Africajarc - an African festival in Cajarc

Africajarc is an African festival held annually in Cajarc, a small town on the river Lot. There is a four day programme of events including an impressive line up of African musicians on the big stage. The streets line themselves with stalls selling beautiful clothes made from African fabrics, jewellery and ornaments. We always park the car conveniently close to the food stalls selling delicious smelling rice and curries, but for some reason always end up in the same restaurant ordering pizza?! There is music during the day on smaller stages, open art galleries, cinema, and theatre for children.
Every year we say that we will return for the music and next year I really do want to (as soon as we have found some babysitters!) The festival is always busy during the day but you get the impression that nighttime is when the festival really comes to life. There are two evenings of music and on the final evening a 'Bal Africain' (African dance.) This year there was a night of music from Mali, including the musicians Ballake Sissoko and Fatoumata Diawara, and an Afro blues jazz night with Manu Dibango and Les Tambours de Brazza. (Check out the links to listen to some of the music.)

We strolled through the market and took a short walk along the river. I must admit I did envy the couples along the riverbank, silently lying next to each other, sleeping or reading a book, taking in the gentle flow of the river. We meanwhile were stopping Jacob from jumping into the river and Reuben, despite it being 34°, thought that when the wind blew it was cold!!

I love that a little bit of Africa finds its way to a little French town. It's important to us that our boys grow up understanding different cultures, and in particular Africa as they carry African blood (their Granddad is from Nigeria.) It is definitely a festival that we will return to year after year.

Do you have a festival that you always return to?

Becky x

The view from the top

I wanted to share with you all one of my favourite places in the village. Right outside our door is a hill. At the top of that hill is a green space next to the church with a view that goes on for miles and miles. As a child, teenager, and adult, I have gone to this place, usually on my own. It would be the first place I would go to for my 'I'm here' moment. I sit, read, listen to music, contemplate life and the world I live in. The sea is 'over there' according to Reuben (it's not!) But it's great to imagine what could be over that hill or behind that group of trees. It's a fantastic place to go at night as you can see the entire night sky, the moon, the stars, including shooting stars and the Milky Way. Not forgetting the space ships that I soon realised were satellites and aeroplanes as I grew older! When Andrew started coming to the house it became our place to escape to and discuss the next chapter in our lives. Reuben has asked numerous times since we have been here to 'go up the top.' I know that the boys will come to love this spot too.

Where is your favourite view?

Becky x

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Feels like we're on holiday

Reuben checking out the wheels at Caylus Brocante
It's hot! It hasn't dropped much below 30° since we arrived last week. Jacob has broken out in heat rash and sleeping at night for the boys is a bit hit and miss. It feels like we're on holiday though it's only the start of the season and I know it will get much busier soon. For now it's nice for the boys to be able to walk around the markets with us as over August they will become too crowded, for Jacob at least. We've been out every morning buying food, checking out antiques at a brocante (antique market,) taking the boys for walks and to a nearby playground. In the afternoons we hide from the sun, the paddling pool comes out, and we separate the boys until they learn to play nicely together!

My mum arrives tomorrow so today we're off to buy flowers to fill the courtyard pots and hanging baskets. It's lucky we didn't buy them earlier as last night we had a massive storm pass over us and anything we would have planted would have drowned! The storm meant dad missed out on 'Luther' again as when thunder and lightening is around the electricity tends to go. We also had the buckets under the chimneys as when it pours a small river runs past our door and water finds its way through every gap that can be found. The boys slept through it all thank goodness as our house seems to be soundproof, and all was restored in time for us to catch the Royal Baby on the news!

Becky x


We've arrived!

We're here! We're in France! It was a long drive down and if you read our post on 'travelling with kids' you'll notice how I said I would never drive down with the boys again. But here we are a year later having just completed a two day drive. Reuben was so thrilled to finally be on the road to France and could just about contain his excitement as we drove the car onto 'Le Shuttle'. We let them loose whilst in the tunnel and they argued over who could 'drive' the car. Getting them back into their car seats was always going to be a challenge but by this point they were getting tired and conveniently fell asleep on route to Paris. You can see from the picture how packed the car was. I could just about see the boys beneath the mountain of suitcases!

