With apologies to Mr. Jimmy Buffett.
Tomorrow I am leaving for Paris for ten days with Ed. We have both been to Paris separately, but never together. This trip is part business for Ed, all pleasure for me. Our hotel is walking distance to the Louvre, a stone’s throw from Opéra Garnier, and not too far from the Mothership. A thousand thank yous to my part-time boss, full-time friend who has outfitted me with a king’s ransom worth of Hermès from her private collection. It is not every day that a friend insist you borrow scarves, shawls and handbags which retail for more than your first car. Of all the things I will remember about this trip, I am sure my friend’s generosity will rank right up there.
I was fifteen the first time I went to Europe. My single mother believed so strongly in the benefit of travel that she dipped into her hard-earned savings so that I could participate with my classmates. It was an amazing trip — Paris, Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, no drinking age, and minimal supervision. We flew over on Pan-Am, back when people still smoked on airplanes and wandered the aisles with full shampoo bottles in their oversized carry-ons large enough to fit a five year old child. I loved every single second of it, and I’m so grateful for the sacrifice my mother made to send me there.
Now once again, I could not be going without Mom. She will be staying in my house and watching my three kids and crazy dog for ten days, which is no small feat. Thanks, Mom! I wish you strength and a sense of humor, and please know that we realize this trip would be impossible without you. Thanks, too, for my wonderful Dad and his girlfriend, who are my designated relief pitchers as well as emergency back-up. I will sleep well knowing my kids are in such great hands.
When I was younger, there was no place I didn’t want to go. I had such a drive to connect with the rest of the world and so firmly believed the shift in perspective achieved through travel contributes to an understanding of what’s really important, what really threads together humanity. And then the years passed and I got more and more insulated in my safe little world. International travel — especially without my whole family in tow — seemed more scary, more of a hassle, more stress, less fun. There is still a part of me remaining who knows it’s a good thing to get away, but she’s buried deep.
And all of the answers and all of the questions
Locked in his attic one day
’cause he liked the quiet clean country livin’
And twenty more years slipped away
—Jimmy Buffett, He Went to Paris
As I’ve told my friends, complaining about going to Paris is like complaining you’re too skinny to find a good pair of jeans. Not a lot of people are very sympathetic. And I’m not complaining, really. But I’m slightly worried and anxious about this trip, and I hate that I am. Travel is a leap of faith, especially for control freaks. However, I am determined to push through the fear and not let it stop me from doing something I really want to do. It’s what I would tell my children to do, and it’s what I need to do myself.
There are definitely two different people inhabiting me, and they frequently battle for dominance. Adventurous Me wants to travel the world and Safe Me wants to stay right where she is. Safe Me has been mostly winning the past twenty years and has developed into a bit of a hothouse orchid. She’s not that keen on leaving her perfectly controlled pristine environment and setting out for where Thar Be Dragons. But I realize that hothouse orchid is just a hop, skip and a jump away from agoraphobia, and I will not go there. I refuse. I am choosing Paris instead.
I can’t wait to share all of my adventures with you, culinary and otherwise. I am excited to stretch outside my comfort zone and return home to my loving family and friends with a fresh new perspective. And maybe a new scarf or two. Au revoir, mes amis. Je vous adore.
Never go on trips with someone you do not love. — Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast