“Bleaughhh,” exclaimed Rich, spitting out the offending liquid. “That’s disgusting!”
We were in Vichy, France, sampling the famous healing waters, and Rich was finding this one — from a sulfur-rich hot spring said to keep the digestive system in superlative shape — too vile to swallow. “My stomach is fine as it is,” he assured me. “My taste buds, however, may never recover.”
Some weeks earlier, we’d decided to take a rail trip to France as a getaway from Seville’s magnificent, maddening celebration of Semana Santa (Holy Week). Right now, in the run-up to Easter, the city is mobbed with a million visitors watching dozens of massive religious processions. A simple trip to the neighborhood market must be timed with military precision to avoid getting trapped behind processional lines, possibly for hours. I frequently find myself saying things like, “Rich, you don’t mind eating your breakfast cereal without milk, do you?”
Planning our getaway, it occurred to me that it might be fun to meet up with members of the new American Resistance movement along the way. People everywhere are coming up with innovative forms of protesting the president’s agenda, and I was curious about what Resisters were doing in France.
Our itinerary didn’t include the capital, but I spoke by phone with Resister Bob Vallier in Paris. “I’m from Flint, Michigan. And yes,” he added, the grin audible in his voice, “I know Michael Moore.” Having served as the secretary of Democrats Abroad France, an affiliate of the Democratic Party, Bob quit after the November election to become one of the co-organizers of Paris Against Trump. “The Democratic Party has some restrictions; it can’t organize demonstrations, although it can march in them, and it can’t work on French political issues. I wanted to stand up against Trump and [French alt-right presidential candidate] Le Penn.”
Bob’s activist plans include staging a “die-in” on Tax Day, April 15. “We’re going to lie on the ground with signs reading things like ‘Trump’s economic agenda killed me.’ It’s a stunt; it gets attention.” We discussed the worldwide March for Science on April 22. “Even if nobody is marching in your town,” he said, “you could stage a simple standing demonstration: get a few people together, dress up as scientists, hold protest signs. People would see you; the press would see you.” Hmmm, I thought. I do have this old white lab coat I use as a smock when I paint…
After arranging interviews with Resisters in Lyon and Avignon, Rich and I walked to the Seville train station and headed north. Our first stop was Barcelona, where we found a charming hotel above a bakery. In Toulouse we spent two long days in an art-theme hotel with this on the wall.
Our next two cities, Limoges and Clermont-Ferrand, both had museums dedicated to the French Resistance, and we felt we should pay our respects. Low-budget and slightly cheesy, they still managed to tell a compelling story.
One glass case displayed a small sign saying, “Il fallait choisir: collaborer, attendre ou résistir.” (It was necessary to choose: collaborate, wait or resist.) I’d read that the decision to join the French Resistance was usually highly personal; not surprisingly, seeing your father shot in the street or a friend sent to a concentration camp tended to be a powerful motivator. For some it was a deep visceral reaction to seeing tyranny replace freedom in their beloved homeland.
Two days later we met up with Diane Sklar and her husband, Craig Becker, Resisters from New York who live in Lyon where Diane teaches at a university. “After the election, I cried for a week,” she told me. “I couldn’t believe what had happened. Then I read an article called A 12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump. And I said to myself, ‘I have to learn how to talk to the rest of America.’ Then I thought, ‘I want to hear how the Democratic Party is changing.’ And then I decided to become part of that change.” Diane joined the new chapter of Democrats Abroad in Lyon. The group will join in the March for Science on April 22, and Diane, Craig, and their cat,Ted, were happy to get in on the #VirtualTaxMarch launched by American Resistance Sevilla.
A survey showed the Lyon group’s greatest concern is climate change. They’re not alone. When we met in Avignon with Dennis Shibut, he grew passionate about the topic.
“I’m a physicist,” he said. “Global warming is real, and it is going to make the earth extinct if we don’t do something. I joined the Democrats because they are the only party that believes in science.” Dennis is the outgoing chair of Democrats Abroad Avignon and a staunch believer that the first step is reducing our use of oil — ideally to zero. When I told him about our #VirtualTaxMarch, he was delighted this form of protest could be carried without the expenditure of a single drop of gasoline.
What do all these forms of protest accomplish? Do I really think our #VirtualTaxMarch or Bob’s Paris die-in will make the president reveal his tax returns? Probably not. But I am hoping they’ll make it just a bit more uncomfortable for him to avoid doing the right thing. And recent protests are clearly mobilizing lots of Americans. How does that help? Once you’ve mobilized for a protest, you’re less likely to stay home on election day. Among the many unpalatable things we’ve had to swallow lately — even worse than sulfurous Vichy water — is the fact that 92 million Americans didn’t bother to vote last November. I’m betting the number of no-shows will be a lot lower in 2020.
