Last June, my husband's solid six foot frame collapsed into a heap on our kitchen floor like a pile of wet towels. His work colleague and business partner had been out of the country for almost a month and was due to return any day. My husband was stretched to the max and his body finally surrendered to the stress he was putting it through. I called Kaiser, drove him to numerous chiropractic appointments, installed him into our living room for several weeks of bedrest and quietly made the decision that next year we would be going on an extended family vacation.
A few months later, before summer's end, I booked three roundtrip tickets to France using every last one of our frequent flyer miles. My husband was still recuperating from his back injury and we couldn't really afford a trip to Europe at that time, but I knew if I booked the tickets, the rest would fall into place.
And, I was right.
The dream of returning to France with my husband and bringing Grady along for his first trip abroad delighted me all year long. It was the dangling carrot I needed to keep me focused on what we needed to do in order to make this trip happen. Collectively, we fulfilled our work and home life obligations with the knowledge that at the end of the school year we would be boarding a plane with our one-way tickets headed for Paris.
There's something magical about traveling with your family on a trip that you are all emotionally vested in. My guys had downloaded an app to help them learn a few french phrases; my husband ordered a book detailing the daily markets of Provence and where we should go once we arrived; on Grady's 13th birthday, he received numerous books about Paris and blank journals from friends to document the impending trip.
For my part, I worked with my husband's best friend, who resides in Paris six months out of the year with his wife and 3 year old son, to secure lodging for us while we were there. Our Paris apartment was rented through VRBO and was $142 a night. Here's the link if anyone is interested. It's located in the 5th Arrondissement along the Seine River (which was flooded while we were there), a close walk to Notre Dame and the great shopping and cafes located in the Marais. Our friends' apartment is an easy walk, just two blocks away. It was exactly as it was represented online. Our contact was a little late meeting us once we arrived and the coffee maker didn't work, but those were the only hiccups.
After five days in the city, we boarded a train to Provence. At the suggestion and coordination of our friend, David, he booked the tickets at the required 90 day advance purchasing window. His promptness paid off and we secured roundtrip tickets to d'Avignon station in Provence, a three hour train ride from Paris, for 42 euros roundtrip (approx. $50) each. I love train travel and U.S. train travel will never compare to the luxury and refinement of french mass transit.
We also rented a small Renault that seated all six of us, our luggage + a stroller. It was a little like playing a game of Jenga with our bodies and suitcases, but we made it work. Total cost was $200 per family for our week's stay.
Our friends also secured this charming farmhouse, Les Seyrels, located equidistant from the charming Provençal town of Beaumes-de-Venise and the equally quaint town of Sarrains, for our two families for the next seven days. It is surrounded by vineyards and a short drive to the local markets. We rented it through VRBO, as well, and you can see more images by clicking the link here. The going rate was approx. $180 per night, per family.
We are smack dab in the middle of vineyards and the irony is not lost on me. I've been a little unmoored on this trip by the drinking culture here. And by culture, I truly mean, there is culture here. Nothing is super-sized here like it is in America. All beverages are served in smaller drinking vessels - espressos, water and, yes, even wine. The culture here emanates moderation, not just with drinking, but with all things. A little goes a long way in this country and I only wish America could adopt this way of thinking, in general.
Until then, I'm inspired to wage my own little revolution and bring home a few french-inspired accessories and lifestyle choices to enhance our home and way of life in our little hamlet of Valley Ford, which is actually very much like a small village in the South of France.
- small wooden bowls for olives
- all white coffee cups + saucers
- demitasse spoons
- Laguiole knives
- espresso maker
- Les Parfait storage vessels for dry goods
- french kitchen linens
- metal french bistro chairs w/ striped cushions
- curtains that actually have good hardware + are the correct size
I feel a major purge coming on when I return home, releasing things that no longer serve me or our household, purchasing quality items that will last and enhance our days in our own 1950's farmhouse.
There is something magical about travel and seeing the world from a different perspective. It's like being suspended in time and I'm given to dream and play the "what if" game with myself.
What if I planted meyer lemon trees and didn't kill them (again) this winter with the frost?
What if I culled all of the unnecessary from my life + only filled it with things that I love?
What if took the time to write every single morning upon waking?
What if I actually wrote that book I've been thinking about writing for years?
What if less really is more and I stop thinking I'm missing out on something?
What if I took a walk every morning with the dog?
What if I forgave myself for my past once and for all?
What if I treated every single day like it was my last?
This trip has helped me to reconnect with my family, our friends and myself. Family travel is never all sunshine and roses - we get hurried, stressed out and discover we're not fans of european roundabouts or getting lost. But I love how a change of scenery can shift my mood, for good or bad, and make me ponder life in a way that never gets old. I love thinking about thinking, if that makes sense. The "what ifs" are what it's all about for me. Just knowing I have the capacity for change AND control delights me.
I'm sorry my husband collapsed in the kitchen last June, but I feel like it was the universe finally getting fed up with all of us just going, going, going, with no stopping in sight.
I'm happy to report that we are at a full stop right now.