When last we saw our hero, he was still enjoying France.

And I really, really enjoyed France!

Paris has a scale that’s very human, thanks in no small part to the self-imposed building height restrictions that affect almost all of the Parisian arrondisements. Like DC, the place is of a scale that’s not superhuman (save for churches and monuments), and it preserves the place in a former era: the skyline today largely resembles that of Hemingway’s Paris, which is really terrific.

Whoever came up with the idea of “French rudeness” was obviously an American or British lout, as the French people we encountered were exceedingly friendly and polite. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that we exercised common courtesy: greeting shopkeepers as we entered and exited their shops, knowing a little bit of the local lingo, and being modest and contained. We witnessed a few other Americans there who clearly didn’t understand and entered into the L-O-U-D A-N-D S-L-O-W speech pattern, and they stuck out quite a bit. But when we dialed into the culture (took all of a second), it was all good.

France is a place where life is a lot slower than in the States. The café culture prevails and affects almost every facet of French lifestyle: soak in ones surroundings and drink up life as it happens. I admit that slowing down like this was tough, especially in areas that are so new (and yet so old) and fascinating, but when I did it was magical.

Provence showed this laid back lifestyle in a most grand display. Though we didn’t have time to explore the small, countryside towns that Peter Mayle idolized in A Year In Provence, our short stays in Aix-en-Provence and Avignon definitely left a positive impression on sprite and me. The old towns move slowly and embrace this easygoing pace, and it was easy to enjoy a drink, a meal, a walk or a basic sit-down in such tranquil settings (even with the fierce winds that come with the season).

You can see my photos from the trip here, and sprite’s photos are collected here. Give ’em a look-see and leave a comment or two if you’re so inclined.

And now we’ve been back for a bit more than a week, and seem to have brought back some of the laid-back lifestyle with us. Perhaps that’s why The Burrow’s cleaning goes ever-so-slowly. 😉

Now it’s off to Connecticut and New England for Thanksgiving. It’s been one heck of a 2008, and the thanks are many. So to those who have contributed to the wonder of this year, a tip ‘o the hat, a toast of the glass, and most heart-felt thanks.