“I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new”
― Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
Book early, bring your passports, arrive half an hour early, cellphones off.
No, we didn't take a flight to some exotic destination. These were the instructions for our visit to the top secret Airbus factory in Toulouse. Both kids were uber excited all week about a tour behind the scenes. We pinned on our visitor badges and hopped on a bus. All exciting so far. The bus took us to a huge building where we learnt which parts of the planes are made where. Then we observed the planes in various stages of assembly from a mezzanine floor. Finally, we went into a mock-up of an Airbus fuselage to watch some videos of test flights. Yes, the planes are pretty big. Yes, the huge hangar where three planes were being assembled is the biggest building in Europe volume - wise. Yes, the nice French man made it as interesting as he could. But the tour lacked a little je ne sais quoi.
Everyone enjoyed the Aeroscopia Museum afterwards though and it was high time for the kids to get involved with interactive stuff and run round looking at planes. Everyone's highlight was walking through a Concorde and an Airbus A300B. There was also a huge Super Guppy with a film on the history of Airbus being projected inside the nose.
The end of winter must surely be in sight as we come into February. The last few days have brought rain, hail and high winds to our little corner of Aquitaine. Further south there has been flooding and snow drifts with headlines screaming 'apocalypse snow' this week. However, gradually the days are getting longer. Chandeleur is celebrated here on the 2nd of February. It is a Catholic festival which is celebrated by eating crepes, traditionally showing the end of winter was nigh and that families had enough food reserves to last.
We celebrated my son's birthday this week too. In the week leading up to it, I realized I had no idea of the protocol for birthday parties in France! How many kids? Drop off or stay? How much notice is required? Do kids even do parties here? That's before the usual issues of party packs, allergy-friendly foods etc! So we decided to get him to write a list of what he would like to do on his birthday with the family. Near the top of his list was a train trip so we took the train to Saintes, had a delicious lunch and ate lots of birthday cake. Saintes has a large indoor playland with karting track, playground with slides, mega trampoline and ball pit.
|A beautiful dusk looking over the Lac|
We have watched with interest the discussions on French television about secularity (laicite) and freedom of speech in the Republic after recent events. And the French do know how to discuss things. No topic is taboo. Already, schools are implementing teaching about secularity and understanding the different religions in the community.
Maybe France has more to teach us than just how to eat five courses for lunch and stay slim!