Somewhere in the deep trench of what I call my “first life,” a friend gave me the book, A Year in Provence. The happy misadventures of an English novelist and his wife in the French countryside was a megaseller. It went on to spawn a TV miniseries, several sequels and the undying flattery of imitators—an entire genre of nonfiction pretenders that persists to this day. You know, books like A Year of Doing This, A Year of Doing That. They appeal to us because we all want to ditch our lives and end up somewhere other than a ditch. Makes for pleasant tripping, if only in our dreams.
My friend inscribed the book with ebullience, “Savor the taste of life!” She clearly knew something I didn’t, like why in the world you would ever use an exclamation point.
These were the days when I didn’t make time to read books or take trips and couldn’t conceive that life had a taste other than the bone-dry dread of worry, work, hurry, and sleeplessness. My life had no flavor because I had no appetite for it. Eventually, of course, I turned myself around, and glory be.
It only takes a flutter of your lids to open your eyes to a wider world.
First, I nibbled books like the one I’d been given. Then I took my first trip to France. (It wasn’t fancy, just four days piggybacking on my roommate’s airline buddy pass, sleeping on a stranger’s floor, eating on the streets. In other words, it was heaven.) I learned, and I’m learning still, that life has many flavors, not all savored, and not all sweet. I don’t live in France, but my plate is full. I’m never hungry, and I don’t want for more.
I’ve just finished a delicious book along these lines, Finding Me in France. Here’s why I liked it. Bobbi French (real name) wasn’t another writer with a book meme. She was a stressed out psychiatrist with a terribly important life in Halifax who did the unthinkable: she sat back, wised up and clocked out, selling nearly everything to give herself a flying start at saving her own life. Her infectious memoir, drawn from her hilarious blog, recounts the comedic first year of living (with her agreeably nimble husband) in a medieval town in Burgundy. It sounds fancy, but it’s not. It’s humble and endearing. She fumbles with the language, the customs, the personal hygiene, and the plumbing. Her new life required, as all heavens do, a face-first landing in a ditch or two. Interesting strangers put roofs over her very tall head and floors under her bad back; she ends up overeating quite nicely on the streets.
You can taste it all through her scrumptious stories and sumptuous photos. The taste is fresh and original: the freedom to find yourself.
Everyone has reasons to love France, but Bobbi gives you the best reason to love the French: herself, even if she’s really Canadian. I fell in love with this book. I’m giving away my
coffee-stained pristine copy (each page turned only once!) at random, on Friday, to a lucky traveler who leaves a comment on this post. If you’ve been looking for something to bite into, come and get your life! This means you.