Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catching up on the blog...



......So at the moment I'm sitting in Náměšť nad Oslavou (this is where my grandparents used to live) and I'm cuddled around my rosehip tea to warm up because the temperatures here have dipped quite low (11C) considering it's end of July! I had to wear a duvet jacket yesterday at an open air concert to keep myself toasty. I am realizing I've been a very poor blogger so I shall make up for the lack of blogging tonight by summing up (hopefully concisely) what we have done in the past two months.

For the past week I've been here in the Czech Rep. with the kiddies and my mom who came to visit from Canada. Our grandparent's house is empty throughout the year except the summers when my mom visits, so there is usually quite a bit of maintenance work to do this time of year. The only thing that survived in my grandma's garden are the red/black currants and apple trees – the rest is weeds. I've had the opportunity to do some gardening which is what I miss in France (no garden there – only a few pots by our door), so I chopped through lots of 2.5m tall stinging nettle to clean up the bushes, I made about 3L of red currant jam, and I've been trying to clean up the attic a bit. I found some treasures, like cakes of beeswax (approx. 50) left behind after my grandma's beekeeping, but they also needed cleaning up, as they have become a food source for months to my surprise! I had to scrape off all the gross moth waste, rinse them and pack them in bags...I think I'll make some beeswax candles for the winter.

Each year, Náměšť hosts a week-long folk festival that takes place all over the town and up in the chateau courtyard and its surroundings. I decided that I've been lacking my yearly cultural dose and will attend some of the open air concerts in the evenings. The atmosphere during the festival here is quite amazing. During the day, there are about 50 craft workshops for all ages that include basket-making, pottery, beading, etc. etc. so I will post some photos of my craftsmanship soon.


Before I came to Czech Rep., Jakub, the kids and I went on a 5 day trip to Chamonix and Switzerland (the Valais canton). It's only about a 2 hour drive to Chamonix from Grenoble (good news since there's lots of climbing there!). We stayed at a relatively well priced campsite in Bossons for two nights (3km from Chamonix) with a splendid view at Mt. Blanc and it's majestic glacier. One evening while sipping wine, we even saw big chunks of the glacier breaking off and thundering down into the depths. 

We first climbed at les Gaillands but that was a bit too crowded, nevertheless, according to the climbing guide it's a must-visit climbing spot and it's very family friendly. Both Anna and Tommy enjoyed climbing, Jakub and I did a wee multipitch climb (only 2 pitches), and Tommy also completed the longest climb of his life so far - about 45m, and he loved it. Jakub finally got into his kayak for the first time post clavicle injury and ran an easy stretch of the Arve (glacier fed, super freezing cold - apparently) in Chamonix. 

The next day we went on a hike to “le Tour” glacier. We took a gondola up from le Tour and then hiked about 500m elevation (not sure how many kms distance but it took us a decent 6 hours of hiking I think).  We had some spectacular views on the way and after a few smaller challenges on the way, we made it to the refuge cabin up by the glacier. We gobbled up our sandwiches and headed back promptly because a storm was rolling in and the gondola closed by a certain time. I was proud of the kids, that they made it so far. 

We then headed to Switzerland, Valais valley (canton) where we met up with our Czech friends who used to kayak a lot, but now they prefer to procrastinate and kayak little. So it is always up to Jakub or the most enthusiastic kayaker of the group to convince/force them to put on their gear and get on the river (hopefully by 2pm). Jakub was successful so they ran the Lonza. In the afternoon we took the kids minigolfing and hung out at a nice wooden playground with white soft sand and two trampolines, for free! (if you're not a parent you probably don't appreciate this information :). 

Since we only had 2 days left, we had to turn back and head in the Grenoble direction. We drove to Sion, the capital of the Valais canton and the third largest winemaking region of Switzerland and we stayed at an apricot orchard campsite. Sion is a lovely little town of two castles in the midst of the valley. The valley appears like a mozaic when you first look at it from the a distance because the majority of the hillsides are covered in vineyards.  Considering all the vineyards, the wine in the store was not so cheap, definitely not as dirt cheap as in France. We hiked up to the Château de Tourbillon ruins, dating from 1294, whereas Château de Valère was under construction. 

