Spring is in the air…

Yes, its officially the end of winter. Temperatures are up and we can think of putting our jackets away. Maybe not too far yet… today is a bit chilly again. : ) The first sign that spring is coming are the daffodils. Many of them and everywhere.

and then some small bulbs trying to compete with them…

The streets are lined with pink blossoms. For them you have to be quick. I watched one long street with trees on both sides. A pink passage, but I waited too long. Greedy… wanted more pink flowers and then when I arrived with my camera the flowers were covering the street. C’est normal. Well, I didn’t get to photograph the long street, but still some nice pink trees.

…and some just show their soft, new green leaves…

and then the tulips arrive with their deep, bright colours and take over the show…

I will leave them for a next post. They need a bit more time to be at their best… : )



Me, RSG and Chérie FM

I still listen to RSG, Radio Sonder Grense, here at home. Mostly to lighten the task of folding and ironing washing in the afternoon, while listening to ‘Tjailatyd‘. You don’t have to concentrate too much, just some company in the background. That is a big change from Cape Town where I could listen to RSG in the car as well. Now I listen to Chérie FM while driving and now I have to concentrate to try to understand! Ok, that is only when I am alone in the car and there aren’t any teenagers to change the station to maybe Virgin or NRJ.
Chérie FM shows my age. They often play music from my highschool or university days. You could hear a song from Flashdance or Dirty dancing maybe. : ) Some french music as well, but still less lively (noisy I could say) than the Virgins and NRJs!
What made me talk about radio stations was that on Tjailatyd everyday a listener describes his or her daily trips in the car, so I was wondering how I would describe my daily time in the car here in Cergy-Pontoise.

Each morning starts with a trip to Pontoise train station. That is either at 7, 8 or 9 am, depending on the boys’ schedule. Things start a bit later here in France, so the 7am trip is very quiet, almost no cars. We know that we have to leave 5 minutes earlier for the 8am mornings. Early mornings they have their breakfast program on my radio station. We hear the weather for the day and when it is an 8 am morning I catch the ten questions in 1 minute on my way back. Even more focusing to understand at least one question… and feeling good if I actually do get some questions. Did I mention that this radio station is of course all french?
Pontoise is lovely. An old town with buildings that remind you of apartments in Paris. Two beautiful old churches and a rich history with the impressionists that lived there.

…as we come around the corner into Pontoise… 


…looking up to the old church from the train station…

Driving through Cergy is nice too, because there are so many trees. Now they are all still bare, but in summer it feels like you are driving through a forest, although you are in the middle of a town. It is a new town that developed over the last thirty years and looks like any town in South Africa…

as these signs will show you… they only welcome you in french…

The next trip will be taking the girls to school. Just around the block. 8h30 or 9h30, depending on their schedules. At 8h30 it takes longer as we pass a primary and preschool and all the moms and dads are crossing the road with a pram and a toddler or two. We pass the station closest to us, ‘Cergy le haut‘, and if we look to the right at the station we can see the tall buildings at La Defense in Paris. We have to look quickly where the trees open, but if we had more time we could look for the highest point which will be the Eiffel Tower.

Because Cergy-Pontoise is an area consisting of twelve towns I do different things in different towns. There are signs telling you which town you are leaving and which you are entering, otherwise you would think you are always in the same town. Our house is in Courdimanche, but as I take the first turn the board tells me that I am now leaving Courdimanche and entering Cergy.
If I run out of something and just want to quickly go get that, I drive through Cergy for 100m and then am told that I am now in Vaureal. This Intermarché is the closest shop to me, but small. Also I have to check the time as they are closed between 12 and 2pm.
For real shopping there is a bigger Carrefour in Puiseux-Pontoise, and for real nice shopping I drive to the big hyper Auchan. I can take the highway, the A15, or I can make it a nice trip between farms and through the pretty little town Boissy l’Aillerie.

The afternoon times I can never plan before. The girls can finish at any time. Its different every day. Maybe at 4 or maybe at 5 or maybe a teacher is absent and then even earlier. The boys somedays take more busses and trains and come home or I wait for their call to fetch them again at Pontoise.

