Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parting Words and "Au Revoir".

I could go on and on about France. Vacations will continually haunt you, caress you and make you dream. As I unpacked and collected the bits of paper, maps and ticket stubs and tried to find a place to keep all this, for times when dreaming of Provence would lift my mood, I ran across the email addresses of the fellow passengers. I wish I'd spent more time getting to know them as well. Their impressions and bits of information would add to my understanding of what we experienced.

We can write to each other and share the eccentric details sticking out from each town. Like the way the elevator and the lights in Paris were dependent on our room key to operate. That first ride, how we stood there and kept pushing the up button in the elevator with no results until someone entered, put his key in and off we went. Or the flushing mechanisms in each establishment, or the fact that when we had finished eating in that beautiful place in Baune. or so we thought, and asked for the "addition", the bill, the waiter prompty advised us that the "real dessert" was still on the way. It turned out that they handed out packets of goodies as we waited for the souffles.

I wish I had gotten closer to some people, as well. The driver of the bus was from Italy, Monza, where I have nephews who'd be the same age and might, just might be known to him. But I didn't think to ask him when I chatted in Italian with him.

In the restroom in Monte Carlo, as I paid the attendant, I heard Italian spoken. I must have laughed at the joke that the two ladies were sharing, something about having to pay to pee. One of them asked me if I too came from Italy. I told them that I grew up in a tiny town. She asked me, and I told her. It surprised both of us to realize we had come from the same town, and knew many families still living there. I could have chatted longer, but my Italian wasn't fluent enough for such intimacies.

And then the Canadian couple, he from Italy, she from England, married for forty years, our age. We got along swimmingly, though the husband reminded me of all the stubborn Italian men I'd known. His wife agreed with me.

And the kitchen gardens at the winery where we had a lunch al fresco and everybody got sun burned. I made my husband take lots of pictures. These will be my reminder that I too can work my garden space to such meticulous beauty. Every square inch was cultivated or decorated. No wild spaces, no errant bush or blackberry vine sneaking up and invading the symmetry. But then, there were no birds. NO BIRDS! I can't remember the official explanation. Is it because they hunt them?

The rows of vegetables and flowers were neatly arranged, not a weed patch anywhere. Pears and apples were espaliered, and even tomatoes were trained on one main vine. The big, clunky fig trees were relegated to the end of the garden, providing a wind barrier and some shade. Throughout, fine gravel was the foot path and rose harbors stood as gates to each distinctive area. Our lunch included food from those gardens and wine from the adjecent vineyards. Did you know that in France grapes are not irrigated? The character of the fruit is inhanced by letting the roots go deep to look for water and to extract the essence of the "terroir", the earth.

My dad was a winemaker. This intimate visit brought back many memories of him working in the vineyards, tending each and every grapevine by hand, daily concentration of love and sweat. He used to make a special wine just for me, or so he said. He would show me where my grapes grew, how much was needed for a bottle of wine. It was a sweet Muscat, watered down for me for many years, just the way most children in Italy would get to taste and appreciate wine with their family meals.

France is a place to return and visit more slowly,savoring every bite, every drink.

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