SHOTMarket day in FranceBy Mary Jo Murphy...

MY BEST

May 09, 1999

MY BEST SHOT

Market day in France

By Mary Jo Murphy, Baltimore

My younger sister is studying abroad in the small town of Aix en Provence, in the southern part of France. On market day, I hurried toward Place de Precheurs, where stands with colorful canopies sold the bounty of the earth -- fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers in beautiful arrangements, spices, cheeses, breads and pastries. Along the narrow streets were vendors selling clothing, linens, sachets of lavender, antiques, books, artwork, jewelry and crafts. I spent the entire morning going from vendor to vendor.

A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE

A gift of white water

By Martha McCoy

Special to the Sun

Paddle right, rudder left!" our leader shouts over the rushing water as we navigate the second of five rapids on our course down the lower Youghiogheny River. I'd wanted to go white-water rafting for years. My husband and friends respond to my rafting invitations with: "Are you crazy?" "Not in a million years!" and just plain "No way." I'd almost given up until, on one hot July evening, I receive an eight-hour "rafting trip-for-two" as a birthday gift from my son, who also volunteers to be my companion -- the ultimate gift!

My rafting day dawns sunny and clear. As we drive toward the river, I mentally review advice about safety that I'd gleaned from magazine articles and local sports-store experts. Hints such as, "Anchor your toe in the stirrup on the floor of the raft -- but not too securely (so you can escape if the raft capsizes)," and "Joint bouncing will help to dislodge the raft from a rock." Every one of these suggestions comes in handy during the trip. (The raft did not capsize. However, I was prepared.)

Upon arrival at the rafting site, we pick up gear -- helmets, life jackets and wet suits -- and join our group. Next, three kayakers share their expertise, teaching us how to adjust our equipment and helping us practice some basic rafting "moves" that will help us navigate the southern Pennsylvania river rapids. Donning our wet suits (a humbling experience), we climb onto a bus for the short ride to the river.

The rafting teams assemble randomly. Ours includes a teen-age girl and her mother, me (a grandmother) and my son -- an unlikely crew, at best. We immediately elect the teen-ager to be our leader. She is the only one who has any rafting experience.

Before we begin the trip, our three kayakers slide through the water, making certain that each raft is ready for the coming adventure. Their job is to herd us safely down the river, guiding us around or through each of the rapids, help those who fall overboard climb back into the rafts, serve a sumptuous lunch on the rocks and describe some of the interesting sights along the way. Quite an assignment. However, each team is responsible for navigating its raft down the river. Three kayakers can only do so much!

And we do it all. Our teen leader confidently captains our group forward. We paddle contentedly in the sometimes-smooth water, conquer the churning rapids and even hang up on the rock. At the end of the day, we feel like pros.

After hauling our raft out of the water and placing it on the company truck, we climb wearily onto the bus and return to the rafting headquarters to turn in our gear before heading home. A surprise gift, tucked securely under my arm, is a video of our rafting trip. I still get a rush when I watch it.

The day is filled with breathtaking natural beauty, the yin and yan of terror and confidence, and ultimately the exhilaration of accomplishment. A wonderful, isolated moment in time that eclipses bedeviling routine schedules and everyday concerns -- truly one of the highlights of my life.

Martha McCoy lives in Timonium.

READERS RESPOND...

Where is your favorite place to camp?

Maine

B.J. Abernathy

Edgewood

" `The Gathering' in Ellsworth, Maine, combines cozy woods with rugged shoreline, making a peaceful atmosphere. Its location 20 miles from Bar Harbor provides the liberty to day-trip in many directions." --

Idaho

Sherry and Jerry Glass

Reisterstown

"Backpacking with llamas through Payette National Forest, McCall, Idaho, never seeing another soul; crossing fast-moving, ice-cold mountain streams; walking through flowering meadows, grasses reaching to our waists, under blue skies. We climbed to the top of the world. Time ceased to exist."

Delaware

Jan Heaberlin,

Towson

"Having camped at Cape Henlopen since my youth, I still bring my family to this wonderful beach state park where the bay and ocean meet. Campfire, foghorn and stars at night; views from atop the World War II observation tower; and a nature center all add to this unique camping experience."

OUR NEXT QUESTION

What is your favorite spot in New York City? And why?

Please answer in 50 words or less.

Send via fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

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