10 months later I finally returned to France. It’s hard to believe that so much time has already passed but time does have a way to slipping by, a constant reminder of the need to seize every moment.
The whole experience hardly felt real. I never expected that my job would open up the possibilities for travel the way it has. Days before the big trek halfway across the globe I booked a standby ticket aboard Air France flight 347 for Paris, arriving at 8.30 am the morning of my 29th birthday! Details were vague on exactly where the journey would end up, my clothes were mere guesswork for weather and activities I could possibly expect and I still hadn’t booked a flight home and I still wasn’t sure if I’d end up visiting another country while I was already across the Atlantic. The only thing I could have known was that I’d be greeted by convivial music in the metros and cobblestone streets and that I’d be setting out on a little road trip somewhere through the regions of the Loire and Brittany.
As for Jérémy, well he had several days off due to many holidays in France at the beginning of May, which was part of the motivation for my timing. After a couple days exploring Fontainebleau and the surrounding villages we took to the roads and headed out for the unknown. No hotels were booked, no sights planned out just a few goals which included exploring castles, visiting a wine cave and to hit up the west coast!
Slowing down was harder than I imagined and getting used to the subtleties of the French culture seemed to creep up on me. I mentioned I planned this around French holidays but I also hadn’t quite envisioned how much that might change the course of our vacationing… There’s a rhythm to life that I really love, and I appreciate, but I forget that I get used to having everything available to me all the time when I’m in Vancouver. Stores rarely have days off, the grocers are always stocked and a table can always be reserved *somewhere* for dinner, but not so in France. After settling into a little chateau turned hotel and dropping off our bags we went in search for a glass of something in the village, we circled our village and didn’t see anything so we carried onto the next and still nothing… not a bar or brasserie open anywhere. In Paris, many shops and restaurants will inevitably be closed during the holidays but you could probably find something, not so in the country, you’d think you’d entered a ghost town, not even a lone walker along the sidewalks to be found.
We decided to return to the little chateau hotel we’d found and opt, if nothing else, for an overpriced dessert in the ritzy dinning room. He walked over to the head waiter to see if it might be possible to be seated, even just for a dessert but as he walked back I knew we were out of luck. Something to the effect of a, “sorry monsieur, the chef has already cleaned up and left” and it wasn’t even 9pm! The only thing we had in the way of food were champagne, dark chili chocolate and alpine mints in the car.
Despite the rocky beginning we did manage to see troglodytes, a wine cave, a couple castles, the salt marches of Guérande, a walled medieval city and the wild southern Brittany Coast which all came together and made up for our one missed meal.