Saturday, March 19, 2011


While sorting through things this week I came across this book.  I was given to me on my birthday in 1998 by my x-Mother-in-Law Susan and her partner Brian, with whom I am still in contact with and adore.  In it she wrote "To live in France must certainly be one of the great pleasures in life.  All our best for a wonderful year ahead.  We hope your dreams come true."

I remember having a conversation with her in 1998 about our dream and live in France someday.  10 years later we took our sabbatical and moved here for a year  and now we DO live here.

I'm a big believer in goals.  Not "to do lists" but personal and professional goals.  I have always written down my goals.  When we started our business Art-Works studio in 2000, every 6 months I'd review the goals for the studio.  All I can say is that when I write things down, they usually happen.  I don't mean things like, 1 want to have 10 million dollars or I want to win the lottery.  I always do short-term goals (3-6 months) 1 year goals, 3 year goals, 5 year goals and 10 year goals at the beginning of each year.  Then after 3-6 months I review those and update for the next 3-6 months.  It keeps me focused and it helps me visualize things when they are written on paper.

The goals can be whatever you want.  For instance, for our new business here, we set a goal for this summer.  We had hoped for 1 camp to be full.  That's it.  But we now have that camp full and 2 others are also running.  I had put down that I wanted x number of children to sign up in January, x in February, x in March and so on.  Most have happened.  I started doing this at the art studio, I'd make a sign up sheet, set my goals for x number of kids to sign up each month and most of the time I'd meet or exceed that goal.  I also do personal goals.  In January I wrote that I wanted to climb this certain route by April 1st (a month ago I didn't think I'd make that goal, but last week I found a route to work on that 1 letter grade harder than my goal), start throwing pottery again, drink more water, etc.

Back in 1998 Bruce and said that in 10 years we would move to France.  We wrote it down, it was a goal and it was always on our personal goal list each year.  Funny, 10 years later we made it happen (only for a year) but now we are back, hopefully for good.

In the garden

Our village house in Saint Antonin Noble Val has a little garden that's just perfect for us.  Not too big and not too small.  Most houses in the village don't have any outdoor space, so we are very lucky.  Over the winter things got pretty messy in the garden with leaves, dead plants, etc.  So yesterday we went to Jardiland and bought some new plants and flowers so we could brighten up the garden. 

new pots, plants and soil

We also put flowers out front.

these are on the front of the house

This looks into our garden from our street

When we were done it looks so much nicer.  Today it's calling for showers, but tomorrow starts 10 days of sun and one of the days it's prediciting 70 degree weather!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fontainebleu & Paris

Back in January we had signed up for two camp expos in Paris at  2 bi-lingual schools through an organization called Camp Experts.  We had originally thought we'd stay in Paris, after all it's our favorite city.  But then we decided that we had been to Paris many times and that maybe we'd stay about 30 minutes south in a town called Fontainebleu.  Fontainebleu is famous for its chateau but also for its bouldering.  Bouldering is a style of rock climbing undertaken without a rope and normally limited to very short climbs over a crash pad so that a fall will not result in serious injury.  It's typically practiced on large natural boulders outside or on plastic holds inside.  It's super fun.

The region around Fontainebleu is particularly famous for its beautiful and concentrated bouldering areas.  French alpine climbers practiced bouldering there since the 19th century.  It remains today a prime climbing location.  It is the biggest and most developed bouldering area in the world.  The climbing areas are located in the forested areas that surrounds the town.  There are thousands of boulders and endless problems.

Our friend Chris is visiting from Colorado and he's a big climber.  We thought it would be fun to stay in Fontainebleu and boulder during the day and then take the train in to Paris for our camp expos.  We stayed at the Hotel Victoria and it was great.  Spacious rooms, new bathrooms, clean, lovey people, centrally located in the town, parking and they take dogs (although the 12 euro breakfast is a rip off).  We decided the goldens would stay with our friends Sara and Sharon and Stella would come with us.  She needed a bit of special time with us.

