Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Well-Traveled Man and a Woman Who Can Pull Her Own Weigh, Scotland and England and France - Oh My! Part I

Two years ago my sweet husband and I decided to save our dough and take a big trip. I'm talking huge. Unlike the time we flew out of SFO (San Francisco) to Charles de Gaulle (France), then CDG back to SFO; I wanted a real planes, trains and automobiles vacation. So we decided to fly into charming Edinburgh, Scotland and out of the most romantic city in the world, Paris. Everything in between would be an adventure, no plans whatsoever. A tall order indeed, but we had almost three weeks to roam and the money to do it this time.

The last time we went to Europe it was 1996 - two crazy kids flitting around Paris, France for their 1 year wedding anniversary. Even thought the exchange rate was 5 francs to the dollar, as newlyweds, we didn't have two nickels to rub together and ended up running out of money half way through our trip. A big chunk went towards the Corsair charter, so upon arrival, we were shocked to discover that we had roughly 400 francs a day to live on - 80 bucks american. After finding a cheap hotel at 250f a night we survived solely on crepes, baguettes, spaghetti bolognese at Don Vito's and love.

Luckily, Tony's dad (my new father-in-love) was kind enough to pay for our stay at Hotel Studia, a great find on 51 Boulevard Saint-Germain. Without his help it would have been another kind of trip indeed! Now we were able to afford the Metro, a day at the Louvre Museum, Monet's Gardens in Genevieve and the extravagant train ride to Rouen in northern France, where Tony spent lonely summers as a boy. What a life changing trip that was for me, not to mention my first experience outside of Les États-Unis.

My husband on the other hand is well traveled. As a young lad he'd go visit his father on summer holidays. He was just seven years old when he first took a plane, all by himself, to see his dad in Santa Barbara. By the time he was fourteen he was taking trips to Rouen, France making eyes at the stewardesses, getting free pens and peanuts.

Being a man of the world at a young age has lasting effects. One thing I have always admired about my husband is his confidence. He is truly comfortable in his own skin. We can be anywhere, from the shadiest barbecue joint in Oakland to the swankiest restaurant in France, and he blends. While I'm awkwardly figuring out which fork to use for my salad, Tony is sitting with his back to the wall, gazing around taking it all in. Then he'll flash me a look and say something that melts my backbone, putting me at complete ease. The best is when a waitperson tries to intimidate us, jaded from waiting on too many rude or snobby patrons. He completely disarms them with small, polite acknowledgements so that by the end of the meal our server is all smiles and warm eyes. For a woman, this is a highly desirable trait and makes going out that much more enjoyable, and romantic.

Two months before our big trip, Tony and I and my best friend Evelyn went out to dinner. Over pizza and beer she announced that she too was going to Paris and wanted to know if we could meet up with her before we flew home. She'd just ended an eleven year relationship with a man I never really liked, except he had good taste in music and was a good dancer. I warned her that our plans were not set in stone, but of course we would meet her! It was thrilling to think of the three of us in Paris even if it was for only one or two nights.

Sometimes when you plan a big trip it all seems so far away and dream-like. With Ev's announcement, things were starting to become exciting and REAL. One month before leaving, Tony and I had a serious discussion about luggage. In the softest, most democratic way he told me his one fear - that he'd be left to carry the bags, or all of MY bags. Normally, I take three: my purse, a duffle bag for my clothes and a backpack for our arsenal of toiletries. Since we were planning to jump on and off trains, possibly travel by car through England, then take the Eurail from London to Paris, we needed to strategize. He opted for a long, OD green Army duffle bag. I on the other hand strategically chose a red roller that had secret zippers on the sides, so when unzipped, my bag resembled a pregnant ladybug. C'est parfait!

The night before we left Alameda for Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-bur-ah) I spent two hours packing and unpacking to no avail. I was new at putting everything in one bag! I called Ev; she came over and showed me how to roll everything up. By the end my suitcase looked like I was smuggling tortillas from Ramiro's, but everything fit. "Won't the inspection people just undo our rolls and throw everything back?" I was proud of our pack job and yet resented the amount of time it took. "Who cares?" Ev said, "You're going to Europe!" "See you in Paris!" I said, then we both screamed like 12 year old girls.

Right before we hit the hay Tony and I made a practice run; he with his bag and me with mine. I must admit it was difficult. After clumsily rolling my ladybug down 50 stairs, out to the car, then swinging her into the trunk without any assistance from Tony, I was sweating bricks. It was time to lighten the load. I went back inside and removed 5 sweaters 5 pants 2 jackets 4 skirts 9 shirts and one pair of boots.

As I drifted off to sleep I remembered how I almost froze to death in France, in October circa 1996. "Maybe it won't be so...cold...this time in October." I whispered. "No matter...we're going to have a great adventure...together." Tony whispered back. Boy was he right.

1 comment:

  1. I want to go! You two or so fraction authentically adorable. Minus those sensible shoes you're sporting next to the preggers ladybug of toiletries :). Hehe