When we return to France it is for the big F’s: Family, Friends, Fun, Food and Fine wine.
It was a great surprise after 4 planes and about 48 hours of travel time to be greeted at Lyon’s airport by Sandra’s nieces and her brother Thibaut.
All symptoms of fatigue faded as soon as we were in the presence of the family and soon we were seated around delicious spread of French fare at Mum’s (Odile) home. This, as usual, would set the tone for our time in France. Great times spent talking with family and friends whilst enjoying amazing local produce that stretched from aperitif to dessert.
Whilst the feeling of stopping, resting and enjoying after so many months on the road was a joy, what really made it much more real was the simple gesture of unpacking our loyal backpacks and putting them away for 5 weeks, not having to think about our next meal or accommodation and for Sandra to sit on a toilet. Even though this makes her very good at squatting.
With the European summer stretching itself out into September, we enjoyed the hot, sunny days taking opportunities to spend times with the girls while they were still on holidays. One of these trips took us to a wildlife park that specialized in wolves, birds of prey and….snails. We were treated to a spectacular display as these winged wonders swooped inches above our heads.
The sense of summer continued with the fresh produce that could be sourced from a local farm house. Raspberries and strawberries, crisp salad and veggies and of course the cheese and the produce was enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner.
An opportunity to visit the go karting rink couldn’t be missed and soon Roxane and Emma were learning the finer points of French driving whilst Steve and Thib got their chances to race around the tight circuit. It was good fun had by all.
On another occasion, we used our fabrication skills we had learnt in the Bolivian jungle to reproduce some jewelry with the coconut seeds we had kept for the girls. They enjoyed the session and learnt a thing or two about jewelry from their aunty. These days turned into sleep overs at mum’s place which meant more time in the pool and more time playing with the kids.
The theme of family continued when Odile drove us to Sisteron to pay a visit to her sister Ghislaine and her husband Michel. We had visited them last year on our tour de France with Steve’s parents and it was great to catch up with them again. The bonus this time was that Sandrine (Sandra’s cousin) was at home with her gorgeous new baby, Manon. It was great to see Sandrine again (we last saw her in New Caledonia a year before) and played with Manon in the pool and spent the evenings chatting.
Joining the party was another Odile’s sister: Regine whom we had also visited last year with Steve’s parents. It was great to chat with her about our experiences, many of which she could relate as she is an avid traveller. Food and drink flowed day and night and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together.
Back in the centre ville of Lyon we walked the streets we knew and liked the best. In Croix Rousse with Roxane, we enjoyed the views south over the city and strolled the streets enjoying the daily market and making the most of the good weather to have our lunch or aperitif.
Down below, wedged between the Saone and the Rhone, we strolled the long avenues, window shopping (occasionally) and shopping (more often), taking advantage of the end of season sales.
All this walking left us hungry and thankfully many of Sandra’s friends opened up their houses and welcomed us in. Meals in the garden were had with Caro and Herve, their kids and dog and we enjoyed sharing stories of south east Asian travels.
At Cathy’s (Sandra’s godmother) we wowed her and Jean-Claude and Dorothee with the stories of our trip, always around good food and drinks.
At Pierre and Bene’s house we shared memories as ramblers as they had made a similar trip a few years before. Each visit was based around a meal and we probably gained a kilo each per visit. Of course no visit to Lyon is complete without catching up with Claude and we laughed and enjoyed her company on the streets of Lyon.
Dinners in town were enjoyed with Marc, my Dad, and Anne who both enjoyed revisiting old establishments and allowing Steve to experiencing some local cuisine. Some dishes that stood out for Steve were the entrecote enorme aux cepes (which was enormous), des os a moelle (marrow bones), une quenelle (one of Lyon’s specialty) and a boudin aux pommes (a delicious mix of blood sausage and apples).
Our time with Marc and his family continued when we joined his brothers and sisters for a cousinade, which saw cousins from 11 siblings coming together. For this meeting there were about 60 people of about 250 that are connected. Even for Sandra it was not that easy to recognize everyone as she is the last cousin of 11 brothers and sisters. It was impressive to see all the different generations in one place and we had a great time getting to know the family.
Down in the Drome Provencale region, les vignobles were ripe with gorgeous purple bunches of grapes awaiting picking whilst we swam, played and dined under a gorgeous blue sky with Marc, Thib, Roxane, Emma and Margot. We even enjoyed a raclette, this famous mountain dish with melting cheese over potatoes and charcuterie. We also got a chance to visit a local goat’s cheese producer. It was a self service visit where we could pet the gorgeous goats and get some great info on the process of making the picodon goat’s style of cheese.
It seemed France was the destination of choice for some of Steve’s friends with people passing through the country over the month of September. We met with Jamie, Juliette and young Isabelle just off the autoroute for a quick lunch. While it was a little rushed, it was so good to catch up with old friends.
Another Edinburgh’s friend of Steve was staying a couple hours south and Steve met Libby in the medieval town of Carpentras. They enjoyed the ancient architecture and a nice lunch on the terrace. Libby was enjoying the adult company as was her daughter Lyra.
Sandra got a little precious time with her bestfriend Brice, who was working through the summer. Then we went on a road trip into the Alps to spend some time with another of her bestfriends: Sophie and her gorgeous little kids Ferdinand and Josephine. We played around the house and popped over the Switzerland for a horse back ride. No we aren’t being arrogant, it’s just what you can do when you live close to the border. It was so good to spend time with my besties even though it is always too short.
We made the most of our time in the mountains, stopping by the lake front town of Annecy and strolling the ancient, quant streets. Enjoying the sunshine, we ate a crepe lunch on the terrace and caught up with some fellow travelers we had met whilst in Patagonia.
We also finished off some last minute clothes and shoe shopping, squeezing what we can into our already swollen backpacks before strolling along the lake front. It’s a gorgeous town and with the mountains looming, it provided us great memories before heading back to Lyon.
Winding out our time in the capital of the Gaule (Lyon) was more amazing food in and around town including cuisses de grenouilles(frogs’ legs), great horse steaks and fantastic wine. We paid a visit to another medieval town called Peyrouges. This was a true ancient town with the cobblestoned roads making for delicate foot placement and many of the buildings retaining their characteristics.
On a rainy weekend, we had the opportunity to see the kids again and enjoyed a lunch with their mother Sandrine. The weather had changed (dropping 15 degrees overnight), so we ate a warm meal (Sandra’s favorite) and played some board games inside. It was a nice Sunday spent with family.
It’s always tough saying goodbye to family, friends and France, especially when it’s so easy falling back into a great culture and its way of life. We will miss the fresh warm bread in the mornings, the long lunches out on the deck with Odile and the dinners with Marc. We will also miss my bro but most of all we will miss the kids, it’s hard being so distant when they are growing so quickly. But we have taken good memories and experiences and these are what matter.
A Huge thanks to all our family and friends who again took time for us, opened their arms and homes for us and made this trip so enjoyable!
Next and final stop…Bali.