My Grandma wasn’t what you’d call a share-er. I can still remember how careful we had to be about what we ate at Grandma’s house, because there was our food and her food. This isn’t to say I didn’t love my Grandma or even visiting her home, but sharing just wasn’t high on her virtue list.
Except for one thing. My Grandma loved sharing the world. Her living room wall was adorned by a giant world map, covered with pins pointing to the places she’d visited. At the age of 82, my Grandma is still adding pins to that map. Over Thanksgiving last year we had the most fun googling a possible trip she wanted to take across the Trans-Siberian Railway.
My first semester at college was a biggie – I jumped straight out of my childhood bedroom and into a dorm in Israel. Because precocious.
About mid-way through the semester, I got an email about my Grandma. She wanted to share. Money. With me. The Grandma who didn’t like sharing her can of green beans wanted to give me a thousand dollars. If I used it to travel. And only if.
Well I’m no fool. I rounded up two friends who were game to extend our semester abroad by a few weeks and pop over to Europe. The first $50 of that $1000 was spent on a backpack that was all-too-gigantic for this girl.
Me, Natalie, and Gil traipsed (I told you, traipse is my word for Europe) (link) throughout Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France. There are so many moments and stories from those three weeks that greatly shaped who I am. Including my palette for travel. Me thinks Grandma knew exactly what she was starting. And I like to think I will someday be the Granny with her world map pricked by multiple pins.
But Paris. Who sneaks out of Paris? This girl.
See, Paris decided to go on strike while we were there. Everything shut down. Including ATM machines. Paris isn’t exactly a society that invites you in for free. And I was far too proud to use my mom’s credit card. Foolish youth.
So we had a few coins in our pockets, and that was it. Natalie and I bought a bottle of water and a baguette to share, and that was our fine meal ala Paris.
The one commodity we had left was our Eurail passes – good to at least guarantee us a night on the train. Any train. Bound for anywhere but there.
And so began the quest to depart. A bit tricky with all the strike-business. Turns out that the trains were still running on schedule, but you couldn’t get a reservation because of the strike. But you couldn’t get on the train without a reservation. And so it went.
The train platform looked like the old movie scenes of people making runs on the banks in It’s a Wonderful Life. And two blonde girls (yes, I was once blonde) jostled and elbowed along with the best of them – with the help of some hefty backpacks.
It didn’t take long to catch on to the scheme. We were told that once the train departed, it was reservation-shmeservation. We just had to get on it.
Attempt number one was a blunder. How do two blondes jostle fifty pound bags onto a train inconspicuously? Answer: They don’t.
We snuck onto that train three different times before we made it past the steps and into an actual compartment, where we huddled with a Brazilian couple who had also snuck on. Without a shared language, we all communicated quite well as we huddled and waited for the rhythm of the train to get. us. OUT. I can still remember us rocking back and forth to the early huffs and puffs of the engine, inwardly chanting I-think-we-can-I-think-we-can-I-think-we-can, very much hoping we would be the little engines that could indeed just leave.
As the train sighed its way out of the station, we all exhaled deeply. We’d made it. Escaped Paris. The City of Lights. Strikes.
So this week I reclaim, dang it. I’m going back to Paris. With my own credit card. And my man. And a hotel reservation. And all the grown-up-things that the last 16 years have taught me.
Paris, I hope you are kind. I hope you love me back this time. Let’s both make Grandma proud and earn you a proper pin in the map, shall we?