I've started compiling photos to make yearbooks for the kids. I plan to give them each a yearbook at Christmas this year with the activities we did over the year. Maximilien and Alixe absolutely love looking at photos of themselves. Seriously, if I want them to sit still for a little while I set up the slideshow on Flickr and I have peace and quiet while I make dinner. It's great. Tonight, I set up the slideshow to our summer vacation in Holland and Normandy.
This summer was the first summer vacation where we did not go to Belle Ile en Mer. Belle Ile is a small island off the coast of Brittany. If you find Quiberon on the map and go a little farther out you'll see Belle Ile. Julien has been going to this island with his family for over thirty years. When we started dating the first summer we spent together he took me to Belle Ile. It is a magical place. The island is sparsly inhabited though Julien's grandmother lived there permantly after her retirement. Photos of past trips to Belle Ile can be seen here and here and here. Last Christmas was Our last trip to Belle Ile. I absolutely love this place during "hors saison". You would think going to the ocean in the winter time wouldn't be very fun but it's an amazing place. The island is empty and it's isn't cold at all. We enjoyed the beach in a different way, wearing our boots and rain coats.
Since we didn't go to Belle Ile we decided we wanted to do something different. We rented an RV or in French it is called a camping car and decided to drive north! It was fairly easy to procure said camping car and I have to say that I didn't pack very well for the trip. We ended up forgetting a lot of essential things and didn't realize it until we were nearly to Belgium.
The kids loved that we had such a big "car" for our trip. The novelty of the RV never wore off for them though Julien and I were pretty much done with the RV at the end of our two week vacation. Luckily, we had good weather and found fun camp grounds to stay at so we tried to spend as much time outside of the camping car as possible. I loved that we could drive up to any random beach and stay for the entire day. Nap times were repected and meals were prepared so easily. And I have to say it's pretty handy to have a bed in your vehicule in case you felt like laying down to nap while say driving to Holland. After driving across Belgium we drove right up through Holland to Amsterdam to get my new cargo bike. Julien surprised me with a lovely gathering of my friends for my 35th birthday. They surprised me with a generous gift of a cargo bike!
I had been obsessively looking for a new bike to replace our La Poste bike. Alixe had out grown the mini Bobike seat we were using and La Poste bike just wasn't strong enough to hold a grown adult and two heavy kids. La Poste bike was a good introduction to cargo bikes for me. It really got me back into cycling and I loved riding it to the post office to drop of orders from my online store.
I had found the perfect family bike for us. The company that makes my bike is called Workcycles and they are located in Amsterdam. The owner is an American named Henry. He was super helpful over email answering my questions about the Fr8 and how it would work for us in Paris. He had cycled in Paris many times so he knew the restrictions we could encounter biking the narrow streets. I had intially thought about getting a bakfiets or box bike but after test driving one and talking to Henry about it I knew the Fr8 was the perfect bike for us. This bike is exactly what I wanted even down to the tire color and the orange racks. Instead of Alixe riding up front, she has now moved to the back to a Quibbel bike seat. It's very comfortable and she really likes it. It's so comfortable that several times on long bike rides she would just go to sleep. Maximilien moved up to the front saddle. The way the Fr8 is balanced I don't feel his weight at all. It's really great considering he weighs 25 kilos.
Our trip to Holland was really fun. We parked the RV and took the bike everywhere. The camp ground we were staying at was about 11km outside of Amsterdam and right next to a huge forest. We spent the better half of a week exploring the forest and biking all around. We visited the goat farm in the middle of the Amsterdam Bos (a must see with kids) and spent an entire day there. The forest was full of neat things to explore like a random wading pool we found in the middle of nowhere and spectacular bike trails that ran the entire length of the forest.
I think one day we biked just over 40km, each Julien and I with a child on the back of the bike. Needless to say, we slept like babies at night. The kids loved biking. Alixe took naps on the bike as did Maximilien. When we were tired we would stop and rest. We'd find lovely place to eat and picnic in the forest. Nothing stopped us as we knew the bike would be our only way to get around. Even biking in the rain was an adventure... We were prepared for the weather though we were lucky and it only rained two days while we were in Holland.
The ease of biking around Holland was really amazing. I was pleasently surprised at how the pedestrians gave way to the cyclists. Also the infrastructure for the bicycles all over Holland is really exceptional. The Dutch attitude towards cycling is commendable. Biking around Paris I often wish Paris was more bike friendly. The infrastructure could easily be set into place in many areas of the city. I am lucky that in the 13th where we live there are many bike lanes. We use the bike everyday to get the kids to school and back since they go to school over by the tea house. Around the Place d'Italie there are clearly marked bike lanes that are set apart from the sidewalks but still the Parisians walk in the bike lanes like they are sidewalks. It's frustrating and then they feel they have the right to yell at me when I ring my bell because they are in my way. Don't even get my started on what they say to me when they see me riding with both kids on the bike. They look at me like I have two heads... actaully if you looked at us as we ride by we look like a three headed cyclist. :) Oh well... it won't keep me from biking everywhere I go. One thing is for sure, biking is cheaper than the gym and my legs are looking great.
It was nice looking back at our vacation photos and also seeing how much the kids had changed since August! Alixe is so much taller. I've had to lower the leg gaurds on her bike seat twice since we got the Fr8. She has such a funny personality and it was really great (and tiring) spending 24/7 with the kids on vacation. Maximilien has lost a tooth since these photos were taking and grown an inch. The clothes he wore on vacation are way too small for him now.
I think the yearbooks will be great for them because they willl be able to get q better grasp of time. Alixe is convinced that her birthday is tomorrow though it's the 1st of December. Maximilien is better at understanding the passage of time. But seeing these photos he told me tonight that this trip was "SOOOOOO long ago". :)
As you can see from our photos it was rather chilly on our vacation which suited us just fine considering how much biking we did everyday. One thing this vacation did for me was define my love for biking. It's a lovely lifestyle that I hope that we can continue to do everyday.