Friday, January 25, 2013

Boys + Cars = Happiness

I know this might seem like a shocker to anyone who knows me well, but I took the boys to a car museum for our field trip today, and I actually loved it! Now...before anyone starts thinking that my brain has become warped after spending every day with two tween-age boys, allow me to introduce you to the Château de Rochetaillée-sur-Saône. (Refer to the bit of loveliness above...)

As the original structure was built in the 1100s, I figured that a visit to the current building (reconstructed over hundreds of years after fires and floods and plagues and who knows what else beginning in the 1500s) would fall in line nicely with our current history lessons of knights and castles and feudalism. I have to say, the building was absolutely stunning. Of course, seeing cars dating back to 1890, many of which are the only models of their kind in the world, was also quite impressive! And, as always, the best part was seeing how much fun the boys had as we discovered all sorts of quirky things in the collection. Here's a sampling of some of what the château-turned-automobile-palace had to offer. I admittedly liked the oldest things the most--including bikes and buggies...But the quirky 20th Century variety were also fun!
This car was calling my name--
we even matched!
Apparently tricycles can be
for adults too!

We couldn't decide which tandem was
cooler: the side-by-side...
...or perhaps the 3-seater! (Enhanced,
of course, by some antiquing...)

Seeing these seriously makes me want to get one.

And I really always wanted to
ride one of these!

If the Jetsons had a car...

Not sure what this was--Smart Car prototype?

What boy didn't want to be a fireman
when he grew up?

I hope you're not pictured out yet, because there was one last surprise that we came across. Even though the founder of the museum was actually arrested by Nazis in 1942 (and subsequently released--he lived to the ripe old age of 100), his collection actually had a real piece of Hitler's personal entourage.
You can't really tell, but there were even bullet holes in several of the windows. Unfortunately, the little explanation posters didn't give us any clues as to what might have happened...

We also came across some bits of local Lyon history, like the original "funiculaire" from 1900--basically an uphill trolley/bus. And having been on the current car they use for the funiculaire, I have to say that the wood-panelling on this lovely creature is sadly lacking in its modern counterpart.

But, all in all, this was one of the best social studies trips to date! History, castles, old things with beautifully rusty parts--what more could you ask for?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Puppets Don't Have To Be Creepy

Yes, there is a face in his stomach...
...but let's face it--sometimes, they are! Not to be deterred by the stereotype, however, I recently took the boys to a local marionnette museum. Lyon is particularly proud of their history of puppetry, having their own version of Punch and Judy that cropped up in the early 1800's. The nationally famous Guignol (pronounced gee-nyol with a hard "g") originally came about as a way for discontented Lyonnais to vent frustrations about politics and other heated issues. Strange, then, that the only audience these shows currently attract tends to be under the age of four...

Can you tell it has 2 heads?
Once again...a little weird
After exploring various historical bits of the puppet world from devils to skeletons to nativity scenes, we finally came across Guignol himself! He's the nondescript, snub-nosed brown fellow--second from the left.
Guignol with the devil at his back
He may not be much to look at, but hey--at least he won't give anyone nightmares! I have to admit that there is something truly uncanny about walking through a museum filled with human-like wooden puppets--many of which were dangling half suspended in their cases.

And of course, no field trip on puppets would be complete without actually seeing a puppet show! Now, here is the rather funny part of this experience...I knew that a puppet show would be likely to attract a young audience, but figuring that it would be a good opportunity for the boys to practice French, I decided we'd go anyway. Well...I underestimated how exclusively young the audience would be! Aside from the parents, the tiny puppet theater audience probably had an average age of 4--driven up just slightly by the ages of my own pupils! The boys were good sports about it, though. And watching the kids interact with the puppets was honestly the best part! These kind of shows encourage audience participation, and those little kids were practically dictating the plot the whole time when they weren't all but rolling on the floor with giggles. It was actually fantastic. :) Although it's in French, check out the clip to see what kind of mad house we got ourselves into!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bonne Année

After spending two weeks in snowy Utah with my family, it was a bit of a let-down to come back to France and find the world burdened by rain and fog without a single snowflake in sight. As our plane descended towards the Lyon airport, I was mystified by the whitish gray sea covering everything below with only a glimpse of Mont Blanc bordering the shrouded landscape. It didn't seem like a good omen. When I asked my taxi driver if there might be some snow soon, he unknowingly crushed my hopes by saying that snow is somewhat rare in this area of the country. What is boring January without some snow to make it lovely?

The view from our school window
So, imagine my little-kid-at-Christmas delight when I woke up to snow this morning! It's only a couple inches, but it's still BEAUTIFUL! :) Unfortunately, getting snow in an area where the locals consider it a rarity means that leaving the house to drive anywhere is really not a safe option...which of course didn't stop the Roneys from packing up the boys and driving to the airport to pick up missionaries this morning. What would have been a two-hour trip has apparently become a day-long adventure! Not to worry, though--that just gives me some time to tell you all about a rather interesting quirk I've recently noticed in French culture: the "bonne année voeux" (new year's best wishes).

In the U.S., we might wish someone a happy new year at midnight for a New Year's Eve party or in conjunction with Merry Christmas or perhaps on New Year's Day. But beyond that, we essentially ignore the best wishes and move on after the holiday season almost immediately--perhaps in an attempt to keep all of our new resolutions barreling forward. Not so in France. Apparently, it's perfectly normal to wish someone a happy new year throughout the entire month of January as long as it's the first time you've seen them since the holidays. But it doesn't stop there--wishing someone a happy new year is like opening a door for all the best wishes you could possibly dump into their lap--health, happiness, true love, wisdom, wealth--you name it! While part of me feels charmed by the idea of sincerely wishing others well, part of me is a bit confused to suddenly be at the receiving end of multiple drink-free toasts. It ultimately makes January much more interesting. :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Strangest Dream

Last night I had the strangest dream--no, I didn't sail away to China in a little row boat, but I was on plane flying very low over Nice. It was a commercial plane and yet we somehow managed to fly only 20 feet above the street and I was able to see all the highlights of the city from my impossibly large window. I think it was a sign that I need to blog about my brief trip to the French Riviera before all of my memories go to waste!

Apparently, taking the ACT outside of the U.S. can be a complicated thing--only a few select international schools offer it, and as the nearest one to Lyon was in Nice, Kaedon and I headed out on a 24 hour adventure! After depositing Kaedon safely at his testing site, the taxi driver drove me into the heart of the city, pointing out castle-like resorts (such as Queen Victoria's favorite vacation hideaway) along the way. Pretty much any city along the Riviera is fairly ritzy, and Nice is definitely a rather fancy place: luxury shopping, beautifully
bright-colored buildings, more Christmas decorations strung throughout the streets than I ever saw in Lyon, and, of course, the mind-blowingly blue Mediterranean! I know this will sound like a tourist brochure, but Nice is absolutely worth discovering no matter what you like in a city! The old town had these delightfully poky old streets packed with quirky boutiques and interesting restaurants while the shopping district was centered around enormous plaza areas lined with palm trees. And of course, the beach was incredible--and as it was only around 50 degrees, it was safely free of scantily-clad swimmers. :)

Switchback staircase--code:
To contextualize it for all of my American pals, imagine L.A. with several hundred more years of history (and minus the whole Hollywood thing) and you'll be just about spot-on to the feel of Nice. And since almost nothing gets me more excited than a bunch of old stuff, I absolutely loved it!