A friend told me it exists. Yes, there is such a thing. It is called "Mal di Maine" (Mal Du Pays). It hits you if you are longing to go back to Maine every summer.
I wanted to go back and we did. Same town, same beach, same experience. We went to Ogunquit, for the second time, for a week. And now I am wondering why I did not grow tired of it, why I love this place so much and want to go back next year.
Could it be the lobster seafood extravaganza dinners? Could it be the smell of the pine trees mixed with the scent of the North Atlantic Ocean? The weathered cedar shingles and climbing flowers framing the windows of the old cottages sitting on Maine's rugged seacoast? The optical illusions in the art galleries? The European looking swimming costumes on the beach? Or perhaps the French language sounding in the background? It is hard to believe but at the local pizzeria the waiter talked to me in French. I also had detailed conversations in French about how to catch crabs with the kids Tronk was playing with. Funny. I was having those same conversations on a French beach thirty five years ago. Tronk was surprised to hear me speak French. He was smiling, almost enchanted, and was trying to repeat a few words, just like he recently started doing with John in English. There was magic in it.
There are a few other things I don't understand. How is it possible that we were walking, along nice paths, marked by beautiful houses, perfumed flowers and scenic views of the ocean, from our place to the beach, every day, instead of driving? How is it possible that there was no smell of burgers, Dunkin Donuts and chips, that the nearby markets were mostly selling salads, fruits and bread, that sandwiches were simple, that gelato was not an exotic thing from Italy and that the barista at the coffee shop knew all about macchiato? How can be possible that there were very few obese people, that the women were wearing dresses, instead of shorts and sweats, and that there were tanned men in white buttoned shirts and khaki pants looking at the ocean? And how come there were old-fashioned cute little stores (the corrispondent of the petits magasins in France) always open until late? Was I still in America?
Last year I wrote a posting on how much this place reminded me of the French village my parents used to take me to when I was a child. This year, going to Maine not only reminded me of my childhood in France but it also felt a bit as if we were able to come out of America and take a breath of fresh air. My father used to say: andiamo in Francia in vacanza perche' abbiamo bisogno di una vacanza fuori dall'Italia e senza italiani (we are going to France on vacation because we need to take a vacation outside Italy and without the Italians). Funny how perspectives are passed from parent to child.
Now Tronk is jumping up and down, while looking at the photos below and he is asking me when we are going back to Maine.
So tell me, what is it? Mal di Maine?