Dreams of spring, France
What’s great about March is the fact that spring break (or if you don’t have kids in school anymore, just spring itself), is visible on the distant horizon. No, it’s not a mirage, it really is coming and we will soon be able to tuck another winter away on the shelf and safely unfold our thoughts of revitalizing sunshine and blossoming landscapes.
This time of year makes me pine for a vacation, not likely to happen for awhile. That’s OK as we have become quite expert staycationers, taking advantage of all our area has to offer.
I do, however, like to think of the time, about 14 years ago, when my sister and I had the dream of going to France together one day. I subscribed to a travel e-newsletter and we began to banter back and forth via email (her in New York City and I in Charlotte, N.C.) about “Paris in the spring” — maybe a mid-life crises trip. I laugh at that thought now as here I am in my 40’s and I’m changing diapers! But, I digress … I found a trip that was a volunteer vacation — which is quite eco-fashionable now. This trip was in the south of France and involved helping rebuild medieval hilltop castles and structures with touring the area on the side. With a volunteer vacation, you pay to go, but it is pretty inexpensive because you are working while you’re there. I sent the article to my sister and said I hoped this trip would still be available in 10 years because it sounded perfect. Her email back said simply, “Why wait?”
We saved and plotted and planned for the next 18 months and took off for Paris in spring of 2000 just before Easter. Just outside of Avignon, La Sabranenque, founded in 1969, is located in the quiet hilltop village of St. Victor La Coste and has become a leader in restoration projects in the Mediterranean. Back then our whole trip (flight, meals and spending money included), cost less than $1,500 — and we tacked on a long weekend in Paris. We worked our tails off with volunteers and staff from around the world, but had more fun and got to see so much, including the olive groves, vineyards and small villages dotting the south of France. I savored every hard-earned meal and enjoyed knowing there is a stone arch in a village in Provence that I helped repair.
I looked up the costs of the program now and it remains low — about $330 for the week at La Sabranenque; so with flight and meals it would be roughly the same, depending on the airline. You must be older than 18 years of age, be physically fit and have insurance. To learn more, visit lasabrenenque.com.
Maybe a volunteer vacation is right for you and your family. There are many of them state-side as well as around the world. Find out more online or at the library. Two kids and lots of life changes later, I am so glad my sister and I decided to take advantage of this opportunity when we did. As my sister said, “Why wait?”
Tuesday Trippier lives in Delaware, is a writer and mother of four with a special interest in green living.