Vacation is about doing things that you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t do at home; tossing routine out the window and letting loose the child you once were- the one who simply lives in the moment, the one who lives simply…the one who sleeps with abandon, who eats only when she’s hungry, who anticipates with giddiness the day as it dawns, knowing it is full of adventure and play.
For 2 1/2 weeks I didn’t talk about work (not an easy feat when you work with your husband). I didn’t run, swim or strike a single yoga pose. I didn’t write, I hardly read. I remained untouched by and unconnected to the digital world. I didn’t swallow any cod liver oil, worry about my low iron stores, or my weight. I didn’t care about paying $8 for a gallon of gas, $200 a night for a hotel in Paris, or splitting a $400 bill for dinner with friends.
I did eat chocolate. Every single day. I drank wine. Bottles of beautiful, rich, refreshing Corbières, Minervois, Picpoul, St. Chinian, Saumur. Even at lunch. I gorged on red meat, salmon, chèvre, fresh bread, Charentais melon and Italian gelato. I slept. Oh my, did I sleep. Eight to ten hours of deep, peaceful, gorgeous slumber, hours past my usual 4:30-5 a.m. internal clock.
I did watch television. Our mornings began slowly, with thick, black coffee, and Télématin. The evening news came on at 8:00, just as we sat down to dinner after a long day’s adventuring through the Languedoc. We munched and sipped silently, captivated by the exquisite Laurence Ferrari, the world’s most divine news anchor (Hugh Laurie was a puddle of blush the evening Laurence interviewed him about his new blues album. It was a treat to see House squirm under the spell of a beautiful woman). We played “La Roue De La Fortune” – France’s Wheel of Fortune, feeling smug and silly for correctly guessing the French word or phrase before the contestants. I never did make it through an episode of ‘The Closer.” Lieutenant Provenza’s acerbic wit just doesn’t translate well in dubbed-French.
I played. The day’s biggest decisions were which Cathar castles we would seek out and where to stop for lunch. Brendan drove, I navigated, and we made certain to stop and smell the coquelicots. There were hikes to ruins where the history whispered achingly in the ever-present winds. There were naps along shaded riverbanks, picnics in silent meadows, ice cream cones while perched on Roman walls.
I did speak French, to the degree that I lost my English words, where it was more natural to speak French with Brendan when we were in public, and Franglish when we were alone. It was easier to read Midi Libre than the International Herald Tribune. Easier still to let the newspaper slip away and simply stare into the distance, whether it was into the meadows outside Couiza or into the crowds passing our café table in Paris.
I did dream. In each village we wandered, as we hiked the foothills of the Pyrénées, I wondered “Could I live here?” I dreamed of the hectares of vines outside Montséret or near Limoux that Brendan would tend, of the stone cottage with blue shutters in tranquil Minerve where I would write, of a cheery red front door in the village of Félines-Minervois that would open to our visitors from near and far, a cold pichet of rosé waiting on the table. I plotted a garden and my cycle route to work in Capestang, including a stop at Francisco’s tabac for the morning paper. I planned for summers on the coast in Gruissan while Brendan toiled (happily, I should add) in the heat of the Corbières garrigue only 20 miles west. I answered that question time and again with a definitive, exuberant, and wistful, “Oui, sans aucun doute.”
Alas, vacation is just that. A break from what is, what must be, most of the time. I was grateful to return to my bed, to snuggle with Lola, to eat a simple meal of toasted quinoa and steamed broccoli (with a glass of Touraine, of course), to return to job I love, to see friends and colleagues, to hug my dad after he loaded my suitcase, heavy with bottles of wine and books, into his van. And hey. Vacation is paid for. I weigh less than before we left on our hedonist holiday, I’m back in half-marathon and tri training mode. I submitted a story for publication and I’m plodding through this post. It’s back to normal. At least for the part of me that is back in Seattle.
*Title from The Swell Season song, Feeling the Pull