Two-Day Wander: Toulouse, Niaux Caves, and Carcassonne

As the calendar flips by and I get used to the probability that my geographical future lies outside France, I start to feel a sort of constant, creeping urgency. It’s forced me to focus on more fully exploring France. Ironically, this effort to pull away without regrets makes it harder to pull away at all.  My latest jaunt took me to the southwest, to the…

Day Hike: Marseille to Cassis Along the Calanques

It’s never been easy for me to say good-bye to summer. A creature of the sun who had the poor luck to grow up in the snowy northeastern United States, I spent my first twenty-three winters hiding inside and eating pastries, one step up from a hibernating bear. I get stir-crazy when the weather gets cold, because…

Day Hike: Lacs de la Pra

I’m so fresh off this hike that the soreness hasn’t fully hit me yet (“it will,” hiss my vindictive knees and hips in menacing whispers, “it will”), but I wanted to get this post up before the cold really settles into the mountains. The Lacs de la Pra are a smattering of tiny lakes in the Belledonne mountain…

TAPIF Packing List

Packing for TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France) is no easy task. You’re moving to a foreign country, but only for about half a year. How do you minimize cost, maximize efficiency, and still make sure you don’t feel like you’re living out of a suitcase? It’s hard to predict what you’ll regret leaving behind, but…

Lavender Quest

Before last weekend, I’d been to Provence several times and never seen a single lavender flower in bloom. The season is easy to miss (generally only running from mid-June to mid-July, plus or minus two weeks on either end, depending on the exact location and the year’s weather), but I thought it would be a shame to have lived so close…

Bicycling and Broiling in Burgundy

One of the best things about living an unsettled existence is that you end up with friends who live all over the world and are often similarly unsettled. This means… lots of mutual travel mooching! You crash with them, they crash with you, and everybody has a travel party. A friend I met through TAPIF has returned to…

The Restorative Properties of Fresh(er) Air

I loved living in New York City, but that place can fray the nerves. Overcrowding makes everything, from grocery-shopping to walking down the street, a competition with some of the most intense and aggressive people in the world. I used to go to Trader Joe’s just after it opened so that I only had to wait…

I WISH I could travel, but…

Sometimes people say to me, “Ugh, I’m so jealous. I wish I had the money and time to travel like you,” as if I’m some expatriate loafer with a trust fund or something (expatriate, yes– loafer and trust fund baby, no). It’s true that traveling, like almost any other pastime, costs money and takes up a lot of…

Three Hops Above Grenoble: La Bastille, Mont Jalla, and Mont Rachais

Surely one of Earth’s beautiful cries for help, late November in the Rhône-Alpes region was practically balmy by almost-winter standards. Good snow-traumatized New Englander that I am (used to assuming, come winter, that the ground will disappear one day and the temperature will pull an “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” until April), I took full advantage of the weather…

Day Hike: Aix-les-Bains Gare SNCF to Belvédère du Mont Revard

Step 1: Get from the Aix-les-Bains train station to Mouxy. You’ll want to end up at the intersection of Route de l’Église and Route du Revard. Step 2: You will see a small shopping center (pharmacy, bakery, etc.) across the street from a church. Look for the set of yellow signs, and follow the one that…