Thursday, December 9, 2010

Note to Self...

...Don't let nearly 30 years go by before returning to France.

2010 was an anomaly. Post-corporate layoff, I decided to sell my home in NY and move South.
I found a wonderful place and I'm all settled in, ahead of the 'schedule' that I'd envisioned. Before the holiday hoo ha and hubbub, and before fully embarking on the jobhunt, I took a trip to France. I bookended a previously planned cooking class, and so my vacation became the perfect 19 day getaway. Brittany, the Loire Valley, then Paris. Indulgent--yes, but I am so much more aware of TIME now, and that it can't be bought back.

27 years ago, I flung my 21 year old self to Iceland and Turkey, with 16 countries in between, for as long as $4000 would last me. A bit over 5 months. I had a backpack, money belt with cash and traveler's checks, passport, Eurailpass, my camera and lots of film, a fat orange copy of Let's Go Europe, and some onion skin airmail stationery for letters home. I told my family when I thought I'd be in a certain city, and lo and behold there'd be MAIL waiting for me at the American Express office!  I called home from the Post Office in Istanbul, on the 4th Thursday in November and said, "I'm in Turkey for Thanksgiving, get it?!" That night I had a shish kebab and yogurt soup, for about $1.

This go round, I had credit cards and global-enabled my Blackberry for phone, text and e-mail service. I covered Rick Steves' France 2010 in leftover wallpaper. Just because. I chose a backpack over a huge suitcase, did laundry 2x and jettisoned some clothes as I went, to make room for souveniers. Excellent new friends (U.S. military wives) offered to ship a flat rate box from the base when they returned to Stuttgart after our week-long cooking class. What a godsend! I happily peeled off some Andrew Jacksons.

I saw France again, but through older eyes, and saw some things I've never seen before. Snail poop on the beach in St. Malo, the 2nd highest tide in Europe (crashing 10 feet from my hotel room window), misteltoe growing in trees, etc...

It was the perfect mix of seaside, valleys and vineyards, and the City of Light.

Tempus fugit. Time flies. Since 1983, I've returned to the UK and Italy, and have spent time in Mexico, Bermuda and Aruba...but most of my travel has been domestic, and for business. I completed one of those "Where I've been" surveys and it turns out I've only seen 21% of the world. I gotta get crackin' and not let the day to day keep me from interesting travel in the future! Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Seychelles, the Garden Route in South Africa, storm watching or sea kayaking in the Pacific Northwest, golf in Western Canada...

After 19 days in France, I was happy to return to North Carolina. The airport, with it's ficus trees and big rocking chairs, is easy to navigate. The Fall leaves were still blazing orange, the roads are lined with pine trees, not strip malls and litter. I didn't miss New York, and when the cab pulled up in front of my new house, I knew I was HOME!

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