Exchange Diaries: The final countdown

The final countdown is on. With two weeks to go, there’s just enough time left to cram in some last-minute sightseeing and travelling. Luckily for me (and my budget), I won’t have to go far to see one of the largest festivals in France this weekend.

The Festival of Lights, which attracts over three million visitors a year, takes place in none other than Lyon. From what I’ve heard, it’s an event well worth checking out. For four nights, historical buildings across the city are showcased with elaborate lighting, video and musical displays. It’s no wonder that Lyon’s been nicknamed “the City of Lights.”

Another local attraction I’m planning to explore is the Christmas markets in Lyon. More than anything, I’m looking forward to sampling all sorts of food – roasted chestnuts, hot wine and German-style fried potatoes especially. The markets feature local artisans and Christmas decorations galore. Judging by the festive pictures I’ve seen, it’s enough to put anyone in the holiday spirit.

Before I head back, I’m also squeezing in a road trip to the south of France. Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Avignon are a few of the major spots I’ll be hitting along the way. Although it won’t be hot enough to enjoy the beaches, the warmer weather will be a nice change from rainy Lyon. Despite being fairly close to the Alps, we’ve yet to receive any snow, besides a light dusting. Not that I have any issues with that.

Although there’s not enough time to travel outside of France, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Belgium and Switzerland this month. For anyone that’s seen the movie In Bruges, the Belgium town certainly lives up to its reputation as a “beautiful shithole.” On one hand it’s a breathtaking, medieval village, while on the other, it’s a tourist trap laden with overpriced fries and mussels. Geneva was a similar experience – breathtakingly beautiful, but also ranked number one as the world’s most expensive city. Fortunately it was only a day trip, and I was able to stock up on Swiss chocolate bars at the grocery store.

Lyon’s central location makes it so easy to train anywhere, even other countries. The proximity and convenience are easily taken for granted by Europeans but certainly not by foreigners like myself. After all, it’s not too often that I’ll have the chance to say that I was in Switzerland for the day. In the meantime, however, I’m going to spend my last few weeks enjoying what France has to offer. À bientot, Canada.

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