Wednesday, May 16, 2007

from France: lasts

What stays in the mind from a last day of biking in the Provence?

The last field of poppies?


The last lunch salad, with grilled goat cheese aux herbes de Provence and a glass of local rose (carafe: 2 Euros)?


The last vineyard? Olive grove?


The last steep ascent, with a commemorative photo from the summit?


The last bad road, that turned out to be not bikable? And so it was back to walking and pushing? Twice, because Ed lost one of his shoes along the way?


The last town, from which we will be picking up a train to Avignon in the morning and then continuing on to Paris?


The last plane tree? The last country inn? The last dessert?


I’m sitting at the train station, waiting. The bikes are returned, the backpack is retrieved. It’s cooler now and my sweater barely keeps me warm. Ed, of course, is in shorts and a T-shirt. (I’ll change before Paris, I promise!)

I’m thinking of the people we met at the inns – the French, the Belgians. And how they described their lives. Lots of low-key travel, not too far from home, always with a nose toward good food.

And the innkeepers: Christophe with his three daughters, keeping the lasagna warm for us, Monsieur Ancienne Cure – taking four months out each winter to be in Chamonix, because he loves the Alps so much, Madame and Monsieur Mas de la Pierre du Coq who keep the inn running for just four or five months and spend the rest of the time with family near Lyons, or vacationing.

We French, we’re not so rich as you Americans, but we know how to vacation well – he tells me. Maybe we haven’t found a balance between work and time off. Maybe the Scandinavians do it better. The next generation here, in France, it is working harder. They are earning more money. Maybe that’s a good thing.

One of the (French) guests talks about how he will be taking his bike up Mount Ventoux, just a short stretch from where we are (the biker’s dream is to do the ride to the summit – a 22 kilometer ascent and a very big moment in the Tour de France), the next day, if the wind dies down.

Do you ride regularly?
Oh, maybe 60 kilometers, once a week. It’s not much.

His little girl is arranging Playmobil characters around my computer. She’s wearing a beautiful pink dress that goes down to her mid calf.

Don’t let her disturb you! The parents say to me. They think I am working on my computer, but I am mindlessly playing with photos. I haven’t done a lick of work for the last five days and I don’t intend to pick it up again until I am on the plane, crossing the ocean.

I have European blood, after all. I am an EU member. I know how to vacation well.