france: saturday 091909

Our last real day in France:(

We spent it relaxing in Palavas. Our hotel was the one of the blue ones in the middle.

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We toured the beaches and the town – its a really neat place built right there on the water. Definately a tried and true fishing community. And it was kind of like a fair, with these booths of food and souvenirs – although it still didnt seem that touristy.

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Tidbits? Dont eat carnival style hotdogs, unless you like gross carnival sausage dogs. We checked out a cemetery (ok, dont ask me, that was boys idea) and learned that photos on tombstones were quite normal, as were all kinds of items – books, toys, flowers, tea sets, etc. Everyone really truly does say bonjour (for instance, you walk into a shop, you say bonjour – I read about it, but seeing it in practice really made me think differently about it). Oh, and their sea gulls sound french! I had heard about a study done with ducks or geese, I cant remember. But that one group from say England, didnt really understand the calls from say the American birds. Neat, huh? :)

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And the rest of the story is just that we woke up at 4am to catch our flight. The last plane was the nicest one Ive ever been on and we got to have our own monitors in the seat in front of us, for movies, music, or even video games. We watched Angels and Demons and tried to sleep. Then we finally shared with everyone our little secret of getting eloped.

Uhm…the end:)

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france: friday 091809

We had breakfast at the hotel in Palavas – see what I mean about it being sheik? :)

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Then, we headed out to Nimes, one of the great cities of ancient roman architecture. Unfortunately for us, there was a festival about to begin. The Maison Caree looked under construction, not to mention a stage with full lighting and sound systems was being set up against its side. We looked then for the Arena, but it is very difficult to navigate sometimes in cities (ok, maybe all the time?). We did find it, but the festival was literally just getting started – booths lined up the main road and we could not find any parking. We did try, but the longer we searched, the more crazy it became to drive.

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We were undaunted though, as we decided to continue driving on to Arles, another gem of the romans. And whats along the way? Oh, just a giant aqueduct: the Pont du Gard. Amazing! If you look close, you can see people along the bridge – yes it is *that* big. Again, the notion of being a “visitor” rather than a “tourist” really struck me. People are so respectful, and its a shared moment, to walk across such a massive work of engineering. Not a rush to be first, not crowded, not selfish. Simply awe inspiring.

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On the way to Arles, we passed through Avignon. Its always kinda cool to finally meet the cities you hear about. If we had more time, it would have been a stop. But dark clouds were coming in, and we had to see an ampitheatre first hand, dangit! So although it did completely *torrentially* downpour on us at Arles, our curiousity was satisfied.

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The arena is under renovation, and should be finished this year. It will look amazing. Arles has other cool places to see too, but by the time we found them all, they were closed. It was still fun though, following the map (sodden with rain, as were our persons) and finding all the sites. Kinda like a treasure hunt:) Here is a pic of the theatre:

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Back in Palavas, there was the most interesting conversation I had in french, and the most understood conversation at that. So although the man was clearly drunk (i guess it slowed his speech enough, and he often repeated himself, so thats why i understood 99% of it?), he was so sweet to help us find a place to eat. We were looking for pasta, and ended up at a pizza joint but neither of us were disappointed. Thank you Bob;)

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Other things i noticed of south of France: No one honks their horn really…until you reach, oh, about Avignon. Then its pretty bad. And the roundies out there are pretty gosh darn scary for one such as myself. Thank goodness boy drove!

france: thursday 091709

This day was the day we made up for missing Carcassonne. We were in the heart of Cathar Country – it is named so after a kind of inquisition period, where the Cathari religion was being exterminated. (Interestingly, the phrase “Kill them all, God will know his own” is traced back to this period.) The people often hid in local castles of sympathizers or built their own. These castles were also used later during the French and Spanish border wars, and you can see bullet holes and such. We visted four – Lapradelle, Peyrepertuse, Queribus, and Aguilar.

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The most amazing part is just seeing for yourself what you already know from history – castles were built to be defensive forts, so they are placed at the peaks of mountain tops. And as such, the parking is in the valley, so you have to walk up an enormous hike to see the castle. The French also do not tarnish the experience with stupid signs and ropes to “protect” visitors – if you are going to fall off the obvious side of a mountain, maybe you deserve it? I dunno. Maybe its just that Americans really are that retarded in comparison? Its hard to say. But there was no litter, no graffiti, and it wasnt overwhelmed with visitors, and it was awesome.

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Our last stop was on the Mediterranean Sea, just south of the Montpellier Airport, in Palavas-les-Flots. We stayed at Hotel le Brasilia, which was very sheek. From our balacony, we could see the beach. And of course, our first meal there had to come fresh out of the sea!

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I also realized here, out in the middle of the french countryside, something that had been trying work itself out in the back of my mind – something was very different here than in the US, something good. And what is it? Well, there are no annoying bugs!!! No mosquitos, no flies, no gnats, i dont even think i saw a spider. The only bug i can remember was a bee. Everywhere you go, you see windows thrown open – no screens, not even at the hotels. You eat outside everywhere. We walked through the woods on several occasions. Nada. You can go to the riverfront in the late evening and nothing! Now that is a convincing factor in deed on living in France, dont you agree? :)

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