France Days 41-42: The Journey Back
We came home, through Iceland again. We spoke much more French to our children now, and to each other, flipping back and forth between the two languages without much thought or transition. The children responded equally easily to either language and followed our lead through the airport. I had a bizarre combination of snacks in my bag, mostly bits of gourmet groceries and treats we hadn't finished in the apartment. Cheese, chocolate, wafers... I did miss wine during this trip, but France will always be here (and I won't always be pregnant). Much has changed on this trip. My belly is much larger now. More people are asking when I'm due. My nausea has lifted, and for about a month, I had good energy, though I started to feel tired (writing in retrospect, I now know I was developing anemia at the time).
This summer all started because when I was 16, I was really into oil painting (and beginning to get into photography of) landscapes. I was looking for magazines or other ways to regularly be inspired by beautiful images of places I'd someday go. By sheer luck, somehow a copy of a Backroads catalog got mailed to me, a catalog of small-group, high-end adventures around the world. I was entranced by the wine country bike tour through Provence and never forgot it. Five years later, when I was dating Geoff, I described this place and my dream to someday go. And this year, I got to make that dream a reality. Though it was far better than I imagined: no group, and with the love of my life. And our two sweet, beautiful little children (and a third on the way), in tow on the bicycles. I got to bike my little girl right into my dream adventure. I'm lucky beyond measure or imagination, and I thank God that He led me to Geoff and to this place.
On this trip, I learned so many indescribable, immeasurable things about French culture. It's true that to learn about a place, you really need to just go. Language, feeling, priorities...these are things you cannot read about so much as experience, through interactions with people and places, mingled with your own experiences you bring.
I cannot imagine I changed anything about the places we lived, but I know for certain that they changed me. Forever I will be more laid back, more forgiving, more joyful. I will take things in stride and appreciate that what is in front of me in this moment can some times be more important than the work that is slated for me. And that beautiful moments can sometimes become your work (for the better, that is).
We didn't collect a lot of souvenirs. But what I did find was gratitude for what I brought with me, as well as intense love - both passionate and patient. And that is really what a lot of France is all about.