France Day 3 - Bike Ridin'

Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
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Trip End Sep 01, 2008


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Flag of France  , Pays de la Loire,
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The munchkins get up earlier than usual today. Well, ... normal time for the States I suppose. 8:30am. The last couple of nights they've gone to bed around 10pm, much earlier than when we were in Spain.

After breakfast and chillin' at the house for a while, I call Laurent on the phone about the leisure center. Yesterday, he told me that we'd need to go down to the city hall to arrange payment and finalize the paperwork. Janice and I and the kids get in the car and go check out the leisure center. Neither of us want to have the kids go and have a bad time, so we are anxious to see their response to the idea. When we told them about it yesterday, they kept asking to go! Today, they are equally excited. The excitement builds as we walk in ... and then they get super shy. They are holding our hands, shying away from the friendly teachers and other children, but they still have big smiles on their faces. Sam says he doesn't want to go at one point, but when we get back in the car ... he is right back to talking about how badly he just wants to stay today instead of waiting until tomorrow. We've arranged so that Sam and Ella can stay together even though they in different age groups. That way they will feel safer and have one another to play with and look out for each other. Then, down to the city hall to pay. 26 euros for a day of fun. Tomorrow, we will drop them off around 9am and see how they like it! (we are nervous, but excited. We plan to sneak back in to the school (away from Sam and Ella's eyes) shortly after leaving to see how they are getting along. Plus, the center has our home and cell #'s here in France, and we won't leave the area. So, I'm excited.

Next, we head back home to get our bikes. Janice is really excited about the idea of a bike ride, and our exchange family has left us instructions on a fun ride nearby. Off we go on an adventure! We end up being gone for a good five hours. Some riding, some walking, some eating, some playing, some exploring. Its a ride that starts in the heart of Chateau-Gontier along the La Mayenne river. We head south approximately 10km to a small town called Menil. Our bike ride is gorgeous. I could have stopped every five minutes and taken ten pictures and still not taken it all in. A very peaceful and tranquil quiet little river. Frenchmen fishing. Families walking. No other bikers. No traffic. Fantastic. Some quick highlights...
On the way, we pass two river locks or 'weirs' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weir) . I've seen these on TV, but never in person. They are awesome.
Very neat old Chatteaus along the river. Beautiful.
Our arrival in Menil ... we see an old ferry system (pulled across the river by hand!) that has been kept functioning since the 1500's (or some really old time like that) when the church nearby was first built. We have great fun trying it out. Amazing.

We struggle to order some food at the local creperrie in Menil. Turns out they serve only one dish today ... paella,something none of us care for. So now, after five minutes of difficult attempts at conversation,we realize we don't want the food. That would be uncomfortable in English. Here, the awkwardness is magnified. We try to reduce the feeling by buying a baguette before we head out. She seemed happy enough.

Back towards the river, I ask around and find a little grease pit of a place near a campsite ... order some jambon with fritas. And some cider for 5 euros. Turns out, its the whole bottle. I go sit down with Janice to snack on the food and to chew on the baguette we purchased with the cheese we packed from the store yesterday. All good food. Time to drink. I go to open the cider and POP! super loud explosion and the foam starts flying everywhere and the locals look towards us laughing. Its funny. Except I now have sticky cider all over my clothes and body and no lid to save whats left in the bottle. We do our best to drink it all, but only get about of the way through. Its really good. Just a HINT of alcohol. A very very mild version of what we had in Spain, and a bit more bubbly.

After crossing the river on the hand pulled ferry, we decide to stay on that side and ride back a different way to our city. Same river, can't be that bad, right? Wrong. Roughly the same distance, but instead of a nice leisurely ride along the river, we were stuck going up and down large hills on a two way freeway sort of deal. No helmets, totally dangerous. But we were sort of stuck by the time we got there. The hills were sooo steep, and with towing the kids ... I had to walk up the final parts of two different inclines. It was tough.

We finally made it to Aze, a town built around one of the first Christian churches of France, dated to have been built around 540 AD. Thats OLD. There, we find a nice playground that we relax at before we make the final stretch back to Chateau-Gontier, where we promptly get some treats at a local bakery. A fresh croissant and a chocolate eclair. Yum. Hey, we rode over 20km, we deserve it. hehe...

Last, we stop back at the city hall place to drop off copies of our passports along with medical insurance information for the leisure center's records. We are all set for tomorrow's adventure for the kids!

Back home, Janice and I team up to cook a great pasta dinner, and afterwards the kids read and play on the trampoline before heading to bed.
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