Category Archives: Les Taillades

This Adventure Made Possible By…

Standard

Anna Maria Esposita for finding us on the side of the road in Salerno, putting up with our feeble attempts at Italian, and magically making our luggage appear out of nowhere.  Maya, for introducing us to AirBnB in the first place…our travels will never be the same.  Our barista in Vietri Sul Mare (thank you for the doughnuts, we hope you made it to Australia!), and our wildly flirtatious maitre d’ (that wine was impressively strong!).  Fernando, for the ride to the Tiber (we’re sorry if we gave the impression that we wanted to boat back to Rome).  Pope Francis for instilling humanity into our visit to the Vatican.  University of Manitoba College of Medicine for changing the direction of our lives while sitting in a Roman burlap tent!  Jamie Pierce, for pointing us in the direction of Cinque Terre in the first place.  Kaya and Aeden for being the best roommates we could have asked for, and Sarah, Alicia, and Stacey for getting lost with us in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  And for the calamari cones.  Genius.  The Lemon Man, for delicious homemade wine with a side of really disgusting jokes, and the Pizza Man for abusing/believing in your employees (either way, you made a pizza in record time, well done!).  Pak Kashmir Doner Kebab for starting a 3-month-long love affair with kebab…and for not judging us when we came back twice in one day.  The Sprachcaffe receptionist for helping two confused travelers find a place to sleep in a language school.  Pietro for being a (very charming) walking encyclopedia of Florentine espionage.  All’antico Vinaio for your legendary sandwiches and free wine refills (no, seriously, it’s for real!).  The lovely couple who shared coffee with us on the train to Venice.  Archie & sons…your front hall will forever evoke in us a sense of oriental mystery.  The kiosco girl (and all of Vienna, for that matter) for your patience as we realized we knew literally NO Deutsch (“Card!…48?”).  The Musikverien Usher for engaging us in a Viennese musical intrigue and, therefore, much better seats!  Our Bulgarian/Brazillian (Bulgrillian?) cellist hostel roommate.  We tried to find you on iTunes but alas we were…so far…but…so close.  The Heinrich and Kress families for welcoming us so generously into your homes (and travel snacks that nearly broke the bus tables!).  Artur & Irina, we feel like we have a real home in Germany thanks to you.  Robert, Christian, and Erwin, we hope we can jam and play Dutch Blitz again one day!  Johannes for an unexpected evening of German tango (we’ll bring our dancing shoes next time).  Julia & your roommate for making us feel so at home in Köln.  Viel Glück to both of you in your new jobs!  Oma for always talking about your home country and inspiring us to retrace your Sunday walks down the Rhine.  Maybe one day we can go back with you!  Linda, dankjewel for your bikes, your lovely attic, and taking a chance on us as your first AirBnBers!  Edwin and Farah, for taking the time to hang out with us even with your wedding being a week away.  Once a WOOFer, always a WOOFer (ps come to Manitoba, we’ll take you to the snake pits!)  The stars, for aligning so perfectly as to allow us to have a lovely lunch with Dorien.  The Alma Dixons for getting us to and from Europe in the first place (Mom, your axiom of ‘would you rather have stuff or memories?’ has successfully stuck with me into adulthood) and for showing us all the places you always talk about.  The Farnham Dixons for a lovely afternoon and some authentically British fish’n’chips (sans mushy peas, thank-you!).  Wendy for taking this whole motley crew into your home and showing us around Glastonbury. Elly for introducing us to your family (I cannot imagine a more adorable kid to blow bubbles with than your granddaughter) and an evening of reminiscing about icebergs and penguins.  Pete & Patricia for the most incredible Welsh hospitality, and for driving us all over the country at all hours of the night.  Mark Hanford for keeping us simultaneously amused and not dead as we threw ourselves off cliffs into the sea (still waiting for those carpets!).  The disembodied Welsh couple whose voices helped us find our way out of the mist and back to the path somewhere on Mount Snowdon.  Jack Johnson, for being you, and for entirely coincidentally being in Paris at the same time as us.  Andréanne, for showing us around your beautiful new Swiss home.  Irene and Martin for sharing so many things with us: your inspiring work and outlook on life and faith, the truly breathtaking landscapes, and yes, the little bears :P.  Andreas and Simone, also for sharing so many things with us (like mother like son, eh?): your friends, your family, your food, your car, your bike…. That night with the giant map (and the many road trips that ensued) is still a memory that we talk about regularly!  Aric and Gabriel, for being as excited about the high-ropes garden as we were and never judging us on our (lack of) Swiss German. Joël for sharing your beautiful pays et famille. Yannick for the best duck I’ve ever tasted, and Hélène for showing us the work you’re doing to help new immigrants become self-sufficient in Toulouse.  Ron, Nicole, Aimée, Sean (and yes, Cougar) for making us recognize the name Carcassonne, even if we’ll never pronounce it properly.  Les Cabys des Taillades (et oui, de Paris aussi!) for sharing your passion for history, many hours of games (we now have our own Möllky set!), French puns, and more wine and cheese than any North American could comprehend.  Mami Caby, for a beautiful afternoon in St. Jean du Gard, and the silk scarf that’s currently on display in our living room.  Isaac and Sylvia of JUCUM Barcelona for the generous hospitality, the 2AM tour of your majestic city, and showing us what we truly believe is the best beach in Europe.  Hind, Nour, and Adam for helping us finish off the bag of snails and confirming everything we’d heard about the welcoming nature of Moroccans.  Nour, of Sahara Desert Crew, for an unforgettable few days of sights and culture unlike anything else we’ve ever seen (also, your mad photography skills. ‘Nuff said.).  Cafe Restaurant Nora, for providing a literal oasis in the desert (Nothing tastes as good as Berber pizza and Berber whiskey at +50C!) The Samnoun family for taking us in when our hostel was suddenly infested with bedbugs, and Bousha for introducing us to the madness of the Medina (and many, many friends ;)…)

And of course, contributions from VIEWERS LIKE YOU!

