July 7: I would only hang laundry in France

I accidentally broke the internet with all my mad picture-uploading. It’s going to be a long, slow grind to getting it fixed – I can tell from the incredibly complicated and specific vocabulary in the error messages. Woops! This morning Dan took a bike ride somewhere (this is becoming habitual with him) and when he got back and the internet was broken (even under the tree) he had a long stern talk with the computer and then we gave up and went off to Loches. Loches is a city with a chateau that was a hunting lodge for several French kings, and a medieval walled city that promised us a dungeon with actual torture rooms and also tall towers that the children could climb and turn my blood cold. It did not disappoint! More on Loches in another post, but here are some pictures:

Here's Benny sitting on the turlet in one of the fancier dungeon cells:

A prisoner carved beautiful sculptures into his room to pass the time:

Dan and Sadie in the iron cage. It was supposed to be tall enough for a man plus one foot, but I guess Dan exceeds the norm for medieval height:

The insides of this keep from Roman times have been lost, but the external structure remains -- you can see where the doors/windows/fireplaces and floors used to be, going up:

Of course we had to go straight to the top and stand on it, taking my breath away. Roman walls were very thick:

After we had seen what we could see at Loches and spent probably five hours pondering its stony depths and heights, we pointed our Peugeot back toward Amboise. Of course we needed groceries – you really do need groceries every day because the bread and cheese is just so awesome that you eat all of it. Especially if you are a child who is unimpressed with any other French food. We decided to try a new shiny store, E. Leclerc. E. Leclerc is a set of stores within a store – it’s a bookstore, a post office a hair salon, and the biggest grocery store ever, with an entire aisle devoted to a multiplicity of yogurts. I am not even kidding. Dan went in with me, and he began to understand exactly what I was talking about when I said that the dairy section went on for hectares.

Having rounded up sufficient food that I felt I could turn into something the children might recognize and eat, we went to the check-out, where we determined that A) we had again left the shopping bags in the car and B) we had not weighed our produce and put the weight sticker on it like we were supposed to and C) we were standing in a line for pregnant people. Oh, it all got sorted out. It always does. It’s becoming less horrifying to stand there on the other side of a cash register from a young person who is either angry or impatient, and try to say “Je ne comprend pas” until they say it in a way that you understand.

One thing I purchased in E. Leclerc was a little wine. They have these cute little 350 mL bottles which look just right for one exhausted English-speaking mother of two. I bought two different ones, both from vineyards right down the street here, and when I got home I opened the red. I splashed a bit of it over the beef I was searing, and drank the rest – it was fantastic. The stress of this trip is surprisingly enormous. There is a huge language barrier and maybe it’s just because we’re so very rural here but it can feel very solitary. I miss my friends and Ahno, and there’s this strange feeling like… we and only we are responsible for these children. At home, it takes a village, and we have a really great village. Here we have a literal village, and none of them can even explain how to take out the trash, let alone do any nurturing on these two kids we brought along. I love being in France but I appreciate our situation at home a lot. And not just because I can understand the instructions on the washing machine.

Speaking of taking the garbage out… our landlord had left instructions that we were to take the garbage can down to the end of the driveway on Wednesday, but didn’t specify if the truck would come around on Wednesday morning, or evening, or Thursday morning, etc. Dan went down to the village to try and get some info, and ran into confused responses. It’s funny how the simplest things can be so difficult and uncertain. Speaking of garbage, the cans for garbage are universally much smaller here, from the bathroom garbage can the size of a kleenex box to the kitchen garbage about the size of our bathroom garbage at home, to the bin that you put everything in out on the street – it’s about half the size of the home one.

Speaking of washing machines, last night I did some laundry in this machine in the kitchen. Here’s a thought for French washing machine manufacturers: in marking the difference between four different cycles, maybe you could use four different colors – there are so many to choose from – instead of four incredibly similar shades of pumpkin. Dan and I puzzled over the dials and knobs, buttons and switches, for quite some time before finally turning something from Arret to 40 degrees, and the thing came on. It’s really a puzzle how to get the clothes in and out, what the cycle should be, etc. There is a whole row of buttons on it that we never deciphered. I think American washing machines must be designed for the mentally weak, and I appreciate that.

This morning before going to Loches, I put the washing out on the line to dry, and all the bright sunny day it cooked out there. When we got home I took it down, and it was dry and not even that crispy. I will try to go to bed earlier tonight but I’m at such a good point in The Three Musketeers that it’s hard to put it down. Good old Dumas, he’s a comic book writer from another century.

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