Purple reigns: 20 years later? "Lavender is the soul of Provence," said French author Jean Giono, who based many of his works of fiction in the beautiful region of Provence, in the south of France, where I'll be heading later today. I'm inclined to agree with him – at least based on my memory. But perhaps things have changed. There was so much about France to fall in love with when I 'escaped' there 20 years ago. The first time I saw fields of lavender, the pebble beach in Nice, afternoons spent by the Seine in Paris, the street food of Marseilles... But will I still be smitten with the same things? Will I even find myself in a field of lavender? And who knows where my favourite "mussels et frites" vendor from Marseilles is now?
Purple reigns in Provence: beautiful fields of lavender.But that's the beauty of travel, to see how places have changed but also to observe how we ourselves have changed through our years of travel. It was 1994, and I decided to wrap up my job in Toronto, my entire life for the most part, sell my TV, close the lease on my apartment, cash in whatever I had to cash in, and move to France for a year. I had budgeted enough to last twelve months. Then a few months into my France sojourn, instead of living in affordable rural France, I settled down in the heart of Paris. Let's just say the money evaporated faster in Paris than the hot steam off my morning cafe au lait. In the end I managed to stay in France for about seven glorious months. It was worth every franc, which was the currency at the time. During those seven months I visited as many regions of France as I could. I've had several opportunities in recent years to visit France but I've resisted. Those invitations were always for short stays and work-related conferences. Those weren't for me. I've had other countries, other continents to explore. I wasn't ready to start revisiting the same destinations. But I had another reason for not wanting a 'quick visit' to France. Think of it like this: It's like meeting up again with a long lost love you've not seen in many years. You don't meet up 20 years later for a quick cup of coffee in Starbucks. You want a proper rendezvous, spend some time together, to really see how each of us has changed. Ah, the romantic in me. Perhaps that's what France did to me! So this trip will be different, and not just because I'm 20 years older. When I immersed myself in France 20 years ago it was on a limited budget -- but with loads of time on my hands. This time I've got about eight days to explore. I've lucked out however. I'm trying one of Transat Holidays' city-hopping escapes. On my list: Nîmes, Avignon, Gordes, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence, Aix-en-Provence, Cassis and Marseille. No rushing madly about from one end of the country to the other. No speeding wildly from Paris to Nice and back over to Bordeaux. I'm happy with the itinerary as I'll be focusing on one region. Let's just say, I'm aiming for 'quality time' with a long lost love. And with my very rusty French, who knows what will unfold.