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The Day My Life Changed Forever in France’s Luberon

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The Luberon is the region of France upon which Peter Mayle based his bucolic books like A Year in Provence. Having read the series years prior, I was looking forward to eating a time-consuming lunch here served with a glass of wine or Pastis in an idyllic spot of sunshine while breathing in the scent of Provence's famed lavender fields. A day that started as a quest for a quintessentially Provençal experience became something much bigger when I discovered that my life would be forever changed.

Sorgue River in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

The Sorgue River in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Marseille would be the last port of our Disney Mediterranean cruise before returning to our embarkation city of Barcelona. I had emailed back and forth with our private French driver and tour guide, Catherine, about my hopes for the day. Unlike our obstinate guide in Sorrento and Pompeii, Catherine was more than happy to adjust her typical itinerary to popular tourist destinations like Avignon and Aix-en-Provence to accommodate my request to visit the hillside towns of the Luberon.

I should note, instead of Marseille, the Disney Mediterranean Cruises now stop in Ajaccio, Corsica. As a francophile, Corsica has long been on my Bucket List. Warm weather, melodic language, sand beaches, and vineyards…what more could you ask for?

Fountain in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

Fountain in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The day started with Catherine driving my husband, our toddler, and me one hour to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (translated as Island on the Sorgue River). From its namesake river that encircles the town to fountains and watermills, water seems to be everywhere in this town. It was a sizzling hot day, so while the water did not provide any literal relief from the heat, the view was at least refreshing.

Paella at market in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

Paella and produce vendors on market day (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

We visited on a market day (Thursday), which brought a lively international flavor to our visit. In addition to the standard array of fresh fruits and vegetables found at open-air markets around the world, there were also stands selling pungent French cheeses and honey-laced desserts with a Moroccan flair, while a vendor's giant black pan of paella sent the Spanish aroma of saffron, seafood, and sausage sailing through the air.

Musee du Jouet et de la Poupee Ancienne in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

Antique Toy and Doll Museum (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

I had rosy-colored images in my mind's eye of visiting the Antique Toy and Doll Museum with my then two-and-a-half-year-old, Karissa. In reality, I had to scoop up my toddler and race through the tiny museum to keep her from sitting on the adorable miniature chairs or picking up the priceless porcelain dolls while she pointed at the toys and shouted, “That's mine! That's mine!”

Lunch at La Prevote in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

Tour Guide Catherine with my husband, Phil, at lunch at La Prévôté (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Luckily, my Southern French lunchtime daydreams came true when our daughter miraculously napped through our meal at La Prévôté. We dined on chilled asparagus soup and sea bass with fresh herbs and sunset-colored root vegetables while sipping crisp white wine in a garden courtyard surrounded by olive trees. It was the picture-perfect Provençal lunch.

Afterwards, I think Catherine's French sensibilities were a tad offended when we asked to go to the McDonald's drive-through to grab our daughter's meal, but the chicken nuggets were much more to Karissa's liking than the fresh fish, turnips, and deep purple potatoes would have been!

Gordes in Le Luberon, France

The town of Gordes (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Afterwards, Catherine brought us to Gordes, a picturesque town cut into the side of a mountain with a gorgeous view of the verdant valleys of Provence below. My husband and I drank afternoon cafes cremes to rouse us from our noontime wine while Karissa ran a muck, pulling relentlessly on her safety harness (or as some might call it, her “leash”).

We weaved in and out of the town's darling shops that sold decorative ceramics, packets of herbes de Provence, and the darling household knick-knacks you'd expect to find in this region of France.

Musee de la Lavande, Coustellet, France

Museum of Lavender in Coustellet (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

In mid-July, Catherine told me it was already late in the lavender season and I may not be able to fulfill my longing to see a field of the fragrant flowers. Still, she drove us to the Museum of Lavender in Coustellet so I could purchase some lavender-themed souvenirs. We had to get back to the ship in time for its departure so only I jumped out and ran into the gift shop to select scented sachets, soaps, and lotions to bring back home.

The museum sat amid a lovely field of lavender. I took a brief moment to inhale a deep breath of the earthy, floral scent indicative of Provence before hopping back in the car.

Goofy on Disney Mediterranean Cruise

My daughter hugging Goofy as we re-boarded Disney's Magic (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

As always, a Disney character was just outside the ship, ready to greet our family back aboard Magic. This time it was Goofy. My daughter hugged him like an old friend. At this point in our cruise, he truly was.

