Robert is sleeping like the dead in our tiny hotel room. Meanwhile, I am wide eyed and unable to drift off.
We have just had, in my opinion, the most wonderful day of travel and most perfect first hours in France. I still cannot believe I am here, or that I get to spend the next 15 days enjoying moment after moment of relaxation and fun with Robert. I feel a bit as if it is my first time outside of the US all over again - and it feels magical.
We left Boston around nine Friday evening. After having stayed up until 3 am the night before packing and preparing, not to mention a full day of work, I was lucky enough to uncomfortably sleep through our red eye to Dublin, afterwards killing our five hour layover with more napping, window shopping, and of course, food. Robert was not so lucky, and despite his fancy noise cancelling headphones, had a much worse time of it - hence his current corpse like slumber.
I'm not quite sure when it hit, perhaps in the few days before our departure. Or maybe in the airport as I people watched and waited for Robert to meet me there. Certainly long before we touched down in Dublin or boarded our connection to Paris. But, already, I am overcome with the familiar child like glee that I find so difficult to harness and maintain in day to day life, but comes so easily when I find myself adventuring. None of the waiting, tiny rubs, bigger bothers, and frustrating details seem to affect me the way they normally do. Whats more, every small kindness and pleasure seems magnified ten fold. The only things I don't seem to have patience for are others who won't take part in the joy of the little things and find only the negative in travel - that and the cold. My Achilles heel, my nemesis, being cold will always sour my mood. And though the flight was freezing, luckily it seems France has welcomed us with true summer weather I have been longing for during the past winter months.
It is so exciting to be traveling on this big adventure, my first overseas trip in four or five years, with Robert. Aside from the fact that I love hearing his stories about family and traveling here, and that I love his speaking French, getting away like this is something I think will be so good for us to do together. We have both had a tough time, a lot of changes and ups and downs in the last year, and we have both been working so hard - we definitely deserve this vacation. I'm very curious to see how our travel selves will mix together in our first long trip - as our day to day selves have already found habits and routines around each others - sometimes not always in the best ways. I think its thrilling - and healthy - to shake things up for ourselves.
Already Robert seems pretty entertained by my oohing and awing over everything, my childish impulses, and my questioning how to say every single word and phrase in French. He declared how adorable I was to ask the customs officer in Dublin for a passport stamp, although we weren't meant to have one. But nothing feels better than attempting a phrase or butchering a question in French, only to see his eyes light up and a big handsome smile spread across his face. Even if I must seem very silly, Robert has given me free reign to be so as much as I want and never seems bothered - already a good start to seeing how we handle traveling together. I think he has even begun looking for little curiosities and unique niceties to point out - for example, the orange juice label in Dublin which advertiseed it as "Smooth, no bits".
I am so happy my happiness is bringing Robert happiness!
I am not entirely sure if Robert hopes to get anything more out of our vacation then, well, vacation - time with family and me, and of course time once again in France. He doesn't seem to have too much on his mind, unlike me, always becoming a bit reflective and thoughtful during travel (especially during plane and train rides). Then again, we have both been thinking and talking quite a bit about the work we do, the work we want to do... For me, I only hope to enjoy myself and recharge after all that has happened this year, since our move, and even before.
That, and, I am going to speak lots and lots of French. Today, I have, I am proud to say, talked to every stranger I have met in French - even if I say things wrong or have to ask for Robert's help. He and I have also been speaking French more with each other. Usually, it starts by me saying something quite simple, then moving on to something a bit more challenging, stopping every other word to ask Robert (in French of course) how to say it, then repeating the entire sentence (several times) to him, or the stranger who is patiently waiting.
Our little system worked quite well on the train and with the hotel concierge, but was really put to the test at dinner.
After sleeping off our travel for a couple of hours, Robert and I wandered around the Vincent area where our hotel is - passing the MASSIVE castle I am hoping to see the inside of tomorrow - and found our way to a funky little pizza place. We sat outside next to a couple of older men and a really odd French couple - the man dressed completely in neon athletic gear and the woman in all black. Our waiters, and the men next to us, all seemed to be from the country - or at least that was Robert's impression, as their accents were strong and the men were discussing stories of tractors and crazy spider bite infections. Actually, I am not sure that the spider bite story was an indicator of whether or not the men were from the country, it was just the most distinctive story Robert translated for me. The waiter had trouble understanding me AND Robert, but we managed to order a delicious pizza with prosciutto and egg, as well as escalote au marsala avec frites (veal with fries). It was our neighbors dessert which turned our evening into the magical kind of little moment that cannot be planned.
As the apparent owner of the restaurant delivered two martini styled glasses heaping full of strawberries to the older gentlemen, I honestly couldn't help but stare. Hungry or not, I knew I would have that dessert, and the men noticed. Laughing and friendly, they made a comment to Robert, who also made a joke back. As Robert and I finished dinner, Robert asked the owner over to see if we could order our own glass full of strawberries. The elder gentleman chimed in with the owner and Robert, all discussing how I might like it best. Apparently, strawberries are quite delicious with a liqueur the gentleman had tried, which I kindly refused, as I don't drink anymore. Robert, seizing the moment, made his favorite joke about having a baby on board (absolutely not true!), leading into a spiral of excitement, laughter, and more jokes. Finally, my strawberries were brought out, covered in what might have been the richest whip cream I've had in ages. Our neighbors instructed me on the perfect amount of sugar to pour over the dish (as if it weren't sweet enough) and continued to joke with Robert. The owner and several waiters joined in the merriment. I must say, it was absolutely wonderful to feel my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so hard.
Lost in savoring my strawberry treat and the mind-blowing espresso I proudly had ordered all on my own, I admittedly missed a bit of the conversation, unable to focus on dessert and figuring out the French. One way or another, shots of sweet liqeurs were being offered all around as jesting and conversation continued - my broken French making the gentlemen and waiters laugh, egging them on more. Robert, responsibly at first, politely refused the shots, having already worked his way through several glasses of wine. The men would not be dissuaded - a toast was in order for this little group!
As we all finished up, I couldn't help but feel in awe of this unique, little encounter. This is what is so wonderful about travel. Not just wandering around a beautiful city like Paris, not just the breathtaking sites like the castle we were sitting across from, not the food or sweets or shopping and beaches. I just love the people. I love going somewhere knowing that for the next two weeks, every person I meet will be someone new, someone who I would never have met otherwise, someone who has yet to make a mark on me and I have yet to make a mark on - but now, because I am taking this trip, all of that is possible. Ooh, I just love the idea of it, and even more, I love the reality of it - being in the middle of a group of strangers, laughing and carrying on.