Normandy Home

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello. Welcome to July’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments. Note: a lot of my thoughts at the moment happen to be about our time here in France this summer. : )

– We’ve almost reached the halfway point of this trip. Time is flying by. And somehow it’s also the slowest, laziest (in a good way) summer we’ve ever had. We stay up late, we take long walks, we play night games, we watch movies, we go exploring. There is nothing on the schedule — no lessons, no camps. I don’t think we’ve ever had a summer like this in our lives.

I should also note: the time change is a game changer. We are 9 hours ahead of California, 6 hours ahead of New York. So we can fit in lots of work before America is even awake. I had forgotten how much I love that.

– It’s such a treat to be able to jump right back in. To return to someplace familiar. We know what we like at the grocery store. We know our favorite bakeries. We know our favorite picnic spots. We see old friends as we walk down the street. The shopkeepers recognize us. The kids have friends here. We’re invited over for dinner, for dessert, for gouter (afternoon snack). And we can invite people in return.

We have so often set off to a new place that this feels unusual to experience. It’s such a wonderful thing to feel at home here instantly.

– An update on the cottage. We had a really good meeting with the architect just a few days after we arrived here. When we first approached him about the project, we told him we wanted to tackle things piece by piece, section by section — and as I’ve mentioned we started with the roof. But I have discovered that I’m an out-of-sight-out-of-mind sort of person. If you read this blog regularly, you already know this, but I go months without even thinking about the cottage.

So I decided we need to figure out a new plan. Instead of talking with the architect about phase 2, and phase 3, and what happens after that, we talked about the total project. The whole building. I think we need to tackle the whole thing at once, or I’m afraid it’s never going to get done.

Our discussion were great. Lots of brainstorming on how to best use the space — where to add windows, which doors we should keep, which wall should come down. He’s currently drawing up new plans which we can settle on before we leave. He thinks that once we begin, the remodeling and construction will take one full year.

In the mean time, we simply like being there on the property, and we are doing what we can. We are moving stones so the gardener can easily access the grounds for mowing. We are pulling down ivy. Stuff like that. I know it sounds strange, but it feels like such a treat to work on it!

– We’ve been to as many of our favorite spots as possible so far, and a few new-t0-us spots as well. We visited the D-Day beaches, a couple of favorite chateaus, Mont St. Michel, the town of Bayeaux. We’ve shopped in Caen, been to the beach, discovered a new-to-us lake, kayaked through Suisse-Normande, wandered through quaint towns like Bagnole de L’orne, and eaten lots of really good food.

– We tried something new and rented two smaller cars instead of one big van for the summer. This decision has been both good and bad. We like driving the smaller cars through the tiny streets, and parking is a breeze. It’s also nice to be able to take a small car for a quick errand, instead of driving the big van. To stay connected when we’re using both cars and heading out on an adventure, we use walkie-talkies (they’re called talkie-walkies in France). They’re practical and have also turned out to be highly entertaining.

The downside of two cars is that we feel way less spontaneous about longer trips. Caravanning in two cars for 8 or 10 hours, making for 2 exhausted drivers, feels like a bad idea. So next week, we’re renting a big van for our rescheduled trip to the South of France. We’re definitely excited and ready to go explore another region of this beautiful country. We haven’t decided yet, but think we may stick with the van for the rest of the summer, and maybe fit in one other big road trip. We’ll see.

– A mental health update: last week, a dark depression settled in — like my meds are only working halfway or not-at-all, or something. Very discouraging for lots of reasons — what a waste to be dealing with this when I’m in such a beautiful place. I’m fighting through it the best I can. Maybe the hardest part at the moment is the realization that I seem to be stuck with this mental illness forevermore; that even if I try hard to take care of myself, I’ll never be rid of it. I hate it so much.

– In happier news: Ben Blair and the older four kids are doing a pilgrimage to Mont St. Michel this week. They head out on Wednesday. I’m super bummed we couldn’t figure out childcare, because I really wanted to go. (I’ve written about pilgrimages before, and we made a video about it too). But I can’t feel too bad, because there are plenty of other good things to do. I’m thinking it would be fun to take Betty and June to Paris for a few days while our campers our gone.

Have you ever gone on, or considered going on a pilgrimage? If you could pick, which one would you do?

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.