Our Unintended Family Tour de France

Written by Jenn

 “Allez! Allez! Allez!” Smiled a fisherman as he stood on the grassy river bank.

Pedaling through the crisp morning air, I feel the brilliant tint of sunrise spilling its caramel hues along the River Hérault. Fishing boats gently awake from a languid sleep on the water, as the dappled greens of Van Gogh’s Plane trees soak up the sugary light. French shutters open their eyes to the world, and inhale the refreshing scent of brine from the sea.

Morning in Agde is my favourite time of day.

I relive this sort of peaceful heaven every time I accompany the children to school. The older ones fly ahead while I follow behind my youngest who is just mastering his bike without training wheels. I am grateful for this. The slow revolutions of our wheels gives me time to savour the reality of our life here in Southern France.

The elderly man who yelled out his French “go” was holding his fishing rod in one hand, clapping at us as we passed along on the bike path running parallel to the river. My children smile at him and nod their helmeted heads. They’ve become familiar with this reaction from the French, understanding now their national love for the Tour de France. This wasn’t so a month ago when our children would turn bewildered faces to strangers who would stop and cheer enthusiastically at our bike train.

A month ago, a woman stopped her black Peugeot on the street to yell out “Bon!” and “Champion!” as she fanatically clapped us along. Contemplative walkers have done the same, as they ambled down the path with their dogs.

Built on the banks by the Oriental Greek Phocaeans on the river Hérault, and coloured with 2,000 years of history; Agde boasts to be France’s second oldest city. Classic oleander trees decorate the greenery with a bright palate of deep fuchsias and dazzling whites. Well worn bike paths spill into cobbled roads of Agde’s Old Town. In the evening, narrow medieval streets are illuminated by the twinkling brilliance of 18th-century lanterns. No wonder every summer, crowds of tourists are drawn to this nautical town filled with its lively cafes, ambient restaurants, outdoor markets, and large historic fountains.

We’re living a mere 4 km away from the Mediterranean where eleven popular beaches bask in  the sun. The summer heat lingers here, and humidity becomes you, making you comfortable in your own skin. This may be why silver-haired women walk around with a bra-less confidence under their tank tops with a “je ne sais quoi” sensuality.

With the ring of our bike bells, we pass along.

Eavesdropping on the conversations in French, I feast my ears on the gentle roll of ‘R’s spoken by the watchers-by fishing on the river vista. They speak too fast for me, and after several riffs of my wheels, I comprehend too late.

To the locals here –the smell, the sights, this sense of place- is ordinary life. But for us, our extra-ordinary adventure for our family of six has just begun. The novelty of our French reality has tinted our la vie en rose with a sense of wonder, and hope for a successful school year filled with learning and self discovery.

Thousands of miles away from our home country of Canada is here where the irony lies. I can’t help but feel naturally and inexplicably home.

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18 Responses to Our Unintended Family Tour de France

  1. Pingback: Struggles in French School | At Home in the World

  2. Beautiful. This gave me chills.

    South of France is on my travel list so I am excited to read more.

    PS. Are you pitching to the Globe and Mail travel section yet? Go for it.

    • Rachel, you make me blush, but that’s what I love about you…you think big. I am a little intimidated with the idea of the Globe and Mail, but I suppose it can’t hurt….I need to write just a little more to feel confident. But thank you for the support. It means a lot to me and has made my day!

      If you ever want to come down to Southern France, you guys can come stay us. We have a spare room and crib available at our house. ~Jenn

  3. Trish Roffey says:

    Your writing is so beautiful Jen! I can visualize every word! You are truly an author. The kids love to see pictures of people they know so far away. Mary asked if she could have a playdate with Lucy in France! I smiled at how small the world really is. I caught myself about to say “no” but then stopped and thought of the look of possibilty in her eyes. I looked at my beautiful girl and told her anything is possible. I don’t know who felt more excited her or me. Trish.

    • Thank you Trish. Good to hear from you! It is amazing how much freedom we can experience when we just open our eyes to all the possibilities and believe. Most importantly, the empowerment our children feel when we believe along side them. That is the exciting and inspiring part. The action is just as thrilling, but harder to do…..Anything is possible though!! 😉
      If we’re still in France when you plan to go, you’re welcome to stay at our place. Lucy says “Hello” to Mary her little buddy.

  4. Lisa Wood says:

    Oh I so would love to be riding bikes in France – it sounds so magical! Love how the french encourage you on your bike ride.
    Your kids are going to have the best education ever – real life education!


  5. Such a lovely painting in words. I can really feel the romance of Agde. Your current home sounds really lovely and I am glad you landed in a good place. I bet Canada does seem far away. I know it does for us. Are you planning to be in France next July? Seeing the other Tour de France would be a real treat.

    • Thanks Mark :=) I think we’re really starting to fall in love with this place and could kind of see ourselves making a home in this country. The climate, healthy atmosphere, food, education, and health care make a really nice attractive package for a country….Not to mention the beautiful language. It’s enchanting to the ears, and even though I butcher it when I speak, I hope to have a good grasp of it somehow by the end of this year. Just this morning, I caught myself looking at prices for homes here. I could definitely imagine us living many years here. As for July, we actually plan on being back home in Edmonton for the summer (so hope to check out Tour de France another time); Our new friends from here were thinking of vacationing in North America -we’ll probably take them around the Rockies and to the West Coast if they do. How’s Greece treating you?

      • Greece has been fun so far. Seeing the Acropolis and the Parthenon was really a thrill for me. I remember hearing about my how dad’s age preventing him from going up those steps after coming all that way. So it was a poignant moment in my life.

        I hope your friends can make it next summer. The Canadian Rockies are a sight to be seen. Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper… The Columbian Icefield is AMAZING. Not to be missed.

  6. Sarah says:

    I have been reading your blog for a couple of months but this is my first comment 🙂 I LOVE hearing of all your wonderful adventures! It sounds like your current home in France is a beautiful place, and how fun it will be for the kids to learn French (well, I suppose they would have learned it back in Canada too, but there’s nothing like true immersion!). One day I would love to travel with my husband and two boys they way you have with your kids… when my boys are bigger (they are 2.5 yrs and 8 months old). It’s also fun to read about other Canadians abroad – we are from Vancouver but have been living in Brisbane, Australia for the past two years while my husband attends medical school. 🙂 Keep on writing – your posts are wonderful to read!

    Sarah 🙂

    • Thank you Sarah for your comment! Reader’s comments mean the world to me, vain I know, but it’s so nice to discover people besides our family and friends back home who do read our blog.
      It’s so great to meet other Canadian Expats on line. I’m curious to hear how you are liking Australia. Sounds like an exciting move for your family and Husband’s med school education.
      Brian and I have looked over our pics of our past 7 months backpacking (as we’re going to be hitting our 1 yr blogging anniversary this month), and we are amazed at all the rich experiences we experienced as a family in such a short period of time. I hope the same for your adventures one day!…However, I’m sure living in gorgeous Australia is an adventure already.
      All the Best,

  7. Janice Blair says:

    Beautifully written description of your current home, Jenn. I so enjoy reading of your travels and experiences. Hugs to your family from ours. Jan and Rick

  8. Lisa says:

    Well written Jenn! I can’t wait to see this new home of yours when I visit and perhaps I can see and hear what you have written about when you add one more person on this bike train for a few days 🙂

  9. Tobias says:

    Oh, c’est beau!

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