Monday, February 23, 2009


Finally, we made it to Carcassonne! I’ve been wanting to visit this medieval city since we arrived. We had it on the agenda for every visit made by family, but we just never got around to it.

Well, we were all glad that we finally made it! It is amazing. Like walking into a fairy tale.

As we were rounding the corner of the highway into the city of Carcassonne, we could see La Cite from the highway. The car was filled with a chorus of:

  • “Ohmigosh!”
  • “Wow, Mommy, do you see that?”
  • “Look, look, it’s a castle!!”, etc.

We were all surprised by how big it was and how utterly cool it was!! The family agreed unanimously that it is one of the coolest things we have seen in France so far.

Here’s a view from the car – just so you have an idea.

I had insisted on staying the night because Mike’s French teacher from Santa Clara said that La Cite is lit up at night and a must-see. Here is my photo at night.

Here is a link with better photos:

The history of Carcassonne is amazing and worth reading about.

Arriving at La Cite, which was only about a 5-10 minute walk from the hotel, everyone was misbehaving so badly from excitement that I had to throw 'em in jail!

The church inside La Cite is Notre Dame - a much smaller replica of Notre Dame in Paris. Here are some pictures of the church - some exterior views, including one from the battlements of the castle, and an interior view.

Cool view from the hotel room, too!

We had a terrific visit, and we look forward to going back when Alex is here this summer.

Love to all!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Bruns Are Back

Sandra, Jean-Louis, Victoria, and Noah returned last week from a 2-week vacation in the United States.

Their first stop was Los Angeles, home of my uncle V.J. (Jeff) Foster.

You have seen him in such films as Indiana Jones IV, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, The Insider, etc. You have also seen him in such prime time TV shows as 24 (Russian terrorist), The Shield (Smitty the safe cracker), NCIS, and Cold Case. You may also have seen him in stage performances by The Actors' Gang – a group of actors directed by Tim Robbins.

Okay, I digress with pride for my uncle’s acting career!

A few months before the Bruns departed for their vacation, Sandra saw Jeff on Cold Case here in France. I had told her all about him, so she recognized him instantly. How cool is that? I received a text message from her around 10:30pm – she was so excited to have seen him on TV!

When we heard that the Bruns would be in LA, we asked Jeff and his wife Lindsley to spend some time with them. And when Julie heard that Sandra was coming to town, the whole Locatelli family planned to drive to LA to be part of the visit, too!!

The end result? The Bruns hung out with Jeff, Lindsley, Julie, David, Jeremy, and Ryan their first night in the US! They all enjoyed a Super Bowl Sunday party at Jeff & Lindsley’s house the next day, too.

I – of course – already knew that I have some of the coolest aunts & uncles in the world, but now the Bruns know it, too! The Bruns had an excellent time. Sandra even came home with autographed 8x10 glossies of Jeff.

Thank you sincerely Jeff, Linds, Jul & Dave for your awesome hospitality and efforts at making the Bruns’ visit an overwhelming success! You all rock, and I love you!

Another of Sandra's favorite parts of the US vacation?! Her new tattoos!! Check 'em out.

Love to all!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The French Circus

As we walked up to the big top, all I could think was, “This must be what circuses were like in the US before arenas and lawsuits!”

Picture this . . . The animals are chained up outside the big top. Well, the lions were inside a semi, but all the other animals (les exotics) were chained up outside. Camel, horses, llama, some other animal that looked a bit like a yak, etc. Inside the big top were bleachers, a huge cage, and a platform supporting the spotlight.

We sat right next to the spotlight platform and waited for the show to begin. Of course, the announcer was speaking in French, so I could only understand a small portion of what she said. However, it quickly became very clear that the lions were on the way out!

They were gorgeous, and separated from the audience only by the cage you can see in the pictures. They had “loge” seating right in front of the cage – literally! When the other animals were paraded around, the people sitting in loge seating could reach in and pet the animals. Wow!

Okay, back to the lions. There were two beautiful lionesses, and they performed a few cool feats for us – one balanced on a plank and the other walked across a series of poles. It was pretty cool!

When the lion show was over, they completely dismantled the cage. It took about 5-7 minutes, but they tore it all down and moved it outside. It was fun to watch as they moved out the cage and rolled out the red circle in the center of the ring for the next performance.

Some of the other performers included three young – and very muscular! – men who did acrobatics and human pyramid-types of shapes to cool music. They were really fun to watch.

