On Friday, I dropped my youngest daughter at the airport as she embarked on an exciting European odyssey with a tour group that includes about 40 former classmates. Her itinerary includes a few days in Paris, a few days in Provence, a couple days in Barcelona and some beach time on the Costa Brava in Spain. In preparation for the 12-day trip, we spent 14 days shopping for the perfect ensembles, 10 days packing said ensembles, five days lecturing about guarding one’s passport with one’s life and a FULL two days deliberating (OK, fighting) about which blow dryers and straighteners offered the BEST combination of dual voltage-icity and power and compactability.
Except for a four-hour delay in Chicago due to weather, her trip across the pond went smoothly. Apparently. We got a call from her the first night that went about like this: Hey, I have to go. There’s a line for the phone. We had to pay for our own dinners because we were too late for the stuff we had scheduled. I’m really tired. Bye.
Today, her Facebook page informed all who visited that she was at the Louvre, being screamed at by a mean French woman. So far, so good.
Luckily, it’s not her first trip to France. We took the girls when they were 11 and 9, and that trip, everything went swimmingly.
Except my older daughter developed a heinous cold the very morning we left, and — I am NOT exaggerating here — went through TWELVE purse packs of Kleenex on the eight-hour flight from Cincinnati to Paris.
Then when we got to Paris, my husband, a seasoned international traveler, had planned a full day of activities for us. He is a big believer in flying through the night and “hitting the ground running.” So we deferred to his expertise, met the guy who showed us to the apartment we were renting in the really cool SoHo-like district of Paris, explored the apartment for about ten minutes, changed into clean clothes for sightseeing and went to bed and slept for ten solid hours.
I can’t speak for the rest of the family, but I might have slept all the way through to the next day, but I woke up because I was hungry.
We ventured as far as the restaurant downstairs from our apartment, where we ordered we didn’t know what, ate it while still not knowing what, then sat enjoying the total immersion into French culture and the accompanying wine. About this time, a VERY French woman, whom we had noticed staring at our daughters, came over to our table and … sat down. Right between the two girls. At least she brought her own wine. She posed for about twenty pictures with the girls, all the while rambling on about … something very exciting, presumedly, because she was gesticulating like she was directing a plane to the gate.
The next day, we actually got up like normal tourists and knocked off the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triumphe, where we sat for a few minutes, ostensively to people watch but, honestly, it was so older daughter could finish an exciting round of Wheel of Fortune on her hand-held game.
Then we let the kids get a little energy out by romping around a park, wrestling in the grass next to a sign that apparently said, in perfectly clear French, “Keep off the grass.” Stupid Americans. Of course you can’t walk on the grass in a park.
That afternoon, we went to the Louvre where, faced with a packed room shuffling forward at a pace of ten steps an hour, we sent the older daughter between people’s legs and crawling along the floor to the front of the room where she snapped a picture of the Mona Lisa and shared it with the rest of the family later. We spent the extra time bursting into peals of laughter at all the male body parts depicted in oil, marble and even tapestry.
About the third day, we headed to Montmantre, an incredibly cool artists’ community on a hill overlooking the city. We selected an artist to do a portait of the girls, then he had them sit, one at a time, for about thirty minutes each. The little one, who at this time wanted to be Julia Roberts (not LIKE Julia Roberts, that’s very different), would have posed for two hours. When the older daughter sat, the artist immediately came over to us and indicated his own nose. “Zeez? Zeez? Is naturale? Zeez is naturale?”
Yes sir, it’s completely natural. Her nose is always bright red and a layer of skin is nearly always shedding. PLEASE make sure you include it in the very expensive charcoal drawing.
Seriously? You were going to draw her red, peeling nose? People don’t get freakin’ COLDS in France?
Sometimes when I watch the Griswolds I’m impressed by how cosmopolitan them folks is. I reckon my darling daughter has made some fans at the Louve already.