This is not the end of our day yet. I must still take the girls to gymnastics. Right on the other side of Cergy, almost in Pontoise. Now we take the A15 and only pass through the new town to the big new gym. If the boys have gym too, two days a week, our trip finish with fetching them at the gym at 10pm. Then everyone is ready for bed to wake up at the right time to start the next day’s trips on old and new roads, through old and new towns here in Cergy-Pontoise.

Autumn in France

It seems like suddenly in one weeks time, all the leaves had turned into their autumn colours. Yellow, orange, red… Since yesterday it is cloudy and every time I want to go for photos, it starts to rain, but I got some. The temperature is now around 15 degrees on the warmer days.
Danie left for Lisbon today for a meeting this week. I think he will have some last summer days down there.


…and that means leaves to rake…

 …and fun…

The schools, gymnastics and the ‘Axe Majeur’

20 September 2011

There are no ‘new’ news about the schools… The kids did their tests 10 days ago and now we have to wait for the letters to tell us where they must go. The tests went well. An english comprehension test, which was easy and then maths, which was easy as well! So, according to the French school department they are all up to standard. : )
We thought the tests were because they can’t speak french, but when we came there and everyone else spoke french (they were all from french-speaking countries) we realised it is everyone coming from another country that must be tested. The people from the departement only spoke french, but their was a friendly mother from Mauritius who translated for us when we did not understand… I have to say that they actually felt bad that they could not speak english.
We tried to contact the schools directly, but they just said no, we have to work through the
‘Inspection académique’.
What we know is that the girls will be in ‘collège‘ (middle-school, gr.6 and gr.9), just not where, but there is a school in Cergy with a class for non-french speaking kids. (just a block or two away)
The boys will be in ‘lycée‘ (high-school, probably gr. 10), but it seems that the closest class for them will be 30 min away by train. The man that tested them, is a teacher of such a class. He said he had kids from 80 countries through the years in his class, but never from South-Africa and he was keen to take Jaco and Pieter, he was just not sure if he still had place in his class. His school is in Argenteuil… a kind man. They will all four be in classes where they will be taught French.
In the meantime we carry on with our French lessons and wait for the letters… the french like letters, no e-mails, but printed on paper and mailed to you. : ) As I’m saying what they like… they also still use cheques a lot. Danie hasn’t had a cheque-book for years in SA and now he writes cheques all the time. : ) And don’t even ask how much concentration it takes to write all those numbers in french… ‘Trois-cent-quatre-vingt-dix-huit euros et cinquant-sept centimes‘ 398,57 : )

The gymnastics is going very well. Mandi and Franci gym four evenings a week and are in the competition group. The gym and equipment are excellent. And the most important thing is that they love their new coach, Frédéric. They say he is just like Alfie (ACS, Monte Vista), funny and making jokes all the time. : ) Frédéric would not know what a huge compliment that is, because Alfie has a talent for working with kids… and he is an excellent coach!

The boys also joined a class last week. They have a class for high school kids and young adults who just want to stay fit and keep their gymnastic skills. So they go two evenings a week (8h30 to 10pm!) and really enjoy it.

To add some photo’s, I will show you the Axe Majeur Horloge. This is what Cergy is known for. As you approach the town on the highway, you see the signs on how to get there. They call it landscape architecture and was designed by Dani Karavan, a landscape architect… of course. : ) There is a whole lot of symbolism in this structure, but one day when my french is better, I will read the book that explains it all. He used the number 12 as a symbol of noon and midnight, twelve apostles, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve astronomical signs… (!?… weird?)  that’s why there are twelve columns, etc.
It is 3.2km if you walk from the top to the bottom (and a LOT of stairs!)

It starts with this building up on the hill, with the axis (the axe) in the middle.

and as you turn around here, you see the columns. Everything cement and gray…

…and then the surprise when you walk just behind the columns… a lovely view…
the red bridge that crosses the Oise river and then the ‘ile astronomique‘, an island that forms a perfect circle, which I think is man-made. 

The buildings in the background are at La Defense, Paris.

The highest point on the left is the Eiffel Tower and the big block just to the right of the centre, the Grande Arche.

