It took me three days to make it to Perpignan, France, and as I arrived just past 10pm local time, my journey still wasn't over. Grabbing my green Teton backpack off of the convertor belt at the terminal, I was quickly the last one in the lobby as families reunited and left. Standing there, the lost duck that I was, Aline and her eldest son, Matisse, emerged from around the corner to greet me. I probably smelled like a lovely bouquet of stale, sweaty traveler, with a tinge of vomit from the half a dozen times I keeled over in motion sickness on take-off and landing. (Just talking about it now makes my stomach flip; I can hear the jet engines ringing in my ears. I am permanently scared by airplanes.)
Aline looked lovely and tan in turquoise; her son: just as tall as her, and with a haircut that would have made him one of the cool kids in my old middle school. Que awkward exchange of hellos--I stick out my hand to shake "hello," while Aline simultaneously leans in to kiss my cheek, putting a hand on my shoulder in an almost-hug. My brain couldn't handle the translation. I defaulted to a nervous laugh. "Désolé."
My bags were tossed into an old European work van, and we were off into the night. Latour-de-France is about 20 minutes away from Perpignan by highway. Aline asked me a few questions, but we rode mostly in silence. The darkness expanded as we drove further away from the city. All I could sense were the smells.
The air outside was thick, the sea breeze cooked off by the humidity. Inside, the car smelled familiar: straw, dirt, grass, dog breath, poop, animal dander. Farm smells. I had arrived.
All of Latour is situated on the rolling hills of the Pyrénées-Occidentales region. There is a steep driveway up to the house. Salvia, lavender, basil, and mint line the driveway in various repurposed containers. I could smell them clearly as night cooled the earth. Despite the late hour of my arrival, the French doors in the kitchen were opened out onto a rainbow tiled patio. Aline's husband and her younger son were at the table. True to French hospitality, I was fed fresh bread, local goat cheese, and their homemade, sparkling wine. The first real food I had had in days. Heaven.