They say that if you do not have any dreams, then your dreams will not come true. I have not been much of a world traveller but I have high hopes and hopeful dreams that that will change. Someone sent me one of those questionnaires so popular in emails that ask you to read their responses to some questions, then erase them, put in your own responses, and send the email back. One of the questions on the latest one I received was to name four places you had travelled to. My responses: Lafayette Coney Island Hot Dog in Detroit, McDonald’s, Ottawa, and Florida. So, as you can see, I have lots of places left to visit.
My latest obsession is to visit France: Provence in particular, with a few side trips to Paris and perhaps a jaunt to Italy to visit the Tuscany region. What has inspired this wanderlust? The movie “A Good Year”. I have now in my temporary possession (as they are all from the library) a number of books that will prepare me sufficiently for the launch of my world travels. The first is “A Good Year”, which not so coincidentally is the book the movie of the same name is based on. It was written by that prolific writer of all (or at least some) things French, Peter Mayle.
I have also borrowed his book, “Encore Provence” which I assume is the sequel to “A Year in Provence”; “Provence A-Z” ; “French Lessons” and even a novel he wrote called “The Vintage Capers”, which is a mystery that finds its way to Provence. For a change of pace, I swapped authors and picked up a copy of “A Year in Merde” by Stephen Clarke. He brags in a blub on the cover of his offering that: “There are lots of French people who are not at all hypocritical, inefficient, treacherous, intolerant, adulterous or incredibly sexy…They just didn’t make it into my book.” Hmm, well we shall see what he has to say, though I am thinking his book will be a bit tongue in cheek.
I have started to dabble in Mayle’s books, and have found a particularly profound passage in “Encore Provence” which has made me all the more passionate about visiting the region. In a chapter called ‘Curious Reasons for Liking Provence’, Mayle provides one that is not, to my mind, curious at all. He says (on page 84 if you are interested in the specifics) that:
“Life has not accelerated, but still dawdles along keeping time with the Seasons. The markets still sell real food that has escaped the modern passion for sterilizing and shrink-wrapping. The countryside is still wild, and unscarred by golf courses, theme parks, or condominium colonies. It is still possible to listen to the silence. Unlike so many other beautiful parts of the world which progress and ease of access have made noisy, predictable, and bland, Provence has managed to retain its individual flavour and personality. This can be delightful or exasperating, like a difficult, cantankerous old friend. But that’s the way it is, with no excuses. Take it or leave it.”
“Encore Provence” was written in 1999. I would love to see and experience all the things Mayle writes about, and decide if, thirteen years later, Provence still holds the same charm. I am sure it does.
I told a friend of mine about my dreams to go to the south of France and she asked if I spoke French. Yes, I said, I can say my last name: Geauvreau. I was appallingly poor in the language in high school, but I put it down to my lack of study ethics when I was 14, 15 and 16—they (my study habits) improved later, but alas I did not have the foundations of French to call upon when I finally took my studies more seriously. My grade 12 French teacher passed me in French, making me promise not to take it in grade 13. I promised. But I will not let that little detail deter me. Probably because I was sorely lacking in a second language, I registered both of my sons in the French immersion course in public school. Though they laughed at my pronunciation of words when I helped them with their dictees, I believe I have achieved at least a junior kindergartener’s grasp of French, as long as the JK student is none too advanced.
So, until my travel dreams can be realized, I will do some research, and perhaps even borrow a friend’s French language tapes. She is going to a wedding in Paris in May. Ah, springtime in Paris.