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Dead End or Destination?

13 Oct 2016

Last weekend, my parents visited me in France! The good thing about only having class Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday is that every weekend is a long weekend.

Thursday morning, my parents and I met in Aix-en-Provence. My parents had road-tripped from Paris and were working their way towards Nice. After a relaxing lunch and walking excursion through Aix, we got back in the car and headed to the next destination: Moustiers-Sainte Marie. Other than the occasional 10 minute Uber ride from one side of France to the other, I have not spent much time in a car since my arrival in Europe. It’s easy to forget that the roads in France were not initially created for cars. Although my parents don’t speak a lot of French, they quickly adapted by learning all the directional verbs while listening to the GPS. We climbed some elevation and finally arrived in Moustiers-Sainte Marie, which turned out to be slightly larger than a village, but I wouldn't call it a town.

Moustiers-Sainte Marie sits beneath these beautiful mountains. When you looked up you see a very old cathedral situated between a star that is hanging on a wire strung from one cliff to the next. These cliffs are ideal for paragliding, which we got to witness! Originally we had planned to go white water rafting but after many inquiries we learned it was too late in the season and there was not enough water. Instead, we decided to go on a day hike — a perfectly reasonable idea, you would think. 

After unsuccessfully searching for the nondescript trail head, we resorted to going to the office of tourism and seeking someone’s help who was knowledgable about the area. The lady who worked there spoke a tiny bit of English. Between my broken French and her broken English, we mapped out our hike that would take about 3 to 4 hours. We really lucked out with the weather, a tiny bit too hot in the sun and a tiny bit too cold in the shade, which made for comfortable hiking weather. 

We wouldn't realize this until later, but we were off track before we even started. Somehow we took a left on what looked like a hiking path before we reached the trailhead and the actual route. Our hike was lovely and very scenic. There were many beautiful lookouts over the town of Moustier-Sainte Marie. It probably took an hour until we realized there was a chance we were on the wrong path. The ironic part was that a mountain biker asked me if we were lost and I replied while laughing and said, “maybe!” He must have known that the trail we were on lead to practically nowhere. 

We stayed on the trail and we started losing elevation into a valley. We thought we were on a loop trail and it did not make sense to be losing elevation without changing directions.Finally, it looks like our path is turning into a road and we realize this trail was taking us to what the French consider a town. This place consisted of a farm, a barn, and a large van that may or may not have someone living in it. We were looking for human life but there was zero activity. My mom and I were excited because we thought we had spotted sheep; once we got closer, it turns out they were just large rocks. I couldn't believe anyone actually lived there and I really couldn't believe that this place might have actually been a destination! Needless to say, hiking signs and pathways are a little different in France. 

Once we reached this “town” we decided the best way to proceed would be to turn around and take the same path back to Moustiers-Sainte Marie. Lucky for us, walking the opposite way gave us an opportunity to see different views that were equally as breath-taking. Once we arrived back in town, we retraced our steps and discovered we actually never even made it to the correct trailhead. On our way out of town we stopped by the lake and went for a dip. The water was very refreshing (although it wasn't my beloved Mediterranean) and it didn't hurt to be surrounded by beautiful mountains. While reflecting on our adventure I can’t help but to laugh. We had an amazing and picturesque day without even making it to the trailhead. 

Before I arrived in France, someone told me going abroad was like putting together IKEA furniture without the instructions. They could not have been more right. I use the guess and check method for everything I do! I am lucky to be in Southern France where it is hard to go wrong and my guesses will do the trick. Hopefully this same method has worked for my midterm exams!

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