It has felt at times that the past ten months have been one long serial checkout. We’re forever unpacking, repacking and having to say goodbye, yet again, to a special new place we’ve discovered and to which we’ve grown attached. On the road again or back on the rails, we wave goodbye, promising to return.
So it was with leaving Chamonix, the Alps and the terrific group of people with whom we’d shared the TMB. The departure was difficult and left us feeling deflated and rather depressed. Our fellow hikers left town first thing the following morning but we, long-term travelers with more time to spare, gave ourselves an extra day in the mountains before boarding a train. The day after the finish was cool and rainy, thereby exacerbating the doldrums and we spent most of the day in our hotel room massaging sore muscles and reminiscing about the hike. It was a bit like the morning after a long-awaited, long-planned wedding. While the opportunity to relax and reflect is to a certain extent welcomed, the after-party letdown and inevitable disappointment that the anticipated event is over leaves you feeling somewhat flat. We were so sad that our amazing hiking experience was over and for much of that day I was overcome with melancholia and felt close to tears. Adding to the post-TMB longing was the fact that leaving Chamonix and heading for our next stop, Provence, meant entering the final phase of our Gap Year. We were about to start the beginning of the end and it left me in low spirits. Was it possible that there were only two more months left in our sabbatical year?
The blues were threatening to win out and so we did what we always do when we’re in the dumps: we headed out to eat. Our final dinner in the magnificent village of Chamonix was at La Moraine, the very same restaurant in which Joe and I had enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together in 1978 when I was a student in Tours. He came to France to visit me and we took the train to the Alps to celebrate the American holiday weekend. It was a miracle that we found the cozy little chalet restaurant 34 years later and were able to share another delicious meal there together. We ignored the rain outside and chased away the gloom in our hearts by planning our upcoming weeks in the sun-drenched Van Gogh landscapes of Provence. By the time we left dinner, a couple of aperitifs and a bottle of wine behind us, we felt better about the next day’s departure. Safely back in our hotel room, we watched the European soccer championship between Italy and Spain and remarked that perhaps the country that won would get to declare bankruptcy first (Italy was the eventual victor). It was a good sign – our senses of humor were back.
The following morning, we repacked our bags, added another checkout to our ever-growing list, said goodbye to Chamonix and boarded the train. The snow-capped peaks of the Alps were now behind us and the sunflowers and lavender of Provence awaited. Next stop, Avignon.