The first time I saw Paris I was 14 and traveling with my grandmother. We crossed the Atlantic from New York on the SS France, arrived in Marseille, and travelled by train to Paris. When we settled in to our hotel somewhere on the Left Bank, we sent a telegram back to my parents in New York to tell them we’d landed safe. We traveled together for 6 weeks, me and my Grandma, with a pocket folder filed with train & plane tickets and paper printouts of hotel confirmations and itineraries. It was an adventure. Surprisingly, I remember quite a lot about Paris from that initial glimpse… the Champs-Élysées, the Mona Lisa & the Winged Victory at the Louvre, shopping at Galleries Lafayette, the Lido – and french fries without ketchup.
The next time I saw Paris, I packed a backpack and crossed the Atlantic by plane (and Europe with a 3-month EurRail Pass), traveling with 2 girlfriends after we graduated from college. In Paris, we camped out in a spare room in an apartment owned by friends of one of our parents. Paris was fun and exciting… We saw Godspell (sold out on Broadway at the time) in French from cheap seats, shared baguettes with cheese on park benches while checking the Paris pages of our Bible at the time: Europe on $5 a Day. We meet up with other 20-somethings at night, drank cheap wine in Montmartre, ate onion soup in Les Halles and sang harmonies to international hits.
It was another 11 years before I’d be back in Paris again – this time, on my honeymoon. We stayed in the Bristol Hotel near the Champs-Élysées, ate in 4-star restaurants and drove around the Arc de Triomphe in a rented Peugeot countless times before having enough courage to exit off one of the arteries that would take us to wine country and pretty little Chateaux Relais. Paris was romantic, gorgeous, in full bloom. We weren’t there as tourists but as lovers… we went to the clubs, sat in sidewalk cafés, strolled along the Seine…
I was back in Paris a few more times after that – as a spouse, with my husband on business, as a mother with my children – and meeting with my parents a few times, who were then taking each of my children on their first European adventure. We stayed in great hotels, ate croissants for breakfast and shopped ‘til we dropped. It was fun being in Paris as a family; it was new every time, seeing it through someone else’s eyes…
And now my own granddaughter is turning 14 a mere 52 years after I did. I’m finalizing plans for our trip to Paris next Summer. Just her and me. Our lives may be too busy to take a slow boat to cross the Atlantic, our trip may be shorter than mine so many years ago, and she may be constantly texting or calling her mom back in Boston, but I so looking forward to taking her to see the Mona Lisa smile and the Winged Victory… to her first authentic croissant and taking her picture in front of the Eiffel Tower. We’ll be making memories, she and me.
Written by: Sharon Carr, Founder of AmericanConcierge.com
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