There are so many exciting things to tell you.
When I was in my mid-twenties I travelled around Europe with my friend Brad in a second(probably fourth or fifth)hand campervan named Fred. Fred was a beautiful Frankenstein – white and bulky, a bolted together thing of at least two different vehicles. It had a bed over the cab and another in the back that had to be put together by deconstructing the chairs and table. There was a lilliputian fridge and gas stove. We hung a dangly toy monkey as our nomadic mascot. Brad drove (very capably) while I navigated (poorly). In Fred we visited at least one hundred churches, dozens of stone villages, museums, galleries, canals and fields. We ate a lot of baguettes and baked beans and laughing cow cheese. Every day we woke up with a different view from the one before, the season turning from balmy summer into chilly autumn, the tiny windows by my bed beading with condensation.
To start, we took the car ferry from England and driven into France. We had no plan except a couple of key dates to meet up with family. We bought a couple of big map books and a guide to European campsites. The extent of our strategy was: to go clockwise. I’m pretty sure we stopped at the very first campground we came to off the ferry – quiet and small with awful bathrooms. It was the first night of our Grand Adventure. After setting up Fred we walked to the beach and watched people flying kites. Laughed. Took photos. It was almost too exciting to go to bed. The next morning, the one I remember best of all, I woke up early with the sun. I couldn’t remember where I was. The ceiling was awfully close. Oh yes, I am in a sleeping bag, high up, wedged into a nook between driver’s seat and roof. I am in France. I think I lay up there and grinned, non-stop, for at least thirty minutes.
I will live off the memories of that European trip for my whole life, till memory fails me. I still remember my parents recalling their big European trip (“O.E.”) over and over and over, until the stories and exaggerations imprinted themselves into my childhood too. I remember the rattling jar of foreign coins, the photos with the rounded corners, the tales of toilets and mishaps and combinations of the two. Ah, travel. Isn’t it almost better in the recalling? Don’t those memories nourish you in times when you feel bored or lonely or trapped or blue?
Our flights are booked.
It hasn’t seemed real up until just recently when I finally paid deposits for accommodation. I can’t quite get my head around the idea of going back to the continent in the photos and the memories, in this older body with a kid in each arm. We won’t be staying in Fred and we won’t be going for anywhere near as long. The baguette eating will be a sure thing, so too the photo taking. I’m a bit nervous, a lot excited and disbelieving. Europe….really? No, really?
As long as I am going you are going too. Croatia and France in July, book it in. It’s a book research trip, in part, as well as a friend’s 40th birthday celebration. I will take ten thousand photographs of everything I see and everything I eat. Grilled fish, light bouncing off water, cobbled alleyways, the b’s wearing stripes, candles in churches, pastries, toes against sunsets, fingers against glasses of beer. I will instagram, even more, (is it possible?) like a crazy person. I will make notes of things to tell you; tales of toilets and mishaps and how travelling with two kids is both great and completely insane. Please come with me.
This is not all the wandering that Fork and Fiction is going to do this year. There’s Ria’s awards-ceremony-spangled tour of Toronto to share with you, an international mystery guest blogger to introduce and there may even be a meeting of the two halves – North plus South, The fork and the fiction, R plus H – in the works for the end of the year. You’re just going to have to wait a little longer and see. Because to tell you, all at once, would make it less fun. And if there’s nothing better than recalling travel memories then second-best, a very close runner up has got to be…the anticipation.