Sunday, April 13, 2008

Expanding Horizons

Parisians are a bit like New Yorkers. They have a tendency to think that nothing of interest lies outside of their little island. There's even a word for the part of France that surrounds Paris: Province. No, not Provence as in lavender and sunflowers and impressionist paintings, Province as in if it's not Paris, it's all the same to us. But of course, not all of France outside of Paris is the same. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have already visited river valleys with 16th century castles and mountain tops with 70s-era chalets. This weekend I got to see the northern coast of France, further proving that there are indeed sights of interest outside of the Ile-de-France.

France's English Channel beaches are completely different from their French Riviera counterparts. There are no palm trees, no striped umbrellas, and the sand is unbelievably expansive. You can almost see British and American warships disembarking from the French coast during the world wars, the beach covered with all kinds of equipment and human activity. Quite a different picture from what is there today: kids flying kites, tourists looking for seashells, and couples meandering along taking it all in.

As always, it felt great to get out of the city and take in some fresh air. We had two full days of perfectly blue skies with temperatures mild enough to enjoy a relaxing bike ride, a couple games of catch, and a drink on the terrace. On the way home I knew we were getting close to Paris when the sky clouded over and it started to rain. Eventually, the rolling picture-perfect countryside gave way to the concrete jungle that is a city. Parisians might not understand why anyone would choose to live anywhere but Paris, but those of us who travel know better. Sometimes en province is exactly where you want to be.

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