After a fabulous 2 days in Lyon, France, and a very short but stunning few hours in Paris, we're hopping the pond and heading stateside tomorrow to relax, recuperate and celebrate my brother's marriage in Jacksonville, Florida. It's almost strange to be going to America at this time. Aside from the fact that I cannot wait to see my family, there's a part of me that thinks, "oh, it's over? We're going back to our country?" But then I have to remember, that in all the little legs of this trip, this big leg #1 is coming to a close and a new chapter of our adventure is beginning. Being in France seems normal at this point - we have been in the country for 7 weeks now. For me speaking French comes easily, and Jon's comprehension is really picking up to where he can follow conversations. There are things every day that surprise us and help us remember that we're traveling and living abroad, and those moments continue to make every day special.
I also have to remember that our ticket is a round trip flight, and 2 weeks will pass very quickly. Before we know it we'll be back in Paris and another part of our experiment will begin. I for one, am really looking forward to being in a familiar place, with people that I know care about me and with whom I don't have to second guess or worry a decision will drastically impact the next set of events. We've come to learn just how stressful (all the while amazing) continuous travel can be. Both Jon and I commented that if we weren't going to Florida at this point, we'd need to find an apartment somewhere for a good long while just to stop moving. Not only is it expensive, but it's just exhausting. While I miss my friends, community, definitely family, and sometimes work, I still wouldn't trade being here. There's so much more to do and see, and so many unexpecteds to cross our path. I can't wait for the next chapter.
Since December 28 (our departure date) here are some fun facts from our travels:
- Visited 29 cities, villages and towns
- Traversed approximately 39 degrees of latitude and around 118 degrees of longitude
- Used boats, trains, buses, cars, taxis, airplanes, shared taxis, metros, our feet, bikes and hitchhiked to get to where we wanted to go
- Stayed in 7 people's private homes thanks to their generosity
- Attempted to entertain approximately 308, 8-14 year old French children over the course of 6 weeks
- Colored, drew and/or laminated well over 200 handmade posters (and trust me, the mention of designing something on a computer and printing it results in a very disappointed look from your boss - tried it)
- My favorite stat for which I truly have no idea - the number of bottles of wine consumed that cost less than 3euro each - enough to be proud - budget traveling baby.
Before I get too far into thinking about the future - because let's face it, Jon and I make travel decisions on the fly - I do want to tell you just how awesome Lyon is. It's really awesome.
But seriously, Lyon for me is to Paris as Chicago is to New York - the more laid back, user friendly, unintimidating 2nd largest city with arguably better food, definitely nicer people and attractions that will still boggle your senses. We rented a little 1-bedroom flat through airbnb (if you don't know it, try it it's fantastic) from a lovely French woman who happens to have traveled a bunch in West Africa and Morocco and is really into the arts. We rented her entire apartment (she goes and stays with a friend while she has guests) for at least 20 euro less than the cost of a hotel. BUT we got a kitchen, private bathroom, washer and endless internet. We also got to spend time in a neighborhood we would never have seen, which happened to be the Asian/North Africa/Turkish neighborhood. YES! Pho for lunch, kabab for dinner, and endless options for grocery shopping in the Asian food markets and Middle Eastern pastry shops. It was also a 10 minute walk from the very heart of Lyon. It was almost too good to be true - must have been the 5 flights of stairs we had to climb to get there that offset the perfectness.
Another bonus was that we got to spend the day with our counselor friend Krista, who was passing through on her way from our mutual last work site to Barcelona. Together we spent the day walking Lyon, searching for traboules (tunnels that connect buildings in old Lyon), and climbing the mountain to see the incredible castle-like church that overlooks the city.
If you do anything in Lyon, I recommend traboule hunting. Some of them are marked, and as we learned from a nice bookstore owner, you just have to press the bottom button the call pad to open the doors. Naturally, since the majority of them are not marked, this led us to probably prank call about a half-dozen or so homeowners on their callpads, before realizing these were just private residences with no cool tunnels running under their apartments. Oh well. Sorry people.
Anyway, our stay in Lyon, as usual was too short, and so here we are, with less than 12 more hours in the grand city of Paris before we board the plane and head to Florida. Still recovering and exhausted from camp, we walked through the Louvre courtyard and the Jardin des Tuileries. Crossing the bridge near Musée d'Orsay and meandering down Rue St. Germain was about all we had in us. It's my 5th time in this fabulous city, and Jon's first. If we weren't arriving back here in 2 weeks, I think we would have made a more concerted effort, but since (incha'allah) we are coming back, we're contented to enjoy our little neighborhood (thanks to a free hotel night on American Village! woohoo!) and lay low. Paris Party 2013 begins on May 23 - stay tuned.
So, off to the States tomorrow, check ya'll stateside!