Thursday, September 10, 2009

A portion from my travel memoir book I'm working on today.

Usually I try to be very funny about the travels, but another aspect of the book is trying to capture the wonder I felt at discovering the beauty of Europe. This is on page 60 of the book I am editing today. So far it is 160 pages and I think it will end up being about 200 when I finish. Anyway, I thought this part showed the "wonder" portion of the book, so I thought I would share a snippet. Hope you enjoy it.

In late May we fly to Provence to visit Colette and Mathieu.

We fly to Marseilles and rent a car for the hour long drive to Provence. As we drive along, I look out at the beautiful greenery, the coastline, the fields filled with vineyards and I come to a startling revelation: I have finally found a place on Earth more beautiful than Vermont. That place is Provence. I never thought I would type those words or feel that way, ever, but Provence is as green and unspoiled as Vermont and then, on top of that, has vineyards, and coastline.

We have a Hertz "Never Lost," which is actually a licensed Magellan GPS and it is a wonder. Do you appreciate the magical age we live in? A woman's voice directs us to the tiny town of Auron. Satellites, miles above us, are tracking our location to within the meter. Side streets no bigger than a loaf of bread are mapped and tracked by a box no bigger than my fist.

Female voice from the Magellan box: “In 40 meters, turn left on Baguette 4.”

I can't get over the countryside. It's like Vermont with an ocean view. It is like Vermont with fortified towns on the tops of large bluffs. It is like Vermont with ancient European buildings, large fields of wild poppies, and rows of grapes instead of corn and hundreds of kilometers of two-foot high stone walls. It is staggeringly beautiful.

Soon we are driving, in the dark, up a mountain pass barely large enough for the Renault Elf (our tiny car) to travel. It is a goat pass or possibly a hiking trail. I have no idea what we will do if another car shows up going in the opposite direction. This cannot possibly be the right way. And yet, it is.

Soon we arrive at the B&B that Wendy has found for us. The proprietor greets us at the gate, opening it for the Elf to drive through. He leads us out around the back to our room, and automatic lights turn on as we advance until we are at our door. Inside is a small apartment furnished with unique pictures, a large dresser, a bed with heavy comforters, a large bathroom, and a sitting room with a centuries-old couch. We walk outside to chat with our proprietor and look over a deep valley. There is a small courtyard with a couple of tables for sitting and drinking wine, or having a light lunch. There are dozens of strategically-placed flowers and plants around the yard and a full moon shining down on us. A light wind blows in from the north.

I'm not a sensitive guy. I have killed a living thing, gutted it in the woods and then fried-up its heart in deer camp mere hours later. I have tried to choke a man unconscious in a submission wrestling tournament. I watch Ultimate Fighting every chance I get and cheer like a drunken European soccer fan. But tonight is almost too much to take. I am overwhelmed by this place. Wendy is clearly confused by my attitude. I am meditative and quiet and trying to explain what I feel, but I don't feel I have the words. I do my best to allay her confusion.

“A part of me is sad that Marilyn will never have the revelations that I am having. That she never got a chance to see this. To be awed by this. To understand the beauty we never knew existed outside of the games we played. Another part of me is overwhelmed that I have led such a sheltered existence, and at one time would have happily died at home, never knowing such sights existed in this world. Still another part of me is thankful and overjoyed that I have found such a passionate, amazing, intense, intelligent, beautiful woman with whom to share these things. A woman who expands my horizons to areas I never knew existed. To show me things I never would have seen. To push me, and make me never ask again ‘Is this all there is?’”

She hugs me and tears stream down my face.

We open a bottle of wine and sit outside looking out over the valley until it is too cold then go inside and hide under the voluminous comforters of the extremely comfortable bed.


  1. But you are a sensitive guy. You may want to put some quotes around that expression in editing, to make clear to the reader that you're talking about the stereotype... Beautiful piece, anyway.

  2. Very nice. Makes me want to travel there and check it out, or at least travel to Vermont.

  3. Beautiful writing. As usual when someone mentions my line of work I want them to be acurate and factual though:
    "Satellites, miles above us, are tracking our location to within the meter."
    Your car GPS navigation unit probably only knows your position to within 50-100m from the satellite signals it is receiving, it uses the map data to further refine this position so you experience something that looks like an accurate position.
    Also the way you say it implies that the GPS Satellites know where you are, they don't. They only know where they are and what the time is, they broadcast that information then you determine where you are.

  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  5. Hey James, the excerpt here is just gorgeous! Yes, this is what you were meant to write--however, you still had the need inside to do the other one. I think it happened as it should.