Back in the recent past, a trip used to mean choosing a destination anywhere in the world. The fat UNESCO “bible” was consulted so none of Earth’s best sites would be inadvertently overlooked.
Airlines were smoothly contacted to buy tickets using pretend money called “Miles”. Hotels of charm, grace or geographic expedience were booked simply and easily through booking sites with best prices guaranteed. Afterwards, perhaps an on-line photo-book was made to fix memories as one palm tree does resemble another.
The major dilemmas were hand luggage or hold? Rent a car? or trust to public transport? Is there an Iron Man competition somewhere to be avoided?
All that has come to a COVID19 end.
Growing up in 1960s Canada, vacations in our house were momentous, Rockwellian events:
- the black Ford Comet
- the handmade wooden car top carrier (with a handy hole for the tent poles to protrude)
- the green canvas tent (with porch)
- the Coleman stove
- the melted-ice-cube cooler, nylon sleeping bags and rubber air mattresses.
The parents were in the front, often with a baby on the lap of my mother who did not drive. Instead, she spent her days drying cotton diapers out of the little corner triangle window.
On the back vinyl bench, hot and slippery, were the unseatbelted three or four of us. Parents’ good Sunday clothes were hung in plastic bags on hangers on a hook above the windows. Our back-seat vision was limited.
We drove to the west coast: the Rockies, Jesus Saves (green stamps!). We drove to the east coast: the high tides of the Bay of Fundy and the Magnetic Hill. We drove to Quebec to spend the summer at a colleague minister’s house in a paper-mill town that was by the sea.
We sat in sticky unairconditioned cars for hours on end as our father covered hundreds of miles a day. In the evenings we pitched the heavy, damp tent at a camp-site with smelly quicklime toilets and went for a swim in a freezing cold lake. We rarely stayed more than one night, and there was usually hot cream-of-wheat for breakfast. It was tedious, uncomfortable and exciting all at the same time.
Our recent weekend trip to Burgundy was not of the same epic magnitude, of course, but it did set the same tone. There was the natural wonder of the stupendous underground caverns of Vallorbe and the Cistercian cultural wonder of the Abbey and Forge of Fontenay.
We did not camp, but booked rooms at a small chateau and an old water mill. Breakfasts were croissants and cheese and fruit. There were no kids in the back seat, but there was a 60s feel to the trip: Long stretches of small rural roads with endless cows and rolls of hay; eating half a sandwich for lunch at a roadside picnic table.
It was quite lovely to go forward to the past. Not a plane, not a taxi, not a line-up in sight.