We arrived here on Saturday afternoon after a journey from Versailles that should have taken three hours. As we rolled up the major north bound toll road from Paris, we came to a dead stop behind and endless view of traffic. For just under two hours we sat on a huge highway. So unlike the Willy Nelson song "On the Road Again," we weren't rolling down the highway like a band of gypsies, but rather, according to another driver, we were in fact being blocked by a band of gypsies on the highway who were hoping a blockade protest would secure asylum for one of their members, who had apparently murdered a Frenchman.
It was a long and boring wait but we, and thousands of others, made the best of it by getting out of the car to walk around and making new friends. Eventually, the police opened a gate into a farmer's field and those of us who were close to it, slipped out of the dense traffic and onto the freedom of a rural road. We weaved our way through the French countryside and eventually made our way to Mons. We missed touring Vimy Ridge that day, but we'll make trip back to see it.
We were welcomed at Jean-Paul and Sophie's with great kindness. They have made many arrangements to make our stay here comfortable. Sophie is a fantastic cook and we've enjoyed several great meals in their gorgeous garden. It's like eating on a movie set!
After Sunday brunch, we toured the core of Mons with the family and some of their friends from Brussels. It's a lovely city of 70,00 and they have wonderful bakeries close by to get our daily pain au chocolate. We toured the square, belfry and cafe that served strawberry milkshakes and cold beer - everyone was happy.
While we're in Mons, we're all trying our best to use our French. Jean-Paul and the boys are fluent in English, but Sophie's English is closer to my French - not so great - but we muddle through. The kids are making an effort, but still seem shy about using it. Hopefully that will improve. My French tends to improve after a glass or two of wine.