It all went rapidly downhill after Christmas!

On Boxing-Day, the grey and dismal skies of Rouen precipitated us to ditch camp in search of new adventures; and so it was that we made a last minute decision to go skiing. ‘Husband à l’etranger’ may be experienced, but for the rest of us this was our first time on the slopes.

We set off for Les Diablerets in Switzerland in the early afternoon after lengthy attempts to reduce luggage to a minimum and squeeze all six of us in the car. Early into the journey it was blatently obvious that we wouldn’t make our ETA of 6pm and the closure of the Swiss post office who were holding  the key for the chalet apartment. Like all small villages though, a general spirit of ‘can do’ meant that the person behind the voice on the phone was happy to drop off the key at the restaurant next door to the post office, and when we finally arrived late in the evening we were more than happy not to be sleeping ‘knees under chin’ in the car!


The following morning after a quick fit-out of skis, we took ourselves to the nursery slopes for our first lesson.

WELL! It didn’t take long to see who had had the ice-skating lessons, and who was the ‘old dog’…


On day one I mastered the teleski without ripping my arm out of its socket. I quite liked being referred to as ‘La dame en Blanche’ (The woman in White) by the teleski attendant. It had a nice sound to it. However, I began to wonder if the  name referred to the Wilkie Collins character and might have been more reference to my slightly psycotic attempts to mow down, on several occasions, my ski instructor. Didn’t the Collins’s ‘Woman in White’ come from a mental asylum?


On days three and four, I ‘took out’ my ski-instructor, and it wasn’t for a drink! Paralysed by fear at the top of a spectacularly steep slope, our instructor told us the story of the day he fell, lost his ski, and hurtled down a stope backwards, before wrapping himself around a fence at the bottom. It took him three seconds to realise he was paralysed, he said. It wasn’t an encouraging story for an ‘old dog’ that hadn’t mastered turning, let alone stopping, even when facing forwards.  Apparently, after three years in a wheel chair, he taught himself to walk again, and then to ski. Perhaps the moral of the story is that there is hope when you have carreered into the only obstacle on the horizon, rather than – ‘this is what can happen if you don’t learn to stop!’ Nevertheless my skis did appear to have taken on the mantle of target seeking missiles.


The end of day four saw me finally getting my skis under control. I finally mastered a slalom descent of about twelve turns, culminating in a controled stop right beside the teleski. Sadly the teleski attendant had gone off for a coffee and missed my great achievement.


So having gone very rapidly downhill several times after christmas, I left the mountain in an upbeat mood, ready to book for next time.


Did I tell you about the euphoria of ‘l’aprés ski’? Mulled wine on a snowy mountain top, and cheese fondu in front of a roaring log fire and warm glowing faces……

That’s for another day!

The Tour de France 2012 in Rouen.

Wednesday 4th July

Waiting patiently…


Until the caravanne arrives!


With a little bit extra !

Wait here they come….

No surely not….?

Well motor powered – that would explain how they go so fast..

Hurray, here they come…


I km to go…

Blink and we missed them!

and the stragglers…

Down comes the Vittel arch – time to go for a drink to cool down!

Thursday 5th July

Ready for the race…

The caravanne arrives….

Prepare to collect the trinkets missed yesterday…..

Yet again the sweet van misses us – how can that be…..?

Let the velos begin….

and the odd spare bike!

Et le fin de course ….pour nous!

Tour de France at Rouen

On the way to work this morning there were groups of fit looking cyclists on many road junctions, gathering  to set off for some daily training. Let’s not mix words, these guys were looking seriously fit.

Rouen is pretty good for hills, many of the major arterial routes and smaller side roads take a serious climb up out of the Seine valley to the plateaux beyond – and I should know, since I regularly join a group of french mamans for a circuit of the Forêt Verte, north of Rouen and being the most (city) centrally located maman of the group, I have the furthest  and therefore longest and hardest climb. I have been known to take my bike in the car to miss out the steep city centre roads since there are plenty more hills once we reach the forest – and the french maman’s are correct in their assertion that I miss out on the downhill race at the end of our sortie when I do so – but sometime’s being an exhausted heap of sweat with legs like jelly is not the ideal starting point for meeting the french maman’s who are looking chic and cool at our rendez-vous to begin the ‘pretty bit’ of the cycle ride.

I am therefore in awe of these fit men, though I do sometimes stop to wonder quite how they happen not to be in the office at 9am on a weekday morning. I wonder if there is special dispensation for cycle leave – Congé de Velo, as we are of course approaching the sporting phenomenon – equal of course to Wimbledon in national importance – The Tour de France.

This year I am very excited, having lost out on the purchase of a house on the Tour de France route in the Pyrenees some years ago, because the Tour de France is coming right past my door (or within a couple of hundred metres of it anyway!)

