For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Monday, July 15, 2013

There is a song from Sunset Boulevard called "As If We Never Said Goodbye" and while it's not really that applicable to my life, the line that gives the song its title has been going through my head ever since yesterday afternoon.  In this song, Norma Desmond returns to the film studio where she was once a great silent film star and she sings about now natural it is to be back there after her "hiatus" from the screen.  Right now, my life feels rather the opposite. 
This year has been full of experiences and challenges and overwhelming joy, and all of a sudden, I only have three weeks left in this country.  I remember thinking in May that it was going to go by fast, yet it seems to me that I said it only last week.  Yesterday, we had a makeshift picnic at my friend's house which is not an uncommon occurrence, and between eating and playing cards, one of my friends knelt beside my chair and said, "You will come back, right?"  That is when the song started playing in my head.  While I do have to face the reality of leaving this place and these people I love so dearly, I want to spend each day with as much joy as God brings and not dwell in the upcoming pain of farewells. 
As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, "parting is such sweet sorrow" and I don't think I really understood what "sweet sorrow" meant.  Whenever I read that, I always thought, "Shakespeare.  Come on, man, how can sorrow be sweet?  Sorrow is sad.  Sorrow is pain.  What kind of a twisted, masochistic person would think sorrow could in any world visited by Kirk or Spock be a sweet or good thing?"  I'm starting to understand it, though.  With each farewell comes a flood of memories, with each hug and kiss comes an outpouring of love.  It is by that love and that joy that we can say goodbye with joy.
Thanks be to God for His many blessings.
The final chapter of vacation with Amy and Robin: Lyon.

We left early on Saturday morning, once again, to catch the train to Lyon.  The weather was crazy hot and once we got to the hotel we immediately changed clothes.  While waiting in the lobby, we met a woman from California who had just finished grad school in Michigan and was spending the summer studying French in a small town outside of Paris.  What a wonderful way to spend a summer!  Well, or course I think so, but even in an unbiased opinion, it's pretty cool.

We started off for the bascilica, which has some of the most beautiful architecture in the area.  We took the cable car up from old town rather than walking up the hill, a lesson I learned the hard way three years ago, which is always fun, and toured around the basilica.  One of the things I love about traveling is the interesting people I meet.  I asked an older gentleman if he could take a picture of us for me, and he didn't quite understand how digital cameras worked.  He kept putting it up to his eye, tried to take the picture, and then say he hadn't taken pictures in 40 years.  After I got my camera back, he started telling us about how he walked to the basilica everyday to look at the view ever since his wife died a number of years ago.  He said that it always reminded him of her and that was why he came so often, even though it was getting harder to walk all that way.  He was probably in his upper 80s at least, and it was so sweet the way he talked about his wife.

After we got our picture, we followed Robin's map over to the Roman theatre.  I had no idea that there even was a theatre in Lyon!  Of all the times I have been there, you would think I'd have known, but alas!  At one of the walls, an excellent photo opportunity by the way, we met a couple chatty French guys who spoke perfect English and they took a few group shots for us.  One of the guys was really funny, saying "You know Titanic? Be king of the world!" and things like that.

After taking our fill of pictures and enjoying the view, we headed back down into old town, this time walking down the hill, and toured for a while.  When it was time for a break, we stopped at an Italian gelato place (I know, I know, you'd think we would have stopped for la glace, being in France) that had the most exquisite cones I've ever seen.  They made each cone look like a flower! If that isn't class, I don't know what is.

As per Rick Steve's suggestion, we spent a long time walking around town.  We were getting really overwhelmed with how hot it was after a while, so we stopped in at Starbucks and played a few games for a while before heading back to the hotel to choose a place for dinner.  Once again, we ended up where we had been earlier in the day at the opposite side of town from our hotel and ate at an Italian restaurant.  Amy and Robin needed to prep for the Italian cuisine for the next leg of their trip, obviously.  After enjoying a lovely meal and coffee, we went back the hotel (successfully avoiding a demonstration in the square) and played a few rounds of cards before going to bed.

In the morning, we got breakfast at the train station and waited for their train to Nice.  It was really sad to see them leave, but what a wonderful week together!  I spent most of the rest of the day at Starbucks and completely had a flashback to my freshman year of college when I spent most every Sunday morning before church at Starbucks reading my Bible and having an iced white mocha and a blueberry muffin.  After a few hours, I headed out to my friends' house and then went off to a barbecue with other wonderful people from my organization.

