I’ve never been very adventuresome. Actually, I’m quite boring and feel somewhat threatened when forced to try new things. My idea of high adventure is ordering a dish I’ve never tried before in a restaurant. I just suck. But I wasn’t always such a dud. I pulled my share of shenanigans (in legal terms it’s probably called a misdemeanor) when I was a teen. I assume there are still some people from my home town who might consider me an instigator when we were growing up. Hmmm.
Although I like vacations, I’ve never felt the pull to go very far away from home. My biggest reason (or excuse) were Mom and Dad, who still lived in Iowa. So the majority of our trips were to visit them. I took a couple vacations with Mom & Dad to California and Colorado when I was a kid, but failed to visit Mount Rushmore (practically in my own back yard during my first 35 years of life) until I was 45.
My bucket list consisting of Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Alaska and the redwoods of California have yet to be checked off before I check out. With so many places I long to visit in the states, I had absolutely no desire to travel abroad. None whatsoever. In November 2012, our son Joshua and his soon to be bride, Erica chose Cancun as their wedding destination. This was as far away as I had ever been from home. It was an awesome, all inclusive resort and I had a blast. I was very brave and signed up to go scuba diving. Pretty big accomplishment for this big coward. I enjoyed it immensely but just thinking about scuba diving was way out of my comfort zone.
So my oldest child. Shannon. The polar opposite of me in most respects. (She did get my snarky gene, however). A born leader. Successful in all her endeavors. Multiple lofty goals. Graduated with a PhD at 37. Has about 400% more ambition than her mom. Soon after we moved back to Jackson in 2015, she suggested we take a BIG trip together. (For several years before we went antiquing/shopping to different states together once a year-kid less). The way she phrased this unknown adventure was, “let’s go somewhere while you’ve still got your faculties.” (Wicked sense of humor) I was about to turn 65.
So she booked a 12 day tour of Rome, Florence, Assisi and Venice, Italy in the summer of 2016. I blogged about how fantastic the trip was (except I had been limping for 6 months with a sore knee and did drag the whole group down at times). I won’t go into trip details again, but I will concisely define the trip in 2 words. The Coliseum. Wow. Just wow. Ok 5 words. Sorry.
Fast forward six months after our Italy trip, late fall-winter of 2016. Our youngest granddaughter, Peyton was one of 50 teens selected to tour France and Germany for 6 weeks during the upcoming summer of 2017. Peyton would be part of a choir from Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Shannon was going for at least a month, Tracey and Landon for a week.
Without much fanfare Shannon quietly put this bug in my ear. “I’ve got an apartment in Paris by myself for a week after Tracey and Landon leave but before Peyton joins me to go sightseeing. All it would cost you is your flight to France Mom. You in?” Ok, I don’t know any sane person who could say no to a week in Paris/Germany for the cost of a round trip ticket. Three weeks later I was landing at Charles de Gaulle airport. Waiting for me was Shannon in her rented Mercedes (which I got to drive over 100 mph on the Autobahn. Unbelievably stoked).
Shannon had been in Paris and Germany for weeks already when I landed and had gone sightseeing with Tracey and Landon, so she rattled off some highlights of France. “Mom we’re spending 2 days in Germany to watch Peyton’s last concert, but we have 2 days in Paris before and a day after when we get back. What do you want to see?” (All, I wanted to see it all). Two sights I had my heart set on had some issues. Both Versailles and The Normandy American Cemetery would each consume a whole day because they were quite far away. (I should have stayed another 2 days. Not a smart decision Neese, you were already there).
But during my rather short time in Paris I managed to visit the Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Plus a 7 story, high end Shopping Mall. And lots of great food. Not gonna lie and tell you the Cathedral at Notre Dame was my favorite. It’s just me, but much like arriving at The Coliseum in Rome (breathtaking-truly took my breath away) the same thing happened as I was nearing the Eiffel Tower. For some reason, I just couldn’t get enough and didn’t want to leave. And I took one of the best pictures of it-ever. It should win an award. Seriously.
Notre Dame though offered different feelings/sensations/emotions. Everything in America is so new compared to this holy place I was about to enter. I think about the 2 nuns who help manage the fabulous daycare/Montessori school where I work. Sister Vicky and Sister Carolyn. There are no 2 finer women of God on this earth. I wish they were walking beside me to explain in detail the wonders of Notre Dame.
The first thing that struck me was-there are no pews. Anywhere. (Did parishioners stand up during a church service hundreds of years ago?) Folding chairs abound. The Cathedral was cool-as in chilly, very dark and quiet, considering it was packed with tourists. Saints and sinners. Believers and skeptics. The statues, artwork, and glasswork are simply overwhelming. You’re shuffling along quietly, eyes drawn to some gorgeous statues, trying to memorize how, what, when, where and why so you can retrieve that information when you rediscover that picture again in 2 weeks on your phone. Suddenly in a few feet, your eyes are feasting on another masterpiece, plus 3 minutes of reading material. Just a huge overload on so many levels.
I was surprised how emotional I got when I heard about the raging fire engulfing Notre Dame. It hurt my heart. These strong feelings feel somewhat strange. I was not raised in the Catholic Church. Before this trip, I never thought about Notre Dame (except for South Bend, Indiana and the Disney movie, Hunchback).
A special Cathedral which has stood for 850 years. I’m happy people are stepping up with massive donations to rebuild. I’m ecstatic for the quick thinking folks who removed artwork before it was damaged or lost. I’m forever grateful that my wise daughter thought enough of me to suggest, “a free week in Paris for the cost of your plane ticket mom. You in?” Indeed…