My first time in France, the doves outside my tower bedroom window sounded happy and fat. Their pillow-soft, subtle conversations woke me every day for a week when I stayed in a 19th century Renaissance-style chateau hotel. Twin towers with pointed roofs graced the terrace side, and it looked like something in one of the posters that had hung in my fourth grade classroom. That’s where I first started learning French and started dreaming of going to France.
My tower was shaded by trees where the doves clustered and cooed. I couldn’t see them, but their presence was as rich as the desserts and sauces downstairs in the elegant restaurant. The waiters and owner treated me well because I ordered and talked about meals in French that surprised the staff and the owner. My French wasn’t perfect, but it was good, and I was American. Those were two things that didn’t go together in French minds. I wasn’t guessing: People told me that directly.
The compliments were as comforting as lying in bed every morning in my round bedroom whose ceiling was easily 15 feet high, and then lounging in the suite’s main room. The walls were covered in faded green silk which somehow seemed to match whatever it was I thought the doves had to say to me. Their sound was as soothing as gentle fingers massaging a forehead creased with a migraine. I’d think about breakfast, read a Guide Michelin in French, consult a road map and plan which chateaux we would drive to in the Loire Valley that day. Blois? Amboise? Azay-le-Rideau? Usse? Angers? Chenonceau? Saumur? Villandry? So many tempting, gorgeous choices….
I knew that after each day of touring, the evening would bring another elegant, lavish meal with my spouse–and the next morning would start with the quiet contemplation of murmuring doves.
Oh, and another leisurely cup of coffee after breakfast downstairs on the terrace before driving off. And sunshine. French sunshine.
It had taken me years to come to France, and here I was, actually discovering myself in French, discovering that all those years of books and classes had actually taken root, that I could think in this language, feel in it, react in it. I had never traveled to Europe before. I was entering a new life, seeing myself in a new light. And learning the language of doves.
Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in genres from mystery to memoir and travelogue. You can find them on Amazon.