(Monday, March 24, 2008)
The one problem with being a group of 18 people is that it's nearly impossible to get going in the morning. One person says "I'm ready to go" and then someone else says "I just need 5 minutes to do this one last thing", and someone else says "Great, I'll just get this little thing out of the way while you're doing that" and then another says "Oh, while if you're not ready, I'm going to take the trash down to the street" and before you know it, two hours have passed, and I'm ready to pull out my hair, having been up since 7am, re-stoked the fire, force-fed one picky nephew his eggs, hand-washed the blood-soaked shirt and sweater of Nate from his nose-bleed flight, and hung the wash out on the line, fed the animals, unpacked the kids' suitcases so they're easily accessible, scavenged firewood and twigs (for fire-starters), and knit five rounds on Ken's next pair of warm wool (but superwash, this time!) socks:
(Photo's out of order - this was taken on the train coming back from Amsterdam Centraal. Look! I pick milk that's 0% fat. I was quite worried that I'd accidentally picked up half-and-half until I took the first swig.)
But FINALLY, we headed away from the Chateau, and off on our 2 hour trek towards the Mediterranean.
First stop? In the empty parking lot (it's Easter Monday, after all) of a building supply store, so Skip could hurl up his guts. Yes! It's the Puking Vacationeers! (fortunately, after that one incident, Skip was fine for the rest of the trip. Kelly did spend a good chunk of time, though, with her fingers in her ears, JUST IN CASE Skip started yakking again)
And finally! After driving along all sorts of narrow roads that the GPS insisted were 'highways', we ended up at Aigues Mortes.
We got there just in time for lunch, so staked out a sheltered corner within the walls (it was sunny, but FREEZING!) and had a picnic of sorts. Everything around here shuts down for the lunch break (12-2, or 12:30-3) and suddenly, there were NO BATHROOMS available.
Who shuts down the bathrooms for lunch????
I guess it is the French Way.
But we made do, and Dad found a restaurant that was open, and used his best broken German (um, because he didn't want to use English?) and looked like a desperate tourist (which he was), and they let him use the potty for free.
The cool thing about Aigues-Mortes (well, one of the cool things) was that there were these Archery Nooks all along the walls, and you could sit in them, and take shelter from the wind. And while sitting there, you can give your children history lessons about Castle warfare.
Why yes, I *am* holding my knitting.
After the city re-opened after the lunch break, we went into the museum, which gave us access to the Rampart Walls.
That's Ken's brother Fred sticking his head out of one of the holes in the wall, above the archery nook that we had been sitting in earlier.
The city is about a mile around, and we walked the whole way on the ramparts.
There's a tower at one corner (not the above tower), and we went up in it.
(tower behind the crowd, there)
Looking up, inside the tower:
The view from the top of the tower.
It was so windy, I was sure it was going to pick Nate up, and just blow him over the edge. SRSLY.
Oh, and Aigues-Mortes is known for the salt flats around it. The Camargue (the area around it) is the salt-gathering area for the country, and has been for centuries. In fact, I've got a cannister of salt on my stove that's FROM Aigues-Mortes, that I bought 4 years ago (for a seriously inflated price, but it was FRENCH, and I thought it was a pretty cannister) and it's from Right. Here. So of course, I had to buy MORE SALT to bring home with me. And I paid 63 Euro Cents (there) instead of 6 American Dollars (back home).
See the Salt Piles?
And everywhere, there were these narrow stone stairways.
Potty break, anyone? It's the archer's loo
Skip took a turn being a gargoyle.
It was a great castle. Probably one of the highlights of the trip. I've only touched the surface of what was available there. I scored some excellent souvenirs, and was introduced to the concept of the pay toilet.
But now it's time to get the kids to school, and put the finishing touches on my email to the parents of the eight girls I will be chaperoning on the Disneyland trip in 6 days. I missed the Chaperone Meeting because I was in France, and apparently there was a bit of grumbling on some of the parents' parts, because I "couldn't be bothered to show up to this important meeting". Yeah, right. I'll just hop on a plane and come back from France for a 1-hour meeting in the middle of the family reunion...
Next stop? The waters of the Mediterranean beckon!