25 May 2010

Long Live Pentecost

It's over.


Done with.

The French will now have to wait nearly two months before their next public holiday.

It all began on May 1st - France's Labor Day. But since it was on a Saturday, we barely noticed anything. A few stores were closed and my son's archery lesson was canceled.  After all, said his volunteer instructor, it was Labor Day.

Then came May 8th - World War II victory day.  Another Saturday, and a day worth celebrating in my opinion.

Ascension followed on the 13th and because it fell on a Thursday this year, many people "did the bridge" (le pont) which extended or bridged the holiday to the weekend. That meant many people were off on Friday as well.

And it wouldn't be a typical May in France if we didn't take off on Pentecost Monday, May 24th. Of the 30 or so students I teach each week, only one knew, more or less, the significance of Pentecost. "When the spirit of God came down from heaven to the disciples so they could spread it all over the world." That's just about right.

When I asked him if he was going to church to celebrate, he shook his head and made that annoying little clicking sound with his tongue, lips pursed into a tight "O".  "I'm working," he said. "The company isn't closed."

I could be wrong, but I don't think he would have gone to church anyway.

If you don't have to paint your house or visit the in-laws or pull weeds in the garden, and if the kids are spending the weekend at a local "Texas" ranch with their scout group, there's not much left to do but...head to the mountains!  In this case, the Jura.

The Jura is a relatively small mountain chain in the east of France that also stretches into Germany and Switzerland. It's a wonderfully quiet, verdant place (in summer) with plenty of walking trails that lead up and over mountain passes with soft rolling and flower-studded hills just about as far as the eye can see.

Appreciating the unique geology of the Jura, which lent its name
to the Jurassic period of time (150 - 200 million years ago, approximately).

Looking down at Lake Geneva from the top of Mont Rond (1543 meters / 5062 feet).

Geneva on the far right with the Alps behind shrouded in afternoon clouds.

Late afternoon sunshine.

 High-altitude pastoral hills, typical of the Jura.

Winters in the Jura are cold and snowy. The owners of the Bed & Breakfast we stayed in (La Chandoline) told us this is the Mecca for cross-country skiers. There are also plenty of snow-shoeing paths that lead into the nearby woods. It's prudent, said Valérie (one of the co-owners) to bring a GPS unit with you if you aren't too familiar with the area. Indeed, even in full sun with our feet touching the earth, my wife and I had to follow our topo map closely on a simple loop trail. And even then we missed a shortcut that turned our easy two hour walk into three.

Going back to work after a long weekend exploring the hidden gems of the Jura is not easy. But it's comforting to know that they aren't going anywhere too soon. They've been around for millions of years, and will still be here long after I'm gone. With the summer holidays all but booked, and with the May holiday season now officially closed, it might be a while before we get back.

Taking the time to wander through magnificent mountain hill and dale may not be how our earlier ancestors observed the holy day of Pentecost. But long live the statesmen who changed the law to make it so.

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