Return to Aran

At long last our summer vacation of 2020 was upon us. This year was supposed to be the year of the French but alas, with covid restrictions that was not to be the case so we found ourselves spending four nights in the Connacht Hotel in Galway. To be honest, we were glad to have that as the hotel was only able to give us 3 nights when we originally inquired about a reservation. We have been to Galway a few times before “en famille” and always like the friendly and slightly off-kilter vibe of the place. However this time around, myself and my wife were determined to do something more memorable than simply Salthill and Eyre Square. So I delved into the memory bank of my youth and came up with the idea for a day-trip to Inis Mor, the largest of the nearby Aran Islands.

My only previous trip to Inis Mor had been as a youngster on a family summer holiday when I was as of yet blissfully unaware of the magical places outside of Ireland, so it seemed very exotic at the time. My wife Niki had been there much more recently doing the Aran Islands half-marathon, although she didn’t remember much of the place because she had been slogging through a grueling 21 kms. As if running 21 kms isn’t difficult enough, she chose to do it over extremely hilly terrain on a notoriously windy outcrop in the Atlantic Ocean. Anyway despite the protestations of our children (Lochlan (9) in particular wasn’t keen on visiting a place where wifi was likely low on the agenda), we booked our return ticket with Aran Island Ferries and set off for an adventure.

The starting off point of Rosaveel was the same as 30 odd years ago.  This had the added significance that it meant we had to drive past Colaiste Chamuis in the Gaeltacht where I spent two stints in my teenage years. As we passed the school, I got a flashbacks to multiple games of gaelic football and in particular to an errant piece of chewing gum which was mysteriously placed on my seat during one of the numerous cheilis. I never found the culprit and certainly my Ionsai na hInse wasn’t up to scratch that evening! Rosaveel doesn’t seem to have changed much but the ferry to Inis Mor has gotten a lot bigger and thankfully swifter. My childhood recollections are of bobbing around on the Atlantic for over an hour before reaching the safe haven of Kilronan (Inis Mor’s only notable village), whereas this time round we powered through the waves and made the crossing in 40 minutes. Now there was still some rocking and rolling but it was of the theme park rather than life or death variety!

Once we had arrived in Kilronan we headed straight for the bike hire shop. Just like my last trip, the best way to get around the island was by pedal power so we got fitted up for our bikes. Ella (3) would be my strapped-in companion for the day, the boys (not for the first time) got competitive over what size bike they could choose, while Niki had to overcome her mistrust of all things 2-wheeled (justifiably it would turn out). After much saddle and helmet adjusting we headed out of town to the sound of Ella repeatedly saying “not too fast Daddy not too fast!”. She needn’t have worried, five minutes later at the summit of the first of many of the islands little hills I was out of puff and thankful that I wasn’t in a group of experienced cyclists. Fortunately the weather was stunning and already we were being treated to breath-taking views of Connemara, the Burren and the magnificent Atlantic. Ella wasn’t so impressed by the views but was overjoyed by the fauna all around her, “look daddy a real donkey / horse / cow / goat” was a happy and common refrain as we made our journey along the island. Our destination (once again like it had been 30 years ago) was the prehistoric fort of Dun Aengus.

So after 7kms of hill climbing and descending which involved yours truly pretending to be Stephen Roche (with my very own cheerleader) battling against my two elder boys (or Delgado and Indurain as I liked to call them) for the polka-dot jersey, we reached the blue ribbon beach of Portmurvy at the base of the hill which led to Dun Aengus. Niki and Oscar had taken a more leisurely approach to the journey and were sufficiently enticed by the white sand and luxuriant blue sea to forego a further 1km hike uphill, Ella was also delighted to be able to spend some mummy-time. So myself, Aaron and Lochlan parked the bikes and headed up the cliff-top perch, for Dun Aengus is situated directly 100 metres above the Atlantic, excellent for defending against raiders, not so good if you have a fear of heights! The views from the summit were once again stunning and it really did feel that you might be able to spot North America on the horizon, or at least Iceland! On the way back to Kilronan we took the much easier low road (not something I can remember doing 30 years ago mum and dad!) which passed along by a seal colony for bonus points. The seals were quite easy to locate as they seemed to be singing to each other in a similar manner to my own crooning to Niki in our courting days!

