Unless you live under a rock, you’ve at least heard of the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. My guess is that most of you have probably read it.
In my experience, people seem to have a “love it or hate it” relationship with this book. I happen to fall in the “love it” camp (although I will admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film). I know a lot of people out there found Elizabeth Gilbert to be an annoyingly self-absorbed narcissist, and though I do understand why people thought that, I myself never did. I loved the book and I loved her. I thought it was such a wonderful story about self-discovery and travel and life and love.
So when my friend Julie told me that Elizabeth Gilbert had recently wrote an article about a walking trip she took through Provence, France, and sent me a link to it, I eagerly clicked over to read it. I devoured every single word.
And I fell in love with Ms. Gilbert all over again.
Because it captures so perfectly why it is that I am so excited for this trip that Kevin and I are embarking on. This walking tour of Spain. This pilgrimage. This journey. This whatever it is that you want to call it.
She writes about luxurious dinners of foie gras and escargots, and lunches of camembert and wine under olive trees, and nights spent in fourteenth-century sheep farms, and stopping in a teeny tiny village and purchasing the best cheese she’s ever tasted from a woman in a teeny tiny market, and how having your days consist of walking and eating and drinking made her feel like each day had “the exact right number of hours in it.”
But what she really captures is just how amazing it is to arrive somewhere by foot:
Despite our navigational challenges, we promptly realized how much we loved this. Because moving through a country at the pace of a walk is an incredibly intimate way to experience a place. What we encountered during our six-hour hike was simply…everything. Every single iris blossom, all the inquisitive local dragonflies and dogs, the chickens who crossed the road nervously, like characters in a joke. We smelled everything, too—the cow pastures, the mustard fields, the wild rosemary and thyme that grew thick in the hills….
There is something about entering an ancient town on foot that’s radically different from entering the same place by car. Keep in mind that these old French towns were all designed by people on foot for people on foot. So when you walk in, you’re approaching the place as it was intended to be approached—slowly and naturally, the way Dorothy came upon Oz (spires rising in the distance, a sense of mounting mystery: What kind of city will this be?). When paved roads were introduced about a thousand years after these towns were built, the macadam sliced artificially across the landscape, stabbing fast into these old parishes at the most convenient (for cars) angles. We, on the other hand, walked there high and alone across the mountains. Then the mountains turned into fields, the fields morphed into a cherry orchard, and the orchard gently spilled us toward Gordes—a city on a hill that, cinematically, we approached from above, from an even higher hill. From the moment we first saw the distant church spires until we stood upon those church steps, we walked for almost two hours, as evening approached and the town unfolded its gorgeousness before us. We arrived there the way people were always meant to arrive: awed, tired, grateful.
The view walking into Gordes
And it is because of experiences like that that put me over-the-edge with excitement about what this trip has in store for us. About what it will be like for Kevin and me to walk into teeny tiny villages and stay in monasteries and take siestas under trees and gorge ourselves on paella and wine and conversation.
So please, if you have any interest in travel or food or France, I urge you to click over and read it for yourself. All seven pages of it. Devour it. Because it’s that good. She writes in a way that, quite simply, makes my heart happy. Which shouldn’t surprise me, considering that she is, as Julie called her, a “writer beast.”
And with that, I wish you a very happy Thursday.