It is very easy to explain my love of travel. Being a tourist can be very difficult at times; hard and demanding work, so why would I fling myself into such a demanding and sometimes awkward experience? There are many reasons. Foremost is my love of history. All my life I have read about the history of Europe. As I walk the ancient cobblestone, narrow streets of the old towns (centre-ville) I think about all the history that has walked before me. I see the generations trudging through time. I feel their presence.
The cathedrals fill this agnostic spirit with wonder. Every cathedral is a divine experience for me. The beauty of each cathedral is almost beyond description: the stained glass windows, the sculptures, the paintings, the organs, the ceilings and chapels, the colorful decorations of the walls and floors; each is beautiful. Imagine walking into a cathedral founded in the 10th century. Imagine all the humanity that has walked the same steps you are walking. My mind races. What did they think? What did they feel? And, now I am here wondering all these thoughts.
I love looking at all the WWI memorials in every town we drive through. It is a time to reflect on the waste of young lives. Then there are all the memorials to WWII and seeing all the horrible things that man can do: the long lists of Jews who were slaughered by the ‘despicable’ Nazis, the men who were killed so France could be free, the American Cemetery and the thousands and thousands of white crosses and Stars of David that fill the fields of green and fighting the urge to cry when suddenly you hear the “Star Spangled Banner” being played; being proud to be an American.
The colors of France, the gentle rolling hills of all the shades of green, the fields of bright yellow and red that suddenly appear around the next hill. The patchwork of all these colors and then off in the distance on a hill, a little village snuggled against a mountain. The bluest of blue skies and the bubbling whitest of white clouds fill the horizon.
The people you meet: Bruno, who said an American soldier saved his father’s life, Chez Pablo in St. Jean de Luz who was totally entertaining, the chef who came out and shook our hands and asked if we enjoyed the meal, the lady we met on the Metro in France who we enjoyed talking to, the woman who stopped and asked us if we needed help finding where we were going and so many more.
And, let’s not forget our driver, Susan, who drove over 3,200 miles with one back seat driver, one hysterical passenger and one who quietly sat there offering help, if needed. We could never have seen or gone to the places we did without her driving skills and her fearless demeanor as she drove up the narrow streets or turned that unknown corner.
Then there is the frustration of being a tourist: finding the hotel, a parking space, figuring out how to turn on the TV in the hotel room and hoping they have CNN even though it is totally boring with stories about Africa and Syria over and over and over and very little news. Trying to figure out what to order in a restaurant when it is all in French. Thank goodness at the end of a busy tourist day you can sit in a restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine with the three old broads you traveled with.