high!) and watched a birds of prey exhibition at the top. The animals in Bioparc were a highlight of the trip as we saw tigers, alligators, meercats, monkeys and pygmy hippos. We walked under fruitbats and got up close to lemurs and exotic birds. We had a disappointing trip to Sea Life as due to a cleverly placed sign we ended up at a cheaper version of the place we were aiming for. We did get to see a dolphin and sea lion show but other than that there were more animals from land than sea. The day before we left we ventured into Malaga. I forgot how popular big towns were with tourists (too much time in the countryside!) so we missed out on a visit to the Picasso museum as the queue was too long for the boys. But we did find the Interactive Music Museum which was well worth the trip. We all had fun trying out and listening to different instruments as well as seeing the large collection that they have on display.


The weather was kind to us and we managed trips to the beach as often as we could. The boys love sand and enjoyed splashing in the (cold!) sea, collecting shells and building sandcastles. We ate most of our meals where we were staying as it was far cheaper for us than eating out everyday, but we wanted to take the boys out to experience some traditional Spanish cuisine. Jacob is the more adventurous one when it comes to food and he was happy eating anything from the squid in his paella to the black pudding we had with tapas. Being by the sea it was obviously all about the fish and it was great to see little boats next to restaurants with BBQ's inside to cook the catch of the day.


When we lived in London, France used to always be our family holiday. Now that we live in France it's so great to be within driving distance of so many other countries. We'll definitely be back to Spain one day as we have Barcelona in mind for a city break.

We're looking forward to travelling around France more next year with hopefully another trip to a country close to France! What travel plans do you have for 2016?

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Alphabet Adventures Continue!

It's been a while since our last adventure and for our next we've decided to mix things up a little. We started doing our adventures in alphabetical order, but simply because we have the opportunity to travel on our next adventure over the school holidays we're jumping to 'S' for Spain, because that's where we are going! (Who said anything about doing things in order!!)


We are soooo looking forward to our first adventure to a different country. (The car certainly will not be as jam packed as in picture above when we went camping!) I've said before one of the best things about living in France is that we have Europe on our doorstep. We have decided to drive down South (cheaper for us than flying) and will be staying not far from Malaga. The boys are getting excited and we are looking forward to family time and showing them a different culture, hoping the weather will be nice enough for days down at the beach, and of course paella (for Andrew) and tapas (for me!)

Stay tuned for an update at the beginning of November for info about our 'S' adventure! In the meantime you can follow along with our adventure on Instagram and Twitter #brownalphabetadventures

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