Tumbling in Toulouse

Pieter competed at the French national championships in Toulouse end of May. Of course I wanted to see the competition and as a bonus could see Toulouse. As Pieter has just turned 18 he now qualify as senior, which means tough competition, but he still ended 9th out of 17  big strong guys!  This competition hosted tumbling, trampoline and acrobatic gymnastics.

Palais des Sports in Toulouse.


The tumbler…


and the wonderful, friendly coach…


and then discovering Toulouse…

I was wondering about these excited, noisy people at the station on Saturday morning. Only when I saw it on the news that evening I  realized that they were on their way to Paris to watch the Toulouse rugby club play in the finals at the Stade the France. Sunday morning it looked the same at the station when they all returned and were even more excited because Toulouse are now the new club rugby champions!


many cathedrals and churches…


the beautiful red, brick buildings…


the river…


gargoyles from the 1100’s, now on display…




I didn’t post that much in February, but looking back now, I realized that a lot actually happened in this last month. You know, the normal things… ski trips, coffees in Paris, seeing a few van Gogh’s, Monet’s and van Rijn’s… just everyday things. : )

Jaco and Pieter went with their school on a ski trip to Valloire. The trip was organized by the sport and engineering sciences teachers. We dropped them off at 6am in the morning at the school. A few brave parents waited in the freezing cold to see the bus leave.


They stayed in the ski village and did snowboarding everyday from Monday to Friday.


To justify the science part, they had a look at exactly how the ski lift works.  A quick visit on Wednesday morning for that. : )


What an amazing experience for them. Remember, we don’t even know snow! : )

The gymnastics season has started again. This time with new coaches and new friends. For Franci the biggest excitement of the competition was to see the Cergy’m coaches again.

Its only Franci doing competitions this year as Mandi has quit gymnastics and started doing tumbling with Pieter in Les Clayes sous Bois. Finishing school at four and then do gymnastics till 10pm in the evening was just too much, but she is really enjoying the new tumbling club. Loving the coach again. Alfie, the coach from ACS, Cape Town is still the measure for coaches. She loves Rene, the tumbling coach: ‘he is so nice, he is just like Alfie’ .


I decided that I have to start visiting exhibitions in Paris. I don’t know if you can ever see everything of this city, I also don’t think you can ever get to all exhibitions.   In October the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera will be on display in the Orangerie. Won’t that be so special to see? Anyone visiting me to see that? For know I saw van Gogh’s works in the exhibition at the Pinacothèque, ‘Dreaming of Japan’. Having a coffee afterwards with a view on the beautiful église de la Madeleine.

Not without excitement. : ) Seeing all the people buying flowers across the road at the florist. The police stopped the little red van and had long conversations looking at lots of papers. I wonder what he did wrong. The french are serious about paperwork!  Then an ambulance stopped and after a while they came with a lady in a wheelchair who had one foot wrapped in bandages and her husband, walking with them, carrying the shoe, which was covered in white paint. So was the clothes of the lady. Wondering what happened to her. I knew she slipped somewhere near white paint. Not too serious as the whole company was talking and smiling, including her. : )


It was of course a cold February day again, but then the sun came out and I just walked around and passed the Notre Dame. Seeing there was no queue, I decided to go in. Inside I could see the new bells on display. Apparently the old bells,which was installed in 1856 were badly out-of-tune.

The new bells are now being installed for the 850th anniversary of the Notre Dame. They will be rung for the first time on Sunday 23 March 2013. Maybe a good idea to be close-by having a coffee and be part of that special moment.
 Across the Seine from the Notre Dame, getting lost in the very old Shakespeare and company. Books everywhere, under stairs, above doors and so high on the walls, that they provide ladders to reach the top ones. : ) And rooms with chairs to sit and read.


… and that was some highlights of February. March will have its own things again. School closes on Friday for a two week holiday. And we’re off to Interlaken in Switzerland for a week. This time I’ll be the photographer for the snowboarders. : )

A week of ‘last times’

End of year, end of our time in Cergy-Pontoise, last ballet class, last gymnastics class, last time dropping someone off at Collège le Moulin a Vent, last time… That was what this past week was like. Now, after doing some things for the last time, the year has officially ended and the kids are on holiday till September.

