France and coming home

Traveling on the “Ouibus” (yes bus in english) to France

The kids and I have been back home in Canada now for one week, and I think the enormity of what we have seen, done and experienced over the past 10 months is starting to really sink in. It was something so special, so intimate and mostly shared amongst just the four of us. Now we are back with family again and while it feels wonderful and finally like we are “home”, I catch myself longing for our quiet days spent traveling. I know these memories will stay with us for the rest of our lives, I am grateful, so very grateful to have had this experience with Evan and our kids. Spending time now in Canada, while it isn’t Idaho where our home is, feels like a gradual weaning of a year spent on the road, and back into normal life again. The four of us will be forever changed from this experience, that I know, in subtle but important ways. We have all learned so much about the world, but mostly about ourselves.

I haven’t posted pics yet from France. Oh France, how I love you…how we love you. It felt so comfortable being in France. Growing up in Canada, I have some marginal french skills, and Ev and I worked with Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger) in Uganda many years ago with a largely French team, so the two of us managed to get by pretty well with the language.

We stayed in 3 places in France, really slowing down our travel. We fell in love with Grenoble, a perfect town in the valley of the Alps region of France. We rented bicycles for the 10 days we spent there and traveled as far as we could on bikes. Grenoble is the flattest town in all of France apparently and biking was a perfect way to see and experience the city. We ventured up to Alpes d’Huez to experience the climb the Tour de France riders do (we weren’t on bikes though!!) and we hiked and visited museums and walked to the local bakery everyday for baguettes. Living in an apartment in the middle of the city allowed us to feel like locals and we just lived, and did school work, and laundry. Regular stuff, but in an amazing town. We also melted, as our apartment was on the 4th floor and didn’t have any air conditioning, and we were there while Europe was in the midst of a heat wave. We found creative ways to stay cool, and moved fans around as we needed them.

We moved on from Grenoble to stay in a “gite” (small cottage on a farm) in central France near Limoges. Our gite was on the farm of Esther and Fritz Rudin, a wonderful couple from Switzerland who bought 100 hectares of french farmland. They had horses, a pony, cats and kittens, rabbits and bunnies, enough bikes for all 4 of us and the loveliest dog Kira and shared all of them with us. Esther invited us along on a hike with her and her family visiting from Switzerland, and the kids took turns on the pony. Esther taught Becca and Jamey about care of horses and allowed them to take the pony for walks on their own when they were comfortable. We explored the area on bike and foot and never tired of being in the countryside. I could have stayed there forever. We were so thankful for an amazing community swimming pool on a really hot day, and the thick stone walls that kept our cottage cool. If any of you ever want to do some amazing biking in France, stay with Esther and Fritz. You could ride for miles and miles and miles, past farmland, sunflower fields, rivers. Amazing.

We finished off our time in France with 2 days in Paris, after an overnight visit with our old friend Tarik who we worked with in Uganda. The three of us hadn’t been together in 17 years and it was so so good to see him and talk about old times working together for Action Contre Le Faim (Action Against Hunger). Tarik has continued to work in the humanitarian field for the past 17 years and listening to his stories made Evan and I miss those days. Perhaps when we retire? I admire Tarik for what he has done with his career to improve the lives of many around the world.

3 buddies back together again!
saying good bye and hoping it won’t be so long until we see one another again!

We stayed in an apartment just outside of Paris, but close enough we had the tiniest view of the Eiffel Tower from the terrace outside the apartment. We had only one day to explore Paris, but for Jamey and Becca, anxious to get to Canada, one day was perfect. We went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to see an incredible view of this lovely city, and then ventured by bike and foot to visit the Louvre (we didn’t go in, but we enjoyed people watching outside), many beautiful gardens, the Arc de Triomphe, cycled through interesting neighbourhoods, and caught some fun sporting events along the river Siene in honour of Paris’ Olympics 2024 bid. I could spend days in Paris and will come back one day for sure. The kids and I had an interesting adventure trying to find our way back home, while Ev explored Paris a bit more on bike. We were thankful for free wifi at McDonald’s and Becca’s Kindle and the kindness of strangers as we eventually found our way back to our apartment about 2 hours after setting off for it! The first time on this whole trip where I actually felt lost. The day before we leave for Canada. Funny!

We arrived back in North America after a lovely flight on Air Transat and were greeted by my brother Peter and his wife Mary and their 4 sweet kids Emlyn, Ben, Raya, and Drew and my sister Jen. They had posters made for us and Mary put together a “Welcome to Canada” basket. We felt so loved and it was wonderful to hug people we love so very very much. I’m so happy to be here.

saying good bye to Ev, outside the airport in Paris