We’re definitely back in the northern latitudes!
When we last left our “ragamuffin” band of families we were headed SOUTH…should’ve stayed down there! We left Matour and our visit of the Cluny Abby and our next stop was Bourg-St.-Andeol for an overnight stay. We learned first-hand just how narrow streets can be and still be “navigable” in old European towns. As we followed directions to the place we were staying, we surely thought we had made yet another navigation error (we are WAY used to that now!) since all there was, was this narrow alley that seemed to close in more and more (moving trash cans as we went just to get by). Low and behold…we had actually followed the directions correctly. Thankfully this was only one night!
Bourg-St-Andeol is 12 km from the southern France YWAM base we visited last year and we paid them a brief-but-good visit during our short time there. Then, the next day, we headed towards Nice…our final “real” destination.
We stayed in 3 “gîtes” during our time in France. The one near Nice was probably the only one that lived up to my “imagination” of what such “rustic”, and “culturally-representative” houses should be like. The one in Matour was a terrific accommodation but was basically a modern, 5 story dormitory building.
The town we stayed in, about 30 minutes from Nice, was called St. Jeannet. “Jeannet” was not some spiritual lady in France’s history. Rather, it refers to John the Baptist. St. Jeannet is a village on the side of a foothill/mountain in the Maritime Alps. This part of the French coast is a combination of a small amount of flat area near the river basins interspersed with mostly steep hills that jump right up from the coast and continue up to snow-capped peaks. These coastal, steep hills often are quite built up with houses practically on top of each other. St. Jeannet itself is an old and very picturesque village and very compact together as well.
We were there 6 nights and 5 days, including 1 free day. As was our custom in the entire trip, one of our team did research about where to visit and pray. In between getting lost and separated as a group, we visited and prayed at: * The promenade (the beach) * A high crest over-looking “old Nice” and the port on which are the ruins of the first church in Nice * A Roman ruin which exalted Caesar as god and overlooked Monaco * The Marc Chagall Museum which has 19 large murals from the Bible
On the free day the rest of the team drove into Italy and back and our family went to a mall in downtown Nice! Necessary…but I would have rather spent the day just sitting on the beach being soothed by the breaking waves and light-azure waters. Angela and I also had the opportunity to go to a local sacred choral music concert in St. Jeannet one night at the local church. It was a wonderful time for us. One of our deep desires is to worship (meaning with music specifically) in European cathedrals. This was close, in that it was sacred music resonating in an ancient French church…even though we weren’t singing it. Truly beautiful.
Our drive back concerned us in that it was basically 4 straight days of long drives punctuated by unpacking-sleeping-packing-going again. At this point in the outreach we were all feeling fatigue from the entire 6-week journey. It did not seem like a pleasant prospect. Due to this, we altered one of the stops…London, and decided on returning via a different route. This would be an overnight ferry from Zeebrugge, Belgium to Kingston-upon-Hull and had 3 advantages for us: a shorter drive from Paris; actually moving towards our destination while we slept; a shorter last day back into Paisley.
Our drives from Nice to Lyon and from Lyon to Paris were, thankfully, shorter than we had anticipated and the weather was not too bad either…but it definitely got colder when we went north! In Paris we had the delight to stay with the same family that hosted us the first time and they also hosted a “crépe party” for us at their church. The pastors wife probably made crépe’s for 3 hours straight! We then had a time of worship with their church and finally headed towards bed.
The drive to Zeebrugge was punctuated with getting lost and bad weather at the end and having to run around and find our last-minute reservations when we arrived at the pier. Though it frayed nerves and stomachs, it was par-for-the-course by this time and seems a distant memory now. We got on the boat in plenty of time and it really was a much better way to go on our way back…kind of like a one-night cruise…economy-class.
This was Thanksgiving Day for all of us Americans but there was little outward evidence of that (other than the nasty weather). Hot dogs on the boat in a baguette were good, but a poor substitute for turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie….and familiar faces back home. It wasn’t morose by any means, but I certainly felt a “quiet” in my heart as I contemplated home and the 21 people shoe-horned into my parents house that day.
The last day of our journey dawned bright and clear as we pulled into port in Merry Old England. We were driving on the left again so we had to concentrate a bit but understanding shopkeepers was a nice feeling to come back to. Kind of odd for us who have set up home here to land on “foreign soil” and have some measure of feeling “at home”…or at least “familiar” with my surroundings.
We literally drove east-to-west across England and were treated to lunch by some friends of ours whom we met in our Marriage Ministry days. They are the UK directors for MMI and, amazingly, offered to feed 19 hungry, weary travelers for lunch! Thankfully their house is much larger than ours and they could actually fit us comfortably. It was an ideal setup and a delightful time with some VERY gracious people…with one drawback…we didn’t want to leave and still had about 4 hours ahead of us!!! We reluctantly got back on the road and headed home. We managed to get separated from each other on a dark, rainy and busy highway and miraculously (thank God) got joined back up again. We even managed to make wrong turns once we got back to Paisley…quite comical by this point!
Well, we’re home now and finishing the school this week. We’ll send more about life post-school and what our near-term future holds later. This update was too much to digest already and I appreciate your patience. Still working on web site pictures. We’ll let you know when they are there…probably next week.
Happy Thanksgiving (late) and Merry Christmas (early)! David