If you know that we left for our trip July 6, you’ll know I wrote this column a week ago, but here goes:
Not to encourage letting a feel-good summer blockbuster musical shape major life decisions, but if truth be told, ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” songs played a bigger role in my family’s upcoming travel plans than some might think is wise to admit. Even still, I happily own the reasoning.
First, it was a song I’ve mentioned before, Slipping through my Fingers. In the spirit of not wanting the day to come when it was time for my daughters to move away or marry and me being full of regret at not having done the things and gone the places I had hoped we would, getting back into teaching offered an opportunity for more family adventures.
Our Last Summer also stuck in my head. “Walks along the Seine. Laughing in the rain. Our last summer. Memories that remain.”
All in all, those lyrics resonated in my head to the point that I had to do something.
As I write this column, my family is scurrying around the house printing boarding passes, washing clothes and finding all the pieces to the smallest games we own. Tomorrow morning, we leave for a month in France. We’ve rented an apartment in Paris but plan to travel around the countryside some, as well.
French friends have welcomed our plans into their schedules and lives. For example, the French student we hosted last year is picking us up at the airport and has invited us to spend a few days with her at the Normandy beach cottage her grandparents bought in 1950. Other French friends have invited us to their homes and offered to show us around — including our youngest daughter’s French immersion first-grade teacher, the French mime who performed in Lafayette this spring, a former student and a fellow journalist I met last summer in Canada. Having real people share the places they live, the food they eat and things they do with us is the way I prefer traveling.
The whole adventure isn’t nearly as extravagant as it may seem to some. Renting an apartment is more economical than a hotel. Plus, there’s the added benefit of having a kitchen – and bread and cheese around the corner. I am a travel-guidebook-reading-fiend. However, deliberately, we have not made many set plans for the trip. Yes, somewhere along the way, we hope to do the biggies. We’ll see the Mona Lisa and Versailles. We’ll sail the little boats in Luxembourg Gardens and take picnics and walks along the Seine. We’ll also spend our share of time in washaterias since we’re only taking one bag each. Beyond that, the month is wide-open and cell phone free.
I’ve wondered what our daughters will take from this experience. For now, Greer, 11, who wants to become a chef one day, said she thought the trip might affect her ideas on food and cooking down the road. Piper, 7, said she hoped the trip would make her a better French speaker.
We shall see.