We are home from a week in Northern Belgium. We were supposed to be just 5 days there, but we missed the check-in cutoff for our Easyjet flight by 45 seconds and they absolutely refused to let us on the plane! Even our squeaky kid did nothing to sway them. The next flight to Toulouse was 2 days later. Gotta love discount airlines! We are quite fortunate to have been staying with good friends who didn’t mind our extended visit.
Their place is a lovely compound of old buildings, some restored, some not, and a newer, very modern house, right on the Dutch border. This area isquite flat with canals running through it and farms abundant. What is also abundant is the rain. Apparently the dreary weather lasts from November until April in this part of Europe putting it at the bottom of our list of travel destinations until the Spring. It did snow one morning though which gave us a chance to get outside and throw snowballs for awhile. Our friends have a son who is 3 months younger than Larken. He had never seen snow before, so we got to see the joyous discovery on his face as he gleefully threw snowballs at everyone. His primary language is Afrikaans, whereas Lark obviously speaks English. Kolya, being male, decided that the best way to communicate with Larken was to push her over. Makes sense. Unfortunately, she would have preferred some hugging and maybe a little playtime with babies rather than swords! He wasn’t mean, just a bit intense for our tender little girl, so there was a lot of running interference between them for a week.
I met Varenka in Barcelona when we were both on artist residency there in 2005. She is from South Africa and we hit it off instantly and have been close ever since. I attended her wedding outside of Cape Town in 2009 when she married Stef Bos, a singer/songwriter from Holland/ Belgium. Had he and Matthew not been married to Varenka and I, we would have thought they’d fallen in love and would run off into the sunset together! Matthew went to one of Stef’s concerts and they had hours in the car to get to know one another. Definitely love at first site!
On December 5, the Belgians and Dutch celebrate a holiday with Santa Claus. Not the full Christmas deal of hoards of presents and all that, but small stuff. I’m not sure what exactly the holiday signifies, but it’s an opportunity the extend the Christmas fun! Varenka bought Larken a pair of sweet, yellow, wooden clogs. The night of the 4th, we put her and Kolya’s clogs out by the fire and magically in the morning, Santa had filled them with little treats and toys. We had a feast with friends and family of Stef and Varenka during the day and Santa made a brief appearance to drop a bag of goodies for everyone present. It was great fun except that Larken decided that Santa was terrifying and refused to go outside for awhile after she heard him on the roof! There was a great deal of wonderful wine and food and conversations ranging from politics to art to children. Matthew and Stef were working on the kitchen clean-up late that night when Varenka and I realized the sounds had gone from cleaning and toying around on the guitar to something more concentrated. By the time we got in there, Stef had retrieved a microphone from his studio and he and Matthew were recording a song they’d been playing with- in French no less!
We enjoyed an evening in Antwerp the day we were supposed to fly home the first time. It’s a beautiful city with an old center of 17th and 18th century buildings. It’s great with children because the whole heart of the city is pedestrian only so they can run around safely. Had it been warmer, the people watching would have been terrific, but between the cold and Lark’s temper tantrum, our enjoyment was a bit truncated.
We came home last Friday after a very long travel day that got us in our front door at 3am! Lark is a trooper. She was running a high fever on the plane and just slept or cuddled the whole time with nary a complaint. Now we are preparing for Christmas here, putting up lights and decorations. We will get a tree this week and then our dear friends arrive from South Africa on the 20th to share Christmas and New Years with us. It snowed here yesterday and then today was cold, but clear and beautiful. Snow is falling in the mountains though, so skiing is not too far away! We are planning to attend some of the many holiday parades and celebrations in the communities nearby this month.
Today we visited a pottery down the road and ended up spending the whole afternoon with the couple that own it. He is a South African, she’s British and they’ve lived in the Aveyron for 20 years. He makes pottery, furniture and small airplanes with fantastic wing designs. They fed us lunch and we talked about all of our various passions for hours. So fun! And today we had a bit of a breakthrough in that Larken actually went willingly and without tears to the gaurderie! Yes! Life is slowly opening up for us here in our little corner of France. We’ve met a few British people who’ve settled here for various reasons. Most of them leave for winter, but will be interesting people to get to know when the spring weather comes.
The photos at the beginning of the gallery for this week are from a walk along the Aveyron River we took right before we left for Belgium. The trail is an old cart path that passes by the ruins of an old mill and then, further on, by the ruins of an even older mill that is disappearing back into the forest. We are starting to find some nice, long trails for running and hiking here. They are just too steep and loose for me to ride, but then the road biking in this area is so astonishing, I don’t really miss riding on dirt!
We hope you are all settling in for winter and the holidays! We’ve received some photos of the snow in Idaho and I’m a bit chagrined that we chose this particular winter to be away. Fingers crossed that it gets that good here too!