Well I woke up in mid afternoon cause that’s when it all hurts the most
I dream I never know anyone at the party and I’m always the host
If dreams are like movies then memories are films about ghosts
You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast
– “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows
Counting Crows is one of my favorite bands from the ’90s, which is also to say one of my favorite bands ever. I thought of this song because tomorrow, we’re moving south down to the coast of the Mediterranean. Tomorrow, we’re picking up our friend Lele from Chicago at the train station in a nifty little Renault Clio or whatever the Europcar office sees fit to bestow upon us, and Steve will get to try out his manual transmission driving skills which have been rusting for about a decade. And we will be on our way to the Pont du Gard and eventually to Rivesaltes, a little town right outside of Perpignan, the biggest city in the very southwestern corner of France, within sight of the Pyrenees and Spain.
I’ve been idly looking up things to explore while we’re down there. I’m kind of banking on the fact that Lele, who’s enjoying a vacation from the frigid temperatures Chicago calls summer, may just want to relax with some good food and good friends. We’ll leave the serious museum-trampling and picture-snapping for Barcelona and Paris, which we are doing later on our trip. Next week, I foresee plenty of barbecues and beer at a lovely apartment with a terrace in Rivesaltes, hiking in some gorgeous canyons (ha-ha), visiting some crumbling medieval castles and cities like Carcassone, and sampling some of Languedoc-Rousillion’s excellent vineyards. (That one’s for you, Rich! We’ll be sure to report back on them!) We’ll teach Lele the joys of getting a daily baguette and pain chocolat, and focus on enjoying the sunny and beautiful weather that seems to be God’s gift to France in late spring. The only thing I’ll really miss hard about being back in Lyon is the fact that magnolias in the Parc de la Tête d’Or are about to bloom. We’ve seen a few blossoms, but I hope there will be some left when we come back in two weeks. To console me, Steve has offered to teach me how to drive a manual. I hope the French also have giant mega-malls with very large parking lots.
After six days in the south of France, we’ll board a train from Narbonne down to Barcelona, where I’m intent on visiting some of the famous attractions like the Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell along with a few lesser-known wonders. For example, Sarah, my best friend from college, put in a whole year in Barcelona during college, and came out a fervent dedicate to the sport of castellers, which are basically amazing feats of human-tower building. That’s totally on my list! Along with just relaxing, enjoying some Spanish food, and seeing a different country. I must also assert that this trip will be nothing like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, in case you were just thinking of it. None of us are interested in mysterious Spanish artists, none of us! Finally, we fly together to Paris to see the City of Lights. So far, I’ve flown into Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG), the main airport of Paris, twice without actually having seen the city! It’s one of those places that have been so vivid in my imagination for so long that it will be strange to actually be there.
Steve, who visited extensively when he studied abroad in England, will be our guide here, pointing us around and taking us on a whirlwind tour of the Eiffel Tower, Musée Louvre, Champs Élysées, and Arc de Triomphe. We also expect to hit up the cemeteries of Paris, both Père Lachaise and Montparnasse, to pay homage to some of my favorite writers like Émile Zola and Simone de Beauvoir. And of course, I expect to hunt down most of the locations from Amélie, which is one of my favorite films of all time, in Montmartre, just north of Paris. By the time we see everyone we know in Paris, including our friends Kat, Dan, and Olivia, it will be the middle of June and time to come back to Lyon to wrap up the last part of our time in France.
Now to spend our evening making some dinner, packing, and printing out all our directions and reservations for the trip! I absolutely can’t wait. Look out for photos from the sud de la France very soon!