French Summer, Part Deux

I should make the follow-up disclaimer to my last posting: the trip to France was (of course) fantastic.

Aaaaaand…I took a leap of faith that all my relationships would survive the American invasion.

There’s the saying, “House guests and fish: after three days, they start to smell.”

And I went there for a month.

We spent most of our time between two idyllic houses in extreme-rural Normandy. One house inhabited by two 70 year olds and one house inhabited by a young family with a 3 yo. Chickens and cats ruled both roosts.We were barely in cities, at all. So there was no time for Daddy to sit around in cafes sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes and pretending to be intellectually literary. Instead, I spent my days nagging: “Stop running through the house,” “Don’t chase the chickens,” “The cat doesn’t want to be picked up,” “Don’t touch the flowers,” “Don’t jump against the safety net on the trampoline,” and “No. You may not trap the cat on the trampoline, zip yourselves up with her, and traumatize her by jumping.”

Yeah, that last one was a doozy.

In addition to learning respect for chickens and not hating me for all my badgering, my kids got to live surrounded by a culture that values long lunches more than strict bedtimes. (At least I got to sleep til 8, most days.) I did my utmost to address them in French, (usually followed up with an English translation.) I accomplished that about 30% of the time. After 3 weeks, my youngest son understood a LOT. (That, or he mastered the placement of oui and non so that he seemed to understand.) And my oldest was the enthusiastic speaker who wanted to use his French. It was thrilling.

We weren’t “on the go” as tourists for any of the trip (except a last three seemingly-obligatory, yet utterly frustrating, days in Paris.)

We just lived France.


A goat dairy where they make milk and cheese. It cracks me up when my kid plugs his nose by shoving his fingers up his nostrils. And lots of the stinky French cheese he tried smelled way worse than a bunch of milking goats.


A manor house built in the 1500’s where they’ve made cider for 500 years. They had a “pigeonerie” – a round house meant for housing hundreds of pigeons (yep – for food). The kid who gave us a tour explained in very-broken English that the pigeon nests are made of pigeon “shit”, which made me guffaw. I let him know that, while in French it’s perfectly acceptable to say merde in any company, that shit might not be the best word for anglophone tourists.


A cheese factory where they make the essence of stinky cheeses: Camembert, Pont L’Eveque, and Livarot (that which made my youngest son gag and nearly throw up during the tasting session).


Beaches in Trouville and Benerville. It’s low tide. Obviously. Somewhere out there you can see the ocean.


Walks around gorgeous Honfleur with obligatory stops for ice cream.


And just walked around some tiny Normand villages that have enchanted me for twenty years since I was an exchange student (and met the family that welcomed us.)


  1. The photo of oldest son in mid-stride, running across the street is a keeper. Loved all the photos
    especially barfing into the waste-basket. No experience is ever perfect but this trip had so much
    pay back that you should get “educator of the year”, ha ha. Your French family are generous
    and kind folks…..and one can understand when the elders express stress at having youngsters around. It’s been a long time since they had to muster that much patience. 🙂


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