A few months ago, our family booked a dream vacation to the tiny Greek island of Santorini. It was surreal to imagine what I had always admired in the glossy pages of a magazine would become a reality. We found a chartered flight on Condor Airlines from Brussels, booked a traditional white cave residence and had our car rental reserved. I even ordered a wonderful book about a woman that travels and decides to stay in Greece, Falling in Honey. My book arrived three weeks before our scheduled departure, the same day we received an email from Condor Airlines. Apparently they had not only changed our travel dates, but also the final destination had been changed to Crete. We were told our option was to cancel and receive a full refund or go with their changes and find our own transportation from Crete to Santorini (a seven hour ferry). We chose to cancel, not because Crete wouldn’t have been wonderful, I’m certain it is, but because Crete wasn’t the dream, nor was the seven hour ferry crossing. The book’s title seemed to mock the situation. Like the gooey offerings from a bee, this vacation was becoming a sticky mess. The Condor reservation agent said this change was rare, but it didn’t feel like a rarity when it happened to us. I took this as a proverbial Greek sign…the Gods were not ready for our family to descend upon the Greek Isles. With only three weeks until our vacation, it was time to find an alternative. Goodbye Santorini.
I found myself rummaging madly through the library’s travel books, asking neighbors for suggestions, all while listening to our four daughters’ opinions. Our family of six agreed on one thing, it must be sunny and warm. It’s an odd problem to have when our location in Belgium gives us such rich access to so many wonderful destinations, most at reasonable costs. We looked seriously at the three M’s: Madeira, Morocco, and Malta; but after much thought, my husband and I agreed, they just didn’t feel right for this vacation. While it was important (especially for our girls) to be in a location that offered warm doses of sunshine, it was just as important to their dad and I to be in a place that was easy. We didn’t want this vacation to be full of logistics and timetables. We wanted to relax, which is why we decided to go back to a place where we found both relaxation and discovery.
We traded our Greek lemons for the orange orchards of Provence. And it feels right. We not only found a beautiful house that is walking distance to a cafe, bar, and morning newspaper, but also has a pool for the girls. For nine lovely days we’re staying minutes outside the perfume capital of the world. Grasse, France.
We’re a quick 15km from Cannes, where we’ll get a sneak peek at where glitz and glamour will unfold in May, as the Hollywood star studded Cannes Film Festival will descend weeks after our departure. And with Nice also a short drive, we’ll catch a Saturday football match at the Allianz Riviera Stadium and enjoy the visual eye feast of walking along the Promenade des Anglais. A few other adventures planned, include a trip to Aix en Provence to trace the footsteps of Cézanne and M.F.K. Fisher and visiting the homes of two culinary legends. As I write, I’m reminding myself to squeeze in relaxing!
Our vacation plans are not turning out as I envisioned, potentially, the reality will be even better. The Greeks gave me a lemon and I choose to make…orange juice. One day the Greek Gods may pave an easy path for me to discover the bounties of their land, in which case, I’ll jump and happily go. Along with my travel plans, my new book’s title has taken on a different meaning. I no longer see a sticky situation, but one with sweet potential. I still plan on packing the memoir I bought about Greece, but I’ll read it in the Provincial sun with a pastis to quench my thirst, instead of an ouzo.