After a few days of Parisian adventures, Dad plugged his pre-programmed GPS into a French rental car and a motley crew piled on in: Mom, the official critic of driving style and automated directions, sat shotgun. Stephen, my friend from England, hopped on the Eurostar just in time to join us for the trip, and he quickly fell into his role as the group photographer. He sat in the back seat, except when he was disappearing to take pictures and collect strange rocks, which was usually. I sat next to him, translating and troubleshooting linguistic and cultural dilemmas. Aunt Eileen was in the other corner, observing and chuckling at the chaos.
Despite (because of?) this insanity, it was awesome. Three hours of driving took us straight into the heart of the Loire Valley, a land known mostly for its castles and (at least in my circles) its goats.
Our first touristy stop was at Chateau Villandry.
Yes, that is cabbage that you see. In the early 20th century, an insanely rich American expat and her Spanish husband bought this castle and started landscaping with vegetables.
If Bill Gates designed a formal garden out of pumpkins on his personal estate, let’s be honest, we’d probably hate his guts for it. But in France? This is culture! Beauty! History!
We then followed my father on a quest to discover an enigma translated by Lonely Planet as “smashed apples.” “It’s a thing…” he told us, “a product…they eat it in the military, they make it in caves!” They turned out to be apples dried for several days at the age of a massive wood-fired stove. In a cave. And then they were smashed.
I got my fill of goats on this trip, and my family got to experience a little bit of my usual daily life.
They paid for it. By which I mean they literally paid money to stay at a goat farm overnight. Sometimes people do that.
And when my parents got back on that transatlantic flight, saying goodbye was kind of like saying goodbye after Thanksgiving weekend when I would soon be home for Winter Break. My journey was officially almost over.