Cindy's European Vacation Blog
Lessons Learned, and Looking Ahead
Written by Cindy Pattillo Wednesday, 03 February 2010 17:11
Months after returning home I continue to think about the trip and how great it was in every way – having never been to Europe it was amazing to experience all the places that I had heard of but hadn’t seen. In addition to being fun and interesting, it was also an incredible learning experience. One major lesson is how relatively small the U.S's place is in the history of the world; I "knew" that before but hadn't "lived" it, which truly made all the difference. Likewise while I understand the significance of the U.S. in the modern world, the role and importance of everyone else is in better perspective.
My personal philosophy during the tour was that "There are 10,000 things we could do, and we only have time for four,” which was a reminder to myself to enjoy what we were able to see and do without being disappointed over what we missed. In addition, I made an effort to just let things happen, rather than always needing to have a plan – in other words, to be happy with doing any of the four things we had time for, rather than trying to figure out how to accomplish the best four. I've attempted to do the same at home – to occasionally just enjoy what happens, however it happens, without a lot of effort involved.
Half of the fun of this trip was being with the other members of the tour. Ours was a special group, and we were all so fortunate to have had this experience together. Four of us with ties to Dallas have already met here for a leisurely Italian dinner, great conversation, and of course lots of wine! I sincerely hope that continues, and that there will be more reunions in the future with the members of our tour family who are scattered around the U.S. and Canada.
As a result of this excursion my desire to continue to travel, especially internationally, is profound. Before this trip I definitely wanted to go places, but now the destinations and reasons for wanting to go have changed. Using Jennifer’s words, it's the difference between wanting to be a tourist and wanting to be a traveler. With this urge to continue traveling it’s helpful to now know that you really can go just about anywhere and for any duration with only one small suitcase, as long as you pack right and your bag has wheels. (I think that’s a life lesson as much as it is a travel one.)
Soon I’ll be starting the search for my next job and I feel like this trip affected my perspective regarding what I want to do next. It's not that I necessarily want a job that involves travel, although that would be just great – it’s more that I want to do something interesting, life-changing, world-changing, off-the-beaten-path, whatever. Maybe going to Europe started me down this path, or maybe I chose to go to Europe because I was headed down this path already. Either way, I just know I’m not the same person that I was when I left, and I can’t wait to see where I end up next. With that said...
C’est fini (It is finished)
Crossing Items Off of My Bucket List (Europe)
Written by Cindy Pattillo Tuesday, 02 February 2010 17:19
A couple of years ago when the movie “The Bucket List” came out, I started making note of what I’d like to accomplish before kicking the proverbial bucket myself. The list to this point has about two dozen entries on it, none of which involve performing a medical miracle, being elected to high office, or winning huge amounts of money. What many of them do involve, however, is a common theme: I want to go, see, and do!
With this trip I was going to have the opportunity to cross up to three items off my list. The first was to spend a month in Europe; traveling for 25 days – including three full weeks on a formal tour – made this one close enough for me to call complete. I also wanted to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre – mission accomplished on the last full day of the tour. The third, which had been a goal long before I had even considered creating a formal list, was to drink champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower. Before leaving home I had tried unsuccessfully to determine (A) if I could buy champagne at the top of the tower, (B) if not, then how difficult it would be to sneak the stuff up there, and (C) how serious the penalty might be if I got caught doing just that. (Having the bubbly confiscated was one thing; being barred from going to the top altogether was another.) I couldn’t get definitive answers, so had decided, grudgingly, to just let it go.
Although I thought I was OK with it, upon reaching the top of the Eiffel Tower I felt some disappointment at the realization that my goal just wasn’t going to be met. As a result I was positively ecstatic when I rounded a corner and saw a little window where tiny plastic flutes of champagne were being sold. They were about $15 each but at twice the price I wouldn’t have cared – I would have bought a round for anyone up there who was willing to join me. Teresa, Dan and Katie opted to share in my experience with a single flute, and soon after we had champagne in hand the hourly light show started, as did my tears. A month in Europe was life-changing and the Mona Lisa was amazing, but drinking that champagne was absolute bliss.
After the Tour: Rain, Rain, Go Away (Paris)
Written by Cindy Pattillo Monday, 01 February 2010 15:08
We awoke on our last full day in Paris to proof that the weather gods had been on our side until the tour officially ended – for the first time it was full on raining. The closest we had come to rain was the damp, drizzly day we spent in Amsterdam; we had visited the Anne Frank house that day though, so the weather had seemed somehow appropriate. With yucky weather awaiting, Teresa and I slept in for the first time then had a late hotel breakfast before heading to the Rue Cler to drink wine and people-watch. Spending the day inside a museum wasn’t very appealing so we were relieved when the rain finally stopped. We decided that drinking wine had been the key, so made sure to continue that throughout the day to ward off more bad weather!
Teresa suggested we try to locate cheese fondue for lunch, and not being one to ever turn down cheese I was happy to go along with the idea. Rony had told us that the Latin Quarter was a great place to find diverse, inexpensive food options, and that’s where we found a small restaurant that served not only cheese fondue but an excellent salad of smoked salmon and oranges. After lunch we spent the afternoon “getting lost” in the Latin Quarter, as Jennifer had encouraged us to do at every new location along our tour route. We bought a few souvenirs, and then returned to the hotel for a short siesta. After that it was time for more of what we had seemingly focused the entire day on: food.
Although it was a Monday, an “off” day when many businesses are closed, restaurants apparently have no such off times. The first one we picked was completely booked, but our second choice turned out to be perfect. Since it was our final dinner in Paris (and Europe for that matter) we both went big. I opted for escargot and chateaubriand, followed by an apple tart with some sort of mystery homemade ice cream that was to die for. Teresa ordered a gorgeous salad consisting of half a melon filled with greens, and a whole sea bass (with head and tail intact) that she filleted herself – very impressive! She bought dinner for both of us, which made what was already a really great meal even more special. On the way back to our hotel we stopped one last time for a glass of wine, and sat outside to enjoy it while contemplating our remaining few hours in Paris. The next day we would be leaving Europe, and heading for home.
Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, and the Last Goodbyes (Paris)
Written by Cindy Pattillo Friday, 29 January 2010 17:09
After saying goodbye to everyone at breakfast, Teresa, Steven and I spent the day at Versailles. We took the train there and then for several hours we wandered mostly outside around the massive grounds. The gardens were amazing and there were dozens of fountains that were impressive even if they weren’t operational during our visit. We walked literally miles that day attempting to see as much of the place as we could, although we all agreed to a somewhat speedy trip through the palace – after three weeks of museums we were OK with this particular tour being a quick one.
When we returned to Paris the three of us met up with Dan and Katie. Steven still had a week in Spain on his itinerary, so we all walked to the Metro station to see him off. After that the remaining four of us had really good sushi for dinner before heading to the Eiffel Tower, which was just a short walk away. Although it can be very crowded, we were in luck – when we arrived we had to wait in only a very short line before going up. We bought tickets for the glass (!) elevator to the lower deck and walked around there for a while before deciding to take a second, even more intimidating glass elevator to the upper deck. On both levels we took lots of pictures while enjoying the incredible view of the city and its landmarks by night.
Eventually it was time to leave, so we took the elevators down and walked back to the hotel. Teresa and I said our final goodbyes to Dan and Katie, who were leaving very early the next morning. Along with Steven they had been such a significant part of the trip for me, so these were some of the hardest goodbyes of all. With their departure, for the first time in three weeks Teresa and I were once again on our own, as we had been when we arrived in Amsterdam the day before the tour began. As we had in The Netherlands, we intended to make the most of our additional time in Paris.
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