As an author and humorist, Reid Champagne is known for his absurd & sophomoric observations of everyday life. While the story of how Reid met wife Carol (after being widowed late in life) is so sweet it belongs on Hallmark, his family would argue his inept & smart-ass tendencies belong on a 2020 reboot of Grumpier Old Men.
When Carol awoke Friday morning, I’d already been up for awhile. A long while. Before her eyes were fully opened, I completed a data dump of my collected thinking during the night. “We should head over to the train station to activate our Eurail passes…reserve our seats for Bordeaux…buy our tickets to Giverny for Saturday…change your money…take the 13 metro to L’orangerie…then walk the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe…then figure out the metro to the Eiffel Tower…walk to Rue Cler for dinner…then go back to the room and bed.” I managed to get all that in before Carol sleepily responded, “I need coffee.” It was unclear if anything I’d said to her had registered. Later, while Carol showered, I spent some quality time fretting whether I’d gotten enough sleep myself to last through the day. Being a travel companion is still very much a work in progress, but I’m learning to slow down and smell whatever it is these flowers are.
In spite of our wishes otherwise, we’re doing Paris like a couple of package bus tourists. But the overbearing structure and regimentation of If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium bus tours are missing. On our first afternoon here, we sauntered through Luxembourg Garden and out again. Carol was thrilled by the flowers still in bloom, and I was thrilled to see the kiddies with their nannies, as I remembered them back in 1971. (It might be that some of the kiddies I saw then are the nannies I’m seeing now.)
We strolled onto Notre Dame and Place St. Michel and had a leisurely dinner. We walked back home totally exhausted, but even I slept the sleep of the righteous.
Day Two was precision touring, seamlessly blending metro stations and sidewalks, as Carol and I glided to the Musee d’Orsay, then onto Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. Happy Hour, dinner and the metro home rounded out another full and satisfying day. Surprisingly, I was aware I was becoming quite accustomed to traveling with someone whose wavelengths matched my own, or was it vice versa?
My manic logistic eruption of the morning notwithstanding, Day Three turned out to be a masterstroke of Synchronized Sightseeing. It also produced what already is becoming a norm for us: stumbling upon unexpected visual treasures, like the torch memorial to America’s Centennial on the Avenue of New York that had morphed into a remembrance at the very underpass where Princess Diana had been killed. Or the Cathedral of the Hershey Kisses nearby and across the Seine. Acknowledging the icons of the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower that had been our destinations were anticlimactic, and we were learning by doing that the journey is indeed the destination.
Carol has shown a predisposition to compare what she’s seeing in Paris to attractions more familiar to her. So that the Eiffel Tower here is better than the one at the Paris Hotel in Vegas, for instance, or the long line at Monet’s house and garden was typical of those at Disneyland. The verdant hills of Giverny reminded her of Ohio. Of course, my comparing Paris to a glorified version of New Orleans merely underscored my own entrapment to American parochialism.
As long as our next visits to those American locales produce admiring comparisons to the City of Light, we’ll still be able to claim that travel is broadening.