• James Eric Fristad

Part of being there

... is just being there, sure, but being there doing what? I've been thinking about that because, if my sometimes iffy memory is focusing now as it ought, I recall that once you arrive at a place there are two things operating that nearly always have the effect of dampening your awareness of the magic around you: blunting your sensing the fun you've landed in the middle of. One is jet-lag fatigue which, for me at least, has a way of hanging on longer than I would wish, making my happiness-receptors a bit dull. And the other looming downer is ignorance: having not much clue what opportunities abound. So the doing part of things wants planning for ahead of time, so as to minimize any mental torpor that may show up.

Somehow I think that will be less a problem in Lisbon/Portugal itself, since we have never been there and know really nothing about it, have not even quasi-fluency in that extra-vowel laden tongue. Therefore just about anything that happens, any opportunity to observe cultural history or interactions with locals, by definition will become vivid neon signs flashing in our minds. No work involved for us, beyond staying awake and continuing to smile and venture forth into the daily unknown. So no, this bunch o' sentences about planning, mainly refers to Bordeaux and beyond.

And on ye olde website I am starting to venture beyond show-and-tell pages about nuts & bolts facts re places and images of tourist stuff. Starting to entertain notions of doing stuff there, and what that may look like. Not rationing myself a time-alotment (anybody remember "The 5-Minute Manager"? Horrific concept, IMHO) and tightly structuring each day. Not that, please. More looking at opportunities that are unique to that place and time, and may never again be available to us. Certainly not there in that unique location, and enjoyed not in our present flush of youth. Okay, it was hyperbole to suggest youthfulness; but the ration thereof that we do enjoy is likely to taper away as days/weeks/months/years pass. Or decades, we hope. And the day wants to be seized before nightfall.

I love France more than I expected to. One hears about rude, abrupt, haughty Frenchmen. Yet the south of that country, at any rate, is full of gently robust places and colors and textures -- which seem unmarred now by their centuries' past slaughter, atrocities of religious strife, pestilence. Among the happiest of images that linger, are ones in the Bordeaux region.

Aha, wines! you say. There is a distinct presence of that liquid joy, of course, but even in that comes the thought of what there may be, that we want not to miss doing. It shouldn't be an option, for us, to swill down some good red each afternoon/evening and have our alertness ebb away, kinda sloshed not long afterwards, and call that our vacation. It isn't a kind of memory we seek to treasure in coming years. Nor a memory we would want to be stuck with, trying to repress. Heh.

Last night I found this picture online, part of the internet presentation of a bike rental outfit we hope to patronize once we have gotten into the daily rhythm of things in today's Aquitaine region. And what an attractive notion it presents. See if it touches you as well.

Four or so hours' use of a new bicycle with a basket for holding a baguette and a couple of pommes, maybe, and some frommage. Ready to set out in search of the vin rouge that awaits out there among the vines, in one of those stone barns that stand massive in the trees over there. Just cycling along, not with a definite place to go, only a definite sort of place to be in, happy that our legs are moving easily. I hope that's a clear concept as written here.

Riding comfortably (soft bike seat an essential), with rented headgear cinched in place, and bike-lock present in case a tempting site appears and wants exploring on foot, or another winery looms as it surely will. Otherwise just pedaling dirt roads while the spring breeze ruffles the vines. Glad we remembered to put on sun screen this morning.

I want to do this vineyard bicycle excursion early on, in our week here, just to get out and greet the countryside. To maybe feel that it offers a friendship that I am honored to accept.

In a similar way, we will look for a village walking tour to join, possibly the first day we're there. Not to "get it out of the way" or think of it as an accomplishment, but rather to be introduced to places early because our term of relating to those places is going to be limited. We will wish to enjoy developing as much familiarity as possible. And this, I hope against hope for connections to some few of those individuals who call this place their home. So that this, arguably one of the most lovely of the many French villages in the region, will have human faces integral to it, printed in our hearts, with their warm gallic smiles.

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