Greetings! We are finally back in the saddle after a three-week hiatus. Rhonda and I just returned from a whirlwind trip through France that was highlighted by a visit with our daughter’s family, Matthew and Annie Dorin, Danielle, and Lily. They are in language school in Chambery France in preparation for their future assignment in French-speaking West Africa with Wycliffe Associates.
We also connected with my long time high-school friend who now lives in the Alsace region of northern France. Tim, Katie, and Joanna gave us the royal tour of castles, cathedrals, vineyards, and German-influenced hillside villages. All said, for a country that is slightly smaller than the state of Texas, they have us beat hands down when it comes to diversity, history, scenic vistas, and food.
To summarize our trip, here are the top ten things I learned about France and vicinity:
10) The deer antler chandelier craze hit the castles of the Alsace about 500 years before arriving in the hill country ranch houses of Texas.
9) In a city of multiple clock towers and splendid watch shops, the so-called “Bern Clock Tower” of Bern Switzerland failed to impress. The clock tower in Berne Indiana beats it by a country kilometer. The bärengraben was pretty cool though.
8) The stars over St. Rémy-de-Provence are incredibly bright at three in the morning from the hotel balcony. It seemed appropriate that Vincent Van Gogh painted his famous The Starry Night while institutionalized at the St. Paul Monastery and Hospital, a still-functioning mental hospital on the outskirts of the city.
7) John Calvin’s chair is still sitting in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Geneva Switzerland. The church has been home for a Protestant congregation since 1536. I didn’t sit in the chair, but I did reach across the rope and touch it “Monk” style.
6) Speaking of cathedrals, the one in Strasbourg France is magnificent. We climbed 66 meters to the roof above the narthex and observed incredible craftsmanship and delicate stone detail, both inside and out.
5) Roman engineers left quite a legacy throughout the South of France. Just south of Roussillon in the Hills of the Luberon, we crossed the three-arched stone bridge of St Julien constructed between 27 BC and 14 AD. Yes, I said BC. Built before the invention of mortar, the bridge consists of neatly stacked, large square stones with critical keystones in the arches. It has held up to foot traffic, horse traffic, artillery traffic, and even automobile traffic for 2000 years. Yes, I said 2000. The list of really old stuff in France is too long to enumerate.
4) The French warm up when you work to communicate in their language. We ate at several restaurants where the staff only spoke French and we loved the adventure as well as the surprises that showed up on our plates.
3) Did I mention the food? The French know how to prepare and present food both at home and in their restaurants. The milieu of cheeses, fruits, breads, chocolates, sauces, and atypical meats was incredible. (And that doesn’t even include the Nutella Ice Cream.) My most common observation at the endless variety of food presentation was, “Who thinks of that?” Rhonda’s reply, “The French.”
2) Love is the #1 ingredient for healthy body life in the church whether in Colmar France, Chambery France, or Houston Texas.
1) I am humbled and proud at the same time of the Dorin family for faithfully following the path God has laid out for them. The are expecting child #3 around Thanksgiving. Family worship in their small third-floor apartment in Chambery is a fragrant aroma I will not soon forget.
There it is. Soon after we watched the Geneva skyline disappear beneath the clouds that covered this French-speaking part of Switzerland, the British Airways flight attendant asked me, “What would you like to drink?” I realized at that moment that we had left the land of Bonjour, Merci, and Au revoir!
Did I mention the food?