I'm back and (nearly) unjetlagged from my longish trip to France. I saw wonderful things but, unfortunately, learned that my sister and I are not congenial travel companions. I feel more strongly than ever that it's a mistake to take a lot of gadgets on a trip. It's too easy to get lost in the gadget instruction manual, or its malfunction, or its location, so that a convenience intended to facilitate fixing memories of striking views or events instead distracts us just when we should be looking at what's in front of us. Or a device intended to help us navigate instead monopolizes the conversation with irritable observations about its inconvenience or inadequacy. Or an invention that might keep us in touch with important news or information about travel arrangements or the history of important sites instead tempts to us stay head-down in a small screen, indoors, ignoring the actual purpose of the travel. It's possible for conversation to be entirely spoiled by topics like "Where's my camera? What happened to the memory card? Why won't it stay charged up? How do I turn off the flash function?" Within a few days I was tempted to throw all the gadgets out the window. All the pictures in this post are stock photos from the net, better than I could have snapped, anyway, and perfectly faithful images of what I saw.
My sister having managed to arrive without her driver's license or most of her credit cards, there also was far too much time given over to finding the offices of credit-card companies and attempting to obtain replacement cards from them. What's more, I would not willingly enter any tourism bureau or souvenir gift shop, but these were catnip to my companion. For ten days, I felt that anything and everything threatened to interpose itself between us and the things we had come to experience.
In spite of all this, I fulfilled my goal of soaking in very old and beautiful architecture from Paris to Bayeux to Bordeaux to Nîmes. We were typical squealing tourists at the first few beautifully preserved medieval town centers, until we realized with some shock that they were completely commonplace. Every few miles we would stumble on another chateau or fabulous old church. We saw cave paintings more than 25,000 years old. The famous Gorges du Tarn looked just like a steeply hilly drive northwest of Austin, if you added a lot more annual rainfall, except that every ten miles or so the limestone canyon walls sprouted a little cluster of Cinderella castles. We finished up with the Pont du Gard and several other Roman ruins in Nîmes before taking the train back to Paris and flying home. It's hard to overstate the impact of such antiquity on someone who grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Small street markets were everywhere. I may have eaten enough first-rate cheese, sausage, bread, chocolate, and duck to last me for a lifetime. The one thing I hadn't enough time to get jaded about was truffles: I brought home a small jarful that we're looking forward to cooking up into something soon.
And I'm sure my sister and I will begin speaking to each other again before too long.