So far, this year has brought home to us a few truths:
1. Time Marches On: We are almost up to the four-month mark which means one third of our trip is gone! It is easy to think that we are in France therefore we must be learning French (absorbing it somehow, through the skin). This is not necessarily the case. The best way to learn the language is to speak to native speakers while we can!
2. We Are All Mortal: Watching the events unfold in the Paris attacks was a sobering start to the year. France collectively held its breath to see what would happen for those few days. The aftermath has brought rigorous debate as well as millions rallying in Paris, here in Bordeaux and across the world.
3. We Are Not In NZ Now, Dr Ropata: It is not unusual to see a small group of armed soldiers riding the tram. The government has mobilised 10,000 troops to protect public places as part of the raised alert level.
We recently visited the Vezere Valley which is home to cave systems with prehistoric remains. We had lunch in the beautiful village Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil (where the first five skeletons of Cro-Magnon man were discovered in 1868) and visited the National Museum of Prehistory. Due to bad planning and unfortunate Saturday closings, we missed out on visiting any caves with drawings THIS time. We did discover a troglodyte village at Roque Saint-Christophe which was amazing. It was inhabited 55,000 years ago by Neanderthal man then later used as a fortified city, housing 1000 people. The tunnels, rooms and paths span five levels in the side of the limestone cliff. It includes exhibits showing how people lived, prepared food and how they transported goods up the hill. Master 6 particularly liked the giant medieval pulley systems, like the "hamster wheel" which a man walked inside to turn the wheel and bring up the rope.
Another weekend we embarked on a 2 hour drive to Futuroscope Theme Park. It was much-anticipated and neither of the kids slept on the way there. We arrived mid morning and both were decidedly grumpy until all was forgiven after an early lunch. The rest of the day was thoroughly enjoyable. It is definitely not a traditional theme park with rollercoasters and Disney characters. As well as plenty of 4D cinema experiences, there are playgrounds, a mini car course for kids and Le Monde des Enfants (not just for kids) with outdoor games and rides. January was a good time to visit as there were no huge queues for the rides, although a couple of the attractions were closed.
Our New Years Eve started off with the best of intentions. We jumped on the tram to go to a restaurant in the city centre but, contrary to what the website said, it was not opening for dinner for another hour. It being far too cold to just hang around, we had a quick look to see if by some miracle there were any other restaurants in town opening before 7pm. No. So as a last resort we decided to go to our local McDonald's. Surely, THEY would be open right? WRONG. In the end, we waited outside another restaurant for half an hour while the staff had a wine or two. Then we had a nice meal and went home and were in bed by 11:30pm!
It has been an intense couple of weeks to start off the year. But we plan on making the most of 2015.