We stopped for lunch at a service station where they again argued, this time over who could 'fly' the plane with Donald Duck. Reuben didn't eat enough lunch as he was too busy stretching his legs, but was hungry as soon as we got back in the car. Thank goodness for the bag of bananas, strawberries, rice cakes, raisins, croissants and fruit bars we brought for emergencies! By the time we were approaching our hotel in Orléans they had had enough. Jacob was crying and Reuben was on the endless rounds of 'are we there yet?' We checked in and headed off for a very quick dinner as the boys, refusing to sit nicely after a day of sitting, were causing havoc before we had even started our dinner. The lack of cot beds in the hotel and a bunk bed that was 'not suitable for under 6's' meant I had to endure a hot night in a bed with two sweaty boys, but we were all so tired we slept through.

We had a tricky moment on day 2 just before lunch when hunger and boredom set in, but a quick lunch at another service station where the boys got to watch a blown out tyre on a truck being changed soon got them back on track. They both slept in the afternoon at which point my Dad put his foot down and we ploughed on. We knew we could have trouble when they woke up, Jacob by this point was not happy being strapped in anymore and my Dad's solution was to start singing. I would have sung along with him but I was too busy laughing and I had no idea most of the time what he was singing. I didn't mind the 'boom shakalaka' but when he started the 'go compare' advert theme tune I threatened to throw him out the car! I can see this is going to be a regular thing throughout the summer. As soon as Jacob starts crying in the car now Reuben asks Grandad to sing!

Have you been travelling with kids? What are your top tips for keeping them entertained on long journeys?

Becky x


Farewell London...we'll miss you!

The time has come! The car is packed and we're ready to go! It's all come round so quickly and inevitably we have recently been thinking about the things that we might miss when we're in France. Family and friends go without saying. We've managed to see most of them before leaving and our door in France will always be open to them for visits. I was born and raised in London and Andrew has lived here since the age of 10, so there are lots of things that we will miss about the Capital and we have managed to narrow it down to our top 5.

1. Public Transport
On the train to London
We haven't had a car for the past 2 years so public transport plays a large part in our lives as it gets us everywhere. Reuben has developed a love of trains and Jacob is fast following in his footsteps (though he also points out every bus, plane, motorbike and emergency vehicle.) There is a bus stop in our French village, but in all my years of going to France I've probably seen the bus about twice. But let's be honest, I think the main reason we'll miss it is because now if we decide to have a night out, one of us is going to have to be the 'designated driver.' No more jumping on the night bus or making sure we get the last train home. Though let's be even more honest, when was the last time we actually had a night out?!

2. The Southbank
Waterloo station...the Royal Festival Hall...walking by the Thames...going to the Southbank has become a regular outing for us since having children. The boys love watching the boats on the river, the Royal Festival Hall is a great place for kids to run wild and they often have free events/workshops/music. The regular food market is deliciously tempting and we would always make a trip down for the Christmas market in December. You can sit and watch the skater boys under the hall, the kids can play in the Jubilee Garden playground, or you can sit and tourist watch till the sun goes down!

3. Children's Playgrounds
I spend my life, when the weather permits, at playgrounds (although not too long ago we did go in the rain...'we're swinging in the rain!') The boys love the swings, climbing up the slides and pushing each other on the roundabouts. When we venture out to the bigger parks we feed the ducks, watch boats sailing, and visit the animals in the farms. London parks are great, like corner shops (see below) there is almost one on every corner. I know of 2 near our village in France. Only one has swings, no roundabouts, they both favour the climbing frames. The up side is that there will be so many more varied outside activities that we will be able to do with the boys, they wont have time to miss swinging in the rain!

