Hot! The intermission is over! (I think!)

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Sorry for my silence on the blog: I mistakenly assumed that the gîte that Marc’s family rented for the week would have internet. Since the only internet available was via 10 minute increments on a slow computer in the tourism office of a town half an hour away, I decided to pretty much just forgo internet for the week.

Marc has been here in France with me since Tuesday, which has been nice. The area that his family is from, southern Auvergne, is quite beautiful and very different from where I was before in Ardeche, just one department away.

His family picked me up in St. Sauveur de Montagut on Sunday, and we drove to the gîte in Les Balayes, about 45 minutes east of Le Puy En Velay. On Monday we climbed Mont Menzac, the tallest peak in the department (most French departments are about the size of Connecticut). On Tuesday, Marc’s sister Claire and her boyfriend Namir and I all went to Le Puy En Velay and climbed up to the 10th century chapel at the top of the volcanic spire that dominates the town’s skyline. The sheer scale of history in Europe never ceases to inspire awe in me. Marc arrived that afternoon.

On Wednesday we visited a village known for being one of the last places in this region to still maintain the skills necessary for making straw roofs, and we went to a farming museum there. It was quite fascinating to me, and it was also really eye-opening to see how in many ways, French farming hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years, at least on smaller farms. I personally think that’s something of a good thing.

Thursday was mostly taken up by preparations for the arrival of Marc’s entire French family in the evening, and then the ensuing party. I spent most of the evening trying to remember the names of all 25-odd people. Thankfully, almost everyone spoke at least some English, so between my French and their English, communication went pretty smoothly.

Friday we all trekked up to Grazac, where Marc’s aunt lives. The whole family was there, including the guest of honor: his grandmother. We had an amazing lunch, and I took a ton of photos, including several formal family portraits. After lunch we went for a bit of a hike, and then came back for dinner and to say goodbye to “Mamie” as she was tired and had to go home. Before she left I showed her some of the photos I had taken of everyone and she was clearly very touched and thankful. Even though this was the first time I had ever met her, I could really tell that it meant a lot to her, which made me feel like my presence was appreciated.

Today we all had to leave the gîte, so Marc’s parents drove us to Le Puy En Velay, where we’re spending one night before heading up to Lyon tomorrow. Unfortunately, the hostel here is hosting a music festival, so all the rooms were booked, but we found a 2-star hotel nearby for €60. Though the hotel pretty much blows my budget for the week, it’s really okay, because I didn’t have any expenses over the last three weeks, minus a couple postcards and a sandwich.

Tomorrow we head up to Lyon, where we’ll spend two days before Marc heads back to Washington DC on Tuesday afternoon. I will miss him, and I’ve really been enjoying having him around.

In other news, one of Marc’s cousins and his wife have invited me to come stay with them during the second week in August. They live in Bordeaux, a beautiful area that neither I nor Marc have ever been to. This is perfect, as it would allow me to work on the horse farm in Tarn for a week, then stay with them for 4-5 days, then head up to La Rochelle, Paris, and wherever else I want to visit. I do think I want to cut my trip short by a week, but this allows me to only cut it short by one week, not two, which is pretty perfect.

Our hotel in Lyon will have internet, as will my friend’s house in the tiny hamlet of Lagamas where I will be spending two weeks, so from now on, you should hear from me pretty regularly. This was just a quick update about what I’ve been doing, but once I’m back to my usual relaxed pace, I’ll write more in-depth about the last week, and you’ll see some of the photos I’ve been taking as well!