mardi, novembre 17, 2015

TGV photo taking

In Sept, when we went to the open house for clubs and associations to sign up tennis lessons and karate lessons for the boys, I walked around to look at the other offers.

There was a photography club. I decided to sign up for their discovery classes. 7 lessons spanned over 10 months for 10€. I had been to 2 lessons and learnt how to use the aperture mode and the shutter speed mode of my camera.

During my trip in Florence, I focused mainly on using the aperture mode. To improve my skill with the shutter speed mode, the trainer organised a date to take photos of the TGV, the fast speed train that could reach 300km/h. There was a TGV track just 10 minutes drive away. We gathered at a car park on a foggy sunday morning and walked 100m to reach the best spot to have a clear view.

The trainer advised us on the settings to use and we waited patiently for the TGV. I had my lucky shots with the first train. Below are 2 of my best shots. Subsequent shooting of two other TGVs did not give good results. 

If the sun had cleared the fog away, the pictures would turn out clearer. But well, I am proud of my photos given that I am just a novice. 

At the end of the course, we were encouraged to submit photos for a competition titled 'Colors'. I have no idea what to present. All colorful ideas are welcome!

dimanche, novembre 15, 2015

Paris attack

At 8am yesterday, our new dining table arrived. I had just woke up and was writing the cheque to pay the delivery guy while asking 'Why did you arrive so early? Wasn't it plan for 9am?'. He replied 'We have deliveries to make in Paris and it is a complicated day.' Seb and I asked 'Why?'. The delivery guy told us to watch TV. There were several terrorists attacks on Friday night. We have no TV at home. I switched on my mobile phone and saw many messages from concerned friends and family in Singapore asking if we were alright. I was shocked. I cried though I had not seen the news yet. My worse nightmare had happened. Innocent people were killed and injured by terrorists in Paris.

I spent a good half an hour assuring friends and family we were okay on social media. Then I started to read the news on internet. Public areas were closed. However, I had to drive a friend who had injured herself to work nearby Paris that evening. I told Seb we would be careful. After all, we won't be in central Paris. I called up Denise. I was supposed to bring her son's bicycle to her tomorrow when visiting Palais de Decouvert in Paris. We decided to avoid Paris with the kids for the moment.
Since I had to wait 2.5 hours for my friend to knock off from work, I suggested to bring the bicycle to Denise. She agreed. In the end, we met up for dinner before dropping the bicycle at her place in Paris. When we were deciding what to have for dinner, Denise asked if I preferred to eat out or do take away. I told her I preferred to eat in a restaurant. Doing take away to her place and having to find parking in Paris was such a chore. She asked if I was not scare. I had not thought about it. What she asked was justifiable. Just the night before, diners were killed randomly. Though we felt safe in Boulogne-Billancourt, it was so near Paris and crazy people could be anywhere. We both agreed that we should not live our lives in fear. We had a good catch up over dinner. We talked a bit about the Paris attack. She used to go to one of the attacked restaurants often as she had lived in that area.

There are atrocities acts happening in this world. Not just in Paris on friday the 13th. Still, this hits so near home. I used to live nearby the Stade de France where three suicide bombers killed themselves. We have to pray for world peace. Not just for Paris. My next fear is division in this country where people mistrust Muslims. Not all muslims are terrorists. And I doubt this would be the last attack. This is a difficult period for France.

vendredi, octobre 30, 2015

Recycle my hair

Many years back, a friend posted on her FB page that she had donated her hair to to make wigs for cancer patients who were losing their hair.

This beautiful gesture left a deep impression on me. Two years back, I decided to grow my hair long and donate it too. The min length is 25cm. With the cold days coming, I dread washing my hair and drying it with hair dryer. It took a long time to blow dry my hair.

