Because I place such a high value on traveling with Martine, I thought nothing last December of ditching my plans in an instant to visit Peru so that we could go to France and Italy. At that point, nothing was firm yet—I planned to go in September or October. (I frequently plan in advance by so many months that all my friends think that I have already gone and returned.) But continuing problems with her back, especially where soft beds are concerned, induced her to cancel the European trip.
There is never any guarantee when staying at strange hotels that your bed will be firm or mushy. Fortunately, I can tolerate a fairly wide range; but Martine’s range of acceptability is much narrower. It’s a pity, because her half-sister Madeleine in St-Lô (near the D-Day Beaches of Normandie) is ailing and cannot travel herself.
In the meantime, I am resuming my Peru reading program, which consists primarily of:
- Novels by Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru’s only Nobel Prize winner in literature
- Novels and poems by other Peruvian literary notables, such as César Vallejo
- Histories of the Spanish conquest of the Incas
- Other Peruvian histories on subjects including the War of the Pacific, which Peru lost to Chile in the late 19th century
- A biography of Simon Bolivar and possibly José de San Martín, the two principal liberators of South America
I don’t know how much I can read before the departure date, which has not been set yet, but I will do my best.
All this preparation is, for me, a kind of courtesy. I do not believe in visiting another country without knowing enough of its language, culture and history to be conversant with the locals. That has helped me considerably in Argentina and Iceland. Plus, it is a pure pleasure for me to prepare a trip far enough in advance—especially during tax season, when there is little else to forward to. I have little truck with those travelers who believe in being “spontaneous” at the cost of making their fellow Americans look like dunces.