Dateline – Shreveport, Louisiana.
Parents miss flight in Shreveport Airport!
(Are there even three gates in the whole airport???)
Two days later – Parents discover the breathtaking beauty of Paris!
I really didn’t think that I needed to fly to Shreveport to go with my parents for all legs of the journey. And, I didn’t, it was just a mix up. It can happen. On the way to the gate, my father stops to get a Dr. Pepper and my mother continues on to the gate. Scott telephones his mother repeatedly, and more and more frantically, from Dallas – the arranged meeting point. She is at the American gate while the plane is boarding. The booked American Airlines flight leaves Shreveport going to Dallas – without them. I am at wit’s end. The plane we are all supposed to be on, is leaving Dallas for Paris and will begin boarding soon. Immediately I tell my mother to find security and begin checking the restrooms to see if my father has had a heart attack in one of the restrooms. The security guard finds him at the next gate – Continental – waiting.
Taking a trip requires planning and checking and double checking. A trip to Paris does not require going on an organized trip where all arrangements are made and a guide takes you every where. For some this is a good way to see Paris and is generally joined with a tour that goes to European capitals. This is what I did first – in 11th grade – and that was my introduction to Europe. It was great. But, I wanted more. And, I wanted my parents to have more. Even though it was not to as many places, it was a better trip for them because it was focused on one place – Paris. And, even they had one day less because of missing the flight – it was incredible anyway.
This blog and site are for people who want to learn more about one particular place and potentially organize their own trip to Paris.
How to do it right. Refine your interests, honestly tell your capabilities, see what tailoring your trip can do to make it an unbelievable success for everyone involved. Experience your dream of Paris by figuring out what your expectations are, then realizing those expectations.
It is time for Parents and Baby Boomers and anyone else to explore the world and savor it by experiencing the places you visit, not by counting the number of things you see. This site and blog are intended to help anyone who is interested do this in Paris.
Scott’s History with Paris
I guess the Eiffel Tower is what got me going on Paris. Reading all those National Geographic Magazines in the bottom of my grandparents’ hall closet must be where I first learned of Paris. It is definitely where I learned about Egypt, excavations of Chinese mummies, Lucy then the oldest ancestor of us humans, and so many other things that were exotic – brought to life in living color on the pages of old, musty magazines that I loved to pull out and read from cover to cover, imagining myself as Jim, wrestling the crocodiles as Marlon Perkins narrated the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. All of it was, and of course still is, exotic to a boy from small town North Louisiana.
The Eiffel Tower must have been in there on a story about Paris. And then the stories my Grandfather told me about France while he was serving in World War II in the U.S. Army piqued my interest even more in the whole of France, not just Paris.
This must be why, in 1981, I signed up for French as the language of choice as a freshman in high school. And, after all, we did live in a former French colony, my parents had taken my brother (who took Spanish) and I to Ft. St. John Baptist in Natchitoches and to New Orleans and Baton Rouge growing up, all the while drilling in history and its importance wherever we went.
Ms. Graves, the French teacher, loved talking about Paris. She had one time been married to someone who we thought was rich because she had gone over to France, studied, visited, eaten great food, lived a life that she retold to us with a big smile, reliving each memory before a classroom full of fidgety, pimple-faced high schoolers, passing notes back and forth, trying to do as little as possible. I loved her stories and loved thinking about visiting the places she talked about, the Eiffel Tower of course, but the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Louvre, eating cheese from just one store that sold cheese, salamis from one store that sold meat, croissants from the bread shop, it all sounded so wonderful. (All of my family on both sides were great cooks but the only croissant I had eaten was one out of a can that I thought was so incredibly special – it was one of the few things out of a can that I ever got to eat so it was the best ever. We probably had them only because Ms. Graves had talked about croissants in Paris.)
Then, I loved it so much, I took a French cooking class at Bossier Parish Community College. The class was in the home economics class rooms for my high school and I was the youngest student by far – everyone else was grown – at least I thought they were old – probably younger than I am now, I didn’t know anyone but the teacher and the others thought it was fun having me in there and also a little curious that such a youngster would be signed up for a French cooking class. The teacher was French (how on earth did she wind up in Bossier City????) and her accent was so thick that we could hardly understand her. At the once weekly evening class, she cooked all sorts of funny things – like tongue!!!!! – and I tried everything she made. Inside their own little plastic sleeve are the recipes from that class, copied on ditto machines in the special smelly purple ink, they rest at the front of my recipe book made up of favorite recipes clipped from magazines, shared by friends, and special ones like these. At the last class, our professor brought wine! Outrageous!!! All the other students cheered when she brought it out of its brown paper bag. I didn’t know what to do, I knew I was too young for it, I was Baptist to boot and could never have any – even if I was old enough, but the teacher said of course I should have some. Through the window above one of the sinks, I could see the headlights of my mother’s car pull up, waiting for me to finish, and I said no thank you, and ran out the door with my last set of dittoed recipes.
