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Lately I’ve been contemplating my life and what to do with the rest of it. Such activity brings a plethora of forgotten memories to the forefront of one’s mind. So I started doing some research into places I’ve been and the various times when I’ve been fortunate enough to visit.

Quite a few years ago, shortly after the U.S.S.R. became Russia once again, my dad paid for my brother and my 14 year old nephew (K) to go on vacation together, anywhere in the world. His logic was to separate K by experiencing something most will never. He wanted to elevate him above any dalliance in less than positive basic teen life choices. K selected Russia. When my brother asked why? K. responded, “it has the Hermitage dad, THE.HERMITAGE.”! This from a 15 year old boy.

Over time he sent my niece, E off with her mom to the destination of her choice… Strasbourg, Austria for the same reason. She loved music and studied violin. My father believed that travel was the best way to expand one’s world and promote understanding between countries. Among other things, he gave my brother and me a love of travel.

My dad spent an inordinate amount of time traveling on business in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s in South America, but those amazing stories are for another time. He felt it opened a person up, changed them forever. He could understand a person growing up in one place and never venturing out further than local expeditions but personally he felt it was such a loss and was grateful he did not choose that road.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

St. Augustine

Since my father owned his own business, every summer vacation he would arrange jobs in different states which, of course, he needed to supervise. These usually took a month and we drove the whole way to the destination and back (again, more stories, but for a different time). By the time I graduated from high school, we had seen every state in the continental U.S.; Alaska and Hawaii would have to wait since driving there was difficult if not impossible and my mother was not a big fan of flying.

Now, I know people who are true homebodies, I grew up with them, back in the Midwest and still keep in touch with them. They’re just happy with that. Unfortunately, I won’t ever be able to go back to such a kind of mindset because I would feel suffocated and wither.

As it is, this is the longest time I have been in the U.S. without journeying to another country. My passport has even lapsed, first time for that since I was 18. Though I haven’t mentioned it, the limitations my knee has placed on me as far as travel have vexed me no end. But enough of that and on to Paris.

This is going to date me but I feel I’ve experienced some remarkable things in my life. Sometimes when a person looks back on life, one is stunned by what they experienced and never realized the value of it till much later.

Photo Source   Hotel Scribe

During the summer of 1969 when mom, dad, Rusty (still annoyed with the little snot) and I flew first class to Paris where we spent a week at the Hotel Scribe on 1 rue Scribe, a five star hotel even today. We spent the time exploring the city, stopping for coffee and for me, a Tab cola at the Cafe de la Paix housed on the ground floor of the Paris le Grand Hotel. It has an amazing history as does the Hotel Scribe.

Photo Source Cafe de la Paix

I hate to think what my dad paid for this vacation. Rooms today run about $1,100-1,200 and more per night. It was an amazing experience though. Floor to ceiling french doors looked out on the rue Scribe. And my dad, while out for a walk while waiting for us to get dressed and so on, was propositioned by a French woman (prostitute) in a Mercedes 450SL. He was quite tickled by this. Of course this was a man who went out for a walk in the equivalent back then of an Armani suit.

This is also the city where I had my hand slapped by a street vendor for picking out an apple I wished to purchase. That was a nasty surprise. He then chose the fruit I would purchase. It’s also the city and time period where even if you were in a cafe dying of thirst and pointed to the word “water” in the French dictionary, “eau potable” or “eau en bouteille” your waitperson looked at you blankly. Getting ice was unthinkable. Still, I loved the city.

This is the place where I first tasted creme fraiche after a glorious meal in a small local restaurant. It was served over fresh strawberries with a sprinkling of large crystal sugar…sublime. It’s also where I discovered Kir and Beaujolais Nouveau. All of which were unheard of in the U.S. at the time, especially in the Midwest.

I LOVE traveling and do to this day. Wish I’d never lost my travel companion several years ago. It’s harder as you get older, but I’ve found that most cultures are very kind and helpful to their visitors in need…thank the heavens and wonderful souls!

At the end of the week in Paris, we were picked up by what would be our home for the next three weeks. It was a tour of Europe via bus.

A movie was even made based on it called “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” and was comically rather accurate. But more on that in the next installment of “Travel”.

Make sure you find what you like to do and please do it while you can, you’ll never regret it.

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”

Pat Conroy

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