Some of us are more accident prone than others: We fall in love at the drop of a hat, especially a bush hat from Australia or a woolen cap from Scotland.
We fall for the music of creaking floors in Kyoto temples, for streaks of sun that cling to Roman ramparts, for basso bells in Alpine meadows, for nosegays of daffodils on city corners.
We are pushovers for poetry that is read to us when we catch cold during wintry visits to New England inns, especially if it is The Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Mass., and the verse is from Longfellow's "Tales of a Wayside Inn." We tumble for candlelight dinners, walled cities, climber roses and the person who can bring those joys together.
The first time I fell in love was on a ski slope in Montana. I broke my foot on a downhill lie. It healed before my heart.
A Fall Unnoticed
I've broken other bones in travel and have sworn each time to be more cautious in where I walk and what shoes I wear. I tripped on cracked tile steps at a Mexico resort and went down in good-looking sandals that no one noticed.
That night I was particularly grateful to a stranger in a neighboring cottage: she offered an Ace elastic bandage and Empirin with codeine. That night I was not particularly grateful to the American and Mexican fellows who insisted on carrying me to my room on a litter. The litter they chose was a bulky, wrought-iron lounge chair. Throughout the staggering journey, they complained about their burden: the quintessential piling on of insult to injury.
Despite broken toes and fingernails, I keep going back. Romantics do that, you know. There are no hopeless ones. Romantics hope that all moons will be full, all showers will bring rainbows, all relationships will be blissful, all nations will find peace.
Travelers of a romantic nature seek out places of a romantic nature to foster their faith. Two of my favorite shrines to wanderlust are in Brittany, that rugged peninsula of western France which seems more akin to Cornwall than Paris.
There's the elegant Chateau de Locguenole, an imposing manor that rises in chestnut woods above the River Blavet near the sea south of Hennebont. Massive tapestries and antique furnishings warm spacious bedrooms and parlors. Tall windows open to the breezes of Brittany and to moody clouds and forest. A large swimming pool is hidden beyond a stone wall and garden, a fitting balance for the chateau's superb cuisine, which carries two Michelin stars with infinite grace.
Two minutes by car from the chateau is its charming annex: the Residence Kerniaven, a restored farm cottage with open beams and wide stone hearths in 12 restful rooms. Both hostelries are managed by a dynamic, blue-eyed Breton, Mme. de la Sabliere, president of the Relais et Chateaux group in Brittany.
A feature of country architecture in this wild and stubborn land is a steep wooden staircase which turns as it rises from sitting room to sleeping loft. Sometimes there are no banisters. When the bath is at the bottom of such stairs, it's smart to keep a flashlight by your bed.
Come midnight and the flicker of a candle can seem as dim as the memory of an old flame.