In the past two weeks I have been in three different countries, speaking three different languages. Four, actually, if you count my own country, the United States. Though I have travelled extensively, this was my first trip to France. It always appealed. I wanted to nibble on croissants and drink ridiculously strong coffee, to stroll by the Seine and the Champs-Elysees, to find that bridge the girl in that movie mentioned, you know the one? But for some reason, I never went. Maybe it was because I was turned off by friends bad experiences – the French are rude, its way too crowded, we ended up just eating chips in our room because the restaurants were so difficult…. Maybe it was because of that reputation for rudeness. Maybe it was just because I don’t speak French and so it got shuffled to the bottom of the list. I saw the Parthenon, check, I saw big, Ben, check check, I saw St Peter’s at sunset, check check check. Some of these places I loved. Some of these places I didn’t. Some of them changed me forever. But for all of those I have the benefit of hindsight. Hindsight erases the tired lugging of bags on crowded trains and hangovers from our minds, replaces them with only the awe and enchantment you feel when you first gazed upon that sight that you always dreamed of sighting. I am only about a third through a month long trip across Europe, and we’ve an exhausting schedule of travel – no more than four or so days in any one place. I will see old places, new places, favorite places. I will swim naked in the Mediterranean and drink as much Rioja as my poor little liver can handle. I will eat the best mushrooms I’ve ever had in San Sebastian along with some crusty bread, and some Txakoli, and then stroll on the beach under the moonlight with the welcoming open arms of a backlit Jesus high on the cliff overlooking the city. I will stroll, I will see, I will at many times feel conquered myself by language barriers, lack of the familiar, and an overwhelming tiredness. But in the end, I will remember, already I know, the honeyed taste of lavender gelato by the salty Camargue sea. I will remember the gluttony – the elegant deliciousness of the multitude of creamy decadent cheeses. The vat of mussels drowning in hordes of garlic and butter and fresh herbs that we voraciously dipped our hands in, slinging oil and herbs over one another’s hands as we dip back in for more and more and more…. I’ll remember the chill of my pale and naked body floating under the moon in the sea. I will remember kisses that taste like red wine.
It doesn’t matter if the French are rude. It doesn’t matter if the beds are hard. And however cranky I might get, however tired, however overwhelmed I am by the cacophony of too many languages, the overload on my senses, I will want to do it all again as soon as I can. And I will know that if moments make a lifetime, then I am living enough for three people.