de Rondefontaine, France
At some point during my reading of this book, I thought I wasn't going to enjoy it as much as I wound up enjoying it. Personally, I've never cared for olives, but, one man setting out on a quest to find the oldest olive tree in existence sounded intriguing. And indeed, it was. That man is Alex Dingwall-Main, a garden designer living in Provence, France. One fateful day, he quite literally runs into a wealthy man who just happens to be in need of Dingwall-Main's skills as a designer. The wealthy man, Latour, is in need of a centerpiece for his soon-to-be-magnificent garden, and Mr. DM is just the person to help Latour. It is decided that an olive tree would fit in exceptionally well in the garden, given its storied history and symbolism, as well as sheer beauty. However, not just any olive tree will do. No, Latour needs the oldest olive tree that Dingwall-Main can find. What follows is an account of Dingwall-Main's adventure across Europe, from France to Italy to Spain to Greece, all in search of The Right Tree. He finds one, in Spain, that is otherwise known as The Angel Tree, for both its shape and heavenly qualities. However, this tree is not for sale, at least not without a few stipulations. Peppered in between the author's travels are various tangents on how olive trees came to be so revered, brief lessons in world history, accounts of just what an eccentric Frenchman can be like, and myriad other interesting minutiae - which, I love in books like this. The story itself is endearing, as is its ultimate conclusion, but like many great adventures, the beauty lies in the journey, not just the final destination.