It’s after midnight on our fourth night here in the City of Lights and I can’t sleep. I am so unbelievably delighted to be in Paris, and wish we could live here full-time. Seriously, I would sign an apartment lease tomorrow if I could badger Steve into it!

It dawned on me yesterday that I first visited Paris 40 years ago. The Eiffel Tower was not lit up, the Metro tickets were little green single-use tabs, Mitterand was President, there was no pyramid at the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay would not open for another four and a half years and the currency was the French Franc. Our high school French teacher and his wife, Monsieur et Madame Bennarous, brought a small group of us to Europe for six weeks in the summer of 1982. We each lived with a French family in Paris for two weeks, then got back together and drove around Western Europe in a minibus, which, of course, we nicknamed the Benni-Bus. It was a trip of a lifetime for us teens, and I have no idea how the Bennarouses maintained their sanity.

A few select memories:

  1. We were told to bring a gift for our host families. I brought a print from my cousins’ Indian Store in Oklahoma. My host parents turned out to be blind.
  2. My host family was truly lovely, but some of my friends’ host family situations were sub-optimal. Christine initially got placed on a farm outside Paris with some guys and some livestock (until the Bennarouses found her a new family within the city limits) and Melissa’s host girl was a chain-smoking motormouth who only wanted to speak English. My host girl, Jaqueline, was nice and normal.
  3. We survived the long Benni-Bus rides by taking Dramamine and listening to cassette tapes on our Sony Walkmans.
  4. We ordered pizza at almost every restaurant we visited. We thought Pizza Pino, a tacky chain on the Champs-Elysees, was delicious. Many of us also drank a boatload of alcohol behind the Bennarouses’ backs.
  5. When we drove through Switzerland, I was amazed by the beauty of the Alpine lakes. It was the first time I’d ever seen a lake that was created by Mother Nature, and not by the US Army Corps of Engineers and managed by the Grand River Dam Authority.
  6. After the tour around Europe, we came back to Paris for a couple of days before our flight home and the Bennarouses ditched us in a skanky hotel to go stay with relatives.  The hotel had no A/C and it was late July, so we went to a movie theater and saw Apocalypse Now over and over again, to avoid the heat.
  7. All the girls on the trip bought French dresses and shoes, which we changed into to walk off the plane when we got back to Tulsa. My dress was a puffy white affair, and my shoes were bright blue and about a half-size too small. Quelle horreur!

Anywho, I got to come back ten years later, with my mother and her mother. The main thing I remember about that trip was us dragging my 79-year old grandmother through the Paris Metro, and up and down all those steps, and her handling it like a champ. Looking back on it, my mom and I are kind of appalled at our lack of consideration and concession to her age. We also dragged her all over London and the entire country of Ireland. She was the sweetest tough cookie ever, and didn’t miss a beat.

Since then, I’ve been back a handful of times with Steve, with Steve and The Weez and with just The Weez. It’s magical every time. Speaking of The Weez, we have been en famille all summer, which has been an incredible gift (for Steve and me, at least). But all good things must come to an end, and he leaves to go back to college in just three short days. He has been drawing on his iPad all summer, which has been really fun to watch. Yesterday, I accompanied him to a corner of Paris near Sacre Coeur that is the setting for one of the video games he plays with his friends. He got a big kick out of seeing the spot IRL and took a bunch of photos with his good camera. We are going to miss him like crazy.