Saturday, May 6, 2017

A big family weekend

May is the month of long weekends.  May 1st was on a Monday and that coincided with the May Bank Holiday in the UK, so Claire organized a family get together. It was supposed to be a big family birthday celebration since it's so hard to come together on birthdays. So why not designate a date that we could all agree upon? She queried us all about our availability for the date. She set the place as Toulouse because it's not really all that hard for us to get there. The Parisians and Brits could fly in. Paul and I drove down because we expected to extend the weekend. Emma and Gabriel live only an hour and a half away, by car.
Add to that the difficulty of seeing the Lebelle cousins more than once in a while and never together, which led to extending the invitation (for a Sunday lunch) to Pierre and Gillette's family. They answered the call and we were really looking forward to having everyone, but a couple of weeks before the date, one of theirs had to drop out. He was returning to France from a business trip just the day before and had to leave on another the day after, so his family stayed home. And another of our nieces just finished her exams and stayed home. That meant a group of 21 instead of 26 for Sunday lunch. Not bad!
The participants and some extended family have received a link to the shared online photo album and since almost all the pictures are personal, of us, I'm not sharing them, here. However, here is a photo of the yard of the house we rented. We had a cat and three chickens.
It was a big old farm house with lots of rooms that had been transformed into small apartments big enough for each to have a separate bedroom, living room area, bath or shower, and kitchenette. Each family unit had its own apartment ("gite"). On the ground floor, there was a big kitchen and living room, so we didn't use the kitchenettes in our apartments. We arrived on Friday and, after a little rest, went to the airport for Anne, came home, had a spaghetti dinner before I returned to the airport to pick up the British contingent. Saturday morning, I returned to the airport for the Parisian group and those arriving from Tarn-et-Garonne arrived. Claire had a visit from one of her Toulouse friends and, after a pizza lunch (really good pizza, for once), we headed off on the tram to visit the Airbus site, where we had a visit to the A380 assembly hangar. It being the May 1st weekend (that's the sacred Labor Day, here), the line was closed down, but we could see just how enormous those planes are. It's a shame the guide we had was not more enthusiastic. She rattled off her numbers and was a bit impatient with kids who were trying to ask questions.
Sunday, we walked along the Garonne to the restaurant, where we met up with the others. I think we all had a good time: loads of varied conversation. The children all played well, together. V. is closer to adulthood and seemed pleased to discover her dad's cousins. We continued the visit back at the house until they had to leave. Monday, May 1st, everything was closed -- almost everything. There was no public transportation, no tram. Some took our car to go into Toulouse for a short visit, a walk around the city center. Others went into Toulouse in the afternoon, after the first family left to return to Paris, and took a boat ride on the river. We emptied the house and dropped the last ones, the British contingent, at the airport late in the afternoon and headed towards Najac.
Spring is so lovely. There is such variety in green. Everything seems to be green, except the colza, which is in full yellow bloom. This is the southwest and there is a water deficit. In summer, it'll be all dried up but for now, it's beautiful. Our home away from home is the Hotel Le Belle Rive, where we are really welcomed as old friends. We spent Tuesday with Emma and Gabriel, but because I had a sore throat and back ache, we decided not to prolong the stay and returned home on Wednesday.
We had an adventure! A tire blew out. A few years ago, this happened to me in England, the right front tire. Well, this time it was the left back tire. We were very lucky to find the emergency phone safety zone just a couple of hundred meters away. We called; a really short time after, the highway emergency van came by with a very friendly guy. Handshakes all around. He called the local garage to find out how long they would be, but almost as soon as he hung up, they were there. They installed the spare tire you are not supposed to drive much on in a very short time and we were also very lucky that the next exit was just a couple of km. away. This gave us the chance to drive slowly through the green countryside, again, where we saw lots of sheep (and lambs) and cows (and calves) and wheat fields, still green, and colza, all yellow. The idea was to find a tire shop somewhere on the way to Limoges, and we did. In fact, in the shopping zone just outside of Limoges and on the road we were on (no extra detours!) there were two shops opposite one another, Feu Vert and Norauto! Once the tires were mounted, we had a quick lunch and hit the A20. I think the entire tire incident cost us less time than the traffic jam around Paris, when we hit it before 5 pm. We didn't get home until well after 6.
The only thing I'm going to say about the election is that I'll vote early, tomorrow and I don't know if I'll volunteer to count the votes as I did two weeks ago.

No comments: