Thursday, August 25, 2022

Ah, les vacances

French people get way too much vacation.

You who are reading this, and who may not have taken more than 2.5 days of sick leave in the past 18 months, may think that I’m crazy to say such a thing, so perhaps I should be more specific:

French children get way too much vacation.

Why might I say that? Read on.

Just another World Heritage site (were over it, Mom, seriously). 

My parents had the dubious honor of flying out from California to visit us for a romp through southern France this summer, even though it was technically our turn to go to them. But seeing as how I’m still recovering from our Christmas trip, plus the fact that my brother is tying the knot in Florida this coming March, we figured this was a good compromise.

Where to begin? Let’s start with transportation:

First of all, there are six of us when my parents are here and our car only seats five. But my father-in-law has an old Peugeot equipped with a sixth seat and a rooftop storage unit, so hey.

Of course, that sixth seat feels a lot like the proverbial back of the bus, i.e. hot and bumpy with zero leg room, but WHO’S COMPLAINING?

Afoot and lighthearted we take to the open road.

I’ll tell you who: my kids. Both of them. Screaming. Wailing. Temper tantruming. Rolling on the ground. The only way to get either of them to accept sitting “in the trunk” was to offer them my portable fan and my Snapchat account.

Here is but a small taste of what that led to:

Thespian #1

Thespian #2

Group travel is an interesting sociological experiment, and ours is always a particularly dysfunctional unique brand of that. Take two American grandparents who are used to having calm and quiet, add two Franco-American children who are the exact opposite of calm and quiet, one Frenchman who feels neither heat nor cold nor pain nor fatigue, and myself, who wants nothing more than two months of absolute solitude in a mountain monastery, and cram them all into a 20-year-old car with sketchy air conditioning for a three-week, 1,000-mile trek through southwest France in 90° heat … and what do you get?

A lot of drinking (obviously).

Negotiating everyone’s various and often conflicting needs was interesting, between my dad’s swollen ankles and my husband’s view that any day registering under 20,000 steps is a day wasted; between my mom’s natural amiability and my natural irritability; and between my daughter’s aversion to car rides/heat/walking/eating/sleeping and my son’s equal aversion to all of those things, its a wonder that none of us throttled the others with our bare hands (the temptation was real). 

Look at the camera, folks.

But for all our differences, we managed to visit quite an astounding number of places, and to have rather a good time of it to boot. Sprawling cities and perched villages, medieval castles and neolithic caves, craggy mountains and lush valleys, meandering rivers and tranquil lakes, and “oh Mom, not another church.” You name it, we did it. My dad’s ankles survived, my husband’s inner athlete was appeased, and the kids will (maybe) thank us one day for offering them so much culture.

Is it September yet?

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