When we returned from our Bulgaria trip, we spent 10 days sorting, discarding, and packing our belongings. How did we accumulate so much in 10 months? Assorted books bought, some clothes purchased, several household items acquired at Ferney’s community-wide garage sale in September, a half dozen black stones laden with fossils picked up from flat dry land (remnants of a prehistoric sea) in Morocco during our Christmas vacation, two diminutive art pieces obtained at Lyon’s Sunday artisan market, miscellaneous French food items that are pricey in California… These acquisitions and others added to the mass of items we had brought to France: suitcases of clothes for 4 seasons for 3 people; books to read and tour guides to use on trips; our computers and cameras; art supplies; Spouse’s bike disassembled and packed in a secure, stout, durable black plastic bike box. We ended up with 9 suitcases to take with us on the plane, 8 boxes and the bike crate to ship air freight, and 4 boxes of books to be sent through the post.
We made trip after trip to Spouse’s CERN office to store the suitcases and boxes because our apartment lease ended on June 30, and our tickets back were for July 6. We stayed 5 nights in a hotel.
|Storage at Spouse's CERN Office|
Our final day in the apartment was sunny, humid, and the hottest of the summer: 35 degrees Celsius, or 95 Fahrenheit. With no air conditioning, working nonstop to finish packing by 6 PM, then cleaning the apartment, we were exhausted, sweaty, and tired. But that evening we attended a community-wide festival, La Fête à Voltaire, held on the grounds of Voltaire’s chateau. Blue, violet, and pink lights shined at different times on the chateau and church (which Voltaire had built). Different civic organizations from the area sold food and drinks. Not only could we buy traditional French fare, like crepes or champagne, but we also could purchase food from clubs of immigrants: Ethiopian, Moroccan, Haitian, Spanish, Russian, Tongan, West African and others. On one stage a group of costumed folk dancers and musicians from Bourg-en-Bresse, the largest city in the département (province), performed and then taught dances to attendees of the festival. And a community chorus of adults sang a cantata by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), a contemporary of Voltaire. In fact, Voltaire had written a libretto for one of Rameau’s operas, Samson, but it was never performed because Rameau feared that Voltaire’s criticism of the Church would create public discord.
|Voltaire's chateau in violet light|
Between “La Fête à Voltaire” on Saturday night – which seemed to be a suitable and sad adieu to Ferney - and our departure the following Friday, we dined with friends we had seen throughout the year and we toured places we hadn’t seen – a cheese factory in the Jura Mountains and a medieval town with an interesting religious history, both of which I’ll write about in the next few months.
|Cheese factory in the Jura Mountains|
I drove around Ferney taking last-minute photos of scenes I wanted to remember, such as the statue of nude lovers which is located near the apartment where we lived, on a corner by the main road that connects Ferney-Voltaire to Meyrin, Switzerland. We passed that statue at least twice a day when I drove Spouse to and from CERN. Whenever I saw the sculpture, I assumed that Americans would ban from public display such a carving of a couple embracing in the buff, and I thought, “Vive la France!”
|Embracing Nudes in Ferney-Voltaire|
The day before we left France we took the boxes and bike crate to an air freight company at the Geneva Airport.
|Our air freight load|
And then on July 6, the three of us, with our 9 suitcases and carry-on pieces, bid farewell to Ferney.
|CERN Wife and luggage at Geneva Airport|
Although we didn’t spend an entire year in Ferney-Voltaire, we are fortunate for having had 10 months to live in France. CERN Wife, however, will continue to write about French culture, which has been the subject of this blog. But from now on, the blog posts will be written in Oakland, California. France from not France. Now that’s interesting.