While shopping in Gordes, I purchased a teddy bear wall decoration with seven hooks above which the days of the week were written in French. I told my husband I was buying it for Karissa's room, but in my heart I knew it was for the baby's room…the baby we were hoping to someday have and whom I would discover that night on board the ship (thanks to an EPT brought overseas) I was already carrying with us on this journey.

French Teddy Bear Plaque

The teddy bear wall decoration that now hangs in my son, Leo's bedroom (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

I wanted a second baby. And I would come to discover in the next few months just how desperately I wanted that baby when my first trimester screen revealed that I was at high-risk of miscarriage or of giving birth to a child with Trisomy 13 or 18, a severe and life-limiting birth defect. The doctor urged me to undergo amniocentesis (which would put me at higher risk of miscarriage) to determine with absolute certainty whether my baby had this disorder so I could terminate the pregnancy if I wanted. I discovered something you cannot truly know until it is you carrying the baby. While I am pro-choice for others, I am profoundly pro-life when it comes to my own child. I refused the amniocentesis.

I am, and will always be, beyond grateful for my little boy, who was born perfectly healthy four-and-a-half weeks early. While Karissa had always been a daddy's girl and today her allegiance vacillates somewhere between the two of us, Leo is staunchly a mama's boy.

I never thought I wanted a son. I had longed for a sister for Karissa and a second pink-clad girly-girl. Who knew how wonderful it would be to have a little man in the house? He is at once a thunderous clap of noise and a sun shower of love. He flings toys across the room and kicks the water from the bath. Then he snuggles into my neck and gobbles up my heart.

However, when I found out I was growing a new baby inside my belly, instead of the pure joy I felt upon discovering my first pregnancy, I felt a loss. There are rare moments when you know with absolute certainty that life from that point forward will forever be different. This was one of them. I knew we were no longer a trio. Our family had become a quartet. That night and for a few weeks to come, I mourned the loss of my sweet family of three.

Big sister with her newborn baby brother

Big sister kissing her newborn baby brother (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Even though Leo wasn't born for another seven months, maybe the reason I look back upon our Disney Mediterranean Cruise with such nostalgia, beyond the awesome customer service, family-friendly fun, and attention to detail, is because it represents for me a last hurrah for our family as a threesome.

That trip will forever hold a special place in my heart…for the time spent together as a trio…for some of the happiest vacation memories of my life…and for the momentous discovery that my family and my heart would soon expand more than I could ever imagine.

Have you ever experienced a life-changing moment while traveling? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. First off, beautiful story — completely “get” your sense of loss at realizing your family of three would someday end. My life changing moment came during a trip to Alaska, when I had the honor of seeing & hearing a trio of wolves howl in Denali National Park. The experience moved me to tears & made me realize I needed to make some changes in my life. Can’t explain exactly why, but that trip set in motion many important changes in the years ahead.

  2. This one left me weepy, Colleen! Thanks for sharing. Loved your storytelling. XO

  3. Children definitely gobble up one’s heart. Grandchildren, too.

  4. What a beautiful travel memory.

  5. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Thank you for all of the sweet comments!

    Kara – Tears are the highest compliment. Thank you.

    Debi – I love your story about the wolves howling in Denali. I can picture that and why it resonated with you. Beautiful.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. It seems like our society expects pregnant women and new mothers to be completely thrilled. We aren’t allowed to feel uncertainty or mourn the loss of our previous lives. Of course, motherhood is a wonderful thing, but it does come with its ups and downs.

    Anyway, I loved the honesty in this post, and it struck a chord for me since I’m currently a member of a family of three. Thanks again!

  7. Lisa Bergren says:

    Love, love, love this post, Colleen! I’m with Kara, breaking out the kleenex…My life-changing travel moments: Seeing the Northern Lights all by myself outside Denali; gazing out an apartment window on the Grand Canal in Venice with three generations behind me; turning 40 in Tuscany. Loved it all!

  8. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Thank you, Sarah and Lisa. It means so much to me to know that this story struck a chord with you.

  9. Great story. Now I need to see Gordes and Coustellet!

  10. I felt the same mixed emotions when I found out we were expecting number two, especially since our son (also a “Leo,” GREAT name!!) had been an “only” for six years. But Emilia completes us, and brings a lot of energy (for lack of a more complementary term) to our travels!

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