Nearly two years ago today, I boarded a flight from Seattle to Paris, on a trip that would upend life as I knew it. This was more than a family vacation. It was a pilgrimage, to see the place where my mother grew up and where my grandparents still live today. It was on this trip that I finally bridged the gap between fantasy and reality, and found myself in the place I’ve known I belonged in my entire life.
Shortly after returning from France, and going back to not one, but two boring desk jobs, I felt that urge to get up and go. Something had always been missing from my life, and now that I’d up and gone to France, I knew what the missing piece was. It was travel. It was Europe. It was realizing that I could in fact pursue my travel dreams despite my low wages, limited vacation time, and general fear of getting out there. So I started this blog, made some travel plans, and the rest is history.
I couldn’t stay away from France for long, and with the generous assistance of my grandparents, soon I was planning a return trip with my boyfriend Dan. As we researched our destination, checked dates and saved our pennies, the trip of a lifetime grew to include time with my grandparents in Chaumont, a few days in romantic Paris, and a brief stint in Rome before returning Stateside.
After building it up for so long, I worried that the trip might somehow be disappointing. Maybe my grandparents wouldn’t like Dan. Maybe Paris wouldn’t be as beautiful as I remembered. Maybe Rome would be too hot, too touristy, too romanticized to be real. I was partially right on that last point (scammers and tourists galore), but overall, the trip was everything we wanted and much more.
All I want right now is to go back, but I suppose I can settle for re-living the trip here, with photos, with stories, and with memories of all the delicious food.
Here is what you have to look forward to.
We spent three full days with my grandparents in their hometown, as well as a couple of half days on either end. My grandparents were very gracious hosts, and thanks to them, we visited the city center, took a trip to Langres, and got a proper introduction to the wonders of French food. Champagne, anyone? While I regretted not learning more of the French language before our arrival, we made a good effort to communicate across language barriers. I learned a few new things about my grandparents, shared lots of laughs, and by the end of the trip, neither Dan nor I wanted to leave.
Chaumont is a lovely little slice of France, but hanging out with my grandparents and building up a relationship long obstructed by distance and language was probably the best part of our trip.
Ah, Paris. I love this city. Thanks to a very generous parting gift from my grandparents, the money we saved took us further than we could have dreamed. We planned on eating street food, picnicking in parks and buying groceries to eat in our little Airbnb walkup, but thanks to the generosity of Mamie and Papy, we dined in mid-range restaurants, shared bottles of wine, and didn’t think twice about purchasing a 7 Euro pastry from Angelina.
Paris was even more beautiful than I remembered, and wandering the city with Dan took the trip beyond a cliche and into the vacation of my dreams. Sure, there were bad moments mingled with the good, but overall, I felt lucky and grateful to be in the right place at the right time, with just the right company.
We ascended the Eiffel Tower in a lightning storm, rode a tandem bike in Versailles (an experience I am not likely to forget), and took a romantic sunset dinner cruise on the Seine. We climbed Notre Dame, mastered the Metro, and came face to face with Van Gogh’s self-portrait at the Musee D’Orsay. We did all this and so much more. Suffice it to say that I almost wished we could skip Rome and just stay in Paris a while longer. Almost.
We did go to Rome, and stayed in the perfect location near Piazza Navona. After an underwhelming first evening, we spent three full days falling for Rome. Those dark cobbled streets and sun-worn buildings, bold shutters thrown open to reveal delicate curtains and an abundance of greenery were a photographer’s dream come true. On our first day alone, we visited the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Villa Borghese gardens.
We drank plenty of espresso, tasted real Italian pasta, and had our first (and second, and third) gelato. We rolled our eyes at the scammers, were overwhelmed by the mess of tour operators outside the Vatican City, and spent plenty of time people-watching in Piazza Navona. And of course, we visited the Colosseum and the Roman Forum to truly immerse ourselves in Rome’s history. Plus, I finally got to wear all the cute skirts I packed for our two-week European adventure!
We were ready to come home by the end of it all. Living in a continent stuffed full of history, culture, fantastic food and beautiful people was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. By the time we checked into our airport hotel at Charles de Gaulle, we were looking forward to sleeping in and snuggling with the cat; cooking in our own kitchen and catching up on Game of Thrones. A little relaxation was in order after our nonstop tour of Europe. Two months later, I’m finally ready to sort through my almost 3,000 photo and share some of our favorite moments and top travel tips here on the blog. Stay tuned, my friends! The best is yet to come.