By the time we returned to Kilronan we had all built up quite an appetite so the food in Ti Joe Wattys was gulped down followed by ice creams in the local Spar (the one and only supermarket on the island). In between we did have our one and only fall of the day as Niki’s dismount left a lot to be desired but luckily she had only a bruised shin, damaged pride and a muddy jumper to show for it. Last but not least we headed to another beach for some relaxation and pebble throwing before powering back across Galway Bay to the mainland.

A wonderful day trip and great to be able to connect my own childhood experience with the next generation. Who knows, maybe they’ll be back again in 30 years time, I hope the experience won’t have changed much in the meantime.

The Lost Bastille Day

It was Bastille Day last Tuesday and I must admit that I shed a little tear, for you see in a parallel universe without Covid-19, myself and my family spent le quatorze sunning ourselves in a Brittany camp-site with the prospect of a long French summer stretching out before us. Please forgive me this metaphysical musing as I’ve been watching The Umbrella Academy so timelines which avoid armageddon have been playing heavily on my mind! For you see, this summer was supposed to be our big break in France, our grandes vacances. For the first time in a while the stars had aligned to make this possible, I am obviously working at home so free from the constraints of annual leave while Niki (my wife) had organised for 6 weeks of parental leave in order to immerse ourselves in La Vie En Rose for the majority of the summer. Well I say immerse but really we were going for two weeks to the aforementioned camp-site and then for four weeks to a holiday rental is a small French town. So not quite a year in Provence but hey, it seems like paradise when I think about it now.

Myself and Niki have a strong affinity with France, we both studied French as part of our degrees in university. I enriched my soul with the works of Camus, Baudelaire and Victor Hugo while Niki learnt the French for Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss account and that most French of pastimes going on strike! But that’s not the real reason we have a such a strong personal connection with L’Hexagon (as the locals call it). You see when we first met in the bustling Market Bar in downtown Dublin all those moons ago, I’d say that the small chat was faltering slightly until Niki mentioned how much she loved Paris, “moi aussi” I declared. Suddenly cupid’s arrow had been notched and dispatched, the rest as they say is history.

In truth I think the plans for this year’s getaway were sown five years ago when we enjoyed a tremendous family holiday / life enhancing experience travelling to New Zealand for the wedding of Niki’s brother. On that occasion Niki was in the middle of a career break and I had a boss who was about to retire and thought nothing of allowing me take 6 weeks of annual leave over the Christmas period. Our trip which took in Singapore, Sydney and Hong Kong as well as the delights of New Zealand (both North and South islands) was truly remarkable and the fact that we were able to to share it with our 3 boys made it even better, although some of those long car drives across the rolling hills of the land of the long white cloud did drag. There were only so many times the boys would be impressed by another hawk sighting, “where are all the kiwis dad?” was a common refrain! The tales of that trip have been keeping us going through the many struggles of modern life, come on everybody let’s not have another fight about bedtime and daddy will regale you about the time we saw all those waterfalls in Milford Sound! However we felt that it was time to refill the book of family stories.

So five years down the line we have added another member to our happy crew and while the boys were keen for Ella to experience New Zealand, we decided to plump for the less expensive and slightly more convenient (memories of the endless flights with kids in economy class flashing across my brain) option of France. Now I’m not saying that myself and Niki were completely aligned in our visions of how this holiday was going to take place. Niki envisioned a full immersion into French culture whereby the boys would journey through vineyards to the local village and return with baguettes, croissants and tales of how Monsieur Bonmarche from the boulangerie had controversially won the local boules / petanque competition with an illegal over-arm throw all spoken in perfect French of course! I simply wanted a warm place where I could read a few good books, taste-test a few of the local organic beers and occasionally indulge my slightly unusual fondness for hypermarkets!

But alas it was not to be (but at least we got refunds), now all we have are the dates on the calendar telling us when we should be boarding the ferry, checking in to the camp-site, getting the keys for the house, etc. (I am always a bit trigger happy when it comes to putting stuff into the calendar in case it slips my over-crowded brain) cruelly reminding us of the joyful times that we are missing out on. But hey Aaron’s swimming lessons are back on so I can look forward to 6.15am alarms on Saturday and we have 3 days in a hotel in Galway in August if the country hasn’t gone into lockdown again by then! In the meantime I’ll just keep my French play-list on repeat, “Joe Le Taxi”, “Je ne regrette rien” and of course “Voyage voyage”.