Next were two brothers who apparently performed in the Monte Carlo circus. They climbed the rope to the tight rope, balanced a huge metal ladder on the tight rope, then proceeded to balance themselves on the ladder! One brother was on one end, performing slowly on a trapeze while the other brother was on the other end of the ladder to keep it from tumbling the 25 feet to the ground! And guess what? There wasn’t a net under them. I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time. I didn’t take a single picture because I was afraid that my flash might disrupt them.

We saw some comedian dogs perform, and they were very cute. Here is what the kids looked like while they were watching the dogs. :)

We also saw the exotic animals and the horses. Then, last of all, we saw the clowns. Oh my. It was all in French, so I really didn’t get much of the humor. It was something to do with the clowns playing their trumpets on the sidewalk, and the policeman was trying to chase them away. The thing that made the clowns terrific was the fact that there was a tiny child clown, too! He was maybe 2 years old – maybe. However, he performed like a master! He played his little trumpet when the other clowns did. He moved his chair away from the policeman when the other clowns did. He picked up his other props when he was supposed to. It was adorable!

A very fun way to spend an afternoon!

Love to all!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sean Turns 3!

We were lucky enough to celebrate Sean’s 3rd birthday with him, Susie (Mike's sister), and Mark (Susie's husband) while they were here visiting!

They arrived in Rome the same day we did, and we all stayed in a great apartment together. Thanks, Susie, for finding such a terrific place!!

They came back to Bouzigues with us, and they stayed in the apartment next door for about 10 days. One of those days was Sean’s birthday.

Sean picked out a great chocolate and cherry cake, and we found a candle and a sparkler – along with birthday hats.

As soon as we all ate cake (and it was yummy!), we were off to the Pyrenees for 2 days of fun in the snow.

Love to all!

Max Turns 7!

Max’s 7th birthday was February 5th. We celebrated several times!

First, we celebrated early in Rome. Max wanted to say that he had his 7th birthday party in Rome, Italy!

Second, we celebrated a bit in the Pyrenees on his birthday. He got private ski lessons with David, since Josey was skiing in the Alps with her class. He got to open a gift from Josey when he woke up that morning, and I bought him a giant lollypop to eat in the car on the way home from the Pyrenees that afternoon.

Sorry, I couldn't get any "action shots" of Max skiing this time. He's way, way too fast! He's up to skiing on the black slopes already - and he skis faster than I can! He loves, loves, loves skiing. :)

Here is a shot of the gorgeous view from the ski slopes. Dado was willing to get his hands cold to take some pictures for me.

Last, we celebrated at home in Bouzigues the day after his birthday. That is when we ate cake. Max wanted to wait until Josey was home, so she could have cake, too. :)

Max got a giant box from Grom and Dude this day, so he also had lots of cool presents to open the day after his birthday, too.

One of the highlights of his birthday? A neck tie!

My boy is a bit strange sometimes – all in a good way! Right after Christmas, he decided that he simply had to have a neck tie. I have no idea where this unique fashion statement came from, but he was even willing to spend his own euros to buy one! Well, we searched high and low through stores in the area, and Aunt Julie searched high and low through stores in Santa Cruz – no joy. No neck ties made for little boys. One of his strict requirements was that it must not have clips! He wanted the kind that ties!

So, we turned to ebay. This is funny! For $9 (US), we found an Italian tie that we purchased from a vendor in Los Angeles that was then shipped to France. Then, we went to Rome, Italy! The boutique across the street from our Rome apartment had Italian silk ties for boys – 45 euros on sale. Wow! Max was really glad his was only $9 (only $3 shipping). What a deal.

Max asked us every single day: Will my tie be there when we get back to Bouzigues? Can I wear it right away?

When we got home, the tie was there! Uncle Mark provided the tie-tying lessons. Max has worn that tie every other day since we arrived home.

Is that kid lucky or what?! Rome . . . the Pyrenees to ski . . . France . . . a new tie. Wow! We are all very, very lucky.

Thanks to all of you who called and emailed him birthday wishes. He had a really fun birthday!

Love to all!

Josey is Back!

Josey is back from the 5-day school field trip to the Alps!! She was one of 50 kids from her school who made the journey to the Alps to visit their pen pals, ski, snow shoe, and frolic in the snow.

I sure missed that girl a ton. She missed us, too. We got a tearful phone call on Wednesday morning. We (Mike, Max, Susie, Mark, Sean, and I) all went to the Pyrenees to ski for 2 days while she was gone. We were there when she called. She was so homesick! We explained to her that being homesick and missing your family is completely normal – and to have fun anyway!

