Walking along the Seine in late summer, I watched the sun sparkle across the water. With a baguette tucked under my arm and a chunk of French runny stinky cheese wrapped in paper, I strolled and nibbled my way along the quaint cobbled streets of the Left Bank. The year was 1985 and I was on a six week vacation in Europe before starting my second year of a Ph.D. program at the University of Washington. I adore traveling and I loved Europe. My pores soaked in every moment, the sounds the sights and the flavors. As soon as I got on the plane to return to Seattle, I began imagining when I might be back.
I never thought it would take another 24 years, half my life, to see the city of lights once again! Years paying for college and graduate school left me with mounds of debt and I worked in low-paying jobs, never seeming to be able to get ahead. If I did hop on a plane, it was to visit my family on the east coast. I longed to find some way to make a trip overseas a reality but it never happened. Somehow I managed to wander very far afield from my dreams and passions.
Last night, a friend and I went to see the movie, Julie and Julia. Julia Child’s story is amazing to watch and Meryl Streep played her to perfection. But what really stopped me in my tracks were scenes of streets and markets of Paris. In one week, I will be there. Big Papa and I are spending three nights in Paris before heading off to Yerevan, Armenia’s capitol. It will be Big Papa’s first time in Europe proper. He’s visited London and Wales, but never the European continent. I can’t wait to share it with him, even though it’s just a blink of a visit.
At first, my list of things to see and do was quite long. Surely we would not sleep. We would visit the Rodin Museum, take a boat ride on the Seine, hike up Montmartre and visit Eiffel Tower at night. There were restaurants to dine at, markets to peruse and neighborhoods to explore.
As reality began to seep in, I realized that I would need to distill my list to just a few chosen gems. I agonized about which attractions I might trade, when it finally dawned on me that what stole my heart and held strong in my memory all these years was just the experience of being there. No matter what we do or where we go, we are in Paris. Together.
I can’t wait to hold Big Papa’s hand while we traipse through the Tuileries or sweat our way up the steps to Sacre Coeur. He’ll see the light dance in my eyes when I spy a chocolate shop a few doors ahead. We’ll both relish meandering through the little market we were surprised to find when we took the wrong turn and rounded the corner.
Bon Voyage to us! All aboard to Paris and then on to Armenia.