The reason for having ‘last times’ again is that we have bought a house in a small village, called Beynes, and we will start moving next week. The house implies for sure that it will be a working holiday for this family. I will write more about the house and our renovations when we are there next week. For now I can say that the house was build in 1840, it is big enough for a family of six and was cheap enough for us to buy. Big, old and affordable only means one thing: lots of work… But that’s not a problem as we are also six people that can clean and paint. : )

These two photo’s from the estate agents’ website convinced me that we have to visit this house…

from the back…

front entrance…

Before the big move starts next week, lets get back to the ‘last times’ again. Franci had her last ballet lesson and then the dance concert last night. She danced beautiful and I am sure aunty Belinda from Monte Vista’s ballet would have been very proud of her. This year’s danse classique was taught by a friendly lady called Sylvia.

movie legends… Black Swan, Titanic, Marilyn… 

Then the last gymnastics lesson on Friday and Cergy’m Club’s end of year gala today. From the youngest group of 3 year olds to the current France gymnasts, all showing off their skills and entertaining us with fun dances.

This afternoon we remembered again the displays at ACS Gymnastics. With the nice Cape Town weather it was held outside, so they had space to do crazy things like boys doing somersaults over cars… and more. Each club is special in its own way. The best memory of our year in Cergy will be Cergy’m Club. The girls were so happy there and are really sad to leave, but Fred recommended a club close to the new house; ‘where the coaches are just as friendly as them,’ as he said. : )  So, with a very special goodbye card and some tears the group of girls said goodbye… They will keep contact on facebook and see each other again at next year’s competitions.
It feels like a long time ago that Mandi and Franci joined the club, speaking only a few words of  french. The coaches had to ask one of the girls to show them what they have to do as they couldn’t understand. They had good laughs with the girls correcting their pronunciation and they again teaching the french girls some afrikaans words. Even Fred thought the girls could teach him how to convince us in afrikaans not to move. : )

To Fred, Audrey and Elsie, the gym coaches, and a very special group of girls: Thank you for a lovely gymnastics year. Even difficult days for Mandi and Franci weren’t that bad as they could look forward to going to gym that evening.    à bientôt

The gym supporter.

Over the last ten years, gymnastics has been a big part of our lives. We drove to practices every evening and we planned our holidays around competitions… and now in France it is still the same.
It has been more than doing gymnastics. The kids learned certain skills that has come in handy for them. Apart from being able to do flips at strange times and places, they learned discipline, to work hard for a goal, to support your friends even if they compete against you and to handle disappointments… like this one.

This weekend was the zone competition for Franci’s team, but on Thursday she broke a finger when playing handball at school. The other side of this story you already know… french doctors, emergency clinic, x-rays, but we are doing better every time. No problem…

We still went to the competition on Sunday. Franci was on the bench with the team, being the supporter with no nervousness this time in Combs la Ville, just south of Paris.

…but you can still have fun…

The first teams competed at 9am and the last ones finished at 7pm, so we had some time to drive around the area and ended up in Melun. A french king died there in the eleventh century. That we read on a sign, but will have to read the history to know more. It only tells you that the town is very old. : )

Héloïse  and Abélard… a love story from the 1100’s 

We went back to the competition in time to watch the other Cergy’m team, who did excellent and came second. They will compete in June in the France finals.

All the teams…

…then the coaches made an entrance… dressed in flowery girls leotards (yes, the men too) and gave the girls a good laugh, but Mandi thought its maybe too embarrassing for Fred to show any photo’s here. Audrey of course looked lovely : ) Ok, maybe just one to show you the surprise on the girls faces…

after all the fun and excitement we had to drive back to the northern side of Paris…

Paris, paris, paris

I met a friend in Paris last week. We went to ‘Hoërskool Prieska’ together and that is exactly the last time we saw each other. So quite a strange place to meet again: ‘See you at ten at the Sacre Coeur.’
But we met there in -5°C… and we thought that Prieska had cold early mornings. : )

After warm coffee we discovered the fabric area around the Sacre Coeur. Enjoyed crêpes nutella (of course) and I tasted my first macaroons with Maresa and Gawie.

…and we just strolled through the streets of Paris.

