Finding Quincy

When the girl at the tourism office in Mieussy, France asked if I would like to meet John Berger, I blushed.  It wasn't about fandom. I had too much respect for his work to meet the man. It would be like
Trail from Ley to Mieussy
meeting John Lennon. On the other hand, I had already spent a day wandering the wrong Quincy. I had already taken a bus, wandered up the wrong road, strode back to my starting point, considered the directions again, and eventually reached a hamlet that is in the midst of change from rural to suburban. A theme of Berger's Into Their Labours trilogy -- the work that attracted me to the area -- so it might have been the right place. But it did seem rather accessible, and not as high in elevation as I had imagined. Back at my computer I looked up Quincy again and found the second one, listed in Wikipedia in connection with John Berger. Of course. Further, higher. Remote enough that the bus switch in Annemasse didn't happen on my first try because I didn't know I was supposed to have made a reservation for the second bus from Annemasse to the commune of Mieussy. Consequently, the six hours I hoped to spend in Quincy immediately dwindled to four, because I had to catch the last bus back to my connection at Annemasse, a dreadful place, said an Irish friend, soulless, grey. Maybe so, but a girl at the A tourism office was kind enough to call Mieussy tourism and explain my situation. I had planned to walk from Mieussy to Quincy and had written walking directions in my notebook, but with so little time...No, there wasn't a bus to take me from Mieussy to Quincy. However, the Mieussy tourism officer was going home for lunch and would pass through Quincy, if I wanted a ride, if the bus reached Mieussy in time. It did and she first drove me to the town's only boulangerie to buy a sandwich, because there are no restaurants in Quincy, she said. This second tourism officer, the helpful Delphine, was the one who asked if I wanted to meet John Berger. He is friendly and open, she said, he would be happy to meet you. But when she called a friend of his, it turned out that the aging writer, thinker, artist, art critic was in Paris. Which was a real relief. For what would I have said to him? I love your books? I've read the Trilogy several times? I've longed to see the Alpine settings you described? I'd like to tap the truth of people the way you tapped the truth of your characters?

The question has come up before, on other trips to the neighbourhoods of writers I admire. New Orleans for Walker Percy, the actual version of his fictional intersection, Elysian Fields and Bons Enfants; the pool where Tennessee Williams swam; the NY East Village doorway that bears a plaque commemorating Allan Ginsberg, who wrote Howl there. Joyce's Martello tower in Dun Laghoire out of Dublin. It has to be fandom to some extent, yet if I could meet the writers who drew me to those places, it might ruin it for me. As Henri Matisse said, it's not the artist it's the art. The work. Celebrity, while it gets one's works known, is not the point at all. So what is the it that might be ruined?

I looked around the quiet hamlet of houses, gardens, farms. Feeling a bit the sneak thief, I took some pictures of the oldest house, which belongs to the Bergers, and then I continued down the road to Ley, where I followed Delphine's directions to the chapel, then followed a partially wooded trail through just the sort of setting I had pictured, took a wrong turn down a steep path, climbed back up using the long, silky green grass in the meadow alongside for a handhold, and finally made it back to Mieussy, in plenty of time for the last bus.