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France – Part 3

31 August, 2012 at 10:55 pm by belgianwaffle

Are we there yet?

Monday, August 6

This was a peaceful day with a trip to the beach in the morning and pony camp in the afternoon. Daniel retired from pony camp and came with his parents to a nearby little port. He had a pancake and read his Tintin which he found to be better in every way than dealing with recalcitrant horses.

Tuesday, August 6

The Princess and I had the first of several successful expeditions. We went to the market together and spent all our money. She considered ways to make more.

Herself: I’ve decided to charge you for looking at me.
Me: I beg your pardon?
Her: That’ll be €10.
Me: What?
Her: That’s another €10.
Me: This is ridiculous.
Her: Another €10. And I’ve been thinking, you must have looked at me loads of times since I was born. You owe me a fortune.

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This monetising of everything is fundamentally unsatisfactory.

In the afternoon, we went to the beach. There was duck fishing. Let joy be unconfined.

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They won pirate hats.

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It was around this time that reading material began to get a bit thin on the ground and competition for the e-reader started to hot up. I was re-reading Pride and Prejudice. The Princess was re-reading Harry Potter. In desperation she had started Pride and Prejudice but abandoned.

Her: I need the e-reader.
Me: I need it more.
Her: Why?
Me: Mr. Darcy is just about to propose to Elizabeth again.
Her (in stupefaction): Mr. Darcy is proposing to Elizabeth?

Oh God, the only person in the world who doesn’t know the plot of Pride and Prejudice and now I’ve ruined it for her.

That evening Mr. Waffle and I went for our anniversary dinner to a very nice restaurant which I cannot recommend highly enough, particularly since I didn’t pay [hurrah for my loving husband]. It was one of those restaurants where only the man’s menu has the prices. It has a special stool for your handbag and oh the food, the food is just fantastic.

It is, however, in the oddest setting. It’s right on the outskirts of Lorient nestling between discount shopping outlets.

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I am amazed that the Michelin inspectors made it to such an out of the way spot. Among our fellow diners was a child of 8 in a blazer and tie who was going through the tasting menu with every appearance of enthusiasm. I gave him a warm smile when he turned round to look about the restaurant because I felt he was exceptionally well behaved. He lifted a haughty eyebrow and his gaze moved on. Oh dear.

Wednesday, August 8

The Princess and I headed out to the beach in the morning while the men minded the house.


She went to pony camp in the afternoon and we went for an adventure with the boys. It was boiling hot and we chose to go to a maize maze. Oh the heat, the misery, the pirates jumping out of the maze to give us heart failure and misleading directions. The lighthouse pictured below is, I can assure you, particularly inaccessible.


That evening Michael finally lost a tooth. Unfortunately he seems to have swallowed it.

And, finally, if you look closely at this video, you’ll be able to see the red squirrels which we saw in the trees in the garden every evening.

I think that this is all I can take for today which means there will have to be a part 4. You can stop any time, I’m the one with the compulsive desire to document my family’s holidays on the internet.

France – Part 2

30 August, 2012 at 9:43 pm by belgianwaffle

Aaand we’re back!

Thursday, August 2

In the morning we contemplated the vast variety of marine life in the rock pools. Much more interesting than it sounds. Fortified by our quiet morning, we spent the afternoon flying through the trees on zip wires. This was a qualified success. The boys loved it and proceeded around slowly and carefully accompanied by their parents.

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There was only one humiliating moment when a man had to get up a ladder and unhook a child. There was also, I suppose, the moment when I hung in mid-air saying “Pull me in!” while Mr. Waffle took a video on the phone and my two gallant 6 year olds pulled with all their might . It was less successful for herself who zipped around the entire course while the remainder of her family got from tree one to tree two. She was a bit small for the next course up and was therefore slightly bored and cranky. To cheer her up we went to the supermarket afterwards which they all loved. Your point?

Friday, August 3

On the way back from the zipline I managed to impale the car on a curb and pull of the plastic covering between it and the motor so kind Mr. Waffle spent the morning getting it replaced in the local garage. The children returned to pony camp on Friday afternoon but, alas, signs were that Daniel was going for the last time and under sufferance. Mr. Waffle and I escaped to Quimper.

