TOUR de France (Part VIII): Fini / by Deborah Clague

The final week of my spring holiday in France included rushing through every remaining region, just so that I could say I properly did the entire country. It's amazing how much the climate changes from the Côte d'Azur to the Alps. In the span of a few hours, I went from laying on a beach in the Riveria pondering the age at which my doctor would inform me that I have skin cancer to piling on the layers under my winter coat while freezing in Grenoble. There is a severe lack of pictures from my time in this particular region as I was too cold and miserable to want to exit the vehicle, but I did drive through some pretty little towns. I stopped to get a baguette somewhere...the baker was friendly and seemed genuinely surprised - and pleased - that a tourist was traveling through his tiny hamlet (and the bread was still as delicious as any in Paris; quality is never spared in this country). 

I decided to spend a few days in the north-east region for a bit, traveling through Champagne (I had already purchased a bottle of bubbly from Maxim's Paris for a special occasion) and entering Belgium to see my paternal grandmother's hometown of Ypres. I didn't get far into the country as Ypres is close to the border, but I immediately noticed how different it looked. Whereas France seemed to retain most of its historic architecture, Belgium appeared to have been physically devastated by WWII with the vast majority of buildings constructed in the post-war style. Having previously visited England (where my paternal grandfather's lineage is from) and, of course, France (where my mother's famille is from), it was interesting to complete the tour of family history. How the heck did I end up in Saskatchewan?  

Since I am a Disneyphile and I was in France, how could I not visit EuroDisney Disneyland Paris?! I'm glad I did, but it was shite. The line-ups were insane (you'd think I would have learned by now), the major rides kept breaking down, there were hardly any restaurants open, and European children manage to be even more annoying than North American ones. Having said that, the version of rides that I did manage to get on were far superior to their North American counterparts. For example: the Haunted Mansion (here called Phantom Manor) is creepy as all hell with visuals that wouldn't have been out of place in a Wes Craven movie. My favorite ride - Space Mountain - also had the least amount of wait-time. I pretty much went on it 50 times.  

After saying "au revoir" to Mickey and company, I knew my trip was almost over. I was sad that I had to depart but thankful for all of the magic that I encountered. This is the great thing about travel: how it changes your mood, perspective and life. I recall being a depressed twenty-something not knowing where I was going in life and questioning the meaning of it all. At the age of 27 I decided to really start exploring the world and now I'm an only occassionally depressed thirty-something who no longer questions the meaning of it all, as it is beautiful and ugly and divine. As it's meant to be. 

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for all of Paris is a moveable feast.” - Ernest Hemingway

The odometer on my Peugeot when I returned it: