(This post was originally published on my personal blog, Of Postcards & Ink, between 2015-2016.)
I hope you’ve got a cup of tea (or any drink of choice) at the ready – this one’s a long one!
While still living in Sydney, there were few things I loved more than day trips to the mountains or the coast with loved ones. As such, since moving to Paris, having the freedom to drive out of the city and spend time away from more industrialised and densely populated areas has been a dearly missed luxury. I’m a firm believer in the fact that time spent in the mountains is good for the soul!
As such, this week has eased me wonderfully in and out of the mid-sem break and has brought me full circle in many ways – beginning with opportunities to wind down and take things slower in Paris, bringing me to the more spacious and unassuming city of Lyon, ushering me to the beautiful mountains and lakes of Annecy and then finally back to Paris with a happy heart and lungs filled with fresh mountain air. I’m so thankful for the time of rest and refreshment I’ve been able to spend in Annecy over the past couple of days in particular – with her clear lakes and soaring mountains, she has been a much needed breath of fresh air.
Having spent the last couple of months doing everything possible to feel settled and at home, it felt highly counter-intuitive to be packing my bags again and preparing for five days spent away. Alas, I found myself on a train to Lyon on Wednesday morning and arrived in a city that felt a little like the more carefree, younger sister of Paris, bearing some characteristics that were reminiscent of her older sister, while being more laid back and relaxed in her mannerisms and way of doing life, in a way that might come from having spent less time in the limelight.
It was so lovely to spend time catching up with Isa and, given that she still had classes last week, also have some alone time that was spent walking across a significant part of the city, lost in my own thoughts and reflections – much needed after the non-stop nature of the last seven weeks of semester. From the old town and La Croix-Rousse, to Parc de la Tête d’Or, Lyon is steeped in her own unique experience of history and it was fascinating to learn more about her different chapters and also be shown around different nooks and crannies of the city by Isa, as she’s come to know it as home. We also went up to Basilique de Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière and found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the sheer beauty of the basilica (one becomes a little desensitised to this brand of building after having spent a certain amount of time in Europe), with its stunning mosaic interior and rich tones of gold, turquoise and emerald.
Then, on Friday, Isa celebrated making it to her own mid-sem break and we prepared to make our way to Annecy. And Annecy, my goodness. You were a dream. Your food and artisan markets (filled with much appreciated free samples, haha), your people, your lake, your mountains – you were just the right mixture of so many of my favourite things and have left me with so many fond memories and a refreshed heart and mind.
We enjoyed incredibly beautiful and clear weather over the weekend and let Annecy’s effortless grace and charm unfold before our eyes under the sun’s golden rays of autumn light. Our first day there was spent in a relatively relaxed state of mind; wandering up and down streets and canals in the old town, sampling different saucissons, macarons, nougat and cheeses while trying not to be jerks/non-customers (#wetried), buying some delicious homemade cinnamon and ginger-infused sweet breads, reading by the lake, falling in love with the views and strolling through the park while children raced past on their bicycles and played in the autumn sunshine. We watched with delight as swans glided gracefully across the clear, sparkling lake and the trees turned warm shades of red and yellow while their leaves continued to gather on the footpaths and grass below.
The next day, Isa and I spent the better part of seven hours hiking up La Tournette – one of the mountains lining the city’s vast lake. Filled with countless “bonjours” (all friendly, some out of breath) shared with fellow hikers, slippery rock slopes, sudden inclines and literally breathtaking views, the hike was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my time in Europe so far. The autumn air was biting at times, but being greeted by glorious views of red, yellow and green speckled pine trees lining the surrounding mountain faces and stunning views of the turquoise lake below at every turn was worth every gust of chilling wind that came our way. I honestly can’t even begin to describe how breathtaking the views from La Tournette were – I even had a few moments on the mountain where I began dreading having to try and write up a blog post about it! Without being completely conscious of it, I often lose sight of and fail to grasp the magnitude of God’s majesty and glory but as I stood there at an altitude of 2,351m, feeling so incredibly small in the midst of soaring mountains, rock faces, valleys, skies and forests, I was confronted by the frailty of my own life and the glorious sweetness of what is means to intimately know and love the Creator of all things. It was incredible.