Saturday, August 4

Did you know that the Princess was somewhat allergic to mosquito bites? That knowledge came to us rather spectacularly at her uncle and aunt’s wedding in Sicily when she was 18 months old. And did we bring anti-mosquito cream with us to France despite an extensive supply in the medicine cupboard at home? That would be a no. On Saturday morning the Princess woke up with a badly swollen hand having sustained a number of bites on the previous two nights. We took her to the chemist who said that she would have to see a doctor. The chemist then phoned the doctor and made the appointment. She went around and was seen immediately [wait time in Dublin invariably one hour regardless of when appointment made]. The French doctor was lovely I am informed by herself and her father [ I feel compelled to add that my own GP is perfectly pleasant also]. As she had an exciting red line up her arm, the doctor diagnosed inflammation of the lymph nodes and a course of antibiotics. Her first. Much excitement. Cost of this appointment? €23. Cost of appointment with my GP in Dublin? €60. Just saying. I was, of course, keen to take a picture of her injuries but she said suspiciously, “You’ll put in on your blog, won’t you?” and refused offering me the, frankly poor, substitute of a picture of her medicine.

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In the afternoon, we went for a walk in the forest. I’m not terribly fond of forest walks myself [yes, I know, heresy] but the others all enjoyed it.

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And we did get to see lots of enormous orange slugs which, you know, made for interest.

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Later on we went to the beach at Le Pouldu which was not as attractive as this picture makes it look but it was my warmest and waviest swim of the summer so I think of it with some fondness.

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Sunday, August 5

To the sound of squeals of protest, I made them all go to mass. The whole experience was slightly medieval. I believe that the length of mass is indirectly related to religious fervour. The longer the mass, the weaker the religion. This was a long mass. As always, the few French children in attendance were impeccably dressed and perfectly behaved. A small boy was relegated by his mother to a pew at the back of the church for an offence which was utterly imperceptible to both Mr. Waffle and me. Our children were fine all things considered. This included a young woman who galloped around the church making odd noises and occasionally knelt at the back (near us) on a plastic bag while singing. A middle aged lady caught her and hugged her from time to time but it was unclear whether she was minding her or just a kindly neighbour. The whole thing was slightly surreal. Particularly in France where, in general, mentally handicapped adults seem to be so well looked after.

To recover, we took ourselves to Concarneau again. This was a considerably more successful expedition than the previous trip into the walled town. There was a mock medieval joust where Ange Albert le Bon fought Sinistre de Malmort [go on, guess the likely winner].

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I thought it would be actors who knew a bit about horse-riding but in fact it was riders who knew a bit about acting and it was surprisingly enjoyable.

And then we toured the ramparts until it was time to go home for tea. All very satisfactory though somewhat crowded. See cunning pictures which give the, entirely false, impression that we had the place to ourselves.

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Lads, this is only the end of the first week. How much more of this can we all take?


29 August, 2012 at 10:30 pm by belgianwaffle

We interrupt this endless detailing of summer holidays to point out that the children went back to school today. They seemed happy to be back. The boys have the same teacher as last year. I am delighted as she is lovely. Daniel was very keen to go back but Michael much less so. However, once they got their feet under the desks, they seemed very pleased with themselves. They are in second class and this is the year they make their first confession and first communion. Michael foresees much attendance at mass with deep gloom and is angling to be excused. I am trying very hard to underline the importance of the sacrament and not to resort to saying that he won’t get any money, if he doesn’t make his first communion. As he and Daniel have begun saving for an x-box (total so far, 70 cents), I can’t help feeling that it would be a significant incentive.

Due to numbers, fourth class, home to the Princess, has been divided in half (alphabetically)- she is in the fourth/fifth class end as are most of her friends. She looks very big in her school uniform now. She announced this morning that she no longer has to jump to get her uniform down from its shelf.

And tomorrow, I’m going to go back to work myself. I have slightly mixed feelings about this. I note that I have not had a migraine all summer. But I miss my work which is really interesting and my colleagues who are lovely. I may not be so enthusiastic by Friday.

France – Part 1

28 August, 2012 at 9:42 pm by belgianwaffle

We are back. Hurrah for us. Since you saw me last, I have been to France and to Kerry. A full debrief follows. Hang on to your hats.

Saturday, July 28

We arrived in good time for the ferry – the trauma of 2010 still, even now, fresh in our minds. Having faithfully attended the on board entertainment for several years at this point, Daniel was chosen to be the magician’s assistant. The excitement. “What’s your name young man?” asked the magician. Before poor Daniel could reply, Michael piped up from the audience, “He’s Daniel.” Who’d be a twin?

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Sunday, July 29

Aside from some mild concern when we couldn’t find our car on the car deck, the day was uneventful. We had a long drive to our holiday destination which allowed us to note, yet again, the “deserted village” phenomenon in small towns across Brittany. Have you ever noticed that, if you go to a small French town at lunch time, there is no one at all on the streets? It’s quite bizarre.