Irish Theme Parks; Compare and Contrast

As the Summer holidays headed towards their conclusion I suddenly realised that the list of “must do” items which the boys had put together at the start of July was lacking a number of “ticks” in the completed column. That’s not to say we hadn’t been busy, hey every day with four kids is busy in my book, but we just hadn’t travelled far beyond a 500 metre radius from our house as often as the kids would have liked. Well I say if you can’t find joy in the Botanic gardens and Glasnevin cemetery, then there is no hope for you! The boys didn’t exactly agree and demanded trips to Clara Lara fun park and Tayto Park within the space of a week or they would be giving me (and my first summer as a stay at home Dad) a less than favourable review when they got back to school!

For those of you not familiar with Clara Lara and /or Tayto Park, I will give you a quick initial guide to each. Clara Lara is an Irish institution and has been around for more years than I care to remember. I can even recall going there on a primary school trip and falling off one of the numerous rope swings into one of the freezing cold pools / ponds / lakes that abound the “attraction”. Tayto Park on the other hand, is a more recent arrival on the scene and has morphed from a mini challenger to Dublin Zoo into an all singing all dancing american style theme park complete with roller coasters, high wire adventure zones and queues, lots and lots of queues.

Clara Lara was first up and the initial signs weren’t promising and by signs I mean the dirty big black cloud which hung in the sky as soon as we started our drive into the Wicklow mountains on the outskirts of Dublin where the park is located. Let me say that the inhabitants of the Wicklow mountains are renowned for a certain requirement for sanctuary, whether it be the holy men of Glendalough or criminals trying to evade the Guards! Thankfully Clara Lara seems to be quite aware that it is constantly running the gauntlet of the Irish weather for they have placed wooden huts (some are even raised off the slightly sodden ground) all around the park so that the paying customers can keep their stuff and most importantly their spare clothes dry. For Clara Lara you see is primarily about water, lots and lots of healthy Wicklow mountain water, sure there are a few other bits and pieces around like the crazy golf, a zip line, etc, but it is really all about splashing about whether it be on water slides, in kayaks, in row boats or the aforementioned rope swings (did I mention that there are a lot of them).

The weather was nicer for our trip to Tayto Park although this and the fact that we chose a UK bank holiday meant that the place was mobbed. There were so many Tyrone and Armagh jerseys around that you could have been forgiven for thinking that you had just arrived in Clones on Ulster Final day. To our credit we had anticipated crowds so we had made sure to be at the gates at the very second they opened. First we headed for the big attractions, Viking Voyage, a splash water coaster which had terrified Lochlan (8) on our previous visit (to his credit he went for it again this time round) and then onto the Cu Chulainn roller coaster which were both enjoyed (although the former did leave me with a wet bum for the rest of the morning which wasn’t great), while queues were less than half an hour. But then we made the fatal mistake of stopping at a playground (goddamn those pesky kids and their need for some unscripted fun) and we never really got back on top of the queuing situation.

In comparing the two I would say that the boys enjoyed both equally but for parents (we travelled with friends on both occasions albeit with a larger group in Clara Lara), or at least from my own point of view, Clara Lara was far more user friendly. In Clara Lara it was possible to set up a base and while the kids might wander off anywhere, they would always know where they could return to, this is simply not possible in the much larger and much more crowded Tayto Park. That’s not to say that Clara Lara wasn’t busy, including a very large hurling team from Kilkenny (how did we know they were a hurling team from Kilkenny, well because they kept their hurls with them at all times as if they were surgically attached!) and Oscar (6) did become slightly disorientated at one point but I quickly found him by one of the aforementioned rope swings. For clarification’s sake and before social services are called, Ella (2) remained with me at all times and was not given license to roam like the others. Clara Lara was also considerably cheaper and had the added bonus of not being absolutely jam-packed with high in salt and / or sugar food outlets which definitely couldn’t be said for Tayto Park. Last but not least, while Clara Lara did have its fair share of wasps it didn’t have anywhere near as many as Tayto Park (see the above comment re availability of sugar).

On a side note the availability of wet suits (God bless you Lidl and /or Aldi, we can’t remember which) was also key to the boys enjoyment of Clara Lara where the water temperature wasn’t quite the same as that which we had experienced in our Brittany camp-site pool earlier in the summer. I mean if I had a wet suit when I was younger maybe I wouldn’t have dreaded those trips to multiple west Kerry beaches.

