Sunday, September 18, 2016

Part II - Yes sir, yes sir, two blogs full.

In 2001, I decided to take a grip to France alone. There was an Advanced Placement teaching seminar for French teachers in Aix-en-Provence, so I used that as my excuse for a few weeks of “Fifi’ time. I highly recommend an occasional sabbatical from one’s routine to gather thoughts, reflect, get perspective and venture into the unknown if you want to regroup and refresh. I will never forget this trip. It was exhilarating, liberating and confidence-building. To rent a stick shift car and find my way all over southern France alone was an experience I never thought I could face, but I did, and it was fabulous. I met wonderful people, found my way around cities totally unfamiliar, and I got to know me better than I ever had. If you don’t like yourself, do not attempt this, as alone implies entertaining oneself, managing fear and boredom and enjoying a one-way conversation 24/7. 

 My greatest fear was rolling backwards down a mountain as I wasn’t sure I could remember how to balance the clutch. I prayed a lot the first several miles, but I learned quickly, and it was all good. The French highway system is wonderful. It’s easy to follow, and signs are helpful. I speak the language fluently, so I wasn’t afraid of getting lost, even though I did once. I swear I drove around a three-block area for an hour trying to find my hotel. I stopped and asked several different people, but they were all from other countries and didn’t speak French. I finally found my destination my sheer luck, and I was so relieved. I was able to drink the wine in those days, and that really helped.

I witnessed a crazy French woman running naked on the beach talking to herself. I saw topless where those puppies should have been covered up for eternity. I talked to wonderful waiters in  nice restaurants where I took my cartoon book and practiced over dessert, and I enjoyed one wonderful week with colleagues from other countries during my workshop in Aix. 

Biarritz was lovely. Pau was charming. Collioure was delightful, and the beaches and cliffs along the Mediterranean were breathtaking. I made a friend in Aix with whom I still correspond today and another one in Biarritz with whom I have corresponded regularly.

My final stop in Paris was great fun, as I’ve been there so many times and have so many fond memories, it was like going home. Jogging along the Seine, sipping wine in the caf├ęs, browsing the quaint shops and sticking a baguette under my arm on the way back to the hotel—-it was all such fun.

The song goes, “I Love Paris,” but I would change it to “I Love France.” This small country 2/3 the size of Texas has it all. There are areas like Arizona, others like Hawaii, and still others like New York. There are gorgeous cliffside villages, quaint historic towns, three-inch highways with blind curves, and intimate dining spots that honeymooners would die for. I have one more French trip in me. Hopefully, Mr. Wonderful and I will make that happen in the next year or two. I have been blessed with a talent for language, nerves of steel and a sense of wonder that has served me well through the years. Merci, Big Guy. Last blog in French. Stay tuned.