After this satisfying tourist attraction, we headed to our next climbing destination - the Bramois, and did some “exciting” technical climbing.  Jakub had 2 falls at the very top of a crack climb(5.9 or 5.10a)! 

Our last move was to les Buet. The evening was fun as we just finished making/eating spaghetti in time when a huge thunderstorm hit, so we snuggled in our dry sleeping bags and sipped on rosé Valais wine while listening to the thunder and heavy raindrops wondering if our MEC tent will hold up. The morning was brisk and clear after the storm but I was semi-tired, semi-lazy and didn't feel like bouldering as originally planned so Jakub did his run in Chamonix again and then we drove back home to a nasty heat-wave. I didn't realize that hanging out in the mountains during the summer is actually a good thing.


My dad came to visit us in France for the first time on his way to Sardinia. We had a nice picnic and fire in the park with wine and cheese of course and then we drove to Provence. I really wanted to experience the lavender fields and get some climbing done on the way. On our way south we passed many olive orchards and when we arrived at the first lavender field (Drôme region of France) we got out of the car and let our senses loose. Even Tommy and Jakub really liked the lavender scent. As we passed more fields, each time, the scent was so strong that we could smell it in the car. The heat was a tad unbearable so I chose our climbing destination near a river (the Ouvèze) where we found a crystal clear pool with white fish in it, a small pebbled beach and beautiful dragonflies. Jakub and I did a bit of easyish climbing as his clavicle is still not in top shape and I had some tendonitis or who knows what. The next day we drove even more south, to a very cute but popular town, Gordes. There were almost too many tourists for our taste and this was only the end of June. Finally, I wanted to see l'Abbaye de Senanque (supposedly a peaceful experience – NOT!), as there were loads of buses, tourists and the heat was that point we had to head back home anyway so we hit the highway. Aside from the tourist craze in the south, I really enjoyed the trip and will always remember Provence as warm, sunny, full of olive orchards, and lavender fields that buzz with bees.


Aside from talking about what we have done I should probably mention how we are doing. The kids have adjusted to school quite well (surprisingly). Tommy has found many new (girl:)friends and seems to be picking up a few basic expressions and words in French. His school organizes many trips for the kids, especially at the end of the year, so Tommy had the opportunity to explore Grenoble with his classmates. Anna's transition was not as easy because not too many teachers in her kindergarten speak English and due to my French course, her hours were not regular, so she was confused and attached to me. Towards the end of June though she started to like going there again, so hopefully September will work out OK for her. I had a lot to deal with before the summer started – paperwork, learning to drive standard, trying to figure out my way around French grocery stores, and making our home tidy and furnished. I was taking a month intensive French course (4 hours a day) and to my surprise, after not speaking any French for about 10 years and knowing about 3 years worth of highschool French, I wrote my entry exam, and was placed in an intermediate class. It was VERY challenging, but who said life is not a challenge!  I was hoping for some basic easy transition back into French but instead I jumped head first into the subjunctive tense and had to try to decipher spoken current events taken directly off the broadcast...I can't really judge if I've learned much, but it was good to hear the language and be corrected when trying to speak. At the moment I don't have a job. I've started looking around, applied for one job and contacted one professor regarding a PhD, no luck so far. I'll start looking again in September and see what life brings. Jakub really likes the research he is doing and he's recovering well from his clavicle injury, he's started paddling again, and apparently rivers are running near Grenoble right now, so he's had a chance to get out more.

Next week we plan to visit his mom and grandmother as well as our niece and nephew at the cottage. After that we're going to Grenoble for 2 wks and then we're planning our last summer vacation trip somewhere between France and the Czech Republic. This is still flexible and dependent on mood and weather.

If you made it this far reading my blog - good for you ;o) I hope to hear from all my friends that check up on me and my blog once in while!  

Happy summer,