Advertisements

La famille française

Standard

When my wonderful friend Kat disappeared to Montreal for three years, to study and work with JEM (Jeunesse en Mission, or YWAM), she came home with not only increased love for the French community in general, but also for one member of this community in particular: Joël, from the south of France. They were married in 2008, and much to my delight, moved into a house within walking distance of our apartment in Winnipeg. However, whenever I talk about these dear friends to others, the reaction is the same: “Wait… He’s from the south of France? And they stayed here??” While though there are many good answers to these questions, it was only after finally having the chance to visit his beautiful home and family in les Cévennes that I could truly appreciate the enormous sacrifice Joël made by moving to Canada.

image
image

Les Cévennes, a low mountain chain winding between the Languedoc Roussillon and Auvergne in the South of France, are a unique region of France. The only French national park in the low mountains, the région Cévénol is filled not only with incredible natural beauty, like beech forests, chestnut trees, ancient oliviers, and the clear waters of the Gardon rivers; but is also home to many layers of fascinating history. From the brief but bloody Camisard wars, to the long years of peaceful resistance by the Huguenots against a tyrannical monarchy; from ancient trade routes with Asia and the silk worm industry that brought wealth to the Cévennes in the 19th century to ancient tombs of Celtic tribes dating from the last millennium BC, one would need a personal tour guide to thoroughly appreciate the richness of this region (and fancy that, we just happened to have one! :D)

A barrow (ancient tomb) of tribal Celts
Celt

En route (well, “en route” in a “I’m a Canadian and have a rental car, so no distance is that far!!” kinda way) to Les Taillades, where Joël’s parents live, we stopped in Toulouse to visit Joël’s sister Hélène and her husband Yannick, and the third member of their household:

Iron

Helene works as a social worker in a community épicerie, or grocery store, where we spent our mornings volunteering. At the épicerie, clients with financial needs can purchase good quality food at a fraction of the price, while receiving one-on-one financial counseling from the trained staff. It is an amazing alternative to a soup kitchen, since it not only empowers clients through the independence to choose their own food, but it also gives the clients tools to address the root causes of their difficulties in order to break the cycle of poverty.

Store

View of “La Ville Rose” from the seaside Ferris wheel:
Wheel
Wheel

Our first (but thankfully far from last!) French cheese course:
Helene

As we drove from Toulouse to Les Taillades, plains began to softly roll into hills. Joël’s parents, Mado and Michel, met us at the Anduze bus station. Michel just retired this year after twenty-some years of running Le Musée du Desert, a museum chronicling the history of the Huguenots (French Protestants) in the Cévénol region. It was evident that they were loving the luxury of retirement – sleeping in, long afternoons playing hilarious Scandinavian lawn games – but old habits die hard, and almost immediately upon greeting us at the bus station, Michel’s inner historian rose to the fore.

image

Michel obviously knew his stuff: As we stood in the street receiving his history lesson, a young guy walking by stopped and exclaimed, “That’s true, man! I’m glad somebody knows the real history of this place!”

After so many years of friendship with Kat and Joël, it was so special to finally see the places and people that have inspired so many of their stories. Mado and Michel were incredible hosts, making sure that we experienced la vraie vie française.

Le Pont des Camisards
Pont C

One of the secret caves in which Huguenots would hold their forbidden church services
image

One of Michel’s many riddles and word games (“Michel, t’es juste comme Joël!” :P)
image

Gastronomical delights: Breakfast in a bowl, French barbeque with regional sausages, homemade digestifs…
image
image
image

Quintessential afternoon activities:
Mökkly aka Scandinavian bowling
image

Pétanque aka French bocce ball that is played intensely and everywhere from our backyard… (les Parisiens vs. les Canadiens – we only lost by 2!!)
image

…to Nîmes’ centre square
image

Our private tour of Le Musée du Desert
image

Secret cupboard used by Huguenots to hide from the King’s soldiers
image

“Résister!” The motto of the Huguenots during their long years of persecution
image

Ps. Joël, I peed in your bedroom 😛
image

Le Pont du Gare: the tallest aqueduct ever constructed by the Romans (1st century AD)
image
image

Olive tree, providing shade since the year 908
image

Marché du St. Jean de Gare
image

Lunch with beautiful Mami, Joël’s grandmother
image

Le Gardon
Cévennes

Only a 10-minute walk to an oasis from the heat!
image
image

And finally, bien sûr: le fromage. Oh, le fromage…
image
image

Hélène, Yannick, Mado, Michel, Nico, Clémence, Laure, Mami… Merci encore pour une visite inoubliable. Votre générosité était un bénédiction énorme. On est hâte à vous voir bientôt – soit en Winnipeg, soit encore à la France! Gros bisous!! xxx

image