Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Traveling rue du Temps Perdu

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Street of Lost Time in Vosne Romanée, France
“There’s no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.” 
  -- American critic Alexander Woolcott

The one unintended downfall of travel is that every meal, every sight, every person, every day becomes infused with a meaning we don’t find at home.  I rarely left the apartment without my camera, looking so like a tourist.  But I couldn’t help it.  I had to regularly fight the urge to stop random people in the street and say, “Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be living in a place like this?  Have you noticed this . . . and this?”

I wanted to direct their attention to ironwork on rooftops and ask if they had stood in line at my butcher’s counter for a cut of meat to cook that melts when it touches your tongue.  I wanted to ask if they ever marvel at the architectural contrast between the medieval half-timbered buildings and the belle époque townhouses in the same block? Do they think that their country’s obsession with red geraniums is the best thing ever?

Here’s a short list of moments and things noted in my travel journal that never became fodder for blog entries (at least not yet):
Poêlée champignons sur salade
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--leek tart
--salad loaded with fresh mushrooms heaped like they’re penny candy at a fire sale
--a father holding his toddler over a grate, diaper down, in a side shopping alley (didn’t wait to see if #1 or #2)
--a baby in a window cage for protection
--frustration of these ridiculous combo washer/dryer units
--a market vendor cutting an apricot in half and handing it to me to try before I buy
--two young girls stopping me along the Chateau Tanlay canal and handing me a small bouquet of wildflowers then driving on toward the property in an SUV (daughters of the chateau owners?)
 --the pink, purple, blue, red, rainbow dye jobs that seems to be the trend among women 9 to 90
--a distinguished older gentleman waiting for the bus with me, talking about the abundance of rain we’d experienced this summer, shrugging and philosophizing Il y a toujours cette (“There is always this” or “It is always thus”)
--a café with a hot chocolate menu: classic, milk, bitter, w/caramel, w/hazelnut, w/coconut powder, 10 more – it came as a cup of hot melted chocolate with two inches of whipped cream
--frîtes fried in duck fat
--a preponderance of Hello Kitty products
--a violin scale sounds from behind the curtain of an open window above a pizza parlor on a Sunday morning
--a city of 150,000 becomes a ghost town as everyone heads off the same week in August to conges annuels (that famous French vacation period)
Baby in a window cage
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When I travel I come home eager to grab someone by the arm like the Ancient Mariner and tell stories of the marvels I discovered.  I want friends, family, and strangers to become as enthused as I about visiting unfamiliar places where the world is turned sideways and I happily lose myself in time.  But I come home and home is the place that’s temporarily unfamiliar.

I’ve changed on my travels, but the world back home seems to be traveling its same track.  My sister had gall bladder surgery.  A neighbor wants to discuss not my adventures but replacing the fence we share along our property lines.  Something’s stinking at the back of the refrigerator.  After one day of joy, my dog now let’s me know that I’m bugging her while she’s trying to sleep.  A postcard announces it’s time to make a dentist appointment.

The first instinct of a traveler is to plan another trip as soon as possible.  A better response, I guess, would be to use these new eyes to explore the familiar places.  I won’t find a tea salon next to a century-old carousel to start my days, but I can find a new routine just as I do when traveling.  How often do I step outside of myself when home?  Not half as much as when I travel.  So before I lose the power of the magic travel dust that makes every day an adventure (no matter how horrendous an experience) – and before France is lost in a haze of extensive to-do lists – I’ll look harder for all those little moments here that compare to all those little moments I found there.
How could I have missed this courtyard all the years I've traveled to Dijon?
temps perdu4_8/16/11

What do you do on a regular basis to make your day or week as memorable as if you were traveling?  What kind of things would you note in your life’s “travel journal,” even if you haven’t left home? Share your comments here.

6 comments:

Elizabeth Young said...

Your travels sound absolutely wonderful, first rate! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs and memories here because I sure enjoyed hearing about them!

MuMuGB said...

When I am not travelling, I try to do something new at least once a week. It might be trying a new place to have my morning coffee or buying T-shirts in camden Town, but I try to do something out of the ordinary...

Julie Farrar said...

That "new" idea sounds great. I've lived in St. Louis almost all my life, but I certainly haven't visited every coffeeshop or hit the History Museum in awhile. I think one of my goals could be to find a new place to write every week.

hideaheart said...

My eldest son traveled through India some years ago and his daily goal was to meet someone with whom he could eat dinner. He tells me this simply goal enriched his travels greatly.
MCatherine

Julie Farrar said...

This year I actually set a goal of meeting three people with whom I could have regular conversations -- not just talk about some immediate issue. This forced me to use my bad French more and actually improve.

Sandy Vann said...

I enjoyed your entries and look forward to more!
Sounds like you have just returned from a wonderful trip again to France Julie...ahh.
I was posting my url link to the women's tour to S. France on French Word A day... checking it had worked when I clicked on your name and blog. How delightful.
Francophiles seem to find each other!
We hope to live part of the year before too long in France...for now are in Boulder, CO. My heart is always pulling me back since my original college day travels oh sooo many years ago. The beginning of a true love affair for sure! You are right we need to appreciate and have new eyes for experiences close to home as well. Enjoying lunch with a friend at a new French restaurant for my bday this week was lovely. ( Oui, je sais..it was a French cafe)! To your own journey...to each of ours. Salut!
By the way, we need a couple of more fun women to join us for the tour to happen in September or October. Bring a friend discount offered.
Thanks. All the best to you.

Sandy Vann

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