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4/13/2017 06:35:17 pm
4/13/2017 06:46:19 pm
I subscribe to your blog to read about your travels, NOT politics.
4/13/2017 09:46:28 pm
Exactly. This travel blog was a light-hearted mental escape for me from a too-politicized country and a highly political job. I'm disappointed in the last three or so posts, but have hope for hearing about new travel adventures without the negativity. This blog--along with my own travels--has shown we as humans have so much more in common than we have differences.
4/13/2017 08:41:39 pm
I subscribe to your blog to read about your travels, AND your politics are just fine too!
4/14/2017 07:42:05 am
Thanks, Christopher! As a travel writer, I find my real subject matter is how we engage with the world. And right now, politics are a vital part of that engagement. I'm glad that resonates with you!
4/13/2017 08:59:28 pm
1. I love Limoges.
4/14/2017 07:44:45 am
Limoges is such a delightful town; we had a great time there. And it was a bonus finding they had a Resistance museum — a modest but deeply moving and inspiring place. It was a great reminder that people can overcome seemingly overwhealming challenges.
4/13/2017 09:11:35 pm
Travel itself is a political act.
4/14/2017 07:49:38 am
Yes! Well said, Garden Goddess! At its best, travel makes us more aware of what's happening globally and offers us opportunities to act as goodwill ambassadors for our own country and responsible citizens of the world.
4/13/2017 11:15:24 pm
Wow, great idea to check out resistance efforts abroad. LOVE the die-in, great idea! And love the protesting cat. Thanks for energizing us again, time to get ready for our tax day protests.
4/14/2017 07:53:05 am
I loved talking with these Resisters. Each has a tremendous story to tell and so much energy and creativity to bring to the cause. Yes, the die-in idea is terrific, and I'm already looking forward to dressing up in my lab coat for the Science March. Have a great time at the Tax Day protests, Lynn!
4/14/2017 02:52:19 am
Karen, I am moved and motivated by your recent posts.I've always loved your blogs, for their timeliness and intelligence, and wide range. But I don't really believe any blog is non-political. If we ignore what is happening around us, that's political too. And stuff is most definitely happening: ferment. So I really appreciate that with your usual humor, verve, and interest in the un-visited corners of the travel destinations of the world, you are including the ideas of resistance and democracy, a strong stream in the histories of the countries you're visiting, and in our own. Please, keep it up. Tobey
4/14/2017 08:01:57 am
Thanks so much for your insightful comments, Tobey. You're so right that no blog is non-political, especially these days. With the winds of change sweeping the globe, I would feel irresponsible — to myself and to my readers — if I didn't talk about how we're going to engage with this new, challenging world that we find ourselves in. Yes, I will keep it up!
4/14/2017 02:29:27 pm
Loved learning about the museum in Limoges. If you recall our friend Hilde, who visited us in Seville, lives 45 minutes north of Limoges in a tiny village, Rancon. Next time we visit her, we'll be sure to check out the resistance museum. Incidentally, she's just bought a house adjacent to her own and turned it into an enchanting gite, Maison Dina. http://www.cheznous.com/281865/maison-dina-haute-vienne.aspx
4/16/2017 10:21:29 am
Of course I remember Hilda. Her gite looks wonderful — very cozy with all the modern comforts, and those views! Next time you visit, Marilyn, wish her well for us in this new endeavor. And let me know how you like the Resistance museum. It's not magnificent by modern museum standards, but really makes you think!
4/16/2017 07:26:07 pm
So wonderful meeting you and Rich. It was very inspiring and showed me the way forward. BTW, been thinking lately......Donald Trump said there's something on Obama's birth certificate that is very bad for him. One can only think there is something on Trump's tax returns that is very bad for him.
4/16/2017 08:26:30 pm
It was a pleasure meeting you, Diane, and hearing about the Resistance work you're doing in Lyon. Yes, the secrecy about the tax returns does suggest there's something there worth looking into! Lately the president has tried to claim that no one is interested in his tax returns; I think the thousands of protesters around the world, in the streets and the #VirtualTaxMarch, have made it pretty clear that oh yes, we are very, very interested.
4/18/2017 06:42:32 pm
Karen, did you find a lot of interest in the upcoming French elections? There are a wide range of candidates running, with differing views about France's future, and the EU, the euro, immigration etc. Its interesting that the left wing and centrists will end up rallying against a candidate (Le Pen) who will do really well among the working class electorate. Social class and political loyalties are changing in many places.
4/18/2017 06:55:23 pm
Yes, I talked with lots of people about the upcoming elections. People on all sides seem deeply worried about the future, and if Le Penn is elected, many foresee Frexit (the departure of France from the EU), triggering the collapse of the European Union. People kept saying, "I can't believe it would happen, but given events in the UK and the US, anything is possible."
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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