One week from today, at this time, we should be setting foot on board the Viking Europe, docked in Avignon, France. As a little girl in the 50's (and one with a grandmother of French descent), I learned the song, "Sur le pont d'Avignon", which has been swirling around my head as I let in the anticipation of our long awaited adventure. I just can't quite believe that I finally get to see the places that populated my youthful dreams for so long, but now that I have reached my early 60's it is time to see MORE of the world.
Of course, the other evening as we were preparing our dinner, up popped something on a national newscast about the Louvre being closed because the VERY French museum guards had more than ENOUGH of the hordes of "Romanian" (Roma) child pickpockets jostling the tourists out of their belongings. Three years ago, when we visited Ireland, we invested in safer satchels and wallets, that are made to foil cutpurses and pickpockets and our city street-smarts came flooding back from the recesses of our childhoods and twenties, living in our home town of Oakland and working in San Francisco. You just hold yourself differently, in the city. (I am still amazed at the oblivious women who leave their purses in shopping carts as they wander the aisles of a supermarket!)
Here's hoping that on the day that we are scheduled to visit the Louvre, the place where all of my childhood "companions" are on display, they will be back in business. Of course, life will certainly go on if I have to miss it and although Paris is a destination, I am actually looking forward to small towns and the countryside, soaking up the scenery for my mental bank.
Our first sailing day will be to Arles, where courageous art was alive in the powerful summer sun, with the likes of Van Gogh and his hard drinking cohorts. Our immersion into French culture will begin with walking and art but I may have to just take a lot of pictures, if jet-lag makes me too groggy, on day one.
We will have the opportunity, on most stops, to either walk the streets of the towns or take extra side-trip tours to historical spots and I want to take advantage of all that I can, on this Once-in-a-lifetime journey to the homeland of SO many of my recorded ancestors. (French and English fancypants kings down both sides of my lineage for many centuries, which means that by the time MY peeps came to The New World, they were the second or third sons, who had to go find their OWN fortune. Hah and buh-bye!)
I love history and used to leaf through books as a little girl, tucked behind my parents big red chair in the living room. So many paintings were part of that education and I remember that for those first 7 years, before my dad left, he would school me in the use of French and Italian words, that as a self-educated man, he felt were so important for me to learn. I am sorry that he never got to go to Europe but thankful that as a kid, his heart murmur kept him from the battlefields of World War II. I will just have to do it for him and my mother, who sang all of the great European operas in her lifetime, neither of them knowing (she was already gone) until just recently about their lineage.
So, this week, I will tie up loose ends with work and pack the suitcases and try not to disturb my sleep TOO much with the bubbles of excitement running around in my brain. This will not be a vacation where you eat too much and get fat from sitting around, this will be an education, in every sense of the word and I, for one, am ready.