What's perfume doing in a cooking blog?" my husband asked.
"My blog isn't just about food," I replied. "It's about tasting life."
In my kitchen, the main activity may be food preparation, but the conversation is eclectic.
You can read all the travel books you want and visit all the travel sites, but nothing prepares you for the feeling you get when you arrive. Your senses drink in the breeze, and the smell and the essence of a place.
Maybe it is all fresh and new or maybe it strikes a respondent chord in your memory.
Two years ago, a travel book told me to expect a sense of holiday in the Midi Pyrenees. I felt it as soon as we got off the train from Paris at the gare in Cahors.
How do I define it? I’ve already talked about the distinct sense of moving southward as our train zipped its way deep into La France Profonde.
This was something else, a feeling of excitement, yet a slower pace. That we were deep in the heart of wine country helped. The degustation signs had something to do with it. So did the warmer temperatures.
But there was even a sense of festiveness to the two rainy nights we spent indoors. I could look out the side windows of the villa and see the lights of the chateau at Mercues in the distance.
It reminded me of the late night along the South Carolina coast when we looked out into the darkness and saw a boat with lights ablaze anchored about a mile off shore.
“It’s a party boat,” said my husband peering out into the darkness.
That’s how I felt on vacation in the Midi Pyrenees: On a party boat.
From time to time we’d step ashore to sample the treasures of the coast.
The coast, of course, was the old city Cahors and its downtown, running along both sides of the plane-tree-lined Boulevard Gambetta and along crooked little side streets.
We visited gift shops, a book store, clothing boutiques, a flower shop, a wine store and even a shop that sold all manner of shoe laces and polishes. I saw a pair of santons in a store window but forgot to go back for them.
At 75 Rue Joffre was a tiny boutique selling frothy scarves and very contemporary art jewelry. I bought gifts for family members and one green-blue knit scarf for myself. I was tempted, oh so tempted, to buy more.
I’m sorry I did not. The shop is no more, and according to my research has been replaced by a bookstore.
Now I love books. So does my husband. We could start a library.
But. This tiny little shop was called Grain de Folie. Seeds of madness, a touch of madness.
A fragile name, an ephemeral name. But exactly what you need on vacation.
Spending 80 euros for a filigree stole laced with silvery threads would have been sheer madness for me. Still, I wish I’d done it.
Months later, I stumbled upon a French perfume of the same name. This time I succumbed. Even though it is unrelated to this tiny, festive shop, when I wear it I feel as though I am on holiday.
I had a taste of something in that tiny shop, something beyond the edible: A possibility perhaps, a sense that it’s OK to go mad once in a while.
It might just save your sanity.