Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Miniature things are exciting to me by virtue of the mere fact that they are small.  Anything that is a microscopic copy of its original has instant appeal for me.  When I was little I was an avid American Girl doll owner (If you don’t know what that is, go to http://www.americangirl.com/index.php  and bask) and I was always on the look out for small sized versions of things to provide a realistic and complete atmosphere for my dolls.   This fascination has never lessened.

France is a miniature paradise.  Everything is available in perfect tiny models, from the ramekins I use for chocolate mousse, to little tart pans, to the microscopic serving sizes that make huge dents in your wallets. But moreover, everything is smaller in general.  The grocery store takes up less space than the frozen food section of Walmart, the cars zip through the streets in the tiny “cute” models that are foreign to my former SUV world, and my walk in closet at home was almost as large as my apartment here. But then again, space is precious in Paris, and a world of small scaled proportions is reflected at every corner. What they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality, precision, and depth.

My friend Laura is visiting this week, and we talked about this as we ate tiny desserts at Ladurée last night.   Each of the 15 bites of my dessert was so perfect that I sat and savored it for an hour, and we slowly consumed our tiny pewter pot of ginger root tea.  Sometimes you don’t need big to impress.  Something small can stop us in our tracks because of its tiny perfect details.

In nature, this is even more true.  Have you ever paused to look at the perfection of a tiny flower or the details on a little shell?  Sunday, Laura and I went to Giverny. I know that I just posted about Giverny, but as Laura is an art major and a Monet fan, we had to make the pilgrimage.  The gardens were as beautiful as before, with huge clumps of giant tulips and long patches of bright flowers.  But what we couldn’t get over where the tiny flowers, the little snails that crawl along the tulips, and the absolute perfection of nature.  Laura pulled out a scaled down water color pad and did some painting and I wandered pilfering delicate pansies.  I love Paris, but it is always refreshing to wander in fields of green in quiet villages. And it is always humbling and delighting to see the diminutive beauty in little details.  What a wonderful Creator and a beautiful creation!


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For the second week of my spring vacation, I headed south to Bordeaux.  My brother Zach came over from England because he not so secretly wishes he spoke French and lived in France.  Who, after living through an English winter and then seeing southern France, could think otherwise?  We decided to stay in Bordeaux, spending one full day and evenings there and then taking some day trips.  I like to think that we saw a lot of Bordeaux but that would be misleading.  We stayed near the old city section whose tiny cobblestone streets and sun drenched churches reminded me of Italy, and we didn’t venture far outside.  In fact, other than the mesmerizing reflection pool along the waterfront, we spent virtually our entire time in Bordeaux in the same plaza.  I don’t even really remember the name, but an old church offered one side and the remaining sides contained quant restaurants with outdoor seating shaded by leafy trees, wide umbrellas, and twinkling lanterns.  All of our meals out in Bordeaux were eating in this plaza.  To be more specific, all of our dinners were eaten in the same restaurant, La Taverne Saint-Pierre.  Stones have fierce loyalty.  Our initial good dinner prompted us to boldly decide that this was the best restaurant in Bordeaux, or at least our favorite.  Zach’s French is rather limited to the enthusiastic “Très Bien!” and so every time the server/owner/ sous chef asked how anything was, Zach would just make appreciative faces and pronounce it “Trrrrrrèèèsss bien!” But then again, it was.

If I thought the pace of life was deliciously slow in Paris, it is nothing compared to southern France.  The trams piddled along at a pace only slightly faster than walking, our hotel casually gave me the key without demanding any form of payment or ID, and our meals lasted late into the night.  I think it is something about the sun that just makes you want to slow down and bask.  One day we took the train to the town of Arcachon to spend the day at the beach.  Expecting all sorts of street side vendors, we instead found ourselves a little pressed to find sandwiches to buy.  But that did mean it was an afternoon of reading and relaxation that one is hard pressed to find at say, Virginia Beach.  Yes, for one afternoon at the beach, we had to bring 2 books a piece because Stones live in fear of finishing a book and not having another to start.

But by far our favorite part of the trip was our day spent in the tiny medieval town of Saint-Émilion, from which come all of these pictures.  Nestled in the heart of Bordeaux’s wine country, Saint-Émilion is a perfect gem of steep stone streets, hidden alleys overhung in flowers, and horizons covered in endless vineyards.  After exploring the village, we rented bikes to cycle through country.  One of my friends in Paris has family who run a vineyard nearby so we peddled over for a visit.  My friend had told me that when she is at Michotte, you seem to step out of time, and nothing could have been closer to the truth.  We had cake and tea in a bright kitchen with the windows open and listened to a brief spring rainstorm before having a tour of the premises.  I was a little sad to hear that people no longer stomp the grapes, but at least at Michotte they are still picked by hand.

I left Michotte and Saint-Émilion thinking that the whole process of winemaking is very reminiscent of the area it comes from.  It is a process, a life that cannot be rushed, that develops its greatest savor after being allowed to rest for a while.  It is a lesson in patience, but more over a lesson in the benefit of doing things slowly, of stepping outside of time so as to best use it.

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