Thursday, 25 April 2013

Petite France

Last Sunday, during our weekend in Gapyeong County, Angela and I visited a cultural village called Petite France. I've mentioned mine and Angela's obsession with France a few times on this blog, and we're hoping to visit multiple French-themed places in Korea during our time here (not to mention in other countries we visit!). We already checked out Seoul's French Quarter back in January, and Petite France was something we'd been looking forward to seeing for several months. Not only is it a French-style village resting in a gorgeous mediterranean-like valley, but it is also partly based on Angela's favourite book: Le Petit Prince. The Little Prince, as it's known in English, is a children's novella written and illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It tells the story of a young prince who lives on an asteroid and falls down to earth, where he meets a pilot in the Sahara Desert. Angela gave me a copy of the book as a birthday gift, and I, too, fell in love with its childlike innocence and whimsical characters. As you can imagine, we were both super-excited to visit a place not only based on France but also on a charming book we both loved, and Petite France did not disappoint. Here are some photos of our trip:

We stayed in a motel directly opposite the village, and this was the view we saw from our window in the morning. Petite France is nestled right within the stunning alpine scenery of Lake Cheongpyeong: a francophile's dream-come-true!
Angela points to the sign at the main entrance, overlooked by the little prince.
At last, after months of anticipation, we entered the quaint, varicoloured village.
Me with my copy of The Little Prince, which Angela gave me.
Angela with the Little Prince himself.
At one point in Le Petit Prince, the Little Prince goes on a journey across space, visiting several asteroids inhabited by different characters:

The first one was inhabited by a king. Wearing purple and ermine, he was sitting on a simple yet majestic throne.
"Ah! Here's a subject!" the king exclaimed when he caught sight of the little prince.
And the little prince wondered, How can he know who I am if he's never seen me before? He didn't realise that for kings, the world is extremely simplified: All men are subjects.
"Approach the throne so I can get a better look at you," said the king, very proud of being a king for someone at last.
The little prince looked around for a place to sit down, but the planet was covered by the magnificent ermine cloak. So he remained standing, and since he was tired, he yawned.
"It is a violation of etiquette to yawn in a king's presence," the monarch told him. "I forbid you to do so."
"I can't help it," answered the little prince, quite embarrassed. "I've made a long journey, and I haven't had any sleep..."
"Then I command you to yawn," said the king. "I haven't seen anyone yawn for years. For me, yawns are a curiosity. Come on, yawn again! It is an order."
"That intimidates me... I can't do it now," said the little prince, blushing deeply.
"Well, well!" the king replied. "Then I...I command you to yawn sometimes and sometimes to..."
He was sputtering a little, and seemed annoyed.
For the king insisted that his authority be universally respected. He would tolerate no disobedience, being an absolute monarch. But since he was a kindly man, all his commands were reasonable. "If I were to command," he would often say, "if I were to command a general to turn into a seagull, and if the general did not obey, that would not be the general's fault. It would be mine."
"May I sit down?" the little prince timidly inquired.
"I command you to sit down," the king replied, majestically gathering up a fold of his ermine robe.

A pretty little rotunda where we bought some waffles.
The little prince gazed around him at the geographer's planet. He had never seen a planet so majestic. "Your planet is very beautiful," he said. "Does it have any oceans?"
"I couldn't say," said the geographer.
"Oh!" The little prince was disappointed. "And mountains?"
"I couldn't say," said the geographer.
"And cities and rivers and deserts?"
"I couldn't tell you that, either," the geographer said.
"But you're a geographer!"
"That's right," said that geographer, "but I'm not an explorer. There's not one explorer on my planet. A geographer doesn't go out to describe cities, rivers, mountains, seas, oceans and deserts. A geographer is too important to go wandering about. He never leaves his study. But he receives the explorers there. He questions them, and he writes down what they remember. And if the memories of one of the explorers seem interesting to him, then the geographer conducts an inquiry into that explorer's moral character."
"Why is that?" the little prince asked again.
"Because an explorer who told lies would cause disasters in the geography books. As would an explorer who drank too much."
"Why is that?" the little prince asked again.
"Because drunkards see double. And the geographer would write down two mountains where there was only one."

In a little room, some children were painting pictures of the little prince.
On the morning of his departure, the little prince put his planet in order. He carefully raked out his active volcanoes. The little prince possessed two active volcanoes, which were very convenient for warming his breakfast. He also possessed one extinct volcano. But, as he said, 'You never know!" So he raked out the extinct volcano, too. If they are properly raked out, volcanoes burn gently and regularly, without eruptions. Volcanic eruptions are like fires in a chimney. Of course, on our Earth we are much too small to rake out our volcanoes. That is why they cause us so much trouble.

This large photo of Paris was positioned behind some iron beams to give the impression of looking out from the Eiffel Tower. Not very effective, but you've got to admire the effort.

There was a small museum dedicated to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
At the top of the museum, we watched a French TV show based on the book.

There was a small concert in the main village square. Unfortunately, none of the music was in French, which seemed like a missed opportunity.

This bell was positioned at the top of the village's highest tower. I, of course, couldn't resist ringing it.

Looking back at our motel.

More staples of French culture.

The next planet was inhabited by a drunkard. This visit was a very brief one, but it plunged the little prince into a deep depression.
"What are you doing here?" he asked the drunkard, whom he found sunk in silence before a collection of empty bottles and a collection of full ones.
"Drinking," replied the drunkard, with a gloomy expression.
"Why are you drinking?" the little prince asked.
"To forget," replied the drunkard.
"To forget what?" inquired the little prince, who was already feeling sorry for him.
"To forget that I'm ashamed," confessed the drunkard, hanging his head.
"What are you ashamed of?" inquired the little prince, who wanted to help.
"Of drinking!" concluded the drunkard, withdrawing into silence for good. And the little prince went on his way, puzzled.

A couple in matching outfits - quite a common sight (unfortunately) here in Korea.
Relaxing on a swinging bench.
Couldn't stop taking photos of this beautiful main square.

By the early afternoon, we'd done enough exploring, and decided to take a taxi back to the nearest town. Along the way, the road winded around the edge of Lake Cheongpyeong, where we saw some beautiful views of Gapyeong's famous mountainous scenery.

Bizarre giant models of foreign women outside a gas station.

Not sure what this building was for, but we liked its sleek, stylish design.

Fly fishers on the river in Cheongpyeong.
Petite France more than lived up to mine and Angela's high expectations. Though it was only small, we spent several hours wandering among its little houses and admiring its picturesque surroundings. It's not the last we'll be seeing of France while here in Korea. There's also a Provence Village in Paju City, which we're hoping to visit in a couple of months, and Seoul has its own Parc de Paris, which we may also see.

If you're interested in visiting Petite France yourself, I recommend taking a taxi there from Cheongpyeong, which is easily accessible via the Seoul Metro.

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