Le Road Trip by Vivian Swift

“Hasten slowly . . . See as much of life as possible, but take time to notice it, too.”
— Vivian Swift, Le Road Trip

Inside pages from Le Road Trip

Another two-page spread from Le Road Trip

I love everything about Vivian Swift‘s new book, Le Road Trip.  It’s a book about her honeymoon trip to France, and while I wouldn’t mind following Swift’s itinerary (she makes all those villages and encounters with French people so beguiling), it is much more than a travel guide.  Swift describes her book as an “art of travel” kind of book, and it is full of her observations about the pleasures and pains of traveling with a companion and philosophical musings about “slow” travel.  I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who makes watercolor sketches in a travel journal, and Le Road Trip is full of exquisite paintings that depict exactly the kinds of travel vignettes that I delight me.

Here are a few samples of Swift’s expert observations:

  • Anticipation is half the fun of traveling.
  • Accept the inevitable bumps in the road with equanimity.  She says, “Every road trip needs a low point” and suggests that  when the going gets tough, “Each morning look at yourself in the mirror and say, “You’re no bargain either.'”
  • “There are no wrong trains.”
  • “It’s not a crime to want to sit in a cafe and not take a walking tour of all those historic monuments in your peripheral vision.”
  • “Beware of quaintitude” (all those “quaint” spots that every tourist goes to see).
  • “There’s always a cat, just when you need one.”

Or consider her advice for finding a good restaurant on a road trip (and haven’t we all been there):

  • Start looking early.
  • Check the menu for signs of age — it should be freshly hand-lettered daily, which indicates that the chef is shopping around for in-season specials.
  • Check the parking lot for local license plates — “If the restaurant is good enough to the locals, it’s good enough for us.”
  • Look for the resident cat.

How can you not love an author who plans to found an Institute of Slow Information in her next life:  “My embroidery studio on the main street of Bayeux will be just one part of my Institute of Slow Information.  I will also teach letter writing, listening, miniature portrait painting, and the art of doing one thing at a time.”

I’ll leave you with just one more passage from the book, a defense of travel by middle-agers:  “You cannot possibly know how much time it takes to learn to treasure this world, how many years it takes to properly cherish your place in it.  As you age, you will find it more and more remarkable, a miracle really, that any of us — you, me — are here at all, the result of an undeserved, infinite gift.  And the older you get, the more you know how much you will miss all this when you are gone.  In the end, the world was not all that changed by your coming, you were not all that crucial to it.  But the world, this world, which you will one day travel in homage and gratitude, this world was everything to you.”