Once upon a time, a young farmer took his courage in hand and boarded a plane to visit a woman-of-interest in Paris. She was working as an au pair for a prison director and his wife, learning the language as she cleaned house and looked after their three year old son.
They timed his visit to coincide with the family’s holiday trip away so that they would have the place to themselves, but after visiting a few Parisian highlights they decided to get out of the city. They took the train and spent a few days exploring the D-Day beaches and the amazing island monastery, Mont St. Michel.
Twenty-five years later, we find that no-longer-so-young farmer married to that hopefully-still-interesting woman and returning to France to share those special places with their sons.
Maxine and Stephen, with the Eiffel Tower, on the Arc de Triomphe, 1988.
Maxine and Stephen, with the Eiffel Tower, on the Arc de Triomphe, 2013.
Maxine and her boys in front of the Arc de Triomphe, 2013
Stephen and his boys with the Eiffel Tower, 2013
It was a blast!
We have friends who are also taking a two week family vacation to Europe this summer. One of their criteria for choosing the holiday destination was that it had to be a place none of them had experienced before so that they could discover it together.
I thought that was a cool idea but, in the end, my desire to share with my boys the special places Stephen and I had discovered so many years ago won out. And I’m so glad we did.
It was tres fun to see their faces as they stepped onto Place de Trocadero and saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, all lit up in the distance . . .
as they caught the first glimpse of Mont St. Michel rising up from the ocean and then steadily increasing in size and magnificence until it swallowed us up and we became pilgrims walking its narrow, cobbled streets . . .
as they wandered the battlements and gardens of Amboise Castle . . .
and discovered the D-Day Beaches: explored the German pillboxes and bomb-scarred landscape of Omaha Beach; stared out at the remains of Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches; walked on the sands of Juno Beach and marvelled at the courage of the Rangers who scaled the cliffs to take Pointe du Hoc.
I’m glad we planned our holiday this way. It was wonderful to walk down memory lane with Stephen and share our past adventures with the boys. We discovered some new places together, too.
Like the 200 year old stone cottage we stayed in for a week in the Normandy countryside.
And a decommissioned French nuclear submarine – La Redoutable.
And a Medieval Faire on the tent-filled grassy fields of a walled city.
And the creepy, skull-and-bone-filled catacombs uncomfortably deep beneath the streets of Paris.
It was all pretty amazing.
But I have to say, among all these wonderful things to do and see, by far my favorite was the sight of my first-born’s smiling face and the exquisite pleasure of the monster hug we shared when we were reunited after five long months apart.
After all, he was the reason for the trip in the first place.
It was oh-so-sweet to have the fourth seat occupied once again, in the rental car and at restaurants,
(I think his brother would agree)
but not nearly as sweet as having him home again with us now day after leisurely day.
* * *
I knew we were going to have a fabulous trip when I saw our rental car.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially cheeky, I end my posts with this symbol:
which is shorthand for a kiss and a hug and a smile and a wink all wrapped up in a big, cushy cuddle,
(I also sign my books this way)
It can also be read as SMAX (as in Smacks (kisses) from Max).
Which was the first thing I saw as I walked around our rental car
How cool is that?