As a closing comment in my opinion the best thing about Tayto Park is usually the World of Raptors show where you can get up close with stunning birds of prey such as eagles, owls and vultures. However this time the show was cut short when the Bald Eagle on display made a run / flight for it. He must have been getting fed up with the wasps and the queues also!!


Summer Holidays

Ah summer holidays, longer days, slightly better weather (it is Ireland after all), lie ins (well getting up at 8.30am rather than 7am) and the constant task of trying to keep my energetic, curious and occasionally annoying kids occupied. Let me preface everything by saying that I am the eldest child of two secondary school teachers so basically I had access to both parents for the entirety of my childhood summers. This, when added to the fact that I only had to share my parents with my sister, had given me a kind of skewed, utopian expectation of July and August. Basically I got to hang out and play sports with my Dad for two months solid while my sister had my mum all to herself. In particular the tennis courts and pitch & putt course of St Anne’s park were favourite (and very enjoyable) haunts. When our “sunshine holidays”, as we used to call our trips abroad, were over I had the luxury of another 5-6 weeks of quality time with exclusive parent attention in Ireland to look forward to. At the time, little did I know how lucky I was.

This contrasts significantly with the world of “professional” parenting where annual leave days are more treasured than golden nuggets and the first thing that comes to mind as June rolls to a close is the number of summer camps which are available. Hey are the boys interested in archery? Sure it’s a two week camp in August, let’s stick their names down and give it a lash!! Also the fact that we have 4 children means that we are constantly overloaded when looking to occupy them, to use a rugby analogy we are constantly on “scramble” defense rather than “man to man”. I don’t know if you have ever tried to manage four under 10s of varying abilities on a pitch & putt course but it’s full of “watch where you’re swinging that!” rather than “get in the hole” and more time is spent searching for children than golf balls!

So now I have the situation where our “sunshine holidays” are over (Brittany seems like a distant memory despite the fact it was 10 days ago) and I am the sole source of entertainment, distraction and nourishment for my children. For some strange reason, the boys don’t seem to have been enrolled in as many Summer camps as previous years. I seem to recall (although I admit my recollections may be subject to unconscious bias) endless weeks of GAA camps, summer schools, golf camps, tennis camps, DCU camps but we only appear to have a rugby camp this time round. Now I’m not sure if this is because (a) I’m just not as organised as my wife (the traditional summer camp enroller), (b) the dates didn’t suit our other commitments, or (c) it’s part of some wife driven conspiracy to throw me in at the deep end! So the boys and Ella (2) are with me pretty much all the time with no respite in sight, suddenly that precious hour and a half of housework when Ella was asleep and the boys were in school is a paradise lost (only to be regained in September), who’d have thought I’d get so emotional about housework!

In my own mind I thought that perhaps having three boys aged within 4 years of each other would somehow mean that they could occupy one another and keep each other out of trouble! Indeed this has occasionally been the case, but only for brief periods of time before somebody has somebody else in a headlock or more commonly, somebody is rolling around on the ground exaggerating an injury and squealing as if they only have seconds left to live (only to jump up with glee once the offending party has been punished). The premier league has a lot to answer for!!

Another issue with having 3 boys who have inherited their father’s (and dare I say it their mother’s) competitive streak is that they all want to win all of the time. So first of all I have to invent a handicap system which gives Oscar (6) the same chance of winning as Lochlan (8) and Aaron (10). Now when it’s a team event like football or tennis I simply buddy up with Oscar and that normally ensures a tight contest but if it’s a singles event like golf or dare I say it a board game like Monopoly, Game of Life, Hotel, or Risk (the best way to alienate your children known to mankind) then it becomes much more difficult and complicated. Invariably one of the boys will storm out of the room when it dawns on him that he is in a metaphorical hole he can’t escape from. Sore losers, oh yes every single one of them (when I’m losing I just tend to use my greater knowledge of obscure rules to get back in the game).

So, in desperation I am bringing the gang to the Gleneagles Hotel in Killarney in order to recapture excellent holidays of past years (kids clubs!) and to meet up with cousins. The catch, Niki is only joining us for 4 of the 6 days so I will be on my lonesome for the journey down to Killarney (be kind to me Adare) and getting them settled into the holiday apartment (please let the oven work unlike last year). I foresee a lot of “go have a run about and I’ll see you for dinner-time”.

Pray for me and in any event how much screen-time is really too much?!

