Rediscovering the Magic of France
As we prepared to return to China, it was only fitting to spend our last week in Europe with our French friends we had made in China. We had traveled with these friends to Fujian province last March; needless to say we love spending time with them and were so grateful they were able to show us around their beautiful country.
We met them in Montpellier where we spent the weekend wandering the adorable narrow French streets of the downtown area. We drove a little bit out of town and found a picturesque swimming hole bursting with people on a hot summer Sunday afternoon. And I discovered that cassis sorbet (black currant) makes all my dreams come true.
And that is what our week in Provence was like: a dream. Having just returned to France after living a couple of years in China, our friends were staying with his parents who lived in the southern France countryside. They had a swimming pool surrounded by fig trees and gorgeous cliffs. Every day we would drive to another quintessential French town, take a billion pictures, and make our way back to the house just in time for apero (which is similar to happy hour but longer and with more drinking). The food was magnificent and we even started to get the hang of eating meals in courses.
I have so many favorite memories from our week in France with our friends! We went hiking in a canyon that is dry in the summer and full of water in the winter. We ate pizza in the street of his hometown, meeting all the neighbors, former teachers, and friends of the family. We saw a town that harvests pink salt outside its doorstep. We attempted to become best friends with the cats. I remember returning back to the house after a day of exploring and satiating our hunger by eating fresh figs off the trees in the garden and comparing the different varieties. I loved visiting the farmer’s market and having a picnic near an icy cold river.
One of my favorite things we saw was the Carrieres de Lumieres in Les Baux-de-Provence. When we walked into this ancient quarry I could see nothing. We went from blinding hot sun to black cold stone cave. The music filled my ears and suddenly my eyes filled with art. Everywhere I saw art. Art that shifted and changed and floated into something else. I recognized the still life paintings we saw in The Hague three months ago. They changed and suddenly the room was full of butterflies. It was dizzying and mesmerizing. Art filled my body. As we wandered around looking at the art from different angles, I began to see themes emerge. After about 40 minutes, the show ended with Stairway to Heaven echoing through the cave. Of all the things I saw on our trip this summer, this was by far the coolest man-made thing. Cooler than any art we saw in London. Cooler than any Gaudi building in Spain. I didn’t want to leave. I would go back to France just to see an exhibition here. And if you click on the link to their website, you can see even more breathtaking photos of the exhibit.
Traveling is amazing yet exhausting. After a while everything begins to look the same and nothing excites me anymore. When we visited France six years ago (see all my France posts) it was a magical adventure. I was worried that after all our travels these past few years France wouldn’t feel magical anymore. I was very very wrong. Thanks to our friends and their family, France is even more special now. Everyone was so kind to us. And of course the food and sites were amazing too.
I am so thankful to our friends and their family who graciously hosted us throughout that week. It was a perfect conclusion to our three month summer vacation in Europe!