4. Corner Shops
Some of my earliest memories are of our corner shop in North West London. I remember going there as a child to get my penny sweets. It was the first place I was allowed to go to on my own as there were no roads to cross. It was owned by Mr Singh and his family and when I was little it became my dream to be a shop owner...because people gave you money! There is no denying the convenience of corner shops, the amount of times we've had to make that trip early morning/late at night for milk/bread/toilet roll. There is a shop in the village we will be living in, but it is closed on Mondays, and at lunchtime, and public holidays, and it's contents are limited (and I've just heard a rumour it's closed for good.) I'm so used to walking to get what I need I think it may take time to adjust to getting in a car and a 20 min drive to the nearest shop.

5. Our Hairdressers
Time for a haircut!
I've been going to the same hairdresser for about 15 years. I am so particular about how my hair is cut the idea of going to someone different terrifies me. Andrew spent years (with a few dodgy haircuts along the way) trying to find the right barbers and is happy with the one he currently goes to, as is Reuben as he gets free lollipops. Cutting Reuben's hair is another story however. He hates it, and we're currently fighting a battle with him to get it done. We've tried various kids hairdressers, he's sat in front of fish a tank, in a mini cooper, whilst watching Peppa Pig, whilst eating a lollipop (not recommended he ended up sucking hair!) Maybe he'll find his perfect hairdresser in France?!

So there it is! The top five things we'll miss about London. With family and friends still here and France only a few hours away we'll be back...for a ride on the swing...for a walk by the get our hair cut..!

What would you miss about your hometown if you were to move abroad? Are you already living in another country? Is there anything you long to return home for? We'd love to hear from you!

Becky x

Farewell Montessori Children's House

I remember the day I first dropped Reuben at the Montessori Children's House. He cried, and I cried, and I could only hope that they would look after him and that he would soon learn to enjoy his time there. Today I found myself full circle, I could feel the tears welling up as I dropped him off for the last time. What got me going was that his two little friends, Sophia and Daria, were waiting at the top of the stairs for him, Sophia with a card in her hand to say goodbye.

I'm glad that we managed to find a Montessori nursery for Reuben as I thoroughly believe in it's methods. Montessori recognises that children are individuals and gives them the freedom to explore their surroundings, without dictating how things should be done. They have some wonderful materials to help them explore and I always liked how the children, aged 2-5, all share the same space allowing the little ones to learn from the bigger ones. Reuben has really enjoyed his time there and has grown from a shy little boy to one who is more socially active and confident in his surroundings.
At the end of term the leavers do their 'Butterfly Dance.' All week Reuben had been saying that he didn't want to do it, but when the time came he was happy to put on his wings and do his little circle dance in front of the other children. He received a photo book of pictures of him at the nursery, and when asked what he would miss most about Montessori he said 'Sophia and Daria'. Since becoming friends with Sophia they have played together every single day. We will do our best to keep them in touch and I can only hope that he finds a similar kind of friendship at his new school in France.

We would like to say a big thank you to all the staff at the Montessori Children's House for looking after our boy the past couple of years. We wish you all the best and know that you will continue to enrich children's lives as they make that first step into the wider world!

Becky x

I did it!

I had my driving test this morning and I'm really happy to say that I passed.
I had an early start to get some last minute practice in and I have to say that my driving during this lesson was pretty poor. The pre-test jitters were causing me to make easy mistakes and it didn't exactly fill me with a great deal of confidence for what I was about to do. Anyway, I'd done all I could and suddenly it was test time.

I was in the waiting room with about 10 other learners and their driving instructors, and one by one we were called up by our assessors. It felt like I was back in school waiting to be picked for a football match. I got a friendly chap who put me at ease quite quickly and on we went for the test. We got the 'show me tell me' out of the way with two questions I knew well and then we were off.

Overall the drive went pretty well. I felt quite nervous getting in to the car but once I started moving it was ok. Straight away he gave me a string of instructions that I didn't expect which really tested my slowly deteriorating memory skills. I completed a messy manoeuvre and about half way through we sparked up a conversation about work, kids, moving to France, and the problems in today's society in general. I hope my attempts to distract him from my driving were not too obvious! I then parked up for the last time and heard the magic words "I'm pleased to say you've passed". All that was left was to calm down and mop up the sweat that was dripping off me. What a relief!

