That’s a shot of the old city of Lyon, France, midday, warm and medieval. My husband and I just returned from a two-week adventure in various parts of glorious France. He did his graduate work in Paris and so has always held France to be a kind of second national home. Besides, he has to be rushed to a plate of foie gras every now and then. I grew up in Montreal and so France was always close to mind and language ability, as well. We return to the country that gave us about 400 smelly cheeses as much as we can. But this was my first visit to Lyon, a large beautiful city marked by two large meandering rivers that flow through its centre and define its character and history. You could easily spend a lot of time in Lyon, particularly if you like to eat. It’s the gastronomic capital of the country, if not the world, and boasts more fabulous food on every street than anywhere else I have ever been. You eat and walk, then eat some more. Amazing what capacity one has when the temptations are ubiquitous.

To put it mildly, it was a bit of an inconvenient time to go on a long scheduled holiday, what with budget discussions and general budget noise all around us, and so I maintained about a thirty email-a-day ritual and called in several times to participate in important meetings. All play and no work leaves one disconnected and anxious. I don’t feel as if I missed anything except bad weather and a few stories about moose accidents and memory loss.

While in France, I naturally looked into costs of tuition in the public system. As I already knew, fees are pretty low, supplemented by taxes on the citizens. France has a highly centralized, highly regulated education system, with a largely common curriculum. Hard to imagine such a system in Canada. There are many things one can criticize about the French system, especially its rigid regulatory framework, but you have to admire the degree of state investment in a highly educated public. Napoleon figured that out, and everyone since has maintained the principle. That progressive reality aside, there remains an awful lot of racist and xenophobic blather in the air, especially as more and more immigrants keeps choosing to leave the Middle East and North Africa and relocate where they can get work in France. One need only follow French politics for a short while to be exposed to thriving extremes of ideology. Some of it is pretty ugly. We have our share of it in Canada, too, but it tends to be buried or hidden. In France it’s all out there, along with lavender and art deco street signs.

Time to get back to work– to juvenile and uninformed media articles about MUN’s budget, and to parking woes, condemned pedways, and asbestos abatement. We have enshrined holiday time as a worker’s right for good reason.  In France, people pretty much take the whole hot month of August off from work. A lot of people think academics are “off” all summer, which can make you crazy.  The best time to leave this province is May or June, when the promise of spring is a sick joke. Returning to late-blooming lilacs and just-fading tulips, and with all of summer spread out before us, feels, as Goldilocks would say, just right.



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