Nothing could have truly prepared me for this magical experience of spending a month in Provence. After researching websites, securing villa rentals, flights and a car, and packing way too much, including my tennis racquets I haven’t used once, I was sure I knew what to expect. I’d traveled throughout many parts of France before and each time I walk away with a different, yet wonderful impression. But this time, it’s proved to be even more special.
Perhaps after our Covid years of non-travel my expectations were low and so this wonderful place has exceeded them. But when I think on it, I realize that Provence is just plain lovely. Everyone describes this part of France as special. The vineyards and the wine, the village markets, the olive groves, the lavender, sunflowers and purple artichokes, the little towns each with their own character and uniqueness. The beauty and inspiration given to artist’s simply from the light in Provence have been written about forever. Being here though, meandering through these very old walkways and narrow streets, lined with cobblestones and shutters painted blue, green, red, yellow… takes me to all the books read, movies watched and dreams I’ve had. It is real, though, what I’m seeing and tasting and smelling. It isn’t too good to be true. It’s that good.
If I only really lived here. But, then perhaps, this vacation wouldn’t be all that…. I’d find things to whine about…. and for staying for such a short time, because a month when you think about it, is short, I overlook what may bother me living here as an expat. I am so happy to be able to do that as a tourist. Overlook overlook overlook. Americans who’ve lived as expats, especially in Europe, know what I’m talking about.
The people seem to have changed a bit too. The French get a bad rap for their attitude. Americans seem to think we should be able to waltz into another’s country and demand English: on menus, in stores and from all the French we meet, in France. It’s ludicrous really. It’s we, the outsiders, who need to adjust our expectations. Speaking French helps, even a little bit. Download the Google Translate and be courteous when greeting Frenchies. Bonjour, Bonsoir, Au Revoir, Merci, Merci Beacoup, S’il vous plait, etc. goes a long way with the French. And asking, in French, if one speaks English “Parlez vous Anglais?” is the polite way to converse instead of diving first into English. In other words, just use your manners.
I notice the French have been effected by all the non-travel too. Perhaps the Covid experience has made us all a little more understanding. A little more patient. More willing to tolerate difference. More human. I see more smiles. I hear more laughter. I am feeling the love. I gotta say, I like it. It’s easier on me as a tourist, and my expectations have been surpassed.
It’s June and it seems Europe and the US are experiencing a heat wave. Temps of over 100 degrees is unusual at this time of year, if perhaps, ever, and the French are nervous about it. The vignerons are concerned for their grapes and vines. The olive growers are concerned for the amount of water needed to keep the trees and olives healthy. The fields of flowers are blooming quicker and the farmers are adjusting to this rushed season. So the heat has crept in as a 5th wheel so to speak. My family of four, our little dog and the heat. We are all on this trip together.
My trip hasn’t finished yet, but I can’t wait to write. So a writer must write when inspiration hits. Hope it’s worth the read.
More to come, later.