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: 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…

Time Travel: May, 2014 – Slowing Down in Split

I was very unpopular in beautiful Croatia. Despite my best efforts to abide by all spoken and unspoken rules and to be apologetic for my ignorance as I navigated the country’s unpredictable off-season transportation and accommodation logistics, the people I came across were impatient and bitchy with me. I was almost tossed off of long-distance…

TAPIF Invasion: 10 Ways to Frappe the Ground Running

It’s that time of year: young anglophones lugging bulging suitcases suddenly appear in airports and train stations all over France, many of them employing a version of the local language that exists only in textbooks (and some of them, if we’re being honest, speaking what can only generously be called franglais). The TAPIF invasion has begun!…

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…

Worst-Kept Secret

The Cinque Terre secret is REALLY out. Not that Cinque Terre doesn’t deserve it – the collection of five tiny towns, clinging to the vertiginous Ligurian coast like pastel-colored barnacles and connected by scenic paths that wind through olive and lemon groves high above the sparkling Mediterranean, is enchanting. But the towns’ charming small size also means…

Four-Day Wander: Barcelona

Barcelona is a covergirl with a troubled past, a high-maintenance celebrity who stumbles into her town car after a night of dancing and heavy drinking several times a week, but still somehow manages to arrive fresh-faced on set every morning. She’s gorgeous, reliable, and expensive to cast. Make-up hides her scars– when uncovered, some add to her beauty while others mar it. Her…

Losing the Trail in France

Walking is a national pastime in France. After a big Sunday lunch, families often go on late afternoon strolls together around their neighborhoods or along part of one of the hiking paths that vein the country. Many of the hiking paths pinball through residential areas and skirt private property, a fact that has complicated almost…

Secret Passageways

Hundreds of covered alleyways called traboules burrow through Lyon’s older neighborhoods and harbor relics from across the centuries: among them, metalwork, fountains, and sculpture from the Roman Empire onward. Silk workers used them to transport silk in the 19th century, resistance fighters used them to evade Nazis during World War II, and tourists use them to annoy…

Candy Cushions

A sweet Lyonnais specialty: the Cuisson de Lyon, from Voisin chocolatier. The Cuisson de Lyon is a little candy that looks like a cushion (“cuisson” = “cushion,” en français) and consists of Curaçao-flavored chocolate ganache coated in marzipan. It’s very soft and very rich. Originated at Voisin in 1960, the shape meant to echo the…