I’ll let the photos speak for themselves (though they don’t even begin to do the reality justice), but beyond the time spent on the mountain itself, the hike brought some heartwarming conversations and shows of hospitality with it too. From the beginning, we were filled with gratefulness for the kindness shown by Christine, a church friend of Isa’s (originally from Annecy but now living in Lyon), who happened to be spending the weekend in Annecy too. Christine had offered to drive us from Annecy to the beginning of the hiking track and to come and pick us up again as soon as we finished the hike – such an unmerited show of hospitality and such a tangible demonstration of the love and care that ought to characterise the church! She filled us in on different fun facts about Annecy as we drove out of town and even promised to drive us back along a different route in the afternoon; one which looped around the entire lake itself. On the hike, we also met a lovely couple who were well into their years (and yet remarkably able-bodied and fit; an increasingly common sight that day!), who struck up conversation with us and even offered to give us a lift back into town the end of the hike before we explained that we already had a friend who would be picking us up. Despite having some interesting views on Australia’s immigration policies, their good humour and friendliness helped take our minds off the cries for mercy coming from our protesting knees post-descent.
When Christine came to pick us up afterwards, she also happened to bring her daughter, Holly, along with her (who had endearingly been spending some time playing in the trees “chasing fog” while they were waiting for us to reach the car) and I got to spend the scenic car ride sitting next to her in the backseat, chatting away about what she’d been doing during her school holidays, her plans for Halloween and the like. French children have a way of winning me over as soon as they open their mouths – they have a remarkably charming ability to drive conversation/chat away (which suggests that it’s just something that French people are born with :P) and what’s more, their French is ridiculously cute (though I do envy the speed with which they can effortlessly conjugate all of their verbs in every tense…). Amongst other things, she ooh-ed and aah-ed when she heard that I was living in Paris and told me all about her favourite Disneyland rides. She also noticed my phone case and mentioned that she thought it was “très joli” (very pretty) and as soon as I mentioned that I enjoyed drawing/painting, she whipped out her colouring book, rummaged around under the car seat until she found a full set of coloured pencils and suggested that we do some colouring in together! If that wouldn’t win you over, I don’t know what would.
After saying goodbye to Christine and Holly, Isa and I wandered back towards our apartment and treated ourselves to a waffle slathered in Nutella (#noregrets) and enjoyed our last night in Annecy with happy hearts and happy stomachs. That night saw us fall fast asleep (and enjoy an extra hour of respite, thanks to French daylight saving (though we’re not sure whether we appreciate the ten hours that now separate us from Sydney…)), before waking up on Sunday morning to the sounds of the markets being set up on the streets down below us. Being the hopeless food lovers that we are, we spent a couple of hours wandering amongst the busy streets and stalls, bumping into Christine and Holly (such a lovely surprise!), taking another round of the lake and treating ourselves to a loaf of fig bread, saucisson au poivre, marinated olives and wedge of cheese to bring home and enjoy for lunch on the balcony.
I’m so thankful for the time that Isa and I have had to spend together this week; sharing in deep conversation, moments of silliness, days of exploring, moments of rest and opportunities to humbly thank God for the rich blessings that He’s given us – most of all, in knowing and loving Christ.
Despite the challenges, heartache and tears that come with exchange, God is the gracious Author and Artist of every moment of good. Every moment spent tasting the joy and warmth that comes from friendship, rest, love, beauty and refreshment comes from His hand. I’ve been reminded this week of the sweetness of that truth and want to continually remind myself that for all of the beautiful mountains and places that exist on this earth, my soul yearns for a greater home and will only be satisfied by it – a home wherein my place has been secured at a price and we will dwell with our Creator for eternity.
‘If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” (C.S. Lewis)
On Monday night, the women from my church gathered together for a meal and an evening of Bible reading/discussion, sharing and prayer. We discussed 1 Kings 3:1-15 and considered the nature of Godly wisdom, as explored in various parts of Proverbs and what it might look like for us to practically live life on earth in pursuit of such wisdom. It was such an encouraging night and I’m continually humbled and refreshed by the way that God is radically growing, equipping and transforming the women of His church in France. Praise and thank God for the opportunity that I have on exchange to do life with these sisters and please pray that He might use me to encourage and spur them on in this race that we’re running together.
Thank you for your prayers regarding my GBU weekend away decision last week! I’ve decided to go ahead and rego, and the approaching dates (6th-8th November) are filling me with a mixture of excitement and anxiety all at once. Please pray that God might be preparing my heart and mind for the weekend of spiritual nourishment and opportunities to build relationships and encourage others. For those who are interested, we’ll be looking the notion of “becoming what we are” and how the nature of our identity in Christ ought to play out in our lives.
In light of that decision, I’d also really appreciate prayer for discipline and good time management. Simply looking at my assessment schedule and growing to-do list for November sends waves of terror through me and I’m continuing to learn how to commit my anxieties to God, work effectively and consistently invest time in prayer and reading His word.
As always, thank you for your prayers, words of encouragement and for sharing about how you’ve been going and what God’s been teaching you recently! They mean the world and are such blessings to me. Hope you’ve had a wonderful start to the week :) À bientôt x
– L Y O N –
– A N N E C Y –