Our first trip to Europe (mostly England and Ireland) happened in fall 1989. It was an introduction to driving on the left, not using washcloths, English and Irish breakfasts, whiskeys, fish and chips, ruined abbeys and castles, incredible landscapes, manor houses and royal residences, living history, London theater, pub crawls and ghost walks, and living outside our culture zone to experience another.
Over the years, we traveled to Europe many times. Scotland at New Year’s found us with sheep and heather and scotch and discovering Mr. Bean and outlandish Christmas decorations. Switzerland gave us the Alps and ice caves and fondue while Munich provided Oktoberfest. A circle tour of Spain brought tapas and flamenco, paradores and the Alhambra, Gaudi and Dali, white hill towns and red rioja wines. May in Paris expanded to Normandy beaches, Loire chateaux, Burgundy vineyards, Alsatian timbered houses, Champagne tours, Provencal markets, and roman and medieval relics. Italy in December offered the art and culture of Florence, the canals and mystery of Venice, and all things Tuscany in between. The memories are a wonderful and colorful quilt to be admired over and over again.
Most of the time, we were tourists. Usually driving, sometimes walking, we went from point A to point B, many times with Rick Steves in our hands, to see the sites. And they were and are incredible. However, any time we stopped or meandered among local folk, usually to eat or drink, I noticed a way of life that appealed to me. It was as if nothing was ever urgent or hopeless. The saying “joie de vivre” seemed to fit everywhere! People enjoyed conversations more than phones or apps. Strolling outdoors or picnicing in parks was a daily event. Family and extended family were close. Leisure and beauty was valued and celebrated. Certain things in life….dining, museums, art, architecture, history and much more was important enough to take time and thought and inspire love and creativity. I loved the pace, I loved the focus, I loved the priorities, and I loved the places and the people.
Knowing vacation travel is very different from daily living, I started researching overseas retirement possibilities by reading International Living. Thinking I would enjoy a B&B operation and my husband would enjoy anything to do with wine, the dream I hoped would become reality was to settle in a village and be the ones providing host and home to tourists, just like we used to be!