When was the last time that you traveled, and where did you go? What are your fondest memories from that trip?
When we reflect back on our travels, sometimes the memories that first come to mind or the ones that make us smile the most are not necessarily the ones most representative of that destination. It’s usually not associated with the historical monuments, the world class museums, the ancient ruins or the 5 star hotels. If it’s the first time that you are visiting a certain country, it’s almost obligatory to visit the famed sites and typical tourist attractions, but hardly do we ever really remember the details of these visits. You can tell people that you’ve seen the Egyptian pyramids, London’s Big Ben and New York’s Times Square. But when somebody asks you how your trip was, you’re more likely to go on and on about the romantic stroll through the park with the handsome boy you met in the train in Italy, how good that chicken skewer from the cheap food stall tasted after taking the wrong bus and getting lost in Ghana, or the charismatic matriarch of the small tapas bar in Madrid who chatted with you over several glasses of wine well after closing time. Traveling is about those special moments that stay with you forever. Sometimes, those moments are when we are simply doing nothing at all.
On the last full day of my recent trip to France, we did just that- nothing- and it was one of the highlights of the trip. The entire trip was amazing, from the 3 Michelin star restaurants in Paris to working in the fields of my cousin’s vineyards in Burgundy, but by the time I got to my final destination Toulouse, my stomach was tired from eating extravagant food every day, and my body was tired from the repetitive cycles of packing and unpacking my suitcase.
We went to the local farmer’s market in the morning and bought fresh fruits and vegetables, charcuterie, bread and cheese. We packed everything into my friend’s car and headed 80 km southeast toward Carcassonne to Lake Lampy, or Bassin du Lampy, in Aude. The weather that day was perfect- sunny with some clouds, and a bit cool on the skin with no wind. There were only a few other families on site that day, and it was quiet and peaceful.
We placed a big tablecloth on the soft green grass by the lake shore and opened up our picnic spread, which attracted a few hungry friends. These 2 adorable dogs stayed with us for most of the afternoon, until we ran out of food.
We made a simple tuna salad with fresh farmer’s market vegetables, and dressed it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The Toulousian saucisson with baguette hit the spot. Soft cow’s milk cheese, blue cheese and a goat cheese all complemented the chilled dry rosé wine that we brought from home. Although it wasn’t extravagant by any means, this fresh and simple meal was exactly what I needed at the end of my long trip, and it tasted so good as I laid out on the picnic blanket and took in the breathtaking landscape of Lake Lampy.
We took a leisurely stroll around the perimeter of the lake and enjoyed the slightly damp coolness of the dense forests. The lake was perfectly still and its surface was as smooth as glass, showing off an impressive reflection of the cloudy sky above. There was nobody else along our path, and it seemed as if this was our secret world, a magical utopia where we were safe from others.
Time seemed to stop as I dug my bare toes into the fresh cool grass and looked at the peaceful scenery. I laid flat on my back with my canine companion snuggled up to me belly up, and we both reveled in peaceful nothingness as we watched the dense clouds slowly glide by. I emptied my brain and focused on my breathing, inhaling deeply and slowly to benefit from the fresh clean air and enjoy the pure earthy aroma of my surroundings. The only sounds aside from chirping birds and rustling trees were of us munching crispy carrots and gulping wine. This…..this was one of those ‘moments’.
Random trivia: Did you know that a dog‘s sense of smell is one of the keenest in nature, being able to smell up to 44 times better than man? The bloodhound is the only animal whose evidence is admissible in an American court.