Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Discovering Provence


M.F.K. Fisher- “When shall we live if not now?”
After living vicariously through writers like Peter Mayle and M.F.K. Fisher, I took it upon myself to shelve the books and discover firsthand the wonders known as Provence.

For lovers of wine, the drive to southern France is breathtaking from Belgium.  Dijon, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chateauneuf du Pape, and the Rhone Valley are just a few of the names synonymous with the voluptuous grape vines you’ll pass as you wind your way towards sunshine and warmth, but this trip was about something more intoxicating than a glass of maroon hued liquid.  This trip was about finding a distant memory of something out of reach for most parents with young children.  This trip was about finding Relaxation. 

Relaxation is tricky.  Just when you think you’ve found it, up pops its nemesis, Discovery.  Discovery doesn’t mean to intrude in your quiet space, but nonetheless it does.  As we visited with the owners of our rental, Isabelle and Pierre, it became obvious that we had a plethora of exciting places to discover within arm’s reach. 
Our family got into a groove, we ran ourselves silly from dusk till dawn, then retreated to the comforts of our cave in the evening.  In one week we hiked up to an 11th century abandoned fortress, enjoyed the Oceanographic Museum of Monte Carlo, where we could see both the Italian and French Rivera merging, and we sipped drinks in the Café Van Gogh, made famous by his painting called, Café Terrace at Night.  By week’s end we had also walked in the steps of nine Popes in Avignon, witnessed an eccentric man dancing on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, and munched on burgers at the newly opened Nice Hard Rock Café. 

Relaxation reared its head in small doses.  The nights were quiet as our family sprawled out exhausted from our day’s adventures.  Our 12 inch TV only picked up a few French channels and the internet was sketchy.  This allowed for our family to do something we rarely have time to do between work, school, homework, and soccer schedules.  We were able to enjoy unrushed conversations.

On the second to last day while sitting in the Café Van Gogh, my daughter accidently erased all the pictures from my camera.  Like a gazelle sensing danger, her older sister was quick to defend her younger sibling’s mistake by saying, “You know Van Gogh didn’t use cameras, he painted what he saw”.  This statement took me back nearly 20 years to a drama class in Seattle, Washington.  My professor said some events should stay within the mind, because a camera doesn’t always do a moment justice.  I think my professor was right, and lucky for us, Van Gogh did have a paint brush, and lucky for me, I’ve befriended a pen. 

Relaxation will have its moment in the Provincial sun.  One day it won’t be hard to find. I’ll most likely trip over it unaware that the passage of time has delivered it to my door step. I’ll hear it call my name loud and clear when I can no longer hear the routine sounds of four energized girls. And then I’ll wonder in fascination how I could ever have wanted to find Relaxation in Provence with a gaggle of youthful girls.

I will never forget dining on a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken under the Pont de Gard with my young ladies and their dad.  The image is ours, and ours alone.  No camera, paint brush, or pen required.  Thank you Provence for leading me to Discovery and in the process reminding me that Relaxation will come all too soon.