I say for awhile because the project that drew me to France on sabbatical has just begun to come together. I say for awhile because we hope, after I retire, to spend winters in Provence. I say for awhile because posting to this blog has helped me enjoy and learn from my time overseas.
If clear writing always demands clear thinking, I’ve discovered that I think better when I write frequently. So the thought of stopping this blog abruptly and with finality is unsettling.
Instead, I’ll settle for a bientot — see you soon. It’s what the vendors in the Aix-en-Provence market began saying to us in April when they came to realize we were regulars, not just tourists passing through. I took it as a compliment, a sign that we were beginning to belong.
I hope in turn, that you have felt like you belong on these pages, that you’ve been drawn to this blog not merely for a specific piece of advice on one specific place but because it has offered a broader sense of one American couple’s life in France, brought you surprises about language and culture from time to time, and occasionally told stories that were simply fun to read.
Living here has taught Kathy and me that slow lane travel really is more a state of mind than a state of place. To learn about a new country, a new city, we’ve immersed ourselves in both. That demands time, to look at a place not as a hotel room on a map or a stop on the train line, but someplace with endless small mysteries to seek out and sometimes solve. On this journey, our favorite slow lane turned out to be our walk through Aix each day, observing, smelling, measuring small changes, listening to life around us.
I know. It’s an extraordinary luxury to be able to spend months someplace other than home. It’s an opportunity I hope we can continue to savor for years to come. But whether staying somewhere three days or three weeks, the traveler always has choices — to avoid the crowds or, at minimum, to mix in visits to places off the main tourist path, places that provide glimpses of how the locals live and what they do for fun.
I’ll say say a bientot instead of au revoir right now out of selfishness, too. I’ve enjoyed conversing with you — in my mind, anyway — and just may be tempted to continue doing so every now and then. I plan to keep studying French, keep trying to penetrate the nuances of language and culture. I’ll attend more events in Boston’s French community as well, and I’ll seek out businesses in New England and France that can connect me back to multigenerational companies seeking to preserve tradition. Forgive me for not expanding on this. Writers, like poker players, don’t like to show their entire hand.
I know. After all this time, it would perhaps be cleaner to simply say goodbye. But a bientot leaves so many more possibilities.