Monday, July 30

Oh the thrill of sunshine after a long rainy summer in Ireland. We went to the beach along a coastal path.

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We swam happily only slightly put out by the French people who pointed to the pollution evident on the shoreline.

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Note unnatural red colour, bottom right.

In the afternoon we took a walk through the forest to the little port of Brigneau where we saw a trawler unloading fish and bought some crab claws. The appropriate holidayness of it all.

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Tuesday, July 31

It was market day in the local town and we went in to have a look. Inevitably, we lost Michael but we found him again, so all was well.

In the afternoon we went to Quimperlé which is a pretty little town.

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The visit was not a success. The children were uninterested and cranky. We were cranky. It was hot. The highlight was probably seeing herself try some Perrier.

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We did find a small park where the boys played football with some French children. When it was time to go, Daniel, ever the chameleon, called out to his brother, “Michel, tu viens?” He doesn’t like to stand out, if at all possible.

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This was also the day I learnt from local newspaper Ouest France that 70% of holidaymakers to Brittany don’t pay for their accommodation as they stay with friends and relations. I felt mild bitterness.

Wednesday, August 1

We went to Concarneau which, for some reason, we had never visited before. The guidebook describes it as having more tourists per square metre than any other site in Brittany. This would appear to be correct. Our timing was poor. We arrived just in time to partake of an over priced lunch and then had to hotfoot it back to the children’s pony camp. This was a huge success for two out of three of the candidates but Daniel was kicked by a horse (no serious injury sustained) and hadn’t liked any of the offerings for the afternoon snack. When we collected him, his lamentations were equally divided over these two points. Mr. Waffle and I had been to Quimperlé for tea and new shoes so were able to sustain complaints with reasonable fortitude.

More tomorrow, if you’re feeling strong.

Garryvoe – Part 3

1 August, 2012 at 10:07 pm by belgianwaffle

Saturday, July 21

Mr. Waffle was restored to us. We went out for lunch to celebrate. The sun shone with some determination and when herself and myself went for a swim in the late afternoon, it was warm. Unprecedented in these waters in my experience.

Then my sister came and collected me. While my noble husband minded the children, I went up to Cork for dinner and then the cinema.

Sunday, July 22

And best of all, I slept in my parents’ house and didn’t get up until 11 on Sunday morning. I genuinely cannot remember the last time I slept so late in the morning. It was fantastic. Oh happiness. I am a champion sleeper, if only given a chance. Sigh.

In the afternoon, reunited with my family, we went to “The Queenstown Experience.” We had been before when the children were smaller and they hadn’t liked it much but it was pouring rain, they were older and they had spent the year learning about the Titanic in school. Unfortunately, this made no difference and the boys, in particular, remained resolutely underwhelmed. Alas.

Monday, July 23

This was our last full day in Garryvoe and was to bring two important sets of visitors, our friends who live in the Netherlands and their four children and childminder and the washing machine repair man. Inevitably, they all arrived simultaneously.

The washing machine man said that there was nothing wrong with the washing machine other than that the water pressure was low (confirmed with neighbour that pressure always low in summer). All that was required was to plug it out and it would reset itself which it duly did. Oh bitterness, thy name is hotpoint.

It was lovely to see our friends though. The children all got on being of similar ages. Despite dreadful weather we all quite enjoyed a trip to the beach except for the Hiberno-Dutch children’s Colombian au pair. She sat glumly on a rock wrapped in her coat and looking in horror at the children in their togs. Under the direction of the Dutch part of the Hiberno-Dutch group they were building a canal at the edge of the water while digging for clay an activity which made them all satisfyingly wet and dirty. I asked the Hiberno part of the Hiberno-Dutch couple what she thought of the changes in Ireland since the economy collapsed and she commented: “We’re much nicer when we’re poor, aren’t we?”

Tuesday, July 24

We set off for Dublin stopping in Cork for lunch but, at least no washing, so it wasn’t all bad. We beguiled the three hour journey in a variety of ways. “Guess the character” where one person thinks of a character and the others have to guess who it is. Daniel kept us guessing for a long time. He had “road-runner”, it’s not that we didn’t guess that, it’s just that he wanted us to guess which episode and nobody managed that, as he pointed out.

Michael resorted to the DS. “Why isn’t it in English?” he wailed. “I changed it to Dutch, after yesterday,” said Daniel, “you know, I speak Dutch now.”

It was a long drive.

And next I’ll do France but not until the middle of the month. Yeah, I know, you’re on the edge of your seat out there.

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