Let me say that the entire trip went so great, we had hardly any snags. We did go round and round on a few roundabouts before we got the right exit, but that’s what they’re for. And there was that time the parking brake was stuck and I couldn’t back out of that tiny tiny garage and Mel and Betty thought they could push it out, a definite LOL. I did finally release the brake but I’m still not sure how and, of course, I’m still traumatized by the stress of driving on narrow cobblestone streets crowded with pedestrians in old Strasbourg and hitting dead-ends.
We managed and maneuvered our way successfully through the streets of Paris only getting a little lost, and we navigated our way through the picture postcard beauty of the Alsace region giving due thanks to Juliette (our GPS) and to sweet baby Jesus for a successful day of fun and adventure. It also helps that the 3 of us ( myself, Betty and Melanie) are pretty sympatico and are good at basically picking up each other’s slack.
In a quick rundown of our itinerary we were in Paris for 6 full days then took train to Beaune for 1 night, picked up our rental car and, with me driving, and Melanie and Betty navigating we headed for Colmar where we spent 3 days and nights exploring the villages of Alsace and continuing our quest for great food and wine. From there we drove to Strasbourg for 2 nights then train back to CDG and home next morning.
Now on to the subject of that innate ability of the french to embrace life passionately. I observed it most everywhere I looked. “They” say the french are rude ,but honestly I don’t think we were ever treated rudely. As a matter of fact, I think most people were friendly-of course we paid attention and tried to speak un peu francais, and you know, we are pretty charming ladies (just being real), so we had fun especially with the waiters, who were usually cute and charming, but also, I think, the hardest working people in France. But I digress again.
One thing that I did observe about french people is that they have a certain decorum about them, a certain ritual in their behaviors. They always kiss each cheek in greeting , everyone does it. They always toast cheers when drinking. They are rather reserved, and even though they are obviously enjoying themselves, they aren’t loud or obnoxious like we Americans can be , except when behind the wheel of a car or motorcycle, where they become racing maniacs only out for themselves. They also seem to pay attention to each other, I rarely saw someone in a social group on their cell phone, they were all talking to each other. I also rarely saw kids with cell phones. Of course in the metro everyone had their nose stuck in their cell phone but it wasn’t nearly as pervasive as it is here. A negative observation was the number of people who smoke. They aren’t allowed to smoke inside-but outdoors anywhere was ok, and a LOT of people in France smoke, a LOT of young people ( do they not have lung cancer in France?).
I know that Paris, particularly, is a bustling city where I’m sure people are stressed, but it also seems they do a better job of relaxing than we do. They think nothing of a 2 hour lunch or a 3 hour dinner (it’s the norm). Of course they are going to have wine with lunch! Everyone stops by the cafe in the afternoon for an aperitif or strolls through the park hand in hand with their lovers grabbing at least a brief respite.
We did our very best to capture our versions of that joie de vivre that we saw everywhere, in the beauty of the buildings and churches, in the abundance of flowers everywhere we turned, in the care taken to make your plate of food look so beautiful, in the manicured patchwork of vineyards and fields in the countryside, in the church bell tolling out the hour as it has for centuries, in the ancient cobblestones underfoot and the stories they could tell, in the delicious, fresh food and wines that we tasted, in the artistic arrangement of goods for sale and so much more. I suppose this vacation was really a lesson in living the good life, for we. embraced it all.
And now back home, back to the real world, we lift our faces and hold onto that feeling, that joie de vivre, that is present in all our lives even with all the mundane routine. We strive to perhaps take a little more care in those routines (go crazy and set the table and use cloth napkins) and maybe, with practice, we can learn to embrace the routine things as part of the little joys of life. We can make the little things count and keep our eyes wide open for all the possibilities. And, of course, we start planning our next adventure!