It has been so long since I wrote anything here that I hardly know where to start!
I've been to Volonne in Haute Provence for two weeks, sandwiched between staying in Maisons Laffitte. 18 nights with five children and no husband is somewhat of a challenge - I don't think I'd have survived without the company of some good friends (and their three children). The drive from Maisons Laffitte to Volonne took 8 hours one way and 10 hours coming back!
Once there, a great time was had by all! Most of the time, I think! There were the normal alarms and altercations that occur when you have 8 children of varying ages and temperaments to accommodate. Water slides were slid down, pools were swum in, trees were swung through, sun was sat in, beers and wine were drunk. We were so lucky with the weather - hot and sunny every day apart from one - where we had 5" of rain in as many hours, but they were early in the morning, so the only person who got wet was me as I was out running.
Running at 1500' is very different to running at 300'! On my first morning I thought my chest was going to explode and my legs felt like lead. Normally when I run uphill and feels the build up of lactic acid in my leg muscles I know that this will dissipate very quickly when I hit a flat stretch or downhill. This didn't happen in mountains - I was hitting the next incline with legs still heavy from the previous one. The scenery, however, was stunning!
My school girl French was woefully inadequate to cope with a tyre blow out on a bendy road through the Alps! I was rescued by a passing tow truck, with two very good looking 'boys' driving it, and towed to the nearest garage for a mere €40 - waiting at the side of that road with a car full of children didn't appeal! But I do wonder why I was taught to tell people that my aunt's pen is on my uncle's desk, that the monkey is in the tree and to list the contents of my bedroom! I can't imagine when I would use such phrases. Meanwhile it would be nice to have learnt how to explain that the tyre has exploded (and that is why you are on the other side of the road because the steering went a bit do-lally), that you need to call your friend to come and pick you up (and help translate) etc.
Much wine and food was needed to calm me down after this incident. I am hugely grateful to my friends for looking after me, and especially to Paul for cooking such fabulous meals almost every evening.
The rest of our stay in Volonne was relatively peaceful. I ran most mornings, enjoying a bit of solitude while every one else snoozed. Most mornings I returned via the site shop, so returned back laden with croissants. We had trips to Sisteron, Gap (where there is no Gap!), Moustiers Sainte Marie and Aix en Provence, but we were really very lazy. It was too hot to sunbathe until about 5pm most days, but the children had a whale of the time in the pools and on the water slides.
Back in Maisons Laffitte for two days before returning to England, I took the children into Paris for a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. One of the little darlings said that it looked as though the tower was swaying - this panicked Esmé (my diminutive 4 year old) and she fussed and whinged in the lift. At one point a stranger started to pick her up - I rushed to grab her back and, in retrospect I realise, this is when someone, most probably a friend of the woman who picked Esmé up, took advantage of the fact that I was distracted and extracted my wallet from my bag!
Being stranded in the middle of a foreign city with 5 children and no money is not a situation I would recommend to anyone! Luckily my friend was able to come in and rescue me. The police were not friendly. My wallet was stollen at 11.30am, I left the police station at about 6pm. They knew I had no money, that I was sitting there with 5 children who hadn't eaten since breakfast, and we were not offered so much as a glass of water while we sat waiting on plastic chairs.
Our final day was a trip to Disneyland, but to be honest, none of us were really in the mood. We had to fight our corner to be allowed in as our annual passes were in my wallet, we were tired, missing home, and Disney was very crowded. We did a few rides and left at 3pm for the long journey home.
We had a great trip, but it is lovely to be home. My lovely husband had cleaned the house beautifully and we were all thrilled to be home in our own beds.