This means so much as we can now concentrate fully on really making things work in France. I want to say a BIG thank you to Martin from BSM for pushing me and getting me through it.

France here we come!

Andrew :-)

Heigh Ho...It's off to work we go

When we tell people we're moving to France the first thing a lot of people say is  'what are you going to do for money?' I've been self employed since 2011 and Andrew is in a well paid job that keeps us going. There is no denying that moving from the security of a monthly wage to potentially nothing is terrifying. Work is the one thing that has always made us hesitate about moving to France in the past. But the more time we have spent there the more we have realised business potentials...we just had to decide on one...or two!

So here is what we are going to do. Andrew has set up Media Man, a one stop shop for anything related to computers, technology and websites. I've lived for the past 10 years with Andrew's gadgets (I tried a one in one out rule but it didn't last long,) wires (we have boxes of them all tangled together,) and tools (which the boys now enjoy playing with,) and I have a feeling it is only going to get worse. Andrew despairs at my strange ability to break any gadget that I own, 'you only have to walk past it and it breaks,' his words but somewhat true! He's done an amazing job building his own website and the website for our joint business venture...Mini Monde.

Mini Monde we're really excited about. We're marketing it as 'services for children and families living in and travelling to the Tarn-et-Garonne region.' Initially we have Mini Hire, Musique and Play. Mini Hire is a rental service where baby equipment such as car seats, prams and toys can be hired and delivered straight to holiday destinations. Mini Musique is an English language music classes for 0-3 year olds with popular nursery rhymes, instruments, fun and games. Mini Play is a playgroup for families with toys, arts and crafts, and refreshments. There is so much we can do with Mini Monde, from English classes for kids to a variety of workshops in the school holidays. It's exciting and we can't wait to get out there and start spreading the word!

Have a look at the websites and let us know what you think. We'd love your feedback. Would you use our services if you were in the area?

Becky & Andrew x

Last weekends...Curious Dog and Brighton

On Saturday, Andrew and I had a rare treat...a whole day without kids! We love our boys to bits but it's nice to be able to spend time alone together and reminisce about the 'good old days' when we spent days like this all the time. My parents had very kindly agreed to look after the boys (ha ha!) and had a day planned that would knacker them out and have them early to bed.

We took the train to Waterloo and were able to drink our coffees in peace without having to chase Jacob up and down the carriage or take note of every other train that went past. We grabbed lunch from the Real Food Market, some wine, and sat in the sun watching the world go by. We walked down the river to St. Paul's Cathedral, took tourist pictures in phone boxes, and stepped back in time on a visit to 'Ye Old Cheshire Cheese' pub.

'Naturally fast food'
After a light and delicious dinner at Leon, we headed to the Apollo Theatre where I had bought tickets for Andrew's birthday to see 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.' It was supposed to be a surprise but whilst I was away one weekend Andrew decided to open my post ('because it looked important' he said) and discovered the tickets. It was a great show, well worth seeing, especially if you enjoyed the book. Afterwards, Andrew could have partied on, but I must admit I don't quite have the stamina I used to have and was ready for bed. Especially as I knew the boys would be up early in the morning ready for our trip to...

...Brighton! The forecast for the weekend was sun, temperature well into the 20s. We assumed this meant Brighton as well but how wrong we were, it was freezing! We turned back on the Pier as it was too windy. Reuben insisted on an ice cream on the beach but wouldn't move from the warmth of the pram. Jacob was the only one who didn't seem to feel the cold and was more than happy throwing stones in the sea (he would have gone in if we had let him) and eating his ice cream on a deck chair. We rushed back home and managed to catch the last half hour of sun in the garden.

Becky x

(Find us on Instagram for more pictures of the weekend @lafamillebrown)

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