We're home from our two weeks in France, but a part of me still seems to be across the Atlantic in la belle France. I felt so at home there, and who can say whether that is because of my French heritage on my father's side of the family or if it is only because it's a country that has much to offer--scenery, culture, history, food and wine at the top of the chart.
Americans have long told stories of the rude things French people do to tourists and perhaps to one another, but we never encountered that. In fact, we found the people to be incredibly polite. Our program director made a point of teaching those in our group the proper way to act in France. One must always say "Bon jour, Madame" or "Bon jour, Monsieur" upon entering a shop, when approaching someone to ask a question, even to the bus driver when entering the bus. We all picked up the greeting quickly and began to use it everywhere we went. You might think it would become a bit tedious after awhile, but it didn't. Instead, it set the tone for a pleasant encounter. And it became an automatic thing to say thank you when leaving a shop. "Merci" is a short little word that will bring smiles. I'd like to see more of the polite way in France used here in our country on a regular basis. .
There were many highlights, with two special ones that I hope will end up as essays or travel articles one day. A visit to the American military cemetery in Arles touched me deeply, and I wrote a rough draft about the visit that evening. I didn't want to forget any of it. The other was was a visit to Monet's house and gardens in Giverny. I could have spent hours in the gardens as master painter, Monet, must have done. What inspiration, what peace the gardens offered. On the long overseas flight, I closed my eyes and pictured the many colors and textures, the groupings of flowers, the water lily pond with little bridges scattered over it in several spots. I pictured myself sitting in the garden with a cup of tea beside me, a book in hand with the soft sounds of summer surrounding me. I think that mental image may become my new stress reliever.
More tomorrow on the river ship, food and wine.