I’ve read that as people age, some of their greatest pleasures lay in reminiscing about things they did, people they saw, and places they visited. Remembering adventures is so much fun!
My first trip to Europe was in 1987. I had been looking at my goals and realized I hadn’t traveled much. So when my Norwegian friend, Ranja, told me she was going home to Oslo for a visit, I said, “I’m coming with you!”
We planned a 3-week trip starting with a visit to London, and then to Oslo. I would leave her with her family and do a tour in Denmark, then pick her up at the airport in Copenhagen where we planned to rent a car and drive down the autobahn through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and into Paris. Ranja of course spoke Norwegian, and also some German, and we brushed up on our French language skills practicing with a tutor every week, too, so we were prepared for our big adventure.
We had lots of giggles and adventures along the way. In London, we were determined to see Les Miserables which was all the rage. But alas, when we asked the Concierge at our hotel, he shook his head and sighed, “It’s not possible. They’ve been sold out for weeks.”
We were disappointed, and went to see another show. (He recommended a new show – Phantom of the Opera – but Ranja didn’t think that sounded good. I still rib her about that!)
Our last day, I tried again with the Concierge: “We really want to see Les Miserables! Could you see if you could find us some tickets?”
Once again, he shook his head and said he was sorry but they were sold out.
This time I looked him dead in the eye and said, “We’ll pay.”
He brightened considerable at that. “Oh, well, with a bit of gold…” he said and I nodded.
“Give me an hour. Let me see what I can do.”
Front row Mezzanine. We loved the show and everyone around us was sniffling back tears at the end along with us.
Then we went to Oslo, visited with Ranja’s family and saw the sights. Since she wanted to spend more quality time with her folks, I flew separately to Copenhagen and joined in a 3-day Fairy Tale Tour of castles in Denmark. I had a blast with the group including two older women from New Zealand. The Italian man spoke a little English and his wife spoke a little French, and the French couple spoke a little English so we had fun piecing together conversations from all the languages (including sign). I was so glad I had brushed up on my French!*
*Side note: waiting in line at the Tower of London, I listened to a little boy speaking French so perfectly I was very impressed. When I mentioned this to Ranja, she said, “Chellie. He’s French!” Oh.
Then it was time to pick Ranja up at the airport for our drive through Germany, the Netherlands and on into France. We had one problem with the driving: we never could figure out how to put the car in reverse! So for four days we could only go forward. Try that some time. We only had one argument the whole trip which was when I wanted to drive the wrong way down a one-way street and she didn’t want me to. But I couldn’t turn the car around, so we had to do it!
This was back-in-the-day before the Euro, so in each new country, we had to change the money to the local currency. When we had lunch in Amsterdam and the check came, we had changed money so many times already, I looked at the bill and couldn’t remember the name of the money where we were. So I said, “Okay you owe me four...um… things.” She laughed at me, but she knew what I meant.
I loved Amsterdam and especially seeing the Van Gogh paintings. The picture books don’t do them justice. The energy of the brush strokes through the thick paint leaps out at you, and you know you’re in the presence of genius. The Vermeers and the Rembrants at the Riks Museum had the same effect on me. I wept at the Anne Frank House where we could actually go into the hidden attic where Anne and her family secreted themselves from the Nazis for two years. Did you know that Shelley Winters, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress playing Mrs. Van Daan, sent her Oscar to the museum? It is still on prominent display there.
Then France! For a whole week, we went everywhere, oohing and ahhing over the Eiffel Tower, the Musee D’Orsay, the Champs Elysees, and the Louvre. Just strolling by the Seine was glorious.
We had an adventure when we got off the bus after seeing Versailles. We always loved sushi and hadn’t had any yet on this trip. So we asked the tour guide, “Ou est un restaurant Japonaise?”
“Tout droit,” she replied, and we walked where she pointed to the sushi restaurant just down the block. As we sat at the sushi bar, I asked Ranja how to say maguro in French, and the Japanese sushi chef looked at me and said, “Oh, do you want tuna?” in perfect English. Hee.
Looking around, I spied a gorgeous blond woman, dressed to the nines, eating with a nice-looking executive-type gentleman. As I watched her, all of a sudden I recognized her – it was Catherine Deneuve, the famous French actress! We confirmed our movie star sighting with the waitress, who whispered, “Shhhh” with a finger to her lips.
On our last day, after visiting the Rodin museum, somewhat in a state of exhaustion, I asked Ranja what she wanted to do next.
“Actually, Chellie,” she replied, “I’d really just like to go back to the hotel and take a nap!”
“Thank God!” I said. “Me, too! And we curled up in Paris with sweet dreams before leaving the City of Lights.
Throughout my life I’ve continued to travel and je ne regrette rien.
I am really, really, glad I spent the money on all my fabulous trips and have a mind full of memories instead of a closet full of stuff. You can always make more money. You can’t always make more memories.
The purpose of life is to enjoy it!