OK so my Sunday has not been all that exciting. I studied, then went downtown where I had a really bad salad, delicious garlic bread and decent milkshake at Jenny’s (restaurant in Jinan), bought some groceries, came back and cleaned the house, then started writing.
The lastest of my writing starts here, in Carcassonne, then goes to Avignon (which I completely adored) and Annecy.
Here are some photos from the places mentioned above…
OK, so this is Carcassonne, which I didn’t like when I first arrived because it was raining and icky and it took me more than two hours to find a place to stay BUT look at the place! Honestly, for anybody who loves medieval walls it is just brilliant. I mean, the Cathars really knew their walls. It is like something out of my dreams… when I dreamt of such things.
A gargoyle in Avignon.
A slightly more sinister looking Carcassonne.
Salivating as I type. Papal palace in Avignon. It is superb.
A view across the river at Aix-En-Provence. France is great. Wherever you look… fortifications. Oh yeah.
I was in love with half of Italy when I went there. It was only went to Avignon that I found a part of France I could fall in love with.
Avignon, Papal Palace
Annecy, the lake.
Le Waterslide. You can see Annecy is popular in the summer.
Avignon, I love you.
Chateauneuf du Pape changed my life. It is here that I learnt how to taste wine properly and became somewhat (only a little ok?!) of a wine snob.
A canal in Annecy.
Ok so sunsets have a different feeling to them when they are freezing bloody cold, but… this is a sunset in the Alps and it was fabulous.
Weird white swans. In Perth we have black swans…
The sun came out and then there were mountains.
WW2 graffiti. What POWs had to say about Nazi occupation.
The sun came out and then it set over the mountains surrounding Lake Annecy.
In Chinese there is a saying 读万卷书，行万里路 which very roughly translates as ‘to be a well-rounded person you should read an awful lot and travel heaps too’. My question is, how many books must you read to hit the same spot as a sunset like this, where the mountain appeared out of a grey fog, and started to glow? I like this adage, but I fear I lean very heavily to the experience side of the comma that lies in the middle of this piece of wisdom. Don’t mistake me. If they are the right words, one phrase can pierce your heart. But so too can one picture. Or one chord in a piece of music. I use the examples that come from my own life… but… Have you felt the cold sweat, the passion and shivering of a choir singing Carmina Burana? Have you felt the echo of church bells vibrate through your very being while it swells up through a valley in Umbria on a Sunday morning? Have you seen and felt the rays of the sun pierce through the dark and through your heart over a sea of clouds in the early morning? Have you really loved? Have you really lived? Have you ever, really, for one moment, completely been a part of this world? If you were to die tomorrow, would you die with regret in your heart?
There is another saying in Chinese – 害人之心不可有，防人之心不可无 which means (again, roughly) that ‘while you shouldn’t harm others you must guard against the possibility of others harming you’. I can’t say I disagree with this because, truth be told, people are often assholes and if you don’t protect yourself, you probably will get hurt. BUT. A big part of 行万里路, or travelling and experiencing a lot, is being hurt. Will you understand those chords, understand passion, and understand the beauty of peace, without understanding hurt? Without having suffered? I don’t think so. And really, when you guard against others, you shut yourself off from others. It actually influences their behaviour towards you and you may miss out on some of what people have to offer. Miss out on goodness or safeguard against the crap? Offer your cheek for another slap, or block it? Atheist or not, I side with Christ on this one. Don’t veer from having an open heart just because someone might take advantage of it. They slap? It’s their bad. Not yours. Sometimes you get as much as you’re willing to gamble.
Apologies for all the Chinese sayings but I am in the middle of my quest to take the HSK. The words and experiences of those who went before us may well be useful in an exam as well as in life.