I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving! I had two amazing celebrations, one in Valence on the actual Thanksgiving last Thursday and another in Chambery on Sunday. I also went to a see Ratatat play in Lyon on Friday night and went to the Lumière en Fête festival in Valence on Saturday. Unfortunately, it poured the entire time we were at the light festival, but more about that in the next post.
I’m so glad I don’t have to teach Thanksgiving in my classes anymore. Although we’ll probably be singing “10 Little Pilgrims” until Spring, unless they suddenly “get it.” The Thursday night Thanksgiving in Valence was attended by about 30 people, with maybe 1/3 American and everyone brought food and drink. I attempted some mashed potatoes, although with only a hot plate, a sauce pan, and a fork, it wasn’t easy. I think they turned out all right. Green bean casserole, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, turkey, and mulled wine were all made for the party and most were pretty successful. Pumpkin pie mix and the usual green bean casserole ingredients aren’t available in Valence, maybe all of France, so there was improvising. We even decorated with paper cut-outs of leaves, hand turkeys, footballs, and pilgrim hats. The second Thanksgiving was in Chambery and was with American and anglophone assistants from around the Grenoble area and was also delicious. It’s hard to see everyone I met at orientation frequently because we’re scattered throughout the region, so it was great to have a group meeting and just hang out and talk. This Thanksgiving had sweet potatoes, turkey, vegetables, corn, lots of French bread, cookies, and a pumpkin cake. Although both of the Thanksgivings were lots of fun, I’ll admit to being a little homesick.
Before all of the craziness of this weekend and Thanksgiving, I had a couple of adventures the weekend before. The first was in Mirmande, one of “les plus beaux villages de France” (the most beautiful villages in France). Yes, this is actually an official title. It’s located in the same region as Valence and is a very well-preserved medieval village on a hill overlooking the Rhône Valley. It can only be reached by car and one of our Valentinoise friends was generous enough to drive us there (and then give us tea and food, thanks Sophie! Merci, merci, merci!).
Mirmande was practically deserted, partly due to the bitter cold and mostly because the houses are owned by rich Brits or Spaniards who come in the summer. I guess it’s packed during the summer, so despite the cold, it was probably better to see it without all those modern people messing up the medieval architecture. Apparently in Mirmande, you have to cover up your modern door with the old original, or something that looks like it. I’m sure there are other rules.
Another thing that the Drôme department is known for is pottery, which this cat is selling quite well. I love how in France every single town, no matter how small, seems to have some special craft, food, festival, etc. I would be hard-pressed to do that for the towns in Oklahoma. Maybe each Oklahoma town should create a unique fried food and present it at the state fairs.
On Sunday, November 21, I met assistants Liza, Kat, Jamie, and Paul in Avignon. Unfortunately, le Mistral met up as well. The Mistral is the name of the strong wind that comes through the Rhône Valley and in the winter it is absolutely freezing. I’m no stranger to the wind after having lived in Oklahoma City where it literally seems to never stop, but this is so cold that I felt like the marrow of my bones was frozen. However, we did walk around the city to see all the famous sites.
Avignon is probably familiar to you for one or both of these reasons: 1. The song (“Sur le pont d’Avignon, On y danse, on y danse…”) or 2. As the seat of the Papacy in the 14th century. The above picture is of the residence of the popes at this time. It’s kind of hard to explain without a lot of background information, but the pope of the Catholic Church was in Avignon instead of Rome for about 70 years. I didn’t have time to tour the Palais de Papes, so I’ll be making a return visit sometime in the coming months.
We also saw the famous Pont d’Avignon from the song. Most of it fell into the river after years of disrepair, but the rest is still open and can be walked on, or danced on. Avignon is only an hour by train from Valence, so I’ll make the trip again when it’s less cold and windy.
Both of these visits were brief, but I prefer day trips to longer trips. However, I’m trying to plan what to do for winter break right now and will probably take a long trip somewhere. The Christmas markets are starting to open up and all the lights and window displays are up, so it’s very festive.
Speaking of the holidays, I’m going to send out cards from France (although I haven’t figured out where they’re sold yet). So if you would like to be added to the holiday card list, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.