Saturday, June 4, 2016

French Flooding Prompts Travel Memories

This morning, I'm thinking of the flooding in Texas and Paris, and I've been working on a poem that will contain this line:  "The rain comes for us all."

On Thursday night, I was talking with my parents on the phone and the subject of the Paris floods came up--and then we reminisced about our trip to France.  It's hard to believe how long ago that was.

We took the trip in the summer of 2005 (mid June to early July)--I joined my parents as part of their longer trip through France.  My mother had made arrangements for us to stay at a gite in the northwest part of the country, in Alsace-Lorraine.  We would spend time in and around Paris on either end of the trip.

I landed in Paris, and we had agreed we would meet at the car rental area--little did we know that there were several of those in the airport.  I waited for over an hour, and then I made my way to the other rental area--and I happened to pass my parents, as they, too, were walking to the other area.  I have always felt profoundly grateful, since I have no idea how we'd have found each other.  We had no cellphones and very little ability to speak the language.

When I think of that trip, I remember lots of driving, but not in a bad way. It was a treat to see the small villages and beautiful country side.   Every other day, we'd pick a village and go there to explore.  In between, we explored places closer to the gite where we stayed.  We stopped at many a WWI cemetery, a sobering reminder that the peaceful vistas haven't always been so.  I remember lots of varieties of onion pie, cheap and delicious wine in the grocery stores, and lovely breads and cheeses.  I remember all the cathedrals.

I was born on an Air Force base in France, and one of the purposes of the trip was to go back to those places.  I'm so glad we could make that trip together, because I'd have likely never found those places on my own.  We found the base, now a French base.  We found the small village where my parents lived, and then we found the house.  My mom remembers the landlady saving the water that came from the washing machine and reusing it.  The landlady told my parents stories from World War II, hiding in the fields and forests that surrounded the village when the Germans came.

When I heard about the current floods and about the Louvre closing yesterday so that works of art could be taken to upper floors, I thought about the only time I've been to that museum.  On our last day in the country, we decided to go to the Louvre because it was open for late afternoon/early evening hours.  We expected it to be packed, the way it had been when my parents were there 2 weeks earlier.  Instead, it was completely deserted--I had the Mona Lisa all to myself.

On that last day, we walked across a wide swath of Paris, which was fun at first, and exhausting by the end of the night.  I was amazed at the traffic, so many cars packed onto such tiny streets.  We ate our dinner on the sidewalk at a café--it was everything I had ever imagined, and yet not terribly different from every other café in every other city.

I am grateful to have taken that trip, for so many reasons, chief among them that all three of us were in good physical shape, and in later years, we can't be assured of taking that trip again.  It was wonderful to hear my parents talk at great length about those early years of their marriage.

When I am a little old lady, that trip will be one of the highlights of my life that I hope my brain returns to again and again.

1 comment:

Supervillainess said...

I'm just glad I got a chance to visit Paris - and the French countryside - when I could still eat wheat and dairy with abandon. Ah, for the stomach of my youth...