Mommy and the Muffins in La Selle Sur Le Bied

IMG_0061Mommy and the Muffins first destination last summer was La Selle Sur Le Bied, a beautiful rural community 110 km southeast of Paris, where they had a 10 day visit with very dear forever French friends Christian and Chantal, who have chosen this lovely community for their retirement.

The Muffins learned that basil comes from a garden, not from the grocery store and that it becomes part of very tasty dishes.IMG_0052

That there is nothing quite so interesting or charming as a stroll down a French country road.IMG_0068

That the portable travel high chair that Mommy brought along and which straps securely to any chair works just great to eat those delicious meals.IMG_0046

IMG_0065That there is a poule around every corner.

That Christian knows exactly just how to put on your shoes.IMG_0055

IMG_0090And that relaxing with Chantal creates the perfect ending to another  beautiful day in the French countryside.

MMM at Home Exchange in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte Baume

P1050461We enjoyed a month-long home exchange in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume which is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. It lies 40 km (25 mi) east of Aix-en-Provence at the foot of the Sainte-Baume mountains: baume or bama is the Provençal equivalent of “cave”. The town’s basilica is dedicated to Mary Magdalene.P1050470

Mommy, Mimi, and the two Muffins arrived first. Our gracious and ebullient host Marc had IMG_1233the oldest Muffin in the pool and the youngest in his arms before we’d even unpacked our bags.IMG_1235 For those considering home exchanges, having a day overlap of the two families at the beginning and end of a home exchange is a marvelous way to settle in and express gratitude. My daughter used a French home exchange site to find this beautiful home with a pool.

IMG_1239The patio was a great place to relax and enjoy all of our home cooked meals. The interior was Mediterranean modern and spacious with separate bedrooms for each of us, but within earshot of the little ones. IMG_1259The baby, not yet walking, enjoyed couch cruising and both children loved the pool. In another post I will share how our four-year-old was able to attend school in the town for 3 weeks.

Joyeux Anniversaire ~ Gâteau de Château

DSC_8775Betty Crocker’s Castle Cake took precedence over our family’s usual name-your-crepe celebration as my granddaughter celebrated her 4th birthday. The ad said it’s as easy as building with blocks...not! But the birthday girl and all her guests were delighted with my daughter’s creation. And, of course, Happy Birthday was sung in both English and French. Many of her little friends were from her French for Fun preschool.

DSC_8905The “relight” candles made for extra huffing and puffing by the birthday girl and her friends. Hey, what’s the deal. I just blew you out!

 

 

DSC_8908Oh, I get it!  All I need is a little help from my friends.DSC_8912

 

 

DSC_8874Whaddya mean, I’m allergic to cake! (Little sister)

Camping in France ~ An overlooked gem

Our mobile homeCamping in France offers a whole new opportunity for the American traveler that is often overlooked. Don’t think tents in the wilderness. We stayed at Camping à Cagnes sur mer Green Park in 2006.

swimming poolOur three bedroom mobile home bungalow had all the amenities including air conditioning and was located on acres of tree-shaded land with swimming and other recreational activities for children and adults, talent shows in the evening, and all priced well within our budget.

My son-in-law-to-be joined us at the last minute for a week’s stay that was within a short drive of all the Côte d’Azur and Provençal attractions. Hotel Negresco NiceNice with its elegant Hotel Negresco, famed pebble beach and world-famous art museumsChagall museum Nice (Musée Marc Chagall, Musée Matisse and Musée des Beaux-Arts Jules Chéret).

Provence’s most famous hilltop villages were in easy traveling distance. DSC03235We enjoyed St. Paul de Vence and the Gorges du Verdon, and even DSC03242a secluded goat farm high in the hills producing the most delicious cheese.

When exploring these camping spots, which are the favorite destinations of a large majority of French families for their annual vacations in August, expect to use your high school French visiting the websites and at the camping locations or search for British online camping sites. You know you’ve found the perfect location when there isn’t another American in sight!

MM&M at the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle

IMG_1098Okay, three days into my blog and I’m on finally on the right topic on the right day! That’s what happens when grandmothers are still recovering from touring France with two little ones.

IMG_1099The most delightful place to take youngsters in France is one of its many wondrous castles.

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Children of all ages can pretend to be kings and queens, knights and archers.

IMG_1105Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle 55 km south of Strasbourg is a perfect example. It is filled with artifacts and has beautifully restored room and educational displays.

IMG_1096As you can see from the collection of photos our 3 1/2 year old enjoyed every nook and cranny, from drawbridges to arrow slits.

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Plus, for the grownups, there is the incomparable view and the authentic medieval or Alsatian food in the restaurant serving everything. Even a snap-on tray high chair to secure the toddler.

Mommy, Mimi, & Muffins Travel by TGV

IMG_1228In early July 2013, Mimi, that’s me, the grandma, left on one plane for Oxford for a week-long residential writing course, and Mommy and the Muffins, then one and three and a half, left on another plane for Paris and a stay with dear friends in La Selle sur Le Bied, a lovely rural village southeast of Paris. Joined by Mimi a week later, they all drove to Strasbourg for a ten-day stay, this time with the grandmother of the two girls Mommy tutors back home. The tutoring girls were visiting as well, so it was a fun-filled time, immersed in the warm, welcoming African and French culture of that family. The next destination was to a month-long stay at a home exchange near Aix en Provence in the town of SaintMaximinla-Sainte-Baume, this time traveling by TGV. The high-speed train stops for no one. You don’t get your luggage or one of the children off in time and you can kiss them goodbye. We had literally five minutes (instead of the usual ten since they were running late) to get one grandmother, one mother, two toddlers, two car seats, four large bags, four small bags, and a dual-stroller, onto the train at Strasbourg, having made a mad block-long dash with the whole lot after finding the direct elevator to the track out of order! Then mid-way we had to change trains. If it hadn’t been for a young man from New Hampshire and several French passengers forming a four-man “luggage” brigade, we never would have caught the second train. I can still see Mommy running breathless up and down the quay to where we were to board train number two, pushing the stroller laden with several suitcases at a time. Arriving at the Aix TGV station, we recruited another passel of helpful strangers to help us off. But as you can see from the photo, the preschooler thought her first TGV ride was all very relaxing and great fun.