Category Archives: travel

April in Paris

imageDoesn’t April in Paris sound magical?  I’m imagining a gentle rain, lots of shades of lavender and soft yellow and frequent bon jours. Happy sigh.  As my trip gets closer, I’m spending a little time thinking about what to pack (going with a navy/grey palette) and wondering how much of my high school French will come back to me.  Un  peu, I hope.

I don’t like to travel with a firm itinerary in hand, but there are a few things I want to do in Paris.  If I were traveling solo I probably wouldn’t plan anything, but since this may be the only time I go to Paris with my son, we’ve got to hit some of the sights. Please feel free to add suggestions to the list below!

  • The top of the Eiffel Tower.  I bought tickets in advance, but wish I had thought to do it sooner since all that was left was 5pm.  Do you know if we can just kill time up there until dark or will the tickets be timed?
  • Jim Morrison’s grave (my choice) and Napoleon’s tomb (Liam’s pick).
  • Notre Dame.  I hear it’s free on the first Sunday of the month.  Think this is true even if it is Easter?
  • Sacré-Cœur
  • The Mona Lisa at the Louvre – I think we’ll buy a two-day museum pass at the airport when we land.  Do you think it is a good deal?
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Eat & drink
  • Sit in an outdoor cafe and enjoy a bottle of wine in the sun.
  • Walk and take pictures to my heart’s content.
  • Enjoy my son and family who will be joining us from Germany

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Filed under Boys, Europe, France, ideas, travel, vacation

Je m’appelle Silvia. Je déteste à voler

imageYesterday’s tragic plane crash in the French Alps has really rocked me. I’ve never been an enthusiastic flyer and horrific incidents like this amp up my anxiety about getting on a plane in the next couple of weeks. In the big picture, I don’t think it really makes a difference why the plane went down, be it equipment failure, pilot error or some other more dastardly reason like terrorism. All I know is that I’m going to France next month and I’m not feeling too psyched about flying.

Many years ago I flew to London a couple of days after the Lockerbie crash and I don’t recall considering canceling my trip for even an instant – youthful ignorance was my probably my saving grace. The security at both JFK and Heathrow was incredibly intense that December, but there wasn’t anything getting between me and my New Year’s Eve in London plans. I boarded that plane without a moment’s hesitation.

Over the years, though, I’ve become increasingly less comfortable flying. I get motion sickness and find the stale cabin air to be a petri dish of nastiness and potential sickness. Finding balance between staying hydrated and using the airplane’s bathroom facilities as infrequently as possible, is tough to manage.

There was a time when I would have had a couple of drinks before boarding in the hopes that I would pass out fall asleep but, I think the potential for a hangover is too great and I don’t want to waste prime vacation time feeling like merde. I’ve learned to take a prescription medication to help to avoid the travel sickness and yesterday afternoon I took what seems like the next logical – I phoned my doctor and requested something for air travel anxiety.  Hello, Valium prescription.

I’m not taking this step lightly, I don’t really like taking drugs, but I know I will be uncomfortable flying.  Uncomfortable in so many different ways – emotionally, mentally, physically (my hips don’t appreciate sitting for 6+ hours), too.  I can deal with physical pain or emotional or mental discomfort, but the triple whammy of all three simultaneously is a bit much.  Sleeping through some of that sounds like a bonne idée. 

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Filed under Europe, France, travel

Cool moms rock

imageIn 2001, I accepted a librarian position at Mohonasen High School. Although I only remained in the district for three years (the position which I currently hold became available and I had to go for it), I made some wonderful friends, worked with some cool students and was introduced to some great music. One English teacher, if you can imagine, during my brief tenure exposed me to Jeff Buckley, Wilco and the White Stripes. Talk about getting an education!

My middle son was a toddler when I got a bootleg of the White Stripes’ Elephant and the song Seven Nation Army quickly became one of the songs he always requested in the car. Repeatedly, of course. It didn’t matter because I wanted to hear it, too. Loud.

Fast forward a dozen years or so, New York City, that same son and I walking up 7th Avenue. We were on our way to catch Jack White at Madison Square Garden… My son is tall, maybe 6’1″ and he looks comfortable. It’s the third weekend in January that he’s been in the city and it shows in his confident stride. He’s got a new phrase he’s been running recently, “you be you,” he says.  I love it.

I think I was 15 at my first show at the Garden, just like he is. Unlike Griffin, I never went to a rock show with my mother, not even in my imagination. Never. I understand that taking your kid to an adult-ish sort of venue can define one as a “cool” mom, and it’s a term I’m okay with except for the fact that I think it’s too small of a name.

You see, I take my kid(s) places that we both want to go because I’m a person who has interests. When my sons and I share experiences together we always learn something – about each other, ourselves, something. I love my sons, even adore them at times, but they aren’t my entire world.  They’re who I want to share my world with.  That’s what I want my children to take away from our outings and shows, trips and vacations.

As far as Friday night’s show in NYC, it was very much like time spent with my guys – really fun and not quite as much as I would have liked.  Absolutely memorable.

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Filed under Boys, concerts, family, moms, NYC, relationships, travel

Going Wild

I read.  A lot.  On any given day, I need to be prepared to “booktalk” titles, both fiction and nonfiction, with students in grades 6-12.  Intense, right?  This year, so far, I’ve read 55 books with a focus on titles of interest to middle school kids. After a couple of realistic novels about 6th or 7th graders, I generally need to cleanse my reader palate with something a bit more satisfying and tasty.  Something a bit, shall we say, Wild.

Yes, I know everyone read this book months (years?) ago while I was busy reading A Monster Calls, but that doesn’t diminish the impact this memoir had on me.  There’s just something about a female firsthand account of trying circumstances which I find completely captivating.  Imagine that.   