Les Vacances part 2

Week 2 and the kids had started to call our 3 bedroom mobile home / cabin “home”! I think Ella (2) actually believed that we had permanently changed residence. When are we going home they cried as we visited another historic, well-kept and pretty Breton town. Mommy and Daddy had grown tired of sitting around by the pool and the waiting for the kids club to finish so in week 2, excursions became the norm rather than the exception.

Despite the fact that I had spent numerous holidays in this region as a kid, I have no recollection of the really picturesque towns in Morbihan such as Quiberon and Auray, although the numerous sailboats of La Trinite-sur-mer did induce a mini Proustian moment of recollection (definitely was bored there as a youth!). I do remember visiting Vannes and not being impressed by it, whereas this time around it appeared to be a nice mid sized town with an impressive pedestrianised old town, complete with medieval parade on the day we visited. We tried to convince the boys that the parade was just for us but they weren’t buying it.

I must say that Brittany seems to have really gotten behind tourism as a way to bring visitors and by extension cash into the region. Plenty of artisinale this and organic / bio that. Everything clean with tours (mostly in the form of road bound trains) and parks by the dozen. There is a great emphasis on local products and nowhere is this more visible than in the many La Trinitaine biscuiteries (fancy biscuit shops to you and me) around us. Now I had a vague idea that Breton biscuits were a thing, but not to the extent that La Trinitaine has turned into the French equivalent of Starbucks in expansion mode! Just to explain, La Trinitaine was founded in the 1950s in the aforementioned La Trinite-sur-mer. It become famous for its cigarette biscuits, you know the ones that look like a cross between a sea shell and a spliff, and commonly found stuck into the tops of ice creams. From there, it has morphed into an organisation with 46 shops that produces 11,500 tonnes of biscuit a year. Perhaps the most noticeable thing about La Trinitaine is that it has become a beacon for Breton produce so if you enter one of their stores, in addition to the multitude of biscuits, you’ll be confronted with Breton cider, Breton fish soup, Breton crepes, Breton, well you get the jist. Safe to say that it was a one stop shop for all our homecoming present needs!

On a more philosophical note, why is it that the first week of a fortnight’s holiday seems to last forever while the second week goes past in the blink of an eye? Is it because even I can become tired of going down a water slide at breakneck speeds everyday, like an aqua junkie, do I need a bigger kick, should it be longer, higher, faster? Is it because during the first week of the holiday you load up the fridge, while in the second week you become aware of the pressing and quite Irish requirement to eat everything in the fridge, hey there is nothing wrong with a Camembert and blue cheese sandwich covered in dijonnaise! Is it because you have exhausted your collection of €1 coins so the boys can only hover around other kids racing motorbikes in the camp-site arcade and look at you with downtrodden puppy dog eyes? Or is it simply because that phrase “this time next week we’ll be back in Dublin!” hangs over you like a cloud in the otherwise clear perfectly blue Breton skies.

I’m really going to miss Brittany. I did have some reservations about this trip and the prospect of the 6 of us being in such a confined space for a fortnight, but the weather has been excellent and camp-site holidaying is better than I remembered it. Even taking the boys for pony rides wasn’t the pain I had expected (I’m deeply distrustful of horses and also a bit allergic). In typical French manner, once we paid we were left to our own devices with the ponies. We were given a suggested route and told how to hold the bridle and then ushered on our way with a gallic wave. Being the dutiful sort, we followed the route to a T (well apart from the time Niki let the pony eat some grass “off track” and he quickly deduced that she was a pushover), but could have headed to Paris and enrolled in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for all the pony owner cared!! Most importantly the kids loved Brittany. Sure, they didn’t drink any milk because they didn’t like the taste and their diet consisted of more pizza and chips than it had in the previous 6 months, but they want to go back next year and suggested we book while we were on the ferry home.

I have previously written of my love for Paris but now I think that amour can be extended to France as a whole. The bread and pastries are great, the hypermarches are fantastic, the weather is for the most part a lot better than back home and the cheesy music is exceptional. Every evening the camp-site would host a mini-disco for kids which included not one, not two, not three, not four but five songs with intricate dance routines. I think I looked forward to that more than the boys did, “hurry up with your ice creams there lads or we’ll miss the start of Danse de la Pingu!”.

So it is definitely a case of merci and au revoir France.

