Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hibernation is OVER.

Yes, I'm still here, and my blog still exists.  I must admit that I have thought about posting for the past month now and have simply been either too busy or too lazy to do it.

But not today.

Quick travel update for my ardent followers: been flying a lot lately.  Two weeks ago I was in New York (again) for a competition, I spent last weekend in Dallas singing for a competition, and I leave tomorrow for Atlanta so that I can drive to Birmingham on Friday for, you guessed it, a competition.  What a fun life I lead!  So that's just a brief update, but frankly not the reason I am posting today.

I decided (a month ago) to start a series of some of my all-time favorite travel stories that I believe are simply too funny not to be on written record.  So to begin this series, I have to go right to one of my favorite memories of travel ever:

PARIS, 2005.  

I must admit before I begin that many of these all-time-greatest-hits involve some of the most wonderful people in my life: my family.  We are extremely close, and consequently, we find ourselves traveling together quite often.  I am mostly to blame for this since I am such a frequent traveler, we have often met up at various places to vacation together because I am already there.

So here goes:

In 2005, I studied abroad for almost 5 months in Paris, France.  love. Love. LOVE.  It was, hands down, one of the greatest periods (to date) in my life, and I have so many memories that it is hard to pick only a few to share in this blog.  

Actually not really.  Yes, it was the best experience ever, but there are a couple of stories in particular that will stand out in my mind forever, and this is one of them. 

It was the Fall semester, and my family decided to take the week of Thanksgiving to come visit me in Paris.  Now, let me just clarify exactly who is involved in the broad term "family."  When I speak of my family traveling together, it typically involves Mom, Dad, Sister (Lauren), Brother (Eric), Grandma, Uncle Steve (Mom's brother), and Aunt Sandy and Uncle Paul (Mom's sister and brother-in-law)...did I get everyone?  Yep, that's 8 people.  Typical for us, but not for anyone else I know :)

So they all planned to come during the same week: Thanksgiving.  Do you know what holiday doesn't exist in the European semester?  You got it.  Thanksgiving.  But it was a great time for them to come, despite the fact that I still had class all week.  

My first story for the record begins on the very first day my family arrived in Paris.  To avoid jet lag, it was vital to keep them occupied and awake so they could try to adapt to the time change as quickly as possible.

"So fam, what do you want to do on your first day in Paris?"

Eiffel Tower, duh.  

Great, no problem there.  I loved going there any chance I got, so it was perfectly fine by me to take them to one of the greatest monuments France has to offer.  We dropped off luggage at their hotel, tidied up a bit, and headed out on the Metro (Paris' subway system) to go see the Eiffel Tower.

It was awesome, as usual.  It's one thing to see this famous monument in pictures, but it's a whole new ball game when witnessed in person.  We had a great time walking around seeing just a bit for the first day and anxiously deciding what to do the rest of the week.  And it was time to go back to the hotel.

We headed back to the Metro to take a train back to the hotel when I realized what time it was: rush hour.  Boo.  It happens everywhere, folks, and in Paris, those train cars can get mighty full mighty fast.  So in herding the family onto the train amidst the many hustling Parisians dying to get home, I noticed that we were missing someone...


I looked outside on the platform only to see my little old grandmother walking around looking for something, totally oblivious to the fact that she was moments away from missing the train and getting lost in a country where she didn't speak a bit of the language.

In a moment of panic, I jumped off the train as the doors were closing, leaving the rest of my family in the moving train with looks of terror on them as they started moving away from me...no one there spoke fluent French, or for that matter, knew where they were going.  So I looked at my brother through the moving train's window and mouthed the words, "Go two stops."

And they disappeared into the train tunnel.

The platform was empty now, save for two people: me and Grandma.  I went up to her, still oblivious to anything that had just happened, and said, "Grandma, do you realize you just missed the train and almost got lost in Paris???"

And she looked at me with a very serious face and simply said:

"I want to buy a beret."


In my mind, all I could think of was:


But no, there was nothing to be said.

I want to buy a beret.

We waited on the platform together until the next train arrived (probably 5 minutes), which felt like an hour.  Grams and I took the train two stops ahead where I was praying the rest of my family would be waiting for us, and sure enough, there they were.  It was one of those wonderful moments my brother likes to remind me of when he says I got off the train and walked toward them with a look of frustration and absolute exasperation on my face.

Family in Paris, Day 1.  

This was going to be one hell of a week.

Special thanks to Grandma Ruth for giving me one of the best one-liners of my life.

I want to buy a beret.