Cheryl Strayed’s recounting of her solo hike along the Pacific Coast Trail is an absolutely inspiring work of nonfiction.  I grew up in close proximity to the Appalachian Trail and have always been fascinated by the idea of trekking its length, but certainly not alone.  The physical and mental strength required to complete an accomplishment such as either of these is remarkable to me.  When you factor in the emotional state Strayed was in when she began her quest, her successful completion of her goal borders on the miraculous.

There were a number of passages in this memoir which caused me to pause, process and reflect, but none more than this:

“…it occurred to me for the first time that growing up poor had come in handy. I probably wouldn’t have been fearless enough to go on such a trip with so little money if I hadn’t grown up without it. I’d always thought of my family’s economic standing in terms of what I didn’t get: camp and lessons and travel and college tuition and the inexplicable ease that comes when you’ve got access to a credit card that someone else is paying off. But now I could see the line between this and that – between a childhood in which I saw my mother and stepfather forge ahead with two pennies in their pocket and my own general sense that I could do it too.”

Maybe I, too, can will go Wild someday.

Other inspiring autobiographies by women:

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Filed under Books, Recommendations, travel

Making a spectacle of myself

I’ve been wearing glasses since 5th grade.  I probably should have gotten them even sooner, but my mother assessed my eyes and determined they were fine.  Fortunately, an ophthalmologist differed with her opinion and set me up with some glasses so I could read the chalkboard without needing to sit in the first row of desks in my classroom.

Do I just buy the same pair over and over?

Do I just buy the same pair over and over?

I get a new pair of glasses every couple of years and often have more than one pair in rotation.  My prescription has recently changed and, while I was tempted to simply have my lenses replaced, I picked out a new pair of frames.  My insurance kicked in generously and Buenau’s gave me a great deal, as they have been doing for more than 20 years.  I ordered them right before I left for Florida, planning to pick them up upon our return.

On our last day in Disney we visited the Animal Kingdom.  After about 6 hours there, we headed to the condo for some pool time before going out for the evening at Epcot.  I had been wearing my rx sunglasses for most of the day and couldn’t seem to find my glasses.  I looked in all of the pockets of my backpack and in the car and concluded that I must have lost them sometime after that dinosaur ride.  I called Disney’s Lost and Found office.

Thanks, Disney World!

Thanks, Disney World!

Imagine for a minute how many items get lost in the parks of Disney World.  Don’t forget to consider the water parks, too.  A lot, right?  Articles of clothing, cameras, phones, eyeglasses, keys… When I filed a report about my glasses, I was optimistic about their return since I had a pretty clear idea of when I had them last.  That being said, when I phoned back two days later and they had actually been recovered, I was pretty happily surprised.  When I received them in the mail two days after returning from Florida, I was absolutely thrilled.  Seeing is believing – it really is a Magic Kingdom!

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Filed under Random, Summer, travel, vacation

Reflections of Disney

DSC_0188Well, we survived our theme park adventures relatively unscathed.  Quinn has a bit of a cold he picked up as a souvenir, along with the small tower of maps, used tickets and a Disney-esque handbook and completed passport.  He wore his new Mickey Mouse shirt yesterday and absolutely rocked it.  Good boy, good trip, good memories.

The past couple of times we’ve gone to Orlando, we’ve rented an offsite condo.  If you’re on a budget, it truly is the way to go, in my opinion. For just under $400 we had a one bedroom, second story unit in a resort approximately 15 minutes from Disney World.  There was a nice pool area, washer and dryer in the unit, a full kitchen and sleeping accommodations for 4.  I’ve been lucky using Craigslist for this sort of thing but, of course,  I always check reviews and feedback before committing.  This experience was really positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to book it again.

During past visits to Disney, I remember being put off by the expense of food and merchandise.  I don’t really know what’s changed (perhaps traveling with only 1 child rather than 3?), but things didn’t seem too outrageously priced to me this time around.  We generally ate breakfast at “home” and went with a late lunch at whichever park we happened to be in.  I usually got a decent salad for about $8 and Quinn dominated chicken tenders wherever we went.  We actually had a sit down meal in “China” while in Epcot and that was our biggest indulgence at $53, sans alcohol.  The quality of the food was better than decent but less than stellar.  I think Disney knows their market.
DSC_0035Here’s the thing about Disney – it pretty damn expensive.  Two days of park hopping set me back nearly $500 and that was with Quinn still considered a child at nine-years of age.  But…once you’re in, there are no additional charges for entertainment or rides.  We went to Universal for a day and their “fast pass” system comes with a hefty additional fee, while Disney’s is included with your admission.  The employees/ cast members were, with only one exception (yeah, you Ms. Norway),  were helpful and friendly, the bathrooms were clean and well stocked and there were plenty of spots to escape the heat of the day.  I do think they should consider a new attraction, though, something I’m calling the Cat Napper.  The way I envision it is a boat ride a la It’s a Small World, but silent and dark with individual reclining seats and eye masks scented with lavender.  It will last 20 minutes and will only be available to adults 25+. Build that, Disney World, and I won’t hesitate to come back again in August.

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Filed under Boys, family, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Family, lost and found

DSC_0195One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers.  Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace.  I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else?  Very.

Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend.  Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros.  I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter.  Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage.  Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage.  There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.

Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition.  I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves,  sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force.  Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating.  Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected.  That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent.  Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.

As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.

We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now.  There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long.  For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach.  There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family.  She’s truly the mother of my heart.

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Filed under aging, family, friends, girlhood, holidays, relationships, travel, vacation