Friday, March 27, 2009

Down to Pennsylvania to pick up the boys from Mom and Dad.  We all gathered at Cathie and Eric's in Kutztown.  Got to bounce little Birgit on my knee and hear a little about the boys' adventures.  Still a bit disoriented by jet lag, but it was nice to stroll along their muddy little creek with its wary mallards and streaking chubs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I had known only the literary or cinematic Paris -- 

the Paris of
Alexandre Dumas,
Anaïs Nin, 
François Truffaut . . . 

It was a pleasure to assemble in my
 mind a personal geography of road and river and monument.  

A geography to resonate the next time I enter a story set in Paris.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Monica and I have been pining for travel in general and Europe in particular.  Over 3 years have passed since we left Ireland, and time and money never seem to show up hand in hand.  
Although there were other things we might have done (without 15 teenagers in tow) we thoroughly enjoyed our trip over to France (and for Monica, to England as well, of course).

Our days in St. Avertin, Tours and the surrounding Touraine were wonderful.  The heart of the trip was the stay in St. Avertin with the host families.  Last fall twenty-some students from College Jules Romains traveled to Pine Point on an exchange.   It was a great success.

And that success was rewarded by a huge welcome for the Pine Point students as they were taken in by the local families.

The Zenonis, Marc, Natalie, Antoine and Charlotte were marvelous -- down to earth, cosmopolitan, with a warm and easy hospitality.  We should know better than to strike up friendships with people who live 3,500 miles distant, but we couldn't help it.  With luck we'll convince them to put Rhode Island on their itinerary.

(I've sometimes
 wondered about that sudden friendship that happens -- especially in travels.  Just people that you meet -- you may not know the details of their lives -- but you know them -- perhaps because you sense a shared understanding of the heart of things.)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Travels with the Pine Point students

On our last sunny day in Paris we took the train to Versailles to walk the rooms of the great palace -- and afterwards a stroll past the Petit Palace to the Champs-Elysees. Three groups with different shopping styles headed up along the avenue toward the Arc de Triomphe. We reconvened back in the Latin Quarter for a final dinner.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Amboise, we visited Clos Luce, the residence where Leonardo da Vinci passed his last three years.  The house and gardens there were filled with his inventions and reproductions of some of his great art.  From there we walked to the town's great castle, Chateau d'Amboise for a tour of the grounds and battlements.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The students spent the morning at the College Jules Romains de Saint Avertin with their friends -- visiting classes, watching a very impressive dress rehearsal and having lunch in the cafeteria. But afterwards, they left them to their studies and we made our way into the city of Tours for a guided walk of the historic downtown.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We spent the morning walking in the local forest with Marc and Natalie, our host parents, while their children Antoine and Charlotte slept in.  In the afternoon, we reconnected with the students at Rochecorbon for a boat trip upon the Loire.  Elaborate houses and wine cellars (and even a silk factory) have been burrowed into the soft tufa limestone that make up the cliffs south of the river.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In the morning we were taken into the souterrains, des sources du Limancon - a series of underground tunnels and reservoirs that were excavated beneath St. Avertin long ago to bring water to the fountains of Tours.  From there we went to the town's cultural center at Chateau Cange where our guides took us to the glacier or ice storage cave that was hewn deep in the cliffside.

In the afternoon the host families took us all to Chateau Chenonceau, a magnificent castle set upon the Loire river.

In the afternoon the host families took us all to Chateau Chenonceau, a magnificent castle set upon the Cher river.

Friday, March 13, 2009

After the overnight flight to Heathrow, we met Monica and her dozen 9th-graders for the flight on to Paris.

From there we took the high-speed rail to Saint Avertin, where the host families greeted us with tremendous warmth.  (The train is famous for being on time, but I think we managed to make it late.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

After lunch on Thursday the French teachers and I gathered up a trio of 8th graders to head off to Newark Airport, for the flight to London.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Click on the link and you can follow Monica's travels in England with the ninth-graders of Pinepoint School.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

There are always certain currents in the flux of living that press us with a stressfulness -- to tighten the muscles of the neck and face and scalp -- to erode our good tempers with anxiousness and impatience -- to grapple at our ankles and thwart the dance.

Usually it's just a buffet here or there.  But not the last few weeks.

At work where a big project was going off the rails; and in an academic job hunt that was getting little traction; and Monica was off to London a week ago and I am leaving for France the day after tomorrow; and my parents are arriving and I've got to pack up the boys and batten the hatches and prepare the pets for a week and a half of gone-ness; and Porter was behind on his big homework project; and I'm not getting any exercise and I'd like a doctor to look at my jaw; and the Crossing Over ceremony for the webelos is closing in while my attention and competence ebbs away; and the economy is bad and maybe even terminal; and global climate shock is liable to make it all moot anyway; and I'm not getting any doses of spirituality at the Unitarian Church; and on top of all that there's no bread in the house to make sandwiches for the boys' lunch.

And I can't tell whether I have any of my shit together or not. 

Yeah, well, tomorrow I make like a shaman and braid all my distressing and disparate stress-currents into a nice wet tapestry of competence and preparedness.  'Cause I have to get on a plane to Paris, dammit.