Bryce Roberts and his wife, Merry, of Cape Elizabeth were passengers on one of the last flights to leave Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris before volcanic ash in the flight stream stopped all traffic. Their April 15 flight was delayed on the tarmac because the pilot announced they were “dealing with some issues,” said Bryce.

Roberts and his family travel to France often. “I’m caught up with the way the French love their country, their language, and their culture,” he says.

The Roberts have visited France at least once a year since 1999. In 1995, Roberts took his three daughters on a father-daughter bonding journey.

During their recent trip, the couple spent 10 days in Ste. Maxime in Provence and then used their rented car to meander on to Paris. They made no advance reservations — allowing them to experience impromptu stops. They had no problems finding suitable rooms.

“We continue to discover the beauty of France with every visit,” says Bryce.

As a U.S. Army soldier, Bryce was stationed in Orleans, France, for 14 months in 1965-66 where he worked for awhile as a military journalist. Later, he took his wife back to France in the winter of 1971 on the couple’s honeymoon.

Roberts, 69, is a retired 40-year Maine golf professional. He usually plays golf three or four times during the couple’s French vacations. Every club has been welcoming and accommodating to him. He says, “How many American golf pros are driving around France?”

During this past trip, he played at The Pau Golf Club, built in 1856, located at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains. He was awed by the beautiful scenery in the snow-capped Pyrenees. “My wife says the mountains look like they’re topped with fluffy meringue,” he says.

Roberts says his passion for France began with his father, the late Dr. John Roberts, a York County osteopathic physician. “My father was learning French by using tapes or records. He wanted to know how to speak French,” says Roberts.  Many of his dad’s patients were Franco-Americans living in Sanford and Saco.

Roberts and his wife rent a villa in Ste. Maxime where they stay before driving to other areas of France. A 14-day stay in the three-bedroom villa in Ste. Maxime costs 540 euros, or about $725.  Ste. Maxime is located in the Gulf of St. Tropez. When looking across the water at St. Tropez, Roberts says the view reminds him of Saco and Biddeford Pool from Prout’s Neck in Scarborough.

Following maps (not a GPS), the couple drove through  cities, villages, visited chateaux and abbeys on their journey to Paris. Bryce played golf four times — in Albi, Pau, Biarritz, and Chantilly. He says, “Americans don’t think about France for golf but they should.  Most private clubs are accessible with prior notification. One usually needs a letter from your golf professional as an introduction.”

In Orleans, they dined with friends from his military days and several days later with a French golfer friend in Paris.

Roberts said most French people think he and his wife are British or South African rather than American. In his 11 years staying in Ste. Maxime, only a few people guessed they were Americans. Most say the northern New England accent confuses them.

French people are friendly everywhere they travel. Roberts doesn’t speak French fluently but loves to try to improve his language skills by constantly asking the natives questions.

“We’re already planning our next journey to France,” he says. He’s not deterred by volcanic ash disrupting a future trip.

 

Juliana L’Heureux can be contacted at: [email protected]