A little intermission from real life.
And of course, you desire the vacation of all vacations, one for the books.
That's what we all hope for -- but not necessarily what we get.
Let's think about what we really want.
Not the Bonnie & Clyde kind -- but an easy way to say
goodbye to the familiar, an escape from the routine.
We desire an out-of-body excursion to something fresh and new.
Whether for a few days or weeks or months, the opportunity
to refresh is exhilarating, just what the world needs now.
That's why I love overseas travel so much -- France in particular, of course.
It's a "happily ever after" every single time.
What is it about saying bon voyage that's so addictive?
Is it our love of beautiful art and architecture?
Or our feeling that we're able to make a date with history?
Or is it just about the good food and wine?
Here's my theory.
When we travel, we encounter surprises.
Little surprises that tickle our hearts and make us feel more alive & plugged-in.
The hilarity of a wedding party marching past my café table
doesn't exactly sound like a life-changing moment.
I hardly remember the bride and groom.
But the unforgettable pleasure of watching "women of a certain age"
trying their best to elegantly move from the wedding to the after party....
staggering on their not-so-high heels.....
pounding the cobblestones..... PRICELESS.
Dressed to the nines, perfectly coiffed in yesterday's styles,
they were ripe for the evening's celebration.
Just thinking about it makes me want a glass of champagne.
Watching French children at play is always a pleasure,
their games slightly different from those I see at home.
Often holding hands, they seem genuinely interested in
whatever their teacher or parent is telling them.
Of course, the curiosity of children all around the world reminds
us of how good it feels to experience wonder and anticipation.
Isn't that the purest definition of a good surprise?
The animal kingdom brings us to the unfamiliar, too.
Is it possible that pets are somehow different when you cross the pond?
Why don't French dogs beg at the table?
I can't imagine bringing any one of my lifelong furry friends to
a restaurant and expect him to patiently wait under the table
while I gorge on my three-course lunch.....
child on the beach is as perfectly natural in the south of France as our
favorite tv-mom in the kitchen wearing her apron and understanding smile.
I promise, both moms will warm your heart.
They nurture, they cherish, they're virtual angels-of-mercy.
But still, at first look, French Maman is a surprise.
We don't see uncovered breasts where I live or where I play.
Not unwelcome, not remotely tawdry, just something unexpected and new.
"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one."
That brings to mind the lovely little town of Vence, a special place in Provence
blessed with -- oh, just about everything that's perfectly French.
We arrived feeling tired & hungry and headed straight to the
main square, hoping for a typical Provencal dinner.
Surprise! So much more than what we were hoping for!
The town had turned out to celebrate La Fête de Maman -- Mother's Day.
Dozens of matching blue chairs and smiling people lined the street.
The table was set -- oh boy -- it must have been two or three blocks long,
with little bowls full of black olives and carafes of wines.
We were immediately invited to join in the festivities --- ravioli made with love, probably by the same mamans we were all supposed to be feting.
Afterwards, there was dancing on the square, just
under the watch of the beautiful town hall.
A surprise and "one for the books" for this American mama.
It's the little eye-openers that build up over your vacation such as:
The sight of condom machines outside French pharmacies tickle
my funny bone - ready for any lovers' emergencies 24/7.
The wait staff that look so sad if you don't finish your meal.
Will the chef get fired if we don't eat every bite?
Télématin, the French breakfast tv show on France 2 wakes me up every morning.
It's the French version of The Today Show -- but not exactly......
Catching up on morning news with the charmingly gap-toothed
William Leymergie always gets me "in the mood" for fun.
They play American music a lot, which always surprises me -- even
more so when they include rap music with uncensored lyrics.
Yes, even the mother of all swear words which I also heard during
family programming just before the Tour de France coverage one year.
Maybe the F stands for Fabulous France.....
Surprise. Definitely. Surprise.
Sure, a herd of sheep running gracefully along side a stream deep
in the Dordogne is worthy of both a photo and a journal entry.
So too, the majestic cathedrals, magnificent museums, and memorable
bistros are among the many reasons we try so hard to return to France.
But still, it's the little things that sweep us off our feet:
- Couples breaking up. Couples making up. Couples making out.
- Men standing at the bar for their morning cup of coffee.
- The fish market that smells like fresh air -- 100% un-fishy.
- Beautiful madames dropping their children off at school -- artfully
polished in classic skirt and coat, carefully speaking in hushed tones.
- French families sitting at the village café for Sunday lunch - come rain or shine.
- Seeing a menu in Burgundy where the doggie dish of the day (steak)
is featured just above the child's plate (hamburger).
I LOVE FRANCE!
Embrace the unexpected.
Discover the art of the surprise.
Hope you take ALL your vacation days this year!