“Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry,–determine to make a day of it.”
– Henry David Thoreau
It’s hard for me to sum up in words my recent school trip to Europe.
Along with my school’s Italian teacher (aka my roomie: the Frick to my Frack), we teamed up with the educational travel company ACIS and lead a group of 18.
It was a mix of students, parents, teachers, and our two moms. We ranged in age from 7 to 75.
It wasn’t a vacation.
It was a trip.
In 10 days, we packed in two countries – Italy and France – and a handful of cities – Rome, Florence, Pisa, Eze, Nice, Pont du Gard, Nimes, and Paris.
Passengers reported and compared their daily mileage as tracked on their Fitbits and we averaged nine a day.
We were on the go.
This was a trip.
On this trip, I was reminded of all the reasons I travel again and again: Tasting unusual foods, experiencing new cultures, hearing and trying out world languages, meeting locals, laughing over follies, sharing and telling life stories, and learning. Always learning.
For those 10 days we were each other’s people.
I was reminded how important it is to be a helper – to raise each other up, to lighten each others’ loads, spirits, and moods, and to look after one another.
I was reminded to sink into life and be where you are.
It’s easy to sink in on vacation like it’s your job.
The trick is to take a vacation mindset into your everyday. To truly sink it to where you are – be it at home, school, work, traffic, or the grocery store.
I was reminded to carry more ish with me – whenever possible. The ish embodies: I’ll be there at 5ish. It may take 10ish minutes. The ish allows you to savor life and take moments a little slower.
I like ish because it reminds me: “As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” (Buddha)
In the end, I was reminded that it’s the people you are with that count.
On this trip, new friendships forged and old ones deepened. I am forever changed by the people on this trip.
This is me with my fellow World Language teachers in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.
This is my mom and I in the same park:
Mama Joan (above) and Mama Judy offered up enough wisdom (and wisecracks) to write a book.
Memories surfaced, such as one of my favorite nights seeing Jamiroquai at the Arènes de Nîmes with my husband in 2005.
That was then … this is now that I texted to my hubs:
But mostly we created new souvenirs.
We laughed at inside jokes and jotted down quotes.
Who doesn’t love pretending you’re a policier in Paris? …
I counted to 18 constantly. For days after the trip I looked for our littlest traveler: Seven-year-old Aidan. He was a rockstar, epitomizing diving head first into new experiences. I ate up his joie de vivre.
Here he’s tossing the boule at our lesson in Nice:
This is moi in a heated competition at our Boules lesson:
If you’d like a walk through these 10 days in sunny July, scroll on.
We saw the Sites
There was the Colosseum, the Louvre, and all of the must sees in the cities we toured.
In Pisa, we posed as all of the tourists do:
We found out about the bee hives in the Jardin du Luxembourg:
The park is si charmant to me and there’s always a spot or three where I like to sit for a while:
We visited many churches: St. Peter’s in Vatican City and the Scala Sancta (the Holy Stairs) and San Giovanni in Rome.
The Duomo in Florence:
We stood on the Paris Point Zero marker in front of the Notre Dame de Paris indicating we would return to the City of Lights and walked on the original Rose line at the Saint-Sulpice church in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood:
Church candles fill me with serenity and I like to light them:
We Soaked in the Views
Ponte Vecchio in Florence:
I took an early morning jog along the river Arno in Florence and it was so worth the 6 a.m. rise. It was such a serene way to start the day:
The charming streets in Eze are a treat. I took a mental pause here and imagined a coupe de champagne and a beach read … bliss. But alas, we pushed on to the top.
The view from the Jardin d’Eze (known as the exotic garden) was worth the uphill, cobblestone walk:
My mom and I enjoyed looking out at the Mediterranean Sea:
In Nice, the sweeping panorama at Colline du Château of the Baie des Anges is one of my favorites:
From the top of the hill, the orange rooftops of the Old Town of Nice (known as Vieux Nice) are picturesque:
And of course the Eiffel Tower. Oh, Paris comme je t’aime!:
This was my bakers’ dozenth time in Paris and yet… through new eyes and with new people it was a new experience. In a city that large and historic, there’s always something unique to uncover.
If you can’t get to the top of the Iron Lady, then the annual fête foraine (summer fairground) in the Tuileries is a fun second to catch a sweeping view.
Several people went on the Ferris Wheel and four others (myself included) hopped on the swings. As my 13-year-old rider told me, “This is a good risk.”
We Remarked on Quirks
We meet Mr. Ed in Pisa:
I swear as he chewed his bubblegum, it truly looked as if he was chatting us up. We pealed in laughter as we talked to Mr. Ed:
This man is raking the Boules’ playing court on the quatorze juillet (or as we know is Bastille Day). The French take their Pétanque and Boules seriously.
Our tour guide, Lucy, bought out to an incredible restaurant, Finisterrae in Florence. It’s a new must go.
We tried crêpes, moules marinières, gelato, and pizza. The Japanese teacher was on an exploration of the countries’ potato chips and a French student was on the hunt for the best macaroon.
We landed on our top choice at Pierre Hermé. The salty caramel was to die for, i.m.o.
I bought my girls these ginormous gummy snakes:
Fresh food marchés and corner stores abound:
We didn’t hit up a McDo, but could have … it was in walking distance from the Trevi Fountain in Rome:
The outdoor cafes, bistros, and restaus in Italy and France make for welcome spots to sit on a hot day:
Or for a quick bite:
We tried to eat at L’As du Falafel – my go-to spot for lunch in the Marais neighborhood of Paris – but the line was down the street. We ate at Chez Marianne instead. It was also quite good.
This is the view coming down the stairs from the loo. Bathrooms are so interesting in Europe.
I love sampling new eats while traveling and this trip’s best takeaway was a goat cheese, sliced watermelon, and arugula salad – miam miam!!
So much. Our guides were fantastique!
We learned French and Italian words, food facts, cultural tidbits, and so much history. I wanted to attached a memory tube from the guides to my brain to absorb all that was presented to us.
If you’re wondering how many statues of Lady Liberty there are in Paris, the answer is … je ne sais pas. There’s the most famous near the Pont de Grenelle with beautiful juxtaposition with the Eiffel Tower and then there’s this one in the Jardin du Luxembourg:
I know this because we learned from the best. ACIS tour guides are knowledgable, hip, and friendly.
Here were are at the Louvre getting schooled by Lou (our Paris guide) on Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People:
There was charm.
Our rooms at the Hotel Domus Sessoriana are obtained from the cells of the monastery attached to the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The air circulation was bunk, but the charm, oh mon Dieu!
There were crowds at the Vatican (and the Eiffel Tower and Louvre):
There were plane shows and fireworks on Bastille Day:
There was street art.
There was English:
There were lots of windows, bikes, and scooters.
In Vieux Nice:
I love the charm of bikes and scooters:
As always, thanks ACIS.