William Keepers Maxwell Jr. (August 16, 1908 – July 31, 2000) was an American editor, novelist, short story writer, essayist, children's author, and memoirist. He served as a fiction editor at The New Yorker from 1936 to 1975. An editor devoted to his writers, Maxwell became a legendary mentor and confidant to many of the most prominent authors of his day. Although best known as an editor, Maxwell was a highly respected and award-winning novelist and short story writer. His stature as a celebrated author has grown in the years following his death.
"The Pilgrimage" almost certainly is a story based on something experienced or something heard by Maxwell. It gets so much right about tired tourists on the road. The Ormsby's are an American couple touring France. On the way to Paris, they make a detour to find a restaurant that friends have told them about, saying "it was the best dinner they had in their life" How can the couple not have dinner at a place that specialized in truffles and also " deserts made from little balls of various ice cream in a beautiful basket of spun sugar with a spun-sugar bow."
They drive through village after village and finally come on a place that seems right except the menu has neither of the dishes they are seeking. And neither does another place on the town square. They are completely obsessed with having the things they were told about and act in the way Americans are always accused of acting.
This is a satirical story, of course, meant to point out the problems with tourists in foreign settings. Maxwell is a master of this sort of story. And I can't say enough about the quality of his novels. especially TIME WILL DARKEN IT, THE FOLDED LEAF and SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW.