Around 25 months ago, I was in the Antibes with a friend. When I am in the southern region of France, I crave to explore places that awaken my sense of reverie. It’s grown to be my favourite place in the world. I try to go every year.
I travelled for 2 weeks.
So on the Saturday, 2 days before our departure, because I am a hopeless nomad, I left my friend behind in Juan Les Pins and I decided to go on a solo trip to Lot et-Garonne in Duras.
I don’t drive so I called a driver, I didn’t pack an overnight bag but I had a small essentials travel kit in my handbag and my grandpa’s blanket which I always travel with - I just got into the car and left.
It was a long drive - around 670km over a 5ish hour drive. We drove past several familiar regions I had visited.
I was going to play things by ear as I had no fixed plans.
When I arrived, I was desperate for a stretch (and a pee) so I put my sunglasses on and wandered around this little pretty Beaux village.
Given it was a long drive, and I was obviously tired, I decided to find a place to rest.
I looked for things around me on my phone and I came across a cute family owned BnB called the Le Petit Coup, I walked up; it was chic and rustic, relatively unmarred by age.
Really quiet too.
It was just coming up to 2pm. I thought I could get a room and stay overnight.
So I asked if they had rooms, but as it was the weekend, they were fully booked. I didn’t plan to stay anyway but I loved it there.
So I was ok with that.
I asked if I could sit and rest in their lovely sun terrace for a little while before I make my way back and they let me. The terrace was shielded from the sun by tropical foliage in the gardens.
A lady called Caroline who I think possibly owned but certainly managed the property, quite a remarkable lovely lady, called me into the shared kitchen to have a little chat while she made me some fresh coffee and offered me some home baked bread and charcuterie. I desperately tried to speak all the French I learned for 2 years (when I was 22) but it wasn’t coming out fluently so I had to resort to lingual alteration.
To be frank, it was a shame(ful)less attempt. However, I always think there is something quite sweet in an effort to try to speak the people’s language when you are abroad.
After my bite, I had the most peaceful nap, with rays of the sun filling up my little corner. I slept for 2hrs.
A siesta in the perfect setting. How Francophile could things get.
I woke and looked up and the sky was still blue. Was relieved I had no drool on my mouth.
I became aware that there was a stillness and quiet that reminded me of what is truly important.
I went back in and said thank you and tried to pay for their service but Caroline wouldn’t accept any money from me. She gave me a cold glass of refreshing Pastis, a cuddle, kindly ordered me a car, and asked me to visit next time I am in town.
Living in a city like London can be sometimes overwhelming and my soul is constantly seeking small doses of peace and quiet.
I love the country. Parts of me could easily be a country girl but if I am being totally honest with myself, I don’t think I can live in the country for a long time because I have major itchy feet. I am a very curious and restless individual. I would bore myself to depression - and I love diversity. But more importantly, I need my specialist health care right next to my door. It’s non existent in most countryside regions.
Nevertheless, I appreciate the odd weekends and breaks in the quiet.
After that nap, I woke up to a realization that life’s simple pleasures are the key to happiness; desire studded to continue to seek all the things which make me happy.
Here, away from home, a worthy destination, lying in a stranger’s sun terrace in the Provence, with sun rays shining through, on a very cosy lounger, wrapped in my grandpa’s little blanket, pulsed with the scent of orange blossom filling the air, lavender scattered in the gardens of this 18th C farmhouse, the generosity and kind acts of strangers - a corner with an idyllic view in their home.
Every sense of security and peace I could ever have felt.
The perfect weekend of solitude and reflection.
I decided to travel back to the Antibes. It was a lovely drive back when we weren’t passing through tolls, watching the sunset and in the distance, views of coral fringed beaches in the Provence.
I arrived just in time for dinner. We went to restaurant Le J (its become a special restaurant for me) and we had a hot plate of coq au vin with lots of Provence Rose - borderline sober and enough to make me think before I shut my eyes to sleep, how genuinely beautiful life could be.
The next morning, I opened up the windows of our very typical French Juliet balcony, to a view overlooking the sea, I took a very deep breath and was overwhelmed with gratitude.
I don’t know why I remembered this moment. It might have been the fact that I was quite unwell recently and couldn’t go away on a Scandi trip I had booked. It broke my heart that I was unwell. I needed that break desperately for a clear head to enable me start a new role at work.
I was meant to travel with a friend and was genuinely sad she had to go alone. I felt like I had let her down. I beat myself up for a bit.
I enjoy traveling with very few people - my partner, my siblings and a pair of friends who share similar interests.
Undeniably, a part of me thought of traveling alone again soon - perhaps to the Scandinavian cities I couldn’t initially go to. I find the level of headspace to soul search is incredible.
So when I wrote this, I lay in bed dangling between holding up thresholds of pain and fear of my own mortality, indirectly linked with the fact that I also couldn’t attend my friend’s funeral to say goodbye.
But I have remained defiant and like my dad would say I am as constant as the northern star.
Maybe it’s led me to an epiphany that it’s when I reminisce about moments of bravery (as this single moment, traveling alone) in my absolute vulnerability that I draw strength when I am in total depletion of everything.
Inspired by C.D