A wonderful vacation, indeed.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


After a lovely breakfast at our B&B, Robin, Amy, and I headed back to Paris to catch our train back to my town.  We made it back in time to go to my favorite coffee shop and show them around church, then spent the evening playing Dutch Blitz, watching Letters to Juliet, and had dinner before heading to bed.

In the morning, we made our way to the train station to head to Annecy.  I could not imagine better weather for the day!  It was so warm and the lake was so clearly reflecting the cloudless sky, we just had to be a part of it.  (10 points if you can guess the cinematic reference)  After a picnic lunch, we got changed and headed back to the lake to rent a paddle boat.  One of the greatest decisions we've made!  We paddled out into the lake, jumped and swam a little (the water was FAR too cold to stay in for long), and enjoyed the sun.

When we returned our boat, we pulled out Robin's Rick Steve's book and started meandering around town, looking at the different sites and, of course, got some ice cream.  Once we had finished off our walking tour, we rented bikes and biked around the lake.  Another of the better decisions we've made.  We finished our bike ride with a jumping photo shoot by the lake, naturally.

"Why didn't we do cartwheels in front of the Eiffel Tower?!"

I had forgotten to put on sunscreen except for the first hour out on the lake and got wicked burned, so we had to stop by a Pharmacy on the way back to the hotel.  En route, I made a reservation at a restaurant by the lake, and we got changed and headed back after resting a little.  What better way to finish a day like this than with delicious fondue?

In the morning, we started back for my town so that I could go to my meeting in the afternoon.  Amy and Robin hung out at the house and relaxed, and when I got back, we dove right into another evening of Dutch Blitz.  My British parents came by and when they saw what we were playing, they, of course, had to join in for a few rounds too. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

When I was in high school, we had an Impressionist unit in French class each year.  My sister liked the impressionists, and so I knew a little about Monet already, but every year it was so fun to learn more about the style of painting, the subjects, and the painters themselves. The unit normally ended with a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and lunch at Au Bon Pain (always delicious). One year, I did a project on Monet and when I saw the pictures of his house, not to mention all of his beautiful water lily paintings, I knew that Giverny was a place I wanted to go in my life.

After Robin, Amy and I galavanted around Paris, we got a train to that beautiful town.  There really is not much there but Monet stuff, cafés, and ridiculously picturesque Bed and Breakfasts, but we had a marvelous time.  After a lunch of croissants and cheese, we headed to Monet's house, as Rick Steve suggested, during the lunch hour.  I could not believe for gorgeous the garden is there.  Impressionist painting is known for looking almost blurry because the colors blend together, and Monet did the same thing in his garden.  Everything was in blocks of color that gradually moved into the next color in the spectrum and you don't realize it until you notice that you're surrounded by red poppies and not pink peonies anymore.  I have never seen gardening like that.  Across the road are Monet's famed water lilies.  He was really interested in Japanese artwork, and he used that in his gardening as well.  Surrounding the river were thickets of bamboo trees which gave everything an enclosed feeling as if the river was separate from the rest of the world.  It certainly seemed that way.  Monet would spend hours out there in a row boat painting, which sounds nearly as wonderful as kayaking and reading.  

Inside Monet's house, there are photographs of what the house looked like when he lived there.  It truly looks the same.  There is a picture of Monet standing in his bedroom surrounded by his paintings, and you can see in the picture the paintings that are in front of you.  There were also a few Renoir paintings, which make me really happy, of course.  Having resisted buying everything in the gift shop, we headed out to a cafe for a few cafe cremes, and we ran into a group of Americans touring around the country.  It turns out the guy I talked to is from Chicago (noticed the Cubs hat, excellent choice) and was on a culinary tour to study French cuisine.  How fantastic is that?

We walked around town and visited Monet's church and grave, and then headed back to the hotel for a dinner of lovely crepes and ice cream.  The next morning, we headed back to Paris to catch our train back to my town.

Our gorgeous B&B room.

I love walls like this.

Monet's garden was even Impressionistic, everything in blocks of color.

Blue and purple section.

In the yellow and red section.

Crazy beautiful iris.

The lilies!

I would totally live here.

Monet's kitchen.

What just happened?


Perfect weather here.

Enormous tree trunk.

Enormous Monet.

Jump shot.