Last year I planned to surprise my mom for her birthday in February with a trip to Europe using my BA Travel Together Award Ticket (a benefit of the BA Chase VISA card where I get a 2 for 1 deal with my points + taxes) but then my world changed in February and had to scrap that plan. Fast forward to this year and Mother’s Day when I wrote “Pick a Destination (or two) we are going to Europe (once I get my vacation days at the new job) inside her card. So I asked her “where do you want to go”? and then the fun began.
Mom: “I don’t know, I’ll do what you tell me” (oh boy!).
My sister: “You don’t drink and Ireland is all landscapes” (um, not really but let’s see where this goes)
Mom: “I don’t drink so I guess I shouldn’t go there”?
Me: “If you want to go to Ireland, we’ll go there”
Mom: “Ok, I’ll pick Paris & London”
Me: “Take your time and decide, we’ll go in the fall”
Fast forward a month during which I received texts like this from Mom:
Mom: “What do I need to buy for Europe”?
Mom: “What do I need to pack”?
Mom: “What’s the weather like”?
Me: “Where did you decide to go? What do you want to do?
Mom: “No one ever asked me, I just get on the bus and the guide tells me – you’re my guide”
Me: “What do you want to see?”
Mom: “You tell me, you’re the travel advisor and guide, what do you do for your clients?”
Me: “I interview them Mom, find out their interests, their passions, what they most want to do and see. I would ask if they like wine tours in France”
Mom: “I don’t drink wine”
Me: “Yes, I know Mom, I would ask if they like museums, fashion or art tours”
Mom: “I’m not a fan of museums”
Me: “Yes, I know Mom, so I would ask about cooking or food tours…”
Mom: “I don’t want to go on vacation to cook”
Me (opening a bottle of wine): “I know that, I’m giving you examples of questions I ask clients to understand them and find a great hotel, guide, destination that fits their dream trip. What they absolutely need, how busy they want to be”.
Mom: “Well, I need coffee as soon as I wake up. I don’t want to be as busy as you are, I usually sleep until 10 a.m. each day (flashbacks to my niece and our noon breakfasts in London). Ok, so I guess we go to Paris and London then”
Me: “We can take a river cruise Mom, or a cruise, go to Venice and ride a gondola or whatever you always wished you could see. You know your granddaughter was eleven years old and did research on the internet and gave me her list”
Mom: “Ok, I will google it”
A few days pass and we meet for a family dinner
Mom: “I looked online at itineraries and they all say the same – Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Seine boat. A few said go outside of Paris to Mont St. Michael. And my friend Dolly said she had the best time on a 5 day cruise where they met a lot of people and saw different countries (me thinking: 5 days?). She didn’t remember where it started but it docked in Paris and they only had time for the louvre and a bus that took them to other sites. They did go to Normandy. There is a river cruise in Paris on the Seine River for lunch or dinner”
Me: “Ok, that helps, do you want to do a river cruise then”
Mom: “If you think that’s best, I should be ok to walk by then”
Me: “You are walking ok now, what are you talking about?”
Mom: “I’m scheduled for knee surgery next month, then use a walker for a few weeks when I can’t drive but should be fine by our trip”
Me: “I’d like a glass of wine please!”
So this is just a snapshot of our conversation as the rest of dinner involved my sister and her husband chiming in on our trip and a few glasses of wine, thankfully there was wine. You’d think we didn’t see each other or talk as much as we do that she sprung this “knee surgery” on me.
I shouldn’t be surprised by all of this as my family rarely traveled growing up. My parents were good to stay local as my dad was afraid to fly (he did take one for the team to Disney World) and my mom was afraid of water (my dad or uncle would take us to the beach or swimming pool). We never did a family road trip because my dad drove tractor trailers and was home for dinner every night. After 12 hours on the road, a driving vacation was off the table so we had a small yard with an above ground pool. This was summer and this was our vacation for the most part. Back then you could put your children unaccompanied on a Greyhound bus from (then) sketchy Philadelphia to Atlantic City where my uncle Bill would pick us up for boardwalk memories. So when folks from Philly tell me they don’t like to or want to travel, I get it, I really do. Life is good just where they are and they aren’t sad they didn’t experience a gondola in Venice, climb a glacier in New Zealand, visit Buckingham Palace in London or see the Sydney Opera House. They are content with the trips to the South Jersey shore house, the Pocono Mountains or Disney World (everyone needs to go to Disney at some point whether you like to travel or not).
For Mom & Dad, their vacations changed to the local bus tours once they retired – they got to see the Arch in St. Louis, the Grand Ole Opry and enjoyed many day trips to the casino (they always came out ahead and mom has bingo luck like no other!). That made them happy, they never dreamed of Europe, never had the wanderlust that I grew up with, that I feed as often as I can…..
Mom: “I hit the jackpot at Bingo last night so I can pay for the trip”
Me: “No worries, I have points and miles for the trip (mulling over how to add Bingo to my life as it seems to pay better than my job”
Mom: “We’ll fight about this later”
Me: (looking for chocolate…..)
When my Dad suddenly got sick & passed a few months after their 50th anniversary, I told Mom to take a trip with her friend, to get away (oh the horror in the senior community that it was a few months later) and to look forward to. It was the first time since she was a teenager that she was on her own, alone. Her friend was going home to Germany in the fall. I took Mom shopping for her trip and she started yelling at me in Nordstrom’s that the cashmere scarf I travel with was too much money (about $80) and she didn’t need it (yes, she apologized when she returned telling me how awesome and useful the scarf was throughout the trip). When I said I would review her packing, I walked into a nightmare – one side of luggage was food (as if Germany doesn’t sell food) and the other side clothes and full size shampoo bottles. I laughed and said “get me Ziploc bags, plastic bags and rubber bands so I can work”. I managed to sort it all so that all the clothes she couldn’t fit had a place with extra room for her to buy souvenirs for the granddaughters. She said “wow, you are pretty good at packing” (um, hope so after 20+ years of traveling).
Me: “So I was thinking we could bring your sister with us since we are getting an apartment”
Mom: “That would be nice, I can ask her. Why an apartment and not a hotel?”
Me: “You snore”
Mom: “So do you” (she has willfully ignored her sleep apnea in our opinion for years – we all escape the noise)
Me: “Mom, your four year old granddaughter warned me “Mom Mom snores so I go sleep in another room” when we went to Disney and I didn’t sleep, you slept fine – I didn’t keep you up at night”
Mom: “It wasn’t me”
Me: (searching two bedroom flats with One Fine Stay in Paris)
So Mom is of the generation that is just happy to see something new, never having the expectation that she would fly away from Philadelphia. She’s come a long way since her Germany flight (sorry, Lufthansa, I told her that the blankets weren’t souvenirs but she said “all the old folks were taking theirs, so I took mine”) even taking her first Disney cruise with my sister and the girls last year (another funny travel story for another time).
So now I’m planning our trip to Paris and London and trying to find a good mix of stuff to do that is a compromise of her “don’t we get on a bus” and my “modern luxury sans busses” with a side of “not too much walking”. My last trip to Paris I had a fractured foot so can understand having a slight mobility challenge with all the walking in the cities.
Mom: “I don’t need to go up in the Eiffel Tower if I only get a view of the top of buildings – it looks like a long wait”.
Me: “Mom we can avoid the crowds and the wait, if you wake up earlier”.
So this is the beginning of the trip planning to London and Paris with Mom, I’m open to suggestions (and advice) if you’ve traveled with your parent(s) to Paris and/or London and what they liked, didn’t like, etc. No doubt this will be an interesting trip so stay tuned……thankfully there is wine, pain au chocolat and more wine….