And so it begins…

This is a travel blog. But it’s also a love story. So let’s call this a “blovy.” For months I’ve struggled to get my beloved, Mohammed, to get as engaged, (ahem) possibly obsessed, as I was with planning a trip to Europe. In despair, I turned to my daughter Meghan to complain that he just wasn’t into it. She laughed. “Mom, what man do you know who plans like a woman?”

Thus began my long journey of surrender. I would have to plan our trip. I read. I researched. I scoured websites and cajoled friends into sharing their European travel secrets. And then I called my wonderful travel agent at Elizabeth Holmes Travel, Joy Bjork. Sure, I watched Rick Steves videos – travel porn – and sure I booked some apartments on VRBO. But when the reality hit that we’d be visiting nine locations in three countries – I let the agency book trains, cars, and smaller hotels for the stops in between VRBO havens.

Mohammed and I met later in our lives. Neither one of us is going to change. I’m a driver, a planner, a gal who gets shit done, who prizes efficiency. Mo is a live-in-the-moment guy, very amiable, sometimes hilarious. Sometimes a bit daffy. I love this guy to pieces. But in the days leading up to departure, he drove me nuts! He went out shopping for suitcases five days before we left! My suitcase was bought, packed, and tested on a recent flight to my home town, Cleveland back in August!

I spent three hours typing our itinerary, including live links to the websites of all the places we’re staying, not only so we could figure out that if it’s Tuesday, this must be Lourmarin (a great little village in Provence), but also so that our loved ones could track us down. Then I put together a binder with all of our train tickets and car reservations in order, plus maps, travel insurance, the whole shebang.

Now, we find ourselves in Paris. In a mere nine hours of jet travel, we’ve gone through the looking glass into a new realm. I’m dazed and amazed, punch drunk with beauty.

image
Walk across the Pont Neuf our first night in Paris

 

Continue reading “And so it begins…”

Overcast in Paris

 

The “city of light” is gray-blue and cloudy and I like its proud defiance of stereotypes. Edges are more blurry, shadows more mysterious. Judiciously selecting side streets, it is possible to avoid the hordes. Not at Notre Dame, of course, but sneak around back and a whole new world appears. A sweet park, gravel crunching underfoot, and symmetrical lines of trees. A few moments of peace.

And then, music!

image

Strolling across the bridge to the Ile St. Louis, we walked straight into a free concert.

Paris is a  veritable riot of colors, textures, smells, and the most amazing food! We turned onto a cobbled street and stumbled into a tiny creperie with a prix fixe lunch and French diners mixed with tourists. I ordered the gallette, a buckwheat crepe with an egg, Gruyere shavings, and sweet onions. Mohammed chose the salmon fettuccine.

Dessert? Mais, oui! A traditional butter and sugar crepe along with honey and creme fresh. Wash it down with the house white, and I’m a happy girl. Salad and veggies tomorrow we promise each other. But then….

image

We just looked, I swear, but where else in the world would you find a tower of macarons so artfully arranged? And it went on like this, store window after store window, so that we zigged and zagged from side to side of the street immersed in exotica, fashion, and whimsy.

And so the afternoon passed, strolling the Seine, winding up at San Chappelle where the gendarme were out in force with stern faces and automatic weapons. Mohammed calls Paris, “The city where I see pretty girls with cigarettes hanging from their mouths.” Sure enough, when I turned to snap a photo – a pretty girl smoking.

image

As is often the case, he observes details I miss, especially as they pertain to women!

By the time we arrived back at our two-floor studio apartment on the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we were cranky and tired. We had stopped at a fruit market on Rue Honore and brought some beautiful figs and grapes, and our host left us a bottle of champagne – voila, couch picnic!

image

And then, afterwards, a raging argument. Mohammed was born in Saudi Arabia. English is his second language. Talking is one thing – we are both expressive so body language and gestures carry us far. But I asked him to read my first blog post in this series, “And so it begins…” He was not pleased. “You made it sound like I don’t do anything.” The more I tried to explain about poking fun at my own obsessive nature, about irony, about my “blovy,” the deeper the rhetorical black hole.

Travel is stressful, and spending 24/7 with your beloved offers a minefield of triggers. We “brailed” our way through, with a combination of intense discussion, acknowledgement of unintended hurt, language and cultural barriers, and apologies. Our policy is never to get in bed mad.

Let me set the record straight: Mohammed constantly offers comfort, affirmation, warmth, and barrels of affection. Yes, we are opposite personality types. Polar opposites. But when the magnetic field aligns, whomp!  As one friend wrote, admitting she is also a planner, it’s time for me to let go. Amen, sister!