After having to say goodbye and tear myself away from Budapest, we continued on to the third leg of our journey. This time, instead of switching continents, we hopped on a bus and crossed through three countries ended up in one I am most fond of… France! It was my third time visiting France, so returning to the home of so many pleasant memories (plus a language and cuisine I love so dearly) made my heart happy. A few years ago, my family made a trip to the South of France and had one of the best weeks of our lives. Staying at a grand chateau in the countryside, we spent our days wandering through fields, picking fruit of trees, playing in waterholes, hiking to medieval villages and of course, eating a never-ending supply of delicious food. Now, after another week in the South of France, I have double the quantity of fond memories to remember this place by!
Well, I didn’t anticipate it would be such a feat to arrive at our next destination. Yet after thirty hours of being crammed on a toilet-less bus with but a few meager snack rations, the “struggle” became real. We arrived in Nimes at about two in the morning, only to discover the local bus to our accommodation wouldn’t start running till 7am. Hence, we did what all smart traveller do… Made the most of our time in a new place and started exploring. As we walked around the eerily empty streets, we got to experience seeing the sites of this beautiful city by moonlight. Once we were absolutely, positively worn out, we retreated to sleeping on the floor of the bus terminal. However, the nap was immediately terminated upon discovery of an infestation of cockroaches crawling beneath us as we frantically searched for higher ground to set up a new camp.
Saint Hippolyte Du Fort, located in the Le Cevennes region of the South of France, became home for ten days as we lived in the beautiful Chateau Du Pointe. Our time here was primarily spent in class, learning about living in the spirit, and Saint Hippolyte Du Fort was the perfect environment for doing so. This sleepy little town was a such a refreshing escape from the city, and the perfect place to delight in God’s creation. We had meadows to dance in, rivers to splash around in, mountains to climb, and most important, a local bakery to get delicious baked goods on a daily basis. And when I say delicious, I’m talking make-your-mouth-water scrumptious. The town itself was delightful to explore. Wandering around the narrow alleyways and admiring the uniqueness of the front door on every house became one of my favorite things to do. Each Friday, we had an open worship session in a beautiful, big Catholic chapel in the heart of the town. Shortly after, we would spend the rest of the morning browsing the markets and eating croissants.
For a day, we traded small town Saint Hippolyte Du Fort for the nearest big city, Montpellier. An eclectic urban hub of french charm meets alternative youth culture so, it proves to be an interesting place to explore. Our first stop was to the supermarket and bakery, stocking up on cheese, bread, sparkling juice, berries, and most importantly, a delicious assortment of pastries to create the ultimate picnic in the park. The rest of the time I spent wandering the streets without an agenda, admiring the sporadic street art and beautifully aged buildings.
La Selle is a semi self-sustaining community set up as free housing for those who need a place to stay. There are about 100 people currently living there, with the only conditions for people to stay being that they help out with duties to keep the place running and that they attend a weekly bible study. It really is an incredible place, founded by a couple who had a heart to reach out to the homeless. We were invited to La Celle to share testimonies, do dramas and sing worship songs. After we had dinner with the community, they invited us to this awesome musical hub where we got to jam with them by the bonfire.
Things quickly took a dramatic turn at the Chateau as the heavens opened and the rain started pouring. But none of us were prepared for what the storm did next…. Turning more and more furious as it welled up over Saint Hippolyte Du Fort, and the winds and the rain became relentless. What started out with closing a few windows and doors ended in digging trenches, moving everything on the first floor of the Chateau to a higher level, and then, as the flooding began, bailing close to knee deep water from our abode! In an attempt to keeping spirits high in the midst of disaster, our night turned in to bucketing water sing-a-long!
France, you have been as delightful as ever, and it has been as hard as ever to say goodbye. No doubt my love for you will draw me back very soon.
For now, Au Revior!