Trains provide the perfect situation for blog-writing. Not only are they relatively long, providing me with plenty of writing time, but they nicely divide different parts of my trip.
So, at the moment I'm headed back to the farm, having spent the last 8 days or so with my parents. Definitely a fun time; spent maximum 2 nights at each destination, a combination of small towns and (at the end) a big city (Toulouse). Highlights were the caves with wall paintings/ carvings that are relatively well-known in the region. I'm not sure why, but we were really taken with some of them, especially the paintings. I guess the idea of being in the same spot where someone, 20-25,000 years ago, was painting, and seeing their work, has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about it. (We didn't go to the most famous cave, Lascaux, because it has recently (in the past few years, I believe) been closed to visitors due to degradation of the works; there is a replica you can go to, which apparently is very well done, it seems like it just wouldn't at all be the same). Our favorite was Pech-Merle; you'll have to Google search for pictures, because in all the caves photography was strictly forbidden. (They gave varying reasons for this, but I suspect it's a) because they are worried about flashes, and b) they want to control the sale of images of the caves).
Another highlight was the fact that my parents had rented a car, so we got to pass through these tiny villages between destinations. Each one has a little church (sometimes slightly bigger churches), each one has stone houses, and each one feels so typically European. It was nice to discover that there are still so many places like that. And for both my mom and me, it was our first time getting a taste of France outside of the major destinations (with the exception of the farms I've been on so far). I wonder what I would discover by driving on non-highways around the United States.
We spent one day and night at Domme, which is a small, walled town at the top of what's basically an isolated foothill- I don't know what its geological origins are, but it provides a remarkable view of the countryside (with the Dordogne River flowing right by it). I really need to start posting some pictures- descriptions of places like this really aren't sufficient. But it was definitely one of the more beautiful views I've seen in France, especially the morning of the second day, when we could see the thick fog covering the countryside well below us.
We also spent 3 nights at a B&B near Rocamadour, run by a really nice British couple. And they have an option for eating there, which we did all three nights- full meal (appetizer, entree, cheese, dessert, wine) prepared by them. They usually do meat-based dishes, but managed to cope with my mom's and my dietary restrictions.
Last two nights were in Toulouse, which I might try to return to someday (not this trip, but... someday). The nightlife is really vibrant, varied, and with lots of people about my age, it seems (I walked around the city one of the nights; didn't do much, as I'm not a fan of going to bars/ clubs on my own, but with someone else I think it could be really great).
And of course, we did a good amount of shopping (got a some new clothes... I can't resist doing so when I'm in France, and especially not if I'm being encouraged by my mom) and ate lots of good food.