Tuesday, June 28, 2016

And What Do You Do For A Living?

While still technically a work day, our Thursday in Toulon was the first hint of what our vacation would be like together. I spent the morning enjoying the ocean breezes, coastal scenery, and sunny weather of Toulon while Melissa went to meetings.

After lunch, we meet up at the gates to the naval base and boarded a tour bus for a trip provided by our French hosts to the Domaine Souviou Winery in Le Beausset for a tour and wine tasting.  

The winery houses a beautiful 15th century chateau with a chapel.



The views were incredible, but I kept expecting James Bond’s yellow  Citreon 2CV to come rolling out of the trees at any moment. (Yes, Bond purists, I know that the car belonged to Melina Havelock, but really, what sane person actually knows her name?)

We were shown “The King,” a 1200 year old olive tree still producing a huge volume of olives annually. “The Queen” stands a few feet away, still looking spry at roughly 800 years old.

 If you’ve never attended a wine tasting where you are taught the proper manner in which to enjoy wine, you should find one. There are more subtleties and complexities to wine that are hidden than one can imagine, and a few simple tricks release wonderful flavors and aromas.  And it was free. Free wine is good. We enjoyed ourselves, but I must admit that mixing reds, whites, and blushes in one sitting is not good for me.  
Our trip continued into downtown Le Beausset where we were encouraged to roam until dinner was served at La Cauquiere. The Boss found a small French chocolatier who sold imported Belgium chocolates and purchased one box for us and one for our friends in Poland.  While she did that I fielded a couple of calls from home where I tried to settle a growing dispute between the 13 year old and his older brother. The first week of our trip was replete with text messages and phone calls that confirmed my worst fears about leaving the children at home while we traveled to Europe. The middle child was beyond difficult. He was an emotional rollercoaster of pubescent anger and angst who needed to be talked off the ledge at twenty cents per minute from 5,000 miles away. I was standing in the postcard perfect French Mediterranean coastal region negotiating a battle between two boys over whether or not he plays Mario Kart 4 before or after his schoolwork is completed. The girl had the common sense not care about much as long as she was fed. I wanted to kill the boy. The Boss exited the chocolate shop, grabbed the phone from me, explained exactly what would happen to the boy if he didn’t shape up, and ended the call. That gave us a week of relative peace.

We continued to discover small ancient churches, each of which I had to tour. In Le Beausset I found Eglise Notredame de l’assomption (the Church of the Assumption). This one was nowhere near as ornate as most Parisian houses of worship, but I did manage to walk in on a wedding rehearsal between a very pregnant young woman and a much older looking man.  Neither they nor the priest seemed to mind my wandering around the back of the church as they practiced their vows.  

The dinner was delicious, but whenever I am at one of The Boss’s work events I mind my tongue carefully, which means that very few of her co-workers truly know my sense of humor. After all, I do want her to retain her employment, and I did not want to be on the receiving end of a CNN microphone after starting an international incident. Inevitably, the question arose from our French hosts, “What do you do for a living?” I’m never certain how to answer this one. “Not much?” “I don’t work?” “She’s my Sugar Momma?” “I’m her bitch?” They were genuinely interested when I told them that I homeschooled our three children. Homeschooling is legal in France, but rare. I think the most amusing question of the evening came from a young woman who asked me whether or not I was afraid of getting it wrong, and poorly educating my children. I honestly answered, “Yes.” It's a sobering concern. I followed up on my answer with an explanation of the past 12 years of home education, my degree and classroom experience, and the one son who has graduated from our home school and successfully went on to college.  I was asked about our literature selections, and although by that point in the evening I was tired and wined-out (I could not remember all of the titles we have read), the entries from our reading list appeared to assure those around me that my children were not illiterate. Of course, talking about home educating a special needs child opened up a host of other questions, most of which were answered with, “Yes, I can do better than our local school district.” I know. I’ve seen it. Apathy Middle School leaves a lot to be desired. I have no idea whether I left our hosts confident in our abilities to home school or certain that we are destroying the next generation of Americans.

The day was fun and relaxing. The following day we wandered Toulon as a couple, giving The Boss an opportunity to dip her toes in the Med before we boarded a high speed train to Paris. We spent one night in Paris before traveling by train to Beavais, and boarded a Ryan Air flight to Poland and started our actual vacation. That’s when we met Thomas Glenn and Kasia.

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