She and her husband are doing a nice Europe tour at the moment.
It was good to see you again, Maresa. I know you are having a wonderful time in Europe…

On Saturday was the regional gymnastics competition in Clamart, a suburb of Paris. Still extremely cold, but in a nice warm hall. Franci competed and came 9th out of 60 girls. Next month she will compete in Elancourt in the Zone competition. …and again… pretty girls and friendly coaches… so special…

After the competition the girls wanted to go to the material shops for leotard material. Danie felt very courageous and said we will just quickly drive there… from Southern Paris to Northern Paris, right through the middle of Paris. 

…and he found a parking space right at the bottom of the Sacre Coeur. We found lovely leotard material and realized you have to look around before you buy. We saw material for 59€, which was a bit much and bought the same material at the next little shop for 7€! Thanks to our afrikaans speaking GPS we were home again after a long day in Paris.

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. : )

La compétition

To do a post about our first gymnastics competition in France does not make much sense, because it was almost the same as what we knew in Cape Town. We sat long on hard seats and the program ran late. The parents were friendly, we drank ‘tuckshop’ coffee and we ran around with our cameras. One difference was that the ‘tuckshop’ sold croissants and pain au chocolat… with the chips and chocolates. All that was really different was that the hall was WARM (with 6 degrees outside). We were remembering sitting under our blankets in Oudtshoorn or the Velodrome. : ) The gymnasts walked around in their leotards and Alfie did not hang his big jacket around their shoulders before they compete.
They played lively music for the gymnasts to march on, but the judges didn’t get any mention or music… that they can learn from South Africa.

This was actually a very relaxed competition, don’t know if they get more serious later on. France has 26 regions, which are divided into 95 departments. Our region is Ile-de-France and is divided into four departments of which Paris centre is one. We are number 95, Val d’oise. This competition was for Val d’oise only and to qualify for competing in the Ile-de-France competition. The girls did well. Franci was first on beam and came 4th overall. Mandi was first on floor and came 8th overall… fell off beam twice : )

the girls were pretty and Fred the coach was his usual calm self…

...and just as the ACS coaches would do… tells you with a smile that something was bent, but it is OK…

…a nice day in Goussainville, close to Charles de Gaulle airport.

Cergy’m club won 14 medals and the next competition is in two weeks time. A team competition where the club will compete as one team.

Let’s tackle 2012.

It feels strange to start a new year, but all activities are actually halfway already. Obviously, because the school year in France starts in September and finish end of June. The schools reopened again yesterday after a two week break over Christmas. The school calender in France has three terms, with a two week break in the middle of the first two terms. That means 4 two week holidays and two months in July and August. Not too bad.

We are still waiting for the snow. It would be unfair to let us be so cold and you don’t even see snow! : ) It is the coldest month now, I’ve heard, and can feel! Mostly about 5 or 6 degrees in the day, but we do get a lot of sunshine. At least then it does not ‘feel’ so cold, as when it is a grey day. But we know that spring is coming next! I have daffodils flowering in my garden already!

The first gymnastic competition for the girls is end of January and another one beginning of February. And the competitions carry on till June when it is the France finals, but that’s for later. The girls had to learn a whole lot of new elements in their routines. Mandi said that she’s probably one level up and Franci almost two, so we will see how it goes. It will still be exciting to see how things work here.

We also want to move closer to Danie’s work end of June. Where, we still don’t know, but we’ve started to look around over week-ends. The girls would love to stay at their gym, the boys want to stay at their school, and Danie has to stay at his work : ) The only problem is that those three things are in three different directions. I think in the end we will just consider the travel to work and start in new schools and a new gym. But, that also, we will see what happens.

And, I am trying to be really organised in the house. : ) There will always be bread (baguettes) in the morning to pack for the boys and Danie, never run out of milk, and I won’t have to go to Carrefour every day for whatever is needed… ok… So, I did my first ‘drive’ shopping at LeClerc. Buy on the internet and say what time you want to pick it up, then you just park at a ‘scanner box’, scan your bar code and in a minute or two someone comes and load your shopping in the car. Nice. That’s for all the boring things you have to buy every month, toilet paper, washing powder, and so on. Now, my weekly list is much shorter. First week went well, so let’s see!

…and just some interesting things…

parking in Paris…

you mess, you clean up…

‘traffic’ signs in the river for the boats…

pictures made from post-it cards in office blocks…

graffiti is everywhere in Paris…

and for those of you that watch 7de laan, a bookshop with this name…

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…