Les Vacances Part 1

Ah the big family summer holiday. So much preparation, so much expectation, so much time with mommy around to help with the kids! This year, after a break of three years we had decided to return to France. I think the boys would have kept on going to Killarney indefinitely but Niki in particular wanted to improve the odds of seeing the sun so we had decided on a two week camp-site holiday in Brittany.

Our previous trips to France had involved less kids, longer journeys south (this being related to the first point) and holiday rentals with friends. They had also involved the ferry departing from Rosslare so it was a bit discombobulating to stare at the Bull Wall and Dollymount beach from the top deck of our ferry as we began our journey south, with Dublin being Irish Ferries new starting point. The crossing itself was a calm one although I (being a very bad sea traveller) kept on imagining the ship moving up and down even before we had left the port! The best that can be said for the sleeping arrangements was that we all got some level of sleep although I would never recommend the six in a cabin approach (I think we broke the world record for the number of times saying “be quiet” in an 8 hour period). Niki woke up early the next morning to say how badly she had slept but was quickly berated by four of us for her loud snoring during the night (Ella remained strategically quiet on the matter).

The first thing we noticed when we got to France was the heat. The car thermometer immediately headed towards 30 degrees and didn’t budge for the rest of the day. This was quite a relief for yours truly as I had pushed hard for Brittany despite having first hand knowledge of how erratic the weather can be from my own childhood holidays. A fortnight listening to rain on the metal roofed mobile home would not have been fun. The 4 hour drive to Carnac went smoothly with Niki taking up her customary role as driver and me as navigator (basically confirming that the sat nav was correct and handing out sweets to those in the back). We did switch for one hour of the drive but my slightly more gung-ho approach to the numerous French roundabouts had Niki quickly suggesting that we return to our original positions.

We made it to La Grande Métairie in Carnac just as “rush hour” traffic was kicking in i.e. plenty of campervans on a narrow road. I had been to La Grande Métairie twice as a youngster so it was with a fondness that I spotted the alignements again just outside the campsite. These standing stones or menhirs for Asterix and Obelix fans are the main tourist attraction in the Carnac area. Our three bed mobile was a bit cramped but we quickly realized that the covered decking outside would in fact become our most used “room” and added significantly to our space. We had planned an early night but the noise from the soirée in the camp bar (they still love their cheesy dance songs in France) kept us all up until close to midnight which the boys loved and the adults just about tolerated.

The next morning we were faced with the cool empty shelves of our new accommodation so there was only one thing for it, L’Hypermarché!! I love hypermarkets, I remember being astounded as a child that you could buy car tyres and bread in the same shop! I still have the same sense of wonder but now it is mainly focused on the cheeses, so many cheeses and only 2 weeks to eat them!! It’s also a good place to legitimately lose the family for five minutes of quiet time, oh a free crepe sample, merci beaucoup! We loaded up on €200 of top French produce (Niki had pillow cases on top of her list, Lochlan an inflatable stingray, Ella a pain au chocolat, Aaron & Oscar icecreams and I was only allowed 5 types of cheese) and made our way back to the camp site.

La Grande Métairie has been significantly upgraded since my last visit and in particular, the addition of water slides and a lazy river has been a real bonus. There are lifeguards near the water slide but let’s just say it’s no coincidence that laissez-faire is a French word. You’d want to be trying something pretty Evel Kneivel-esque for those boys (and girls) to get involved. At one point Lochlan was about to head down backwards on his back before I grabbed him. This level of enjoyment has meant daily visits to the pool are the very least of the boys’ requirements. While this is great on many levels, I had not been prepared for the amount of sun cream this would involve. Being married to a true Irish freckled cailín means that we are extra careful with the kids and we need a good half an hour each day set aside to it. Oscar seems particularly aggrieved at this, maybe because he senses that he wouldn’t look out of place in a Swedish travel brochure. I also grumble occasionally but honestly my skin has never been so moisturised in my life as a result of the sun factor regime!

Otherwise the week has flown by with the experience being generally positive. Although there have a few standout peculiarities along the way, such as why Aaron didn’t specify the difference between feeling sick and feeling like he was about to get sick (vomit in a mobile home is not pleasant), my puzzlement at what smurf flavor ice cream tastes like (in Quiberon the kids went with all the plain and normal flavors much to my dismay) and the look of disdain and disgust the creperie waiter gave us when we asked if his chocolate crepes contained Nutella! Ah France, never stop being French! Really looking forward to another week of it!