It seems cliche to say that I love to travel. Who doesn’t, right? I suppose there are people who are not inclined to venture far from home. Maybe they are afraid to fly, worried about how they will fare in a place where they can’t speak the language or don’t like the unusual food. And international travel by air is dang expensive. Hmmm…I don’t use the word dang very often. Dang.
I didn’t leave the United States until I was in my 30s. Well, not entirely true if you count the border crossings for cheap booze in Mexico during my college days. Buying tequila 5 minutes from San Diego doesn’t qualify as travel. It’s not that I didn’t want to travel–I was just always broke. I also was not raised in a family where international travel was part of what we did. We went to Yosemite. Strangely, now that I am a family man myself, although we have been to half a dozen countries I never taken my kids to Yosemite.
My first real trip abroad was to Italy. My wife and I, and our daughter of 14 months spent 21 days lugging stroller, car seat, diaper bags and all manner of dang baby accessories through train stations and across cobble stone piazzas. We were no Rick Steves travelers, but it was a blast and we were hooked.
France came next, with a three week stay in Provence. This time we waited until our daughter was out of diapers to travel.
It was a magical trip and we fell in love with the French countryside. The people in Provence are gracious and down to earth. Forget the stereotypes about “the French.” These French bent over backwards to be warn, helpful and welcoming. We were invited into the homes of complete strangers for meals. One Frenchman spent an hour helping us get our car unstuck from a muddy field.
Don’t ask why I drove our rental car across a muddy field. I like to explore.
Count these Americans amongst those who love the French. Did I mention that the food in France is pretty dang good? Unbelievably good. It’s no secret that the French love their meals, but you really have to experience it to understand how important the meal is in France. It is a passion.
Food is their Thing. Certainement.
And what food! Fresh, bought from daily markets and prepared with care. Slow food.
The other thing that strikes me about France is the history you find at every turn in the road. The French live inside their history. It surrounds them and becomes a part of their everyday life. And they value it. Old buildings are not torn down to make room for shiny glass offices. And in villages where the local population relies heavily on tourist dollars historical integrity is paramount. Special permits are required before any construction can be undertaken to insure that the results are aesthetically in tune with the surrounding architecture.
A year after our trip to France we bought a little house in a small village in Provence. We named it La Maison Rose for its rose colored walls. It is a tiny house, barely big enough to sleep our family. But it is on a quiet street steps from the village center and you can smell the bread baking from the village boulangerie in the morning.
It was a totally unrealistic purchase. Our busy schedules make it difficult to visit our house, and renting it out as a vacation rental pays for some of the costs, but not nearly enough. The logistics of managing a house in another country are also not for the feint of heart! French taxes mean French accountants, French bank accounts and lots of French paperwork.
I don’t regret it for one dang second.
Our little house waits patiently for us to visit when we can, and when we are not there she brings joy to guests who rent her as they discover la belle vie.