Wednesday, June 3, 2015

An afternoon in France

When the Nestle Conference ended, we, young scientists, wanted to explore the region but we didn't know where we had to start. I suggested that we begin our adventure by crossing Lac Leman and visiting France. My friends agreed that it's something worth trying and so we ran to the ticket booth to get tickets in time for the ferry ride to the other side of the lake. The African young scientists decided that they wanted to stay in Switzerland, maybe thinking that France was too far way. So the group that visited France was composed of a South African, a Spaniard, an Indian, and a Filipina... how more international can we get right?

And NONE of us were native French speakers! This was the ultimate adventure; we were winging it in the communications aspect. It reminded me of being in South Korea and not knowing how to communicate there!

Anyway, the ferry ride was amazing! It offered views of the Alps and the calm waters of Lac Leman. The greenery of Switzerland and of France were in full display. I don't know if this view will ever grow old for me.

We crossed the Lac Leman to get to France!
Once in Thonon-les-Bains, a town in the Haute-Savoie department of the Rhône-Alpes region, I gaped at the sight of yet another fortress... Was the surrounding area of the lake a frequent battleground back in the day?!? Why the many ramparts?

Walking deeper into town, we found ourselves along narrow footpaths, climbing staircases, and then coming across a fountain. This was such a small neighbourhood! Finally, I think we found ourselves in town. There was a church surrounded by narrow roads... I kept wondering how I was supposed to take a photo of the whole church?!

In Lausanne, at least, there were wide plazas in front of the churches I've encountered; hence, I could take a step back and then take a photo. The narrowness of the area reminded me of how difficult it was to take photos during the Pahiyas festival in Lucban, with the higantes further crowding the narrow roads leading to the town church.

Then, to make our experience of France even more international, we opted to eat Middle Eastern food (read: shawarmas) somewhere near the church. It was a good decision because food in France was way cheaper than food in Switzerland.

As the day drew to a close, we found our way back to the ferry station... and found such a beautiful view of the lake and the surrounding area. No wonder people fall in love with this part of the world! If I could only afford it, I'd be here every summer!!

One of the most pronounced differences between what's real and what I've been imagining about France is the lack of music along the roads (in real life... at least in Thonon-les-Bains). See, I've always imagined that when in France, I'd be walking along cobblestone paths with Edith Piaf or Yann Tiersen in the background. However, I was kind of disappointed with reality since there was no music! My view of France, obviously, has been of one big movie set... Amelie or Da Vinci Code, perhaps. But that view was corrected by my afternoon trip in Thonon-les-Bains.

Despite the reality check, I still found that I'd like to return to France one day... hopefully soon. Especially since I've only whetted my appetite for the country. I haven't had the chance to explore the other cities yet. But first, I needed to deal with the language barrier. Definitely.