The 12:19 to Paris
Three weeks on the road should have revealed one of us to have been completely incompatible with the other. I'm talking about me, of course. For three weeks we rode trains from one French city to another with no real itinerary or objective in mind. We stayed in hotels of my personal choosing, which is a euphemism for “surprisingly habitable.” We walked everywhere, with everywhere serving as our primary sightseeing objective. In short, our three weeks of companion travel came very close to the response of “nothing” that I gave to Carol the time she’d asked me what I was looking for when I traveled. And she remarked several times she was having the time of her life. For someone more accustomed to hearing that phrase uttered more in a context of “doing time” rather than having it, I was relieved. I'm also encouraged, which may or may not be a good thing. Probably not.
But Carol enjoyed train travel as much as I do. We took more than a dozen trains during our three week trip, and we were both genuinely disappointed when our last one - Strasbourg to Paris - seemed to end all too soon. Sightseeing from a plush, first class seat at 200 mph had suited both of us just fine.
It was later that afternoon on a walk from an overpriced hotel room (my instincts for the low-rent districts surrounding train stations having at last deserted me) that we both seemed to hit the wall for this excursion. Faced with a fairly long trek to the river from the Place Bastille versus plopping down at an inviting cafe for an early happy hour, even Carol saw things my way this time. “I think I'm done walking for a while,” she said. “But I'm not ready to go home.”
So instead of talking about all the things we'd started to miss at our Lake Forest home, we spent our last happy hour in France talking about the places we'd like to see again. Which amounted to lot of those places, since we saw them the first time in such a superficial and high-speed way. We realize how hard it is to get bored by a place you pay so little attention to the first time around. I call it a form of traveling dementia, and it's the only kind of dementia that's good to have.
As if to underscore the point, we managed to find the same Italian restaurant I'd found on my previous solo France trip. So authentic it was that our waiter only spoke Italian. It turned out to be a fitting end, as we'd soon decide that our next European trip would be to Italy. We plan to see it the same way we've seen France, so unfortunately we won't be able to offer any travel tips or must see places, just as we've been unable to do over the last three weeks here. We'll share our laughs, of course, but realize much of what strikes us as funny will probably not travel as well as the two of us have. If we make you chuckle, it'll be a bonus. The only thing I know for sure is that Carol's photos will be as beautiful and detailed as they were for this one. And they won't miss a moment of what we've done...or not done.