road trips

Lavender field

By Becky.   Image by Andyblind.

So we’re planning one last road trip before our move home. Friday we’re heading up to the south of France, to Provence. But so many places are calling out to me. Naturally we’re going to hit Avignon and the Luberon villages, and of course Aix-en-Provence. Gordes is on the list. And the Senanque Abbey. If you can believe it, I am scheduling our stops around the markets. Isle Sur la Sorgue’s is on Thursdays. Lourmarin’s, on Fridays (the fabrics look amazing). Arles’ market, held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is known for its textiles. But Aix’s big market happens on Saturdays, too. Oh gosh–

Mostly I think I just want to stand smack in the middle of a lavender field that goes on forever, along with the petals, who will no doubt look like they have always belonged there, two flower faires at home in a riot of fragrant purple.

I have such high hopes for this trip! Any ideas about what we shouldn’t miss??

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Yellow

Driving from Point A to Point B in France reminds you that sometimes the drive is the Whole Point. That is, the journey itself takes center stage, just that fast.

Yellow

Miss Lavender and Miss Zinnia felt similarly. When that Quintessentially French Yellow called, they felt bound to answer.

Yellow

(As would anyone with a fondness for flowers.)

Yellow

In fact, it occurs to me that Fondness For Flowers is a condition the French must be resigned to living with. (Wink.)

Yellow

Because: how could you possibly want to live in the middle of nowhere, unless Nowhere looked like this?

Yellow

Yellow

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Girl By A Stream In Andorra

by Becky on April 24, 2013

in Parenting, Travel

Close-up of Tessa by stream_1119

As I edit the photos of our trips, I’m always struck by the changing faces of my children. Here, the fresh-faced Miss Lavender stares down the camera during our brief roadside stop on our way down the mountain in Andorra. The story is that we had parked for a few minutes, fascinated at the snow runoff that had turned everywhere to waterfalls.

Waterfall feeding into stream_1115

But, as often happens, the camera starts training itself on faces.

Tessa's profile by stream_1121

Leave it to a long drive in a tiny foreign country to re-teach me what I’ve always known about this child: she’s an old spirit in a young body. If you doubt me, have a look at those eyes.

If you have a child like this–one who’s technically been around a decade or two but seems somehow to have been around for a thousand years–then you know how wonderfully odd and oddly wonderful it is to parent him or her.  One minute, mine is talking about a pair of handmade shoes she spotted in the Born district in Barcelona; the next, she’s weighing in on the merits of being able to thinslice someone’s mood based on their facial expressions or body language.  Typical Teen/Highly Observant Adult.

I suspect I’ll always have affectionate feelings for that mountain and the way it drains the snow.  Had we not stopped to consider the phenomenon, I would not have had an opportunity to reconsider Miss L’s eyes or reflect on the way they afford the careful observer a glimpse of an ageless soul.

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View of the mountains_0997

Sometimes snow just wants to be thrown.

Alpine view_0998

And sometimes, the youngest among you feels the urge first. And bad.

Close-up of Goose_1070

Goose scooping up snow_1109

Goose hucking a snowball_1107

So you go with it.

Millie throwing snow up in the air_1078

Silas and Millay walking in snow_1099

Millay and Silas, walking_1047

And everyone ends up happy

Millay in snow_1066

Isn’t that the best?

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Road sign_0886

So last week we took off for Southern France.  More to come on that.  First, though:  if you road trip a lot, consider some packing tips that made our trip with our kids–more particularly the driving part–downright pleasant.

Roadside_0899

One.  Take food.  I mean, like, lots of options. Let’s face it:  driving for hours is rough on kids and adults alike, even if the scenery is breathtaking (and it was).  For kids who may be approaching critical mass, I recommend the following: the makings for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches; crackers that come in cool shapes (the Simpsons worked for us); a good baguette that can be happily ripped into impressive chunks and dipped in hummus; fresh apples and a decent knife to cut them with; Greek yogurt plus the requisite granola to fold into it; (good!) chocolate; nectars, juices, and bottles of water; nuts of whatever variety the folks in the car like to munch on; and good potato chips (without msg). This is merely a start. If you brainstorm ahead of the curve and leave yourself time to hit up the local Carrefour or Mercadona (or of course Costco or Target . . .), you are so going to thank yourself when road restlessness sets in.

Millay by roadside_0895

Town wall of Bar_0942

Two. Take utensils/a small cutting board, paper towels, and bags for trash. Don’t laugh, but we take knives for cutting and spreading, spoons for, well, you know–all the things spoons are good for.  The small cutting board works brilliantly for sandwich making during short stops.  Paper towels are about the handiest thing since the steering wheel, especially when spills inevitably happen or carsickness sets in (yep).  Having a small plastic bag for garbage likewise keeps me sane: the car stops, the bag goes in a garbage can at a gas station somewhere, and the snacking resumes anew, sans mess.

Three.  Take a throw-up bucket.  Trust me:  you may never need it, but the one time you do, you will be.  So.  Grateful.  We currently use a nifty red container that once held ice cream.  It’s the perfect size, and its presence in the car helps me breathe easier on roads through mountains with hairpin turns or through European tunnels that go on.  And on.  (And on.)

Four. Take ‘interventions.’ Aspirin or ibuprofin for headaches or cramps. 7-Up & saltines for unhappy tummies. A supply of Kleenex for all the obvious reasons. Soap or antibacterial gels or lotions for similarly obvious reasons.  Kids’ pillows/blankets from home make the car feel more cozy; moreover, they do a nice job of delineating ‘boundary’ lines between bodies, the result being that kids feel less jealous of their own ‘territory’ (because it’s clearly staked out).

Pic of car_0989

Five. Stop frequently. Believe it or not, I consider this a key part of packing–a way of frontloading the trip.  Stopping breaks up the drive and gives everyone a chance to enjoy the scenery. We stopped in a small hillside town in the Spanish Pyrenees–Punt de Bar, population 18. We met a gentleman who makes goat cheese. We tasted his cheese. We got to check out the view of the mountains from his cheese-making kitchen. The kids made friends with a big, beautiful dog whose breed I couldn’t guess but whose friendliness made him an instant favorite. We laughed at the riotous birds whose country-fied chattering never stopped.

Town on a hill_0907

Gate in Bar_0933

Millay by door_0976

Six. Very important. Keep a small notebook and a pencil handy, for jotting down the names and descriptions (and, if you’re in Europe, the dates!) of the places you see.

Happy travels.  (And stay tuned for stories of ours!)

(Town:  Punt de Bar, in the Spanish Pyrenees, population 18.)

 

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