For the locals this is a favourite spot to exercise… running those steps up and down…

A busy… french… week

13 September 2011

Last week we had no choice but to have long French conversations… with few French words. Monday me and Jaco went to subscribe him for drumming lessons. The lady could only speak French, but she was so friendly, laughing about everything. Well, with lots of concentration and her repeating a few times, we understood each other and he was booked to see the teacher this week. As we walked out of there we were thinking that maybe he will go back to find that we entered him for playing the harp in a symphonic orchestra. : ) … but the end of this story is that he decided not to do this as it seemed to be more percussion than drums and I had to go back and explain that again.

The second thing was getting haircuts. I have now learned not to start a conversation with asking them if they can speak English. If the answer is ‘non‘ they get such a fright that they stop talking to you completely and you want them to rather speak french as we do understand a bit. She only asked the other ladies something and then said ‘you wait’. Me and Jaco waited for more than an hour and then he did get a real nice haircut. With Pieter we tried another hairdresser which went better, at least we could make an appointment.

Then there was Mandi and Franci’s doctor’s appointment with a ‘french-only’ doctor. He was kind and sweet with the girls. He asked them all the questions in french: Name – then they had to spell it for him, date of birth, and so on, but they could answer everything – in french. : )

So, maybe our french-understanding is coming on. Speaking is still difficult. I still speak in single words, no sentences.

Oh, I also got library cards (from the french-speaking lady). Now me and Franci are reading a book: ‘Les nouvelles réflexions d’une grenouille..‘ (the new reflections of a frog) with google translate next to us… : )

To colour this ‘french’ post I will add some photo’s of this weekend’s ‘Cergy Soit’, a festival with drama, music and all kinds of funny things. We only went on Sunday evening just to see what it is about.

after me, it’s closed… : )

Fêtes des Associations – Cergy

Samedi 3 Septembre 2011, Parc de la Préfecture 

This is where we were yesterday. A festive occasion and on the hottest, sunniest day we have had in France. School starts tomorrow. It is the end of the two months summer holiday and everything is starting up again. The french really take a good break in July and August. Some smaller shops even close or shorten their opening times. But now everyone is back…
Each town has an associations day. In Cergy there were about 300 stalls representing sports, dance, arts, music, religions, social clubs and anything else you can think of. A wonderful opportunity to find all the activities you are looking for.

from chess to … any sport…
tennis, gymnastics… and the roller-blade club… 

tomorrow gymnastics start – 6 to 8h30 pm (and two more evenings)
ballet Wednesday – 3 to 4h15 pm
tennis Wednesday or Saturday
music – will hear tomorrow
tumbling – still to find, maybe by train 30 min.
my drawing class – Monday evenings, starting October
… and our program is full again. : )
Oh, I did not add that this week will also include doctor’s appointments, as no sport club will accept you without a medical certificate to proof that you are healthy enough to do sports!

I thought the balloons were just adding to the festivities, but only later I read that it shows you where to go… blue for sport, red for culture, orange for dance and so on…

Traffic circles or gardens?

2 September 2011

In Cergy there are more circles than traffic lights. The circles are big so traffic flows nicely. But the reason to mention circles has got nothing to do with traffic… each circle is a park or garden on its own, and most even have their own name.

It is easy to have so many flowers here… it rains so much! When we moved in they had to clean our garden, it was completely ‘overgrown’.  We have roses and they were pruned in the middle of summer. I’m sure that’s the wrong time to prune a rose, but now, a month later, they are green and the first roses are opening already.
and some of the circles…

rond-point des coudraies

in Vaureal…

one with an apple orchard…


rond-point du miroir…

…on RSG (wonderful internet!) I hear everyone talking about the flowers in Namaqualand… which is just as lovely. This morning on facebook my old afrikaans teacher added this…
No, he’s not old, its just a long time ago I was in the afrikaans class. : )

Op die groot saaidag van die heelal
het reeds ʼn entjie duskant Wupperthal
oor die kaal Noordweste
ʼn sakkie van die Heer se beste
saad per ongeluk gelek, gelek en uitgeval.
(DJ Opperman)