I tried to keep my hair as long as possible though I knew since 2 months back that it had reached 25cm.  Two days ago, I cut my hair. It measured about 35cm at its longest. I went to the hairdresser and had my hair washed and dried properly before tying them into two ponytails. The hairdresser then snipped off the ponytails and I put them in a ziplock bag.
Now, I safekeep my hair in the drawer until I go back Singapore to recycle it. I am again keeping my hair long.....

jeudi, octobre 29, 2015

Autumn forest

Autumn is here and the trees are dropping their colorful leaves. We often cycled in the forest on weekends and the last time, we decided to take another trail. There were mushrooms popping up here and there. The mushroom pickers had already harvested the edible ones. So I told the boys to look and leave these mushrooms alone. 
I love cycling with the family and the dog on a lovely sunny autumn day.

mercredi, octobre 07, 2015

Valloire village festival

On the last night at Valloire during our summer holidays, it was the village festival. Once dusk arrived, a procession of decorated tractors strolled slowly into town. It was a sight for us, the Singaporeans and my boys. 
The villagers used their low budget creativity to come up with interesting decoration.There was music playing from most tractors-pulled wagons and local delights were handed out for tasting. The atmosphere was more than friendly, it was familial. A passing boy took out sweets from his pockets and gave some to A1 and A2.

 After the procession, we headed to a big tent for some traditional music and dance of this region. It was entertaining.
The highlight for that night was fireworks set off with the mountains as the backdrop. Just beautiful. What a treat we had to make this holiday unforgettable.

samedi, septembre 26, 2015

Fall is here

We ordered firewood for our winter. Our neighbour(the last house at the background) told me that this wood supplier provided good, dry wood. So we ordered 5 steres of 40cm wood which would fit nicely into our fireplace.
As the wood were cut smaller in size, thus lighter and easier to transport, everyone in the family helped out. In no time, we had the wood stacked up beside the garden shed waiting for the first cold night for us to start a fire. That shouldn't be long. 
On 19 September, we attended the Singapore 50th birthday event organised by the Singapore Embassy. Seb enjoyed the good wine served by a witty barman. The boys played with other children their age and at one moment, was sitting in front of the laptop which was projecting the National Parade. Somehow my boys loved the Singapore National Parade. When I showed it to them on Youtube on each national day, they could watch the whole program for a good two hours.

As for me, I met up with Singaporean friends and got to know new ones. I also met the new ambassador who was really friendly and approachable.
 Each kid was given a special edition SG50 lego set. My boys were lucky.

After a day in Paris, I joined my girlfriends to catch the night lights in Chartres. This yearly light show is ending in mid Oct. Though the light show was almost the same each year, I still enjoyed the ones at the Chartres Cathedrale.
We had a late dinner at a creperie which was full of humour. Just look at the wall decoration.
In the streets, there were living statues. With the chilling night, they had to be so cold staying so still with so little clothes on. We were hoping they won't catch a cold.
 We ended the night late and I reached home around 1am. It was a long day.

The next day, we had friends over for lunch. As it was the Heritage weekend, most museums and castles were opened for free. We headed to the Rambouillet Castle for a free visit and also walked to Laiterie de la Reine (The Queen's dairy). We understood that over here, milk were kept fresh if ever the Queen would want to come for a drink from Versailles.
We had a good stroll of almost two hours. The boys were complaining but they were good walkers. What a busy weekend. And this weekend was no exception. I shall explain that in the next post.

mardi, septembre 01, 2015

A beautiful day at Valloire

We spent a morning walking two donkeys with the boys on them. We were able to put our bags on the donkeys too. The boys enjoyed the rides a lot. As for us adults, we took turns to pull the donkeys. Most of the time, they walked nicely beside us. That was until they saw some delicious plants or flowers on the side of the path and stubbornly stopped and grazed. We could not make them moved unless they had a few bites of what they want.

We walked through the forest to reach an exposition of sculptured straws and hays. It was interesting what we could do with just some wire and straws.

