Tuesday, May 10, 2005

After three weeks of vacationing, I need a vacation

There are two types of vacations. The first is when you don't go to work or school and sit around not doing a whole lot of anything. The second type is where you travel around a bunch, which, while very interesting, is not incredibly restful.
So when I say I just got back from three weeks of vacation, you know which one I mean.
After my mom arrived we spent the first week exploring the city that I have come to call home. We saw lots of the major spots to see in Lyon, and even though it's not a big tourist draw, I think mom would agree that there's enough to do here to fill a week.
But she didn't come all this way just to hang out, so we rented a car and drove to Beaune, the capital of the Burgundy wine region. It was a very cute little mediaeval town with an awesome public hospital called Hôtel-Dieu built in 1443. The hospital functioned with reknown all the way until 1971 and was enriched along the way by donations from the upper classes making it into a real "Palace of the Poor" with many works of art and the home of the most famous wine auction in the world.
Mom and I also tried a few samples of wine, of course, and dined very well while there.
The next day, after I got us lost, we got to Annecy, a cute little town near Geneva on the edge of the cleanest lake in Europe. I was mostly interested in old town, however, and enjoyed walking through the streets with old, quasi-Swiss style houses and touristy shops posed at the edge of the little river that feeds the lake.
For the final four days of my mom's stay we were in Paris and really had an enjoyable time. We walked a little more than I wanted, but in such a big city and with so much beautiful and interesting stuff at every corner it's hard not to want to see it all! And we came pretty close too. From the Eiffel Tower to Versailles to cafés at the Bastille and Notre Dame, we saw pretty much everything, except Musée d'Orsay, which wasn't open because of the holiday.

Then I came home to Lyon for a day where I worked all day at Le Progrès writing my first real article! It should be published sometime next week! The next day I headed off again, this time on a bus trip to the Dordogne region in the south of France with just about everyone in the Centre Oregon program. It was great to get to see everyone again and see how the past year has treated them, and to see which ones turned out to have actually learned French and which are just drinking away their parents' money... ;-)
The trip itself was really interesting as well. We stayed on an organic farm that welcomes tourists and feeds them twice a day with products from their farm, including organic wine (very bitter, not recommended). During the day we took trips, one to Sarlat, an ancient little town with wisteria hanging everywhere and foie gras shops on every corner. In the afternoon we took canoes down the Dordogne river and floated by lush countryside, beautiful bridges and very cool rock houses, some built directly into rock walls lining the river. Some were so old and so well camoflaged you only noticed them by the windows in the cliff face. The next day we saw a pretty cool castel and learned about its defenses. Then we had an awesome lunch at a two-star restaurant (French give out stars sparingly. One star means it's exceptional). We rolled out of the restaurant to go on a boat tour and then to an incredible garden with bizarrely shaped hedges on a hillside looking out over the entire Dordogne valley and its castels. Before going home we stopped off at Lascaux II, the site of near-perfectly preserved prehistoric paintings (where Jean M. Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series takes place).

I finally got home last night and must now concentrate on all the things I have to do as we ramp up to the end of my stay here. I have classes to pass and editors to impress, ends to tie up here, and plans to make for Russia. The unfortunate part of the last three weeks is how much time I spent speaking English and how quickly my French deteriorated because of that. In my final weeks here I hope I can accomplish all I want to, but it's scary to think how quickly all that will disappear...

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