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… : )

..

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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… 

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.

A full, nice, white week-end.

We had three birthdays in our family last week, with the twins on one day and Franci the next. There are advantages in having three birthdays in two days. For the boys and Danie, who has train cards for a year, they receive a free Eurodisney ticket in the week of your birthday. Danie could use his for Franci on her birthday. Because he missed it the previous time, Danie went with the birthday three.
They had fun… or as much fun as you can have in minus 5 degrees. They had nice stories to tell, but all followed with: ‘Its the coldest I’ve ever been.” The lake, fountain and everything to do with water was frozen, but there were still so many people that they had 40 minute queues at some rides… but it was good.
Sunday morning we woke up with 5 cm of snow and still snowing. Big excitement for us South-Africans.

…but we had to leave early to the gymnastics competition and was quite nervous driving in the snow. We had to go really slow, all the roads were still covered.

The gymnastics competition was nice again. This time in Soisy-sous-Montmorency, a team competition… and Mandi’s team came first! Franci’s team came fourth and they all go through to the next competition in March.

Our friend, Pieter from South Africa had a one-day stop in Paris on his way to Marseille, and spend the day with us. He had to sit through the competition, but we could have a quick lunch before he left again.

Then we went out to explore the snow. Came back with frozen toes and fingers, but a lot of fun and photos.

around our house…

I smile when I read back in my blog. I first wrote that it is now really getting cold, 15 degrees, then it was really cold with 5 degrees. Now we had two weeks of -4 degrees! Lets hope it does not get any colder than this. : )

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… : )

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…
 

flowers…!

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)

MOOI!

Just a normal week

28 August 2011

I just spoke to my mother and sisters in Cape Town… while Mandi and Danie watch a whole Jack Sparrow movie. No, it did not cost me a cent. Maybe I should not tell everyone… : )
Our internet, cable TV and telephone comes in one ‘package’. For 45 euros a month we have uncapped internet (…and fast as Pieter tells me), 150 or something TV channels, unlimited calls to landlines and cellphones in France and unlimited calls to almost every country including SA. That is the best thing we could ask for.
Apart from this ‘luxury’ this week was pretty normal…
I buy baquettes fresh from the boulanger every day for lunch. That part is really true: French people walk with baquettes under the arm and break off a piece to eat as they leave the shop.

…trois baguettes s’il vous plaît…

Sunday evening we had boerewors rolls…
 

…and our golfball basket is almost full…

The players don’t come to look for their balls. I think they are too embarrassed. You see you have to hit really, really skew to let the ball end up in our garden. Probably 45° out… but still we get about 1 every second day. : )

…and yesterday I tried the Mrs. Balls recipe from their site. Its not too bad, almost the real thing, I must say. Maybe a bit less chillies next time…

Un abri de jardin

7 August 2011

That is french for a garden shed. Ok, I only made the title french to make you read on… now it sounds like some french adventure. As this is my diary I had to add the garden shed, because this whole weekend was taken up by this abri de jardin!
Our house is a bit smaller than what we had in Cape Town. At the moment there are a few things packed in the garage, with everything that belongs in a garage. Our plan was to get a garden shed and pack the garage things there and then we can use the garage as an extra room or at least a neat storage room.
Thursday evening we bought the shed at Leroy Merlin. Many shops here also rent out vans or trucks for you to do your own delivery. You rent it for an hour, pay about 10€ and take your things home that can’t fit in your car. So, we also booked one of their small trucks for Friday afternoon as we thought this was something that you need more time for and more space…
Friday afternoon, off we went to Leroy Merlin. We signed all the forms for the truck, after it was checked and explained to us how it all works. Got the keys and drove in to the ‘yard’ to pick up our shed. The young guy who helped us came with a forklift and parked next to us. We looked on the huge shelves but couldn’t see where he was going to find the shed. Then we saw it was already on the forklift… a box of 1,8m by 1m and about 15 cm thick! We were convinced that it couldn’t be! A whole garden shed in that box. The end of the story… we gave the truck back and ‘easily’ fit the box in the back of our Opel Zafira. The young guy said that he told Danie the previous evening that he didn’t need a truck… but that was probably misunderstood with the mix of bits of english and bits of french!

the box…

and here we go…

a short break…

and the rest…

two days, six people, lots of parts from a small box and many screws to make one garden shed.