 We took photos and fed the donkeys carrots as their reward. We then headed back to the stable.
When we were walking towards the uptown, we saw some climbers on the steep rock. That's real rock climbing.

After lunch, we headed to the pools. A1 tried the pool slide as it was for 6 years old and above. We told him to sit down before sliding down while we waited for him at the bottom. We waited a while for him and was starting to be worried not seeing him. Finally he arrived and told us the slide was not slippery at all. He had to use his hands to slide himself down. But he had fun and for the subsequent slides, he lay on his back and slid down faster.
After a few tries, A2 joined his brother. Seb and I took turns swimming. It was wonderful to be swimming out doors with the mountains in sight. What a change.

jeudi, août 27, 2015

The monday at Valloire

At Valloire, like most ski villages, during summer, there are many outdoor activities. Some of these activities are paying. There is often an offer to buy a pass to access all the activities at an attractive price. For the apartment we booked, we were each able to benefit the Activities Pass for 1€ a day. This pass includes access to the cable car, the swimming pool and the skating ring. 

On Monday, we headed up the mountain by the cable car. We were able to see cows grazing below us. They had big bells and we could hear them even when the weather was foggy. 

After the cable car ride, we went even higher on the chairlift. The only times I took the chairlift was when I was skiing many years ago. This time, I was with A1 while Seb took the earlier one with A2. The chairlift did not look solid and I was pretty nervous on it. 

At the top was the lake, Lac de la vielle and we had a pinic lunch with a view. 

After a good lunch of local ham and cheese, we hiked down towards the cable car station. That took us an good hour of walk before taking the cable car back to the village.
At the village square, there were free activities for kids like giant chess and checkers. There were also badminton rackets, juggling materials etc.... The boys pedaled on karts and had much fun.

At 4pm, we headed to the bowling alley for a game. It was the children's first time. When it was their turn, the bumpers would rose up automatically preventing the balls going into the gutter. They actually scored better than me. A2 was asking to go bowling every day after. At 7.50€ per game per person, the bill added up fast. That was the only time we were there.
That was how we spent our fruitful day. During the stay, the boys had fun at the playground, multi-games court and bouncy castles in Valloire. They also loved the slide at the swimming pool. More posts coming....

lundi, août 24, 2015

A week in Valloire

Tim and Carmen came visiting us on 8 August for 11 days. The next day, all of us went to Valloire for a week's vacation. As with most holiday homes in France, towels and bedsheets are not provided. They can be rented but usually at an exorbitant price. Unlike hotels, the owners of these holiday homes do not want the hassle of having to do laundry. And most holiday homes are by a weekly basis starting on Saturday. I was glad to find an apartment that rents from sunday to sunday.
We were six and our VW Touran came in handy. However, there was hardly any trunk space left after installing the kids' car seats at the back row. I borrowed a roof trunk from a neighbour and we managed to squeezed in our baggage in it. It was not easy as bedsheets and towels for a family of six took up a lot of space.
We were taking a toilet/coffee break at a gas station along the highway. This was how our vacation car looked like.  Did you notice that behind our car, there was another Touran with a roof trunk too? That is how the french go on holidays in summer.
As the cat hotel that we usually put Bao Bei at was full, we found one mid way to Valloire nearby Clermont-Ferrand. This cat pension was new and each cat had a big space with big cat tree. After dropping Bao Bei, we continued our route to Valloire with Seb driving us up the Alps mountain range.
The car trip took us about 10 hours. Once we settled down in our apartment, Seb brought us around this small mountain village. He had came here to ski a few times as a kid.
The pic below is a hotel with typical architecture of the region.
More apartments on the slope of the mountain with a cable car station that brings people all the up to the top.
The village square with the church at the background.
The day we arrived, it was cloudy and foggy. Carmen mentioned that it looked like a backdrop of a 武侠小说 (Chinese swordmen movie).
I have more photos coming up showing the lovely scenery and activities we did during this one week. Stay tune.