We arrived on Sunday night, just in time for dinner.  Our camp expos were Monday night and Tuesday night, so we figured we could climb in the am/early afternoon.  We climbed on Monday and then mid-afternoon took the train into Paris. Chris had never been to Paris and neither had Stella, so they both went with us.  Stella had a great time on the train into Paris and then she took the metro.  We walked around the left bank and showed Chris the sites.  Then we left him to wander and we went to our first expo.  After the expo we met some friends for dinner and Stella even came into the restaurant with us.  All was going great until we tried to get to the Gare de Lyon.  The train going into the Gare was closed, so we had to walk over from the left bank.  We missed the 2nd to the last train leaving Paris, so we got the last train out.  Everything was going fine until the conductor mumbled "something" in French and we didn't quite catch all of it.  Some people got off and then some people stayed on the train so we weren't sure what he said.  15 minutes later Bruce said "we should have been to Fontainebleu 10 minutes ago".  Then we passed another station and another and finally stopped 5 stations away from Fontainebleu.  It's now 12:30 am.  It was the last train in and out.  We found out that the conductor announced that they were working on the tracks and if you wanted to go to Fontainebleu or the other 4 stops after you had to get off the train and take a bus.  So now we were 30 km away from Fontainebleu in the middle of the night.  Luckily the workers were still at the station and they were so nice.  They called us a taxi and he was there in less than 5 minutes.  50 euros later we were at our hotel.  What a day!

Tuesday was beautiful and warm and we bouldered again the am and headed into Paris a bit later this time.  Chris and Stella stayed in Fontainebleu and did some more bouldering on their own.  Our expo was in the 15th, we didn't do any walking around, we just took the train in and the metro over to the school and then headed back to Fontainebleu around 8:00 pm.  But it wasn't easy getting home again, there was an accident on the tracks (we think the incoming train hit a car) and it was delayed for 1/2 hour.  So we waited and waited.  Finally our train left Paris.  We had thought we'd get in at 8:00 pm, but with the delay and the slow moving train we didn't arrive until almost 10 pm.

We were going to leave on Wednesday to come home, but the weather was so beautiful and we wanted to spend a whole day in Fontainebleu that we decided to stay another night.  So glad we did, it was so much fun, we bouldered all day and then went for a great meal that night.

It was a super fun 4 days and only 6 hours from our home in St Antonin.  We'll be back, for sure.  I loved the town of Fonatinebleu and you're only 30 minutes by train into Paris.  I highly recommend a visit there if you have never been.  And, we got a few sign ups for our summer camps, so it was all worth while.

Stella on the train into Paris


more bouldering

there they are

stella doing a bit of bouldering

trying a hard problem

but it did it

just chilling

Friday, March 4, 2011

Following the sun

We checked the weather last week and it called for 6 days of cloudy skies and/or rain.  So what do you do if you have no interest in that...jump in the car and follow the sun.  We checked the weather down in Spain and it was sunny, clear and 55-60 degrees.  We decided to go climbing at some places we've never been to.  Since we had all 3 dogs and the weather was nice, we decided to camp.  We packed up the car with our camping stuff, the dogs and our climbing gear and headed down to Spain.

We went just 1 hour west of Barcelona, between Reus and Lieida. We camped just outside of a tiny village called Prades at a great campsite.  They had a restaurant, great hot showers and clean bathrooms and we were the only people there.  I have never camped in such luxury!

We arrived last Monday night, pretty late.  The next day is was sunny but the winds were crazy, so we didn't climb, we just walked around some small villages and went to visit two of the climbing areas.  We are glad we went on a recon mission first.  The first climbing area is well known and has amazing climbing, but it's all ledgy and not great for the dogs, the second place was beautiful and perfect for the dogs.  So, on Wednesday we drove 40 minutes to Montsant and climbed there all day.  It was beautiful but super hard, the routes were about 40 meters long, I haven't climbed on routes that long in a while.  On Thursday we drove 1 hour to Margalef and it was our favorite place.  We had a great day climbing and met some really nice people.  Wednesday and Thursday were perfect days, no wind, sunny and warm.  We had hoped to stay longer, but we had to be in Toulouse for our appointment (see post below) so we had to come home on Thursday night.

It's so amazing that you can just jump in your car and in 3 hours you're in Spain, 6 hours Italy, 5.5 hours Paris, etc.  On Sunday we'll be heading up to Paris for a some camp fairs at two international schools in Paris.  Instead of staying in Paris though (since we've been many times) we are staying 30 minutes south in Fontainebleu, which is known for it's bouldering.  We'll be there for 4 days.  Only 1 dog going, the 2 goldens will stay with our friends and we'll be staying in a hotel (no camping).  Should be a great time.