Courdimanche

5 August 2011

If someone in France would ask me where we live, I would say Cergy. If someone in Cergy would ask me where we live, I would say Courdimanche. Cergy is the bigger town, with surrounding smaller villages, like Courdimanche and Vaureal, Jouy le Moutier, Pontoise and more.
Each one of the villages still have their older centre ville. I would think that is where the village started and then they built around it and now it forms one big town.
Courdimanche is a small village, but it has a big golf course. All around the golf course are housing complexes and we stay in one of them. My first thought was that I didn’t want to stay in a ‘complex’, but soon realised the blessing of it.
We are in a cul de sac and surrounded by the friendliest neighbours.They all came to meet us and Cynthia took me around to show me the best boulanger, best boucher, where not to buy meat and everything I need to know. The children all play in our street and the girls have already made friends.

the view on the golf course from our small bedroom balcony…

our street… and tennis court to the left…

the old village of Courdimanche…
 

Moving in

28 July 2011

Last Friday morning at 9 the truck with the container parked in front of our house. A twelve meter container! It took three hours to carry in all the boxes, etc… and then the house was full…
We were really wondering where we would go with everything! But we saw as we started unpacking that half of the container was filled with packing material. Everything was wrapped in more than enough paper. Just to show you what I mean… I had to photograph this.

But this is what the house looked like after everything was carried inside…

The four guys working for Sterling are all from Algeria. They spoke arabic to each other, we afrikaans, then they speak french to us with a few english words and we spoke english to them with a few french words. That was interesting.
I bought baquettes for lunch, but could not get them to come help themselves. The one guy later said to me that in their country the children eat first, then the women and then the men, so after we all left the table, they had some bread.
They all came to tell me how good the children are, because they were helping all the time. Franci was called the ‘big boss’ of the day. She was told to read the numbers on the boxes as they carried them in to check if all was there.
The language was not really a problem, they were the funniest, friendliest people. Making jokes with the kids. Later on laughing at me! Every piece of furniture they open, they would ask me where they must put it and I could just say: ‘ I don’t know’. I just heard them speaking arabic, laughing, and saying ‘I don’t know’. They even said to the kids: ‘We ask your mom, she says, I don’t know.’
We still don’t know where to put everything, but we are almost there. Danie and the boys finished the kitchen on Saturday and we went from boxes, to chaos to an almost liveable house.

Houses in France

24 July 2011

We do find some things strange in this new house.  When houses are advertised here, it would state whether the kitchen is equipped or not. Well this one is not equipped. That means exactly that there is nothing in the kitchen… only a sink with a two-door cupboard, which was not in yet when we came to look at the house.

the empty house…

The next strange thing is that there are no lights in any of the bedrooms or lounge. The light switch is connected to one of the plugs. We had to buy lamps for each room.

Each room has a cupboard, but it is just an empty box. No shelves or rails.

But… there is IKEA just 10 kilometres away.

We bought the ‘kitchen’ with stand-alone units. Everything comes in flat boxes, so you have to assemble it. Luckily it is designed so perfectly, it takes only a few hours to assemble a whole kitchen.  We are not finished with the kitchen. After our furniture arrives we will see what we still need.

Black and stainless steel… I actually like it… I actually chose it! The units are smaller to fit in our smaller kitchen and not as expensive as the wooden ones would have been.


Our furniture arrived on Friday and we are almost ‘unpacked’! But the fun we had with the removal guys is a story to tell in a next post…