Ms. Graves, probably longing to see the City of Light one more time, organized a trip for students to visit London, Zurich, Heidelberg and, of course, Paris. She talked about it with stars in her eyes and those stars twinkled in my eyes too. I ran home with the information on the trip and showed it to my parents and shared with them my dream of going. I begged to go and Ms. Graves even said we could get sponsors. Of course none of knew what that was, but when I told my parents I could try to get sponsors, my father took me to see the man who provided some work for him and I had to tell about what I was doing and try to make my case to be sponsored. It was torture and I was so shy I could barely speak. Because of my father, it worked. I got $100.00. Somehow, my parents scraped together the rest of the money and sent me as a junior in high school on the trip to Europe. The planning was all askew and we wound up in Europe for our seven days straddling Good Friday and Easter and the holiday Monday after Easter!! Nearly everything was closed. The great thing was we took a bus around Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysees and all the glory of Paris. We hurriedly tried to buy souvenirs before the shops closed, but were too late for most. One had just closed its doors five minutes before we got there and as we looked in the window, the owner of the shop opened the door, then handed us each a small painted ceramic egg on a long cord. She was wonderful and Parisian and delightful and happy!!!
Back at home, I gave everyone their souvenir from Europe and never again stopped thinking of Paris. My souvenir was Paris.
High school ended, my best friend went to Louisiana Tech and I headed off to LSU. I started out on a pre-vet track, then switched to poultry science, then dairy science, and finally switched to English literature and had to take foreign language courses. Of course, I signed up for French (like nearly every other red-blooded Louisianian) and got through four semesters of French while trying to write papers on Medieval literature. I was longing to get out of dodge for a while – I guess because what was I going to do with myself after college – and I was searching for somewhere to go.
So, I signed up for the Peace Corps, met with recruiters, filled out all the paperwork, had my assignment in Tanzania to teach English, put down the date to leave as January 21 (a few days after my mother’s birthday), and went home to tell my parents. For some reason I thought they would think this was a good idea. Was I ever wrong? This caused the biggest explosion at my house that was ever seen for anything. My father said it was Communist, started by Kennedy, my mother was horrified – Africa??? Why would anyone want to go to Africa. They were both having strokes and the yelling and screaming between us echoed through the house and probably down the street.
Their protests made my decision solid. Tanzania here I come. After they decided I wasn’t kidding and that I was going, my mother found a woman in Shreveport whose son had served in the Peace Corps and in Mali (it was all Africa no matter that it was thousands of miles from Tanzania). She ate lunch with the Peace Corps mom one day and found out that her son had loved it, yes roaches crawled all over you at night, but that it wasn’t a Communist organization and that it could be a super great experience doing good for others. Daddy just decided to see what happened.
The two year commitment had been fine up until early in the fall of my last semester at LSU. It was then that my grandmother got really sick. I was afraid to be gone to Africa and the last time I would have ever seen her was getting on a plane leaving for Tanzania. I had the volunteer commitment papers but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get back from Africa if something happened. I was sick to my stomach. I wasn’t going to Africa. Now what was I going to do after college.
My French teacher had the solution. One day at the beginning of class she announced she had gotten program information for a school teaching classes at the Alliance Francaise in Paris. She said if anyone wanted information, see her after class. I talked with her, she encouraged me to go, it was only for six months, and had other classes taught by French teachers in phonetics, literature, grammar, art history. My heart stopped while reading that I would live with a French family, learn French in Paris, leave in January. Paris, the love of my life, I was going to get to go again!!!
My parents got all the postcards and they lived it all through me – the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, Giverny and Chantilly, Chateau de Vincennes and Versailles. Even the pain of coming back and leaving Paris behind.
Through the years I have begged my parents to go. My mother said the only way she would get in a plane is if I were somewhere and needed help and there was no other way for her to get to me. Daddy didn’t ever seem like he wanted to go. Time flew by, my brother was married, they had two boys and she had one daughter. I promised to take each of them to Paris after they graduated from high school, my brother got colon cancer (go get a colonoscopy no matter what age the doctor’s tell you to go), and time kept going.
My father called me one day and said he wanted to take my mother, me and John to Paris for their 47th wedding anniversary. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I was overjoyed. It was like one of my biggest dreams come true – show my parents Paris, the place where I really grew up and learned how beautiful a place and a people can be. Was he sure? He was definitely sure and wanted me to help with planning and getting the airplane arrangements. I told him Mother wouldn’t go. John said we could talk her into it. For their anniversary, Daddy got a card and pot a note in it that her present was a trip to Paris. She immediately said she wasn’t going. I had saved up and given her my card, a trip back from Paris on the Queen Mary II. She refused and thought it was all ridiculous and said she wouldn’t get in a plane. Then she looked at my father and asked was he serious. He said yes, she said she would think about it, then the phone rang and her friend Sara Frances was on the other end. Mother asked Sara Frances, “Guess what?”, then, “We’re going to Paris!”
Boy, did I not realize what it took to get a 65-year old and a 70-year old to Paris. And what all I had to think about since my mother walked with a cane and couldn’t walk long distances. They missed the plane out of Shreveport, Louisiana – there couldn’t have been two planes leaving anytime around each other.
My parents still think the whole Peace Corps application was a ploy to have the idea of going to Paris sail by them without even thinking twice. It really wasn’t, but I bet they both slept easier that night. Africa, I have never seen you, but Paris, you are still the love of my life.