I was afraid.
I am not embarrassed to admit it. I wanted to make the trip, but I didn’t want to make the trip. How could I not want to travel? I have always wanted to travel and I always have. As often possible and to destinations around the world. I got so good at it that I could actually make a trip with just a carry-on.
Why did this opportunity to travel to France and England feel like I was being asked to climb the Matterhorn in heels? I broke through an age barrier. I was over 80 and I was going off on my own. That’s what happened.
Oh, sure, I would be meeting with friends and family. But basically, I was going on my own. I would not have a group identification number. No one would be handling my baggage… and my friends, gone are the days when I could travel with just a carry-on. I have to make room for all possibilities and my exercising and stretching equipment.
Yes, age definitely demanded a different kind of attention to the details of travel. Is this what Bette Davis meant when she said, “Growing old is not for sissies”?
Let’s get one thing clear. I want to grow old. I want to grow very old. I want to be the oldest old lady on the planet. But I was having difficulty with that wish and desire coming together with the reality of what I could and couldn’t do.
Let me tell you what always got me into trouble. For too long my bywords were, “I COULD DO THAT”. And every time I did do that which I thought I could do and couldn’t, I paid the price. Here’s how I think… there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences. Well, my consequences forced me into a new set of bywords, “I USED TO DO THAT”.
If I took this trip, would I be able to “keep up” and not “try to keep up”, or pretend I was still 60 and could climb and leap over rivers and streams? The fear and the challenge were palpable.
Well, my friends… I did it!
I left on August 17th, traveled with family to southern France, to see the most wonderful exhibit, Annie Leibovitz: The Early Years: 1970-1983 at the Luma Arles. It is a brilliant exhibit offering the early years of her work, once more proving she is the Cassandra of photography.
While there, the sights and sounds of Provence and the Camargue and their crazy version of bull fights. Here’s a fun video showing what the bulls think of all this…
It was in Arles as I was walking in the town that I realized how good I felt. I wasn’t afraid of what might happen. I was thrilled with what was happening. I landed. And I landed on both feet and they were carrying me to new places and new peoples. I was challenged each day by deciding what I could or couldn’t do… and after a very short while it became easier and easier to know, “I can do this” or “I cannot do that”. Freedom, my friends. New found freedom. A different kind of freedom. Hooray!
It was then onto my friends in Gascony, Mary and Barry, who bought a derelict chicken house 30 years ago and turned it into a provincial French/English country house and something I think Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II would approve (after all this is the part of France that did belong to England for many years).
From there I journeyed into the small medieval fortified village of Lectoure (this area is part of the 100 years war and so many other wars) where I met my new best friends, Thierry and Marc who own a fantastic hotel, L’Hôtel Particulier Guilhon, in which my room belonged in two different centuries, one of the past…
and one of the future…
Through them, I met another new best friend, Pascale, who gives new meaning to eclectic vintage clothing… no one does chic like the French.
For me, the best reasons to travel belong to the cultures you breathe and the people you meet. And once I decided that it was all right to not do it all… to do what I could do… it all fell into place.
I left France full of canard (duck), cream, butter, pate (we drank it all day), and of course, le pain (bread)… not to say my insides didn’t beg for relief but once I arrived in London and could eat a simple sandwich and some unadorned meats and chicken, all was well.
In London, I met up with friends, whom I had met when my over 50-year-old daughters were 7, 9, and 11.
And the coup de grace was visiting my gifted friend Helaine Blumenfeld and her husband Yorick (doesn’t look anything like Hamlet’s friend) at their home in Grantchester (love the series), en route stopping to see her brilliant sculpture in Canary Wharf in London.
I must say by the time I came to London just knowing I was 3 days away from flying home, I was ready.
Yes, growing old may not be for sissies… but growing old has its advantages… list your own… because believe me, those advantages are to be celebrated.
And with all that I have enumerated in this testament of aging travel… I leave you with the best advantage of the whole trip.
ORDER A WHEELCHAIR… and if the pusher is cute… ENJOY!!!!!