Wednesday, July 6, 2011
My last day in France...
Today is my last day in France (yes, I'm still here--one week after the last of my students left). I woke to a glorious morning with the sun exploding into my room and a symphony of bird song. I'll spend the day packing my bags and running errands, like taking a trip to the boulangerie/patisserie in the adjacent village for a thank-you gift for Madam De LeHaye, who has ironed any article of clothing I left too long in the laundry room.
I've done a lousy job of blogging this time around. There was so much to write about, and so many pictures to upload, but that process was extremely time-consuming on my old PowerBook G4 laptop, and there was always a rush to be somewhere else.
What did I not write about? During this past week, Kippy and Jerome took me on a 4 hour drive to Jerome's grandmother's centuries old home (6 photos on top) in the Loire Valley for several nights, which is another reason why I've been so quiet--no internet.
A ten minute drive from his family home, we visited the Royal Chateau d'Amboise, initially built in the eleventh century, improved over time, and in the mid 1400's became a royal residence and summer residence of the Kings of France. Nearby is the 15th century Chateau du Clos Luce, where Leonardo da Vinci, invited to live in France by King Francois I, spent his last 3 years and was buried. I walked the halls he walked and the rooms he lived in: his bedroom (pictures 7, 8, 9 and 10 are Da Vinci's home--that's his red canopy bed), his studio and the room where he met with his friends. In the lower level of the house were 40 of his machines, some with 3D animation: the parachute, the bicycle, the automobile, the paddle-boat. the helicopter, the machine gun, the tank. We walked through the gardens he walked through. You can play with some of Da Vinci's machines throughout the garden--you can paddle-boat down the meandering stream, there is a a steam-spewing machine-gun, and you can walk over his turning bridges. How thrilling to see where he lived in his final years.
We saw troglodyte homes. In France, homeowners are charged tax according to the roof over their heads, so many people, even today, build their homes into the limestone cliffs. They carve out caves and make comfortable homes. And they don't pay property tax. They looked like well-appointed homes. I want one.
Last night, the icing on the cake. Kippy and I had tickets to the opera at the incredible Palais Garnier Opera House (Paris Opera pictures swiped from Wikipedia). Or, we thought it would be an opera. While sitting in our seats, flipping through the program as the orchestra warmed up, we realized it was actually a ballet. We sat enthralled and delighted for the next several hours as we watched the Paris Ballet de L'Opera perform Les Enfants du Paradis. During intermission, Kippy led me to an ornate ballroom with sculpted and guilded walls, with ceilings painted by Paul Baudry (a new name on my favorites list--and note to my daughters Anna and Meg, who I suspect may have inspired Mucha).
I just realized I have not seen TV in almost a month. I have not missed it (although I do check daily for news and Casey Anthony updates).
I'm ready to go home--back to reality, after this whirlwind fairy tale experience. But I'll be listening even more religiously to my French CDs throughout the next year, in anticipation for a repeat trip, Lord willing, to La Bonne Etoile. Maybe some of you will join me?