Hiking in Beaune and Easter in Italy

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” –Emily Dickenson

We’re nearing the end of our time in France (last month—Yikes!) and it’s starting to remind me a lot of the last two weeks or so of study abroad.  Our response at that time to the feeling of loss and missed opportunities was a spontaneous weekend trip to Marseille, group dinners and outings, and, of course, LOTS of photos.  I left Nantes three years ago feeling that I had not quite taken full advantage of my time being in France, but at least I came away with better language skills and a great group of friends I would remain in contact with my entire life.

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This year, we are not counting down; at least, I’m trying not to.  It’s a bit difficult with my lesson planning.   While I refuse to count how many days I have left, I do know that I only work 8 more days because I have those lessons planned out, and I do have a list of things to do before leaving.  I have so much to look forward to in the coming weeks, however, and so that is what our Chalon group is focusing on: Istanbul, Barcelona, Marrakech, and Boulerise-sur-Mer!  In the meantime, we’re using our free time to accomplish things we still want to do in France and catch up on Dexter.

Last Wednesday we finally did something we had been planning since the beginning of the year: a hike near Beaune.  The original plan was to hike through the hills, picnic, and go to a wine tasting in a nearby town, so we set off for Beaune bright and early where we met Jaclyn and bought some food for lunch, including three baguettes, of course.  We then set out along the trail.  It was slightly colder and cloudier than we had anticipated, but we worked up enough of a sweat walking through the vineyards and up the hills that we weren’t cold.  We did get some weird looks though from passersby…  It wasn’t quite prime hiking season.  At the top of one of the hills, we stopped and had our picnic lunch before resuming our journey.  It was very pretty, and definitely a good hike.  When we got to the top, we were able to look out and see the fields with a few smaller towns here and there: very beautiful.

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We got to Pommard, a town about 3km from Beaune if you take the road (rather than our scenic route).  Walking through the town, we could immediately tell it was tiny.  There were no restaurants in sight!   We later found out there was only one café in town, which was closed. We knew we were looking for the castle, so when we saw a sign outside of a gated house that said “Chateau,” we thought it must be there and wandered into the yard.  We quickly realized we were actually in someone’s garden rather than the actual castle.  After walking away quickly but discretely, we followed the path to the cathedral where we were able to ask for directions.  Luckily, the castle was nearby.  Unluckily, it cost 21 euros to tour and do a wine tasting.  We decided it would be cheaper to just walk back to Beaune and get a kir in the café.  Overall, the day didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a blast, and a unique adventure!

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Once a chateau, now someone’s yard… In our defense, the gate was open…

This past weekend was Easter weekend.  Instead of getting Good Friday off of school, French students get Easter Monday off.  Because of our extra day off, we decided to go to Amsterdam.  Because we waited too long to book bus tickets, we were unable to get them and instead ended up booking tickets to go to Turin (Torino) in Italy.  Our bus left from Lyon, so on Friday evening Alex and I met Laura there and went out for dinner at a traditional Lyonnais restaurant.  We met Jaclyn at the train station and got drinks before boarding our bus, which left Lyon around midnight.  We didn’t sleep much on the drive, but I loved the view out the window.  You couldn’t see the Alps in the dark, but you could tell they were there by the twinkling lights dotted throughout the darkness.  The bus was supposed to get into Torino around 5am, but ended up arriving early, around 4:30am.  Being exhausted and unsure of the tram system at 4:30am, we decided to get a taxi to our hotel.  Luckily, one happened to be dropping people off near the bus, and the driver was so dedicated that he backed up to the end of the one-way street we were walking along to pick us up.  He took us to our hotel, which we were able to get into after a few minutes of knocking on the door trying to catch the attention of the receptionist.

It wasn’t until he asked for our passports that I realized I didn’t have my purse on me.  I had left it on the bus, containing my passport and camera.  Frantically, I called the number on the ticket used for emergencies.  Luckily, the bus was still there, so I was able to take a cab back to the bus and get it.  The receptionist was also very nice and let us check in at 5am, even though we hadn’t paid for that night, so we got our nap in as well.

After a bit of sleep, we took the tram downtown and walked around the covered market.  There was a lot of meat and a lot of pasta, and of course a few bakeries.  We got some bread and wandered through the stalls, and then continued down the road.  We walked past the cathedral, which was blocked off because the pope was there for the televising of the Shroud of Turin.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see the pope, but we were close to him!  We got some pizza near the Piazza Castello, a big square in the middle of the city in front of the palace.  We got some gelato and then headed to the museum of the Shroud of Turin.  The Shroud is what some people believe Jesus was buried in.  The Catholic church has gone back and forth on if they believe it was, but it was an interesting museum nonetheless.  They had scientific theories about the shroud (although they did question the accuracy of carbon dating…), modern art inspired by the shroud, and relics from the city (although the woman on the audio guide called them “reliquaries”).

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After some coffee, rest, and hair curling, we headed out for dinner.  We found a small restaurant that had a three-course meal: gnocchi in a cream sauce with prosciutto, chicken and potatoes, and chocolate mousse cake.  It was delicious! Next we headed out by the river to have a drink before turning in.  Unfortunately due to our lack of map-reading skills, we got quite lost, but we eventually found our way there.

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On Easter Sunday we took a walk near our hotel and stumbled across a gorgeous view of the Alps.  After a bit of grocery shopping and a long lunch (mostly due to the fact that they forgot to put my pizza in the oven), we walked around the city and made our way across the river to the Madre de Dio Church and sat on the steps, lounging in the sun.  We stayed there for about an hour (Jaclyn and I may have fallen asleep for a bit…) before accidentally crashing the Easter mass inside (with another 20 or so tourists) and walking back to the hotel, which took a bit more than an hour (with, of course, a stop for gelato).  We had an Easter feast that night on breadsticks and focaccia bread, chocolate, and wine.  The next day we took the bus back during the day and this time could actually see the Alps.  It was beautiful, and made me realize I don’t really want to live in a flat area when I grow up… Sorry Illinois!

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So voila: Easter in Italy.  It was a unique experience that I will probably never do again, but that’s what makes it so special! We’re off to Grenoble this weekend, and then Istanbul!  I’m also anxiously waiting word on the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship.  Word is it may come April 21st

French word of the day: Les Schtroumpfs: Smurfs, though I’ve heard it used to describe students…

Italian word of the day: Prossima fermata: next stop.  You can tell I learn most of my vocab from the tram…

TED Talks of the day: I have two.  The first one is by a street performer who later became part of a successful band.  It is about asking for money rather than trying to sell, and is very interesting: http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html.  The second is about experiential learning and students learning from failure, and is something I personally agree with: http://www.ted.com/talks/diana_laufenberg_3_ways_to_teach.html.  Enjoy!

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