She is now a “red” skier. In France, the rating system for ski runs is a bit different. In order beginning with the easiest:

  • Green
  • Blue
  • Red
  • Black

She even has a cool pin to commemorate the trip.

Other cool things they did on the field trip . . .

  • She also got to go snow shoeing, but she said that wasn’t so fun.
  • A honey maker came to their chalet one evening, and they got to learn about making honey. They also got to taste several different honeys. She brought home Miel de Savon for us.
  • Their last night, they also had a soiree! There was dancing until almost midnight. Rumor has it that she may have danced with a boy.

She is glad to be home, and we are happy to have her home

Love to all!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Josey is Gone!

Josey just left for a 5-day field trip. Can you believe that? At 6:30am, in the pouring rain, she climbed onto a bus with about 50 other French children. Their destination? The Alps! They have pen pals in a village roughly 4 hours away, and they are going to spend this week with the pen pals – skiing and snow shoeing and having a great, amazing, unforgettable time.

Max and I sang:

Bye, bye Josey
Bye, bye Josey
Bye, bye Josey
We’ll see you again on Friday

Sidebar: Max, Josey, and I used to sing this song every time Alex left to go to her Papa’s house. Max remembered!

Josey has been looking forward to this trip for months! I am so proud of her. She will be completely immersed in French for 5 full days. Her teacher speaks a little English, but that’s it! Josey is fully aware of that, but she really, really wanted to go.

The rest of her life, she will have the memory of this French field trip in the Alps when she was 9! How cool is that?

On the other hand, this is her first time away from me – besides slumber parties – without either Mike, Grandma Pat, my mom or my dad as caretakers! I’m excited, nervous, sad, and stressed all at the same time. Okay – I’m going to get a huge hug from Mike right now.

I’m back. Mike reminded me that she’ll be okay. As he said, “Don’t worry about Josey. She is tougher than we are.” I feel a little bit better.

I have to tell you, I’m impressed with the organization of the event. The cost was only 180 euros for transportation, lodging in a chalet, food, ski rentals, ski lessons, lift tickets, etc. for 5 days!! Wow! The school hired a professional organization to “host” the field trip. So, they have a chalet that can house the kids (4 children to a room) with chaperones. Every parent received an “inventory” list: clothes, ski gear, toiletries, sun screen, etc. The chaperones verify the inventory when the child arrives and again before they leave.

I’ll give you updates while she is gone. Wish her bon courage et bon voyage!

Love to all!

Rome - Day 5

Our last full day in Rome was spent leisurely . . . no rushing to fountains or speed-walking to statues or racing to museums.

We even paused to take some unusual photos. For example, Josey's personal request to have her picture taken with an Italian policeman!

We used this day to re-visit our favorites spots, pick up some souvenirs, and move closer to the airport.

Max and Sean both really, really wanted to go on a horse ride. There are many horse-drawn carriages in Rome that will take you to certain places – giving you a tour on the way. Well, our first inquiry resulted in a 150 euro answer. Max had the option of a birthday party or a horse-drawn carriage ride. He wisely chose the birthday.

However, our last day was pretty rainy. I think the horse drivers knew the pickin’s were slim, so we got a shorter ride for a lot less euros! Susie, the kids, and I rode through the streets of Rome to the Trevi Fountain! Dado and Mark walked because they didn’t fit in the carriage.

We all wanted to see the Trevi Fountain again after seeing Bernini’s statues at the Villa Borghese. I’m glad we did! The lighting in these pictures is much better than my first batch.

The souvenir shopping around the Trevi Fountain was also excellent. Max and Josey love to shop, so everyone was having a great time but Dado.

We had a leisurely lunch in a café, followed later by our last gelato in Rome.

Do these kids look happy or what?! Mark isn’t looking so happy because he accidentally ordered a 12 euro gelato!! That’s more than $15 US!!

All of our things were already packed because we had to check out of the apartment early. Another American family was moving in! We had a 3:00pm rendezvous with our van driver, and then we were off to the airport hotel.

Sigh. It was sad to end this vacation. It was one of my most favorite ever! However, we were all looking forward to returning to Bouzigues. The Bergrens were excited about seeing France, and we were excited about being home. But now the love of travel is officially instilled in my entire family – I know that even Alex would have adored this vacation!

Some amazing sights on our way home . . .

The Alps from the plane and an energy-producing windmill in France

A nuclear power plant, too! Photo taken from the car. :)

Love to all!