Vicarious Travel

As Ton has been travelling vicariously by revisiting travel photos, I have been travelling vicariously by revisiting travel blog posts. Like this one, about our 21 say stay in France:

Twenty-one days isn’t enough time to really understand anything about a place — we’ve been on Prince Edward Island for twelve years and we still don’t understand. Most of what I relate above is more about comfort and familiarity than about realizing French life, culture and history.

But I’ve a strong belief that culture is found not in the monuments and the museums but in the substance of everyday life: road signs, roof tiles, park benches, the little twist of the bag that keeps the croissants from falling out, saying bonjour to everyone you meet as you walk.

Living in the midst of what to us is a strange yet vaguely familiar land, and achieving some level of comfort and familiarity, has allowed us, if not to understand France, at least to realize that there is something here to be understood: that the wine and the land and the architecture and the parks and the croissant bag twist and the church and the war and the cheese and the strange opening hours are all part of a complex, interdependent system. This is not something unique to France, of course; it’s just that this system in this country has an integrity, a maturity, and tremendous sensual appeal that makes it an excellent selling tool for opening the mind to consider other.

If all Oliver remembers from the trip he took to France when he was four is a vague memory of that notion, then I think we will have done our job as parents well.

and then, a few days later, still in France:

But I found Au Bonheur des Jardins oddly alluring.

Somehow being amidst something so disturbingly familiar but in French (and thus completely without chance of recruitment) made for a very pleasant afternoon. I sat back and drank my mint tea (leaves left in, of course) and ate my brownie, and just watched it all unfold. I even screwed up my courage and bought some artisanal cheese (very good, from the Champagne region) and some handmade books (cookbooks about basil, eggs and olive oil).

Catherine, frighteningly at home in any situation, simply dove in. She and Oliver made handmade paper, fished for recycled stuffed toys, and watched the mimes up close. She bought some myrtle juice (we’re still not sure what a myrtle is) and some more cheese and some weird substance from which she can purportedly make tea.

Travel together was our métier, and that experience in France set the tone for many adventures that followed.