After six weeks in France, I can and will describe what a wonderful experience I had. In fact, as I attempt to depict my experiences by writing this blog, I realize my impressions, descriptions and comparisons may tend to use my past experiences as a comparison. How can I, in one sentence, describe my experience without comparison? Maybe it isn't possible to share an experience without relating it to something else. After all, everyone has their own translation and interpretation for what "c'était magnifique!" means.
While comparing cultures may help a visitor identify and judge separate country uniquenesses, it fails to depict a nation. A nation, like any individual, is composed of many facets. Not one of which describes the civilization in its entirety. French bread, French wine, French cheeses or French food may saturate and satiate one's palate but each by itself would could not suffice. As tasty and delicious as they all are as "amazing" components of a greater whole, they shortchange the totality of the French experience. How can one describe an orgasm? "Wow, that sensation was better or lesser than last week." What does that even mean?
Certainly experiencing Provence should be a personal experience. While reading a novel may be better than watching the movie, acting one's script is a greater experience. Some may have an idea of what France is like, but until you actually experiences it, it might prove better to read, watch or listen to someone else's account.
My writing about my French experience in Provence provides me with but a modicum of perspective about the country. My words only reflect my limited perspective and shortcomings at replicating reality. Of course, if I compared this experience to my travels when I was 17 years old, my past by default becomes a foundation for my most recent experience. I could never do justice to my French time by writing words. After all, how can anyone experience vicariously what is felt? What I sensed with my eyes, nose, ears, lips, feelings, thoughts, associations can never be replicated. Any attempt I make to compare my past life to this time surely diminishes my adventure. Like most people I think, our comfort zones become our reference points. What is known by default often becomes our template. In a way, it is sad we humans are comfortable in knowing something. As comfort tends to lead us astray. Comparisons can lead us into GOOD, BETTER, BEST. But comparison is unfair because it is so personal, yet nevertheless, I could not find French differences as anything but delightful. and in many ways delicious. Of course, if one looks for differences that is what one will find. I found difference everywhere we trekked, but I preferred to experience everything for what it was rather than comparing or contrasting or judging it. France was a world of delightful world of diversity. I write that without any need to use a superlative or comparative label to define it. Maybe, I should just cut to the quick - I loved my time in France.
And here are/were some of my more notable observations:
- Greetings, hugs and air kisses - naturally, comfortably friendly bisous
- Bread - unlimited choices, fresh baguettes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Cheese - unlimited choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Wine - unlimited choices, a glass or two every lunch and dinner
- Tarte Tropezienne - one of many unlimited Oh La La desserts
- Narrow village streets / serpentine mountain roads - everywhere
- Beaches - relaxed and multicultural and frequently topless
During our six-weeks in La Garde Freinet, France, Lainie introduced me to Scot Ray; Brits Bob / Lorraine; Swede Adrienne, Dutch Marc / Hortense, Brit Caroline, French-American Anne-Marie, Benedictine monks Dom Alcuin / Dom Ildephonse; French-Spanish Jean-Michel / Italian Melania and French Rachel. These individuals not only had joyful personalities and diverse backgrounds, but also all spoke French. Lainie originally met them through a variety of circumstances in La Garde Freinet. These congenial souls embraced me as if I were in the midst of friends. Though my French was mostly Bonjour, Oui and Merci beaucoup, I never felt foreign.
Since my arrival in La Garde Freinet, I have experienced enough French cuisine and culture to recognize the beauty of both. My taste buds had been given a second life. Without overstatement, my meals have always bordered on extraordinary - the delicious and delightful! Healthy eating always starts with the quality of the food.