I've been rereading Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence by reading it aloud to Carol. Movie night with a BBC DVD of the book followed this past weekend, and then we dove right into Mayle’s sequel Toujours Provence. Our longest stay in France will be in the same apartment hotel I stayed in Avignon, when I was reading A Year for the first time to myself. Just about everything Carol and I will be seeing together is well trod ground from Mayle’s books. I, of course, will be seeing all of it for the first time. (I spent five days in Avignon that first time, too.)
I read and am now rereading Mayle’s Provence memoirs, because I wanted to experience that renowned region of France from the perspective of someone who lived there and who embraced it in all its quirkiness and extremes. And then I proceeded to spend my days there experiencing none of it, save for what could be gleaned from the dirt-caked windows of creaking TER trains.
With fear and trepidation, I'm awaiting Carol’s question: “You were here for how long, and you didn't see or do any of this?” The question may come at anytime, from the visit to the Palace of the Popes, the spectacular Carrieres de Lumieres, any of the winery caves sprinkled throughout Provence, the well-touristed town of Aix-en-Provence, the Cote d’Azur, the Cotes du Rhone, even to a glass of Provencal rose or a visit to Peter Mayle’s hometown of Menerbes. In my pitiful defense, I could try offering I had a touch of Plague…
There is a recurring character in Mayle’s books, a neighbor and vintner named Faustin. Should anyone be seeking a dark cloud hidden within a silver lining, Faustin is your man, according to Mayle. From early rain destroying the grape or olive harvests to the wicked winds of the Mistral wreaking havoc with uprooting trees and tearing tiles off roofs, Faustin has a fear to blacken any sunny outlook. A “Connoisseur of Woe” is how Mayle characterizes Faustin.
Last September on my first solo trip to Europe in 45 years, I worried myself into woe that my credit cards wouldn't work, that I'd board the wrong train or that I couldn't get a seat on my return flight. All three of those irrational fears came true on that trip. Having anticipated each one, however, did help when it came time to calmly and practically deal with each of them.
I believe in woe as a planning tool, especially when it comes to travel. It's why I can't sleep the night before a flight, have to get to the airport three hours before departure, check my eVest dozens of times to make sure my documents are still where I'd checked them ten minutes earlier, worry whether I left the stove or iron on ( I don't even know how to iron), faucet running or forgot to lock up the house, along with all the normal fears that I'm sure I share with all travelers, including crashing on takeoff, running out of fuel or running off the runway upon landing. Needless to say, I don't sleep during long flights either, meaning I arrive at my destination having accumulated the Mother of All Jet Lag.
Now I get to add worrying about Carol’s welfare and enjoyment of traveling with me.
I'm sooo ready to fly!