I did not expect to experience the flood of emotions I did while reading Laura Bradbury’s My Grape Year. One of Amazon Prime‘s books to borrow on Kindle, it looked like a fun, light read reminiscent of one of those YA travel-to-France-and-fall-in-love novels that used to captivate my teenage mind. Somehow I got wrapped up reading several WWII novels and memoirs these past few months, and so I was looking for something a little sunnier. But little did I know that its sunshine would transport me to places I’ve already been, should have been in, want to be in again and that a kindred spirit has also not only been in, but taken it to the next level. It’s a magical version of my, and others’, France dream.
Ms. Bradbury’s real-life account of her exchange trip to Burgundy, France when she was 17 brought up memories of my first trip to Paris, when I was 16, which I’ve mentioned several times in this blog and about which I often reminisce. Good times. The decisions she was forced to make regarding her obligations to her exchange agency as well as her interactions with new friends, a new culture and new flavors touched on a collection of sojourns I’ve experienced in France and Belgium, from being an Au Pair both near Aix-en-Provence and Brussels to a year-long exchange at a university in Paris. Tears gushed down my cheeks when reading about the French foods she tastes for the first time (I remember it like it was yesterday.); the families she lives with, falls in love with and disappoints (Yep, been there.); the camaraderie that embraces her (Still holding onto it.); and the sturdy, secure love she discovers (Found a few, but may need to return to see if there’s another waiting in the wings.). Her words and experiences touched on a number of my own emotions and occurrences and transported me directly to Burgundy, even though I’ve never been. So much so that I could practically smell the soil and taste the wine on my tongue (Bien sûr, I was obligated to drink a glass or two of wine while reading it.). It was only after finishing it that I found out there are six more books to discover in the series – Quebec, Paris, Wedding, Escape, Village and Cellar – as well as a couple of novels. So many delicious books to read, so little time. They’re all on my list. In the meantime, although I have a love-hate relationship with social media, I signed up for her newsletter and followed her on IG and Twitter.
The author reminds her reader not to let time pass without truly living. Finish writing that book. Take that trip. Hug that person (with face masks). Buy those shoes. Ok, the last one is specifically meant for my friend Emily who hemmed and hawed over buying a pair of super sexy red booties during our last trip to Paris. And when she finally did, and was walking down the street with her new purchase and a smile on her face, a little voice (actually one from a woman sitting on a nearby bench) exclaimed, “You failed!” The woman had been reading a book about holding back impulses, or something of the sort. But Emily didn’t fail. Yes, even though she may have succumbed to retail pressure, she is now the owner of some gorgeous booties, that may or may not actually be comfortable enough to wear. But still, live this life!
I recently received the results from a couple of health exams, and while they weren’t as good as I’d hoped, so far, it’s not awful. I am trying (and sometimes failing) to make changes to my diet (whoops, damn that delicious homemade bread!), stress level, exercise routine and level of gratitude I feel for every minute I get to be alive and that I’m able to spend with Nana. Although life is really weird right now – jobless, paranoid about COVID19, taking care of myself and my grandmother, sick of insane politics, watching two storms approaching Louisiana AND weirded out by some looming asteroid threatening to hit Earth the day before the November election, OMG! – I’m still hoping to keep up this momentum. One morning, I decided to walk the mile (and back) to the supermarket and health food shop for a few things and ended getting caught under a most magnificent drizzle. I had a handy $1-off coupon for a coffee AND the market had my favorite apple fritters. Ok, that’s definitely not on my diet, but everything in moderation. The walk felt incredible, and it’s been so hot, humid and annoyingly sunny here, that I soaked up as much of the rain as I could. (Be careful what you ask for.) And when I reached home, I walked next door and enjoyed a great, big hug from my grandmother. It doesn’t get any better’n that.
These are bizzaro times. But if anything, it’s teaching us how to remain in the present moment and appreciate every little thing we have. So while you’re waiting to travel and sip a glass of Burgundy at that sidewalk café in Paris, do yourself a little favor and read something light, fun, dreamy and delicious. Check out Laura Bradbury’s Grape series. These days, we could all use a little more of light, fun, dreamy and delicious.