The Tour de France passes through Rouen twice,  on two consecutive days, and I shall be there to watch not just one fit looking cyclist but hundreds of extreme atheletes thundering past, even if the whole process takes mere minutes, at least I can get a second ‘take’ the following day.

The last time the ‘Tour’ came through Rouen was in 1997. This is the 99th Tour and approximately 500 000 spectators are expected to be lining the two routes.

The first route on the 4th July runs between Abbeville in the North and Rouen and covers 214km. The cyclists will run a coastal route which passes Eu, Dieppe, St Valery en Caux and Fecamp before descending into the Seine valley.

The second route on the 5th July runs from Rouen to St Quentin in L’Ainse and covers 197km and will follow the Boucles de la Seine (the twists of the Seine).

The arrival point on the 4th July will be at Quay Jean Moulin where a giant screen will be erected so that the spectators will ‘ne pas perdre une miette de ce grand moment sportif’, or otherwise said…not miss a crumb of this great event! The arrival of the ‘caravan’ will be approxiamtely 15.54 with the hind- runners arriving about 17.11.

On the 5th July, the depart of the ‘caravan’ will be 10.45 with the runners leaving about 12.30. A full itinerary of times of ‘passage’ throughout Normandie can be found on or in the June 2012 (No 178) Seine maritime Magazine.

To coincide with this great sporting moment two of the great Armada ships are mooring on the Seine quayside at Rouen, and will give us a little glimpse of next years great event – The 2013 Armada Celebration at Rouen where the Seine will be bulging at the seams with Armada tall ships.

But for those like me who, if on a bike, would have lost sight of the Tour de France stragglers after a mere nanosecond, the opportunity to take a spin on the hallowed cycling ‘turf’  has been made possible by the Department Haute Normandie. ‘A Chacun son Tour’ (To everyone his turn) is an offer to amateur cyclists to cycle some or all of the route, Eu to Rouen, on sunday 1st July.

If even that seems too daunting there are always the electric velos for hire, parked at various points about the city!

Sadly the only ‘Maillot Jaune’ that we will be likely to wear will be the ones we found lurking in the bottom of the drawer earlier the same morning !

For more info

Pitstops in Rouen – The Tour de France

Ice Skating on the Ile Lacroix – Patinoire Ile Lacroix, Rouen

Who would have thought that a simple request to do ice skating by my ten year old would result in the ice-rink at the Ile Lacroix becoming my second home!

Like other clubs,  ESPAR the Ecole Sportive de Patinage Artistique de Rouen gave the boys two free trial sessions before we needed to open the purse strings to pay for lessons.  The first lesson was an excellent and varied series of challenges, including slalom runs and the first tentative efforts at skating backwards. The boys loved it, and barely had a foot left the rink when they demanded to join the following lesson some fifteen minutes later!

6 months later the boys have continued with their wednesday double bill, two hour skating lesson, and inspired the rest of my kids to follow suit. So here I am, a fully fledged “skating mother” – as much part of the general scenery as the ice itself. Two hours on wednesday, an hour and a half on monday, not including the repetitions (rehearsals) for the Gala and the requisite learning of all the appropriate  vocabulary.


In June, three months into the boys association with the club, the students of ESPAR performed Peter Pan, an excellent event  made all the better by watching my boys , one dressed as a indian and the other as an elf succeed in moving in the right direction and remaining  upright for the duration! What was inspiring was the level the lead players had attained by the age of 16. But if some-one had told me that I would find myself creating elf costumes and skate covers from spangly green and gold fabrics without a pattern, I may have thought longer about inscribing them in the first place!

I have shared the misery and joy of the “Glaçon” tests, of which there are six, each with their own particular challenges. And what can be worse than seeing one child gain all the glory whilst the second misses the award by the skin of his teeth or than watching the face of the child that gets left in his group whilst the other is advanced to the next? Today however, full of pride I watch from the sidelines as my sons’ are tested on their skills, with the older one getting both his third and forth glaçons on the same day, a serious achievement.

One of my boys in particular is passionate about his skating, and having learnt about the existence of the “Ecole de Glace” set about besieging me to think about it. As the weeks progress I note that the trainer is paying him particular attention, fine tuning his moves. Shortly afterwards she approaches me about the school. It seems she believes that he is sufficiently “passioné” and capable. It is a serious committment. In CM2 a potential student must undertake no less than 5 hours of skating weekly, progress through the six glaçons, and onto the medal tests which are individually performed in front of a jury. The Ecole de Glace commences at sixième, the first year of Collège, at age 11 and entry is determined only by the trainers, and the level of skating achieved by the student. The student must obtain a place at the Collège de Fontanelles in the specialist music and dance class where all academic subjects are undertaken in the morning to enable the pusuit of skating every weekday afternoon. It is in strong demand.

It’s early days and sporting passions wax and wane with the frequency of the moon. But opportunities remain out there for those with the desire to follow them. If not patinage artistique today, how about hockey sur glace tomorrow?