You may have noticed I haven’t been posting in the last week. I didn’t want to make it too obvious when exactly we were going to be gone, but Karsten and I were in Paris for our 10th anniversary and in Amsterdam for his birthday.

We were scheduled to leave last Friday and arrive Saturday morning, but as it happened, we encountered a major traffic jam en route to the airport and missed our flight. About 30 or 40 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave, while we were still only a few blocks from home, I knew we weren’t going to make it and called Expedia. The next few hours were a grueling exercise in trying to coax compassion out of apathetic customer support specialists. The ones at Expedia tried to pass me off to Air France, and the ones at Air France tried to pass me off to Expedia. Because we’d missed our flight, there was a sense that we would not be able to rebook it, but because we’d been on the phone with both Expedia and Air France prior to the flight’s departure (thanks to the aforementioned apathy and pass-the-buck-ism of each support department), there was a sense that we might be able to be reclassified and get on the next flight out. But it took losing my temper with a supervisor at Expedia and breaking down into sobs while exclaiming how important this trip was to me and my husband before that guy finally took pity on us and helped us change our itinerary. Cancelling the trip was an option, but without having, say, a medical emergency as an excuse, we would have lost most of the money we’d already paid for the trip due to the late notice of the cancellation. So we paid through the nose for new tickets, left Saturday mid-day and arrived in Paris on Sunday morning, one day later than planned and a lot poorer. But — I kept thinking — at least we weren’t in the accident that caused the traffic jam in the first place. There’s always perspective in that.
Anyway, you might say the trip was off to a bit of a rough start. And it was costing us more money than planned, so it had a lot to live up to.

Overall, it was truly wonderful — it really was — but parts of it were also really hard. Travel can be so exhausting, you know? And between jet lag and noisy hotel rooms (our room in Amsterdam overlooked a busy alley right near Centraal Station, so it was pretty much bustling all night), neither of us slept well most of the time.

Breakfast at cafe facing our hotel (with striped awning)And everything was SO expensive! I couldn’t get over how much meals were costing us. We weren’t being decadent but we also didn’t want to be overly frugal. Still, a modest sit-down dinner with an appetizer, a main course each, and a glass of wine each (which was almost always cheaper than soda, for perspective) ran us €45 — or about $65! — more than once. Usually, though, we were cautious about eating very little, and my loose-fitting clothes attest to that. Well, they attest to that and all the walking we did.

But we found so much to love about Paris, even when a waiter rudely refused to serve us, and even when our hotel front desk staff wasn’t technically proficient enough to help us with printing out the vouchers for our Metro and museum passes, bless their French hearts. And we both loved Amsterdam, even with all the ignorant, boorish Americans hooting and whooping it up, and even when a pickpocket almost got me but was thwarted by a random bike near-collision that made me turn my head in time to see the would-be thief sneaking up behind me.

Palais du Luxembourg and the Jardin du LuxembourgParis was big and loud and busy and dirty by day, but in spite of all that, still way more charming than, say, New York, and by night it was seductive and sly. We walked EVERYwhere, and even though we walk a lot here, my feet are still recovering. It was intense. We had no agenda; we just wandered where we felt like wandering and asked each other often what we wanted to do next. The afternoon we spent in the Jardins du Luxembourg was one of the most relaxing times I’ve ever spent. I sat on a bench with my Moleskine notebook and wrote poetry and random observations while occasionally looking up to enjoy the manicured gardens and fountain pools, and Karsten wandered the grounds watching people and studying the artwork.

Paris Apple Expo 2007My Mac-loving friends will appreciate that we found out about an Apple Expo going on last week in Paris, and we decided to stop in for a quick visit on Tuesday. I needed a travel adapter for my laptop’s power cord anyway, and that seemed like as good a place as any to pick one up. It was kind of a boring expo, though, so I don’t have much else to report about that. But I went to an Apple Expo in Paris! I think that earns me some serious Mac geek credentials.

Like I said earlier, though, there were parts that were really hard. Partly, I’m sure, because we were so exhausted and overwhelmed, Wednesday evening — our anniversary — turned sour unexpectedly and we fought bitterly. We so rarely fight that it’s always extremely hard on us when we do, but then to fight in the context of this much-anticipated vacation on this much-anticipated anniversary milestone was a big hurt and a big disappointment to us both, I’m sure. And all that anticipation was no doubt a culprit in feeding our hopes and expectations for how the trip would turn out — and I’ll be completely honest: mine especially. But eventually we found some resolution, got a little sleep, and like the grown-ups we strive to be, got on the train to Amsterdam the next morning, trying to make the best of it, trying not to let this over-hyped, over-anticipated, over-priced vacation be completely ruined by all of our best intentions.

Amsterdam canal cruiseUnsurprisingly, things started out rough in Amsterdam on Thursday, since we were operating on so little sleep and still, I’m sure, a little raw from fighting the night before. But by Thursday evening, we’d relaxed and settled into a pretty good groove and on Friday we were back to our old selves, laughing and having a great time enjoying each other’s company.

By Saturday morning, when we dragged ourselves and our heavy bags to the airport to fly back home, I was starting to feel sick and sore, with a slight burn in my throat. We were both drooping with exhaustion. I took an Airborne tablet and drank a lot of water on the overseas flight. But by last night, on the flight from Newark to Nashville, I was getting sicker and unable to keep my eyes open at all.

I woke up today with a searing burn in my throat, my head full of congestion, and my body aching all over. I’m most miserably sick, but I’m very happy to be home. And don’t get me wrong: I’m also incredibly happy that we took the trip. We experienced so much that we wouldn’t have wanted to have missed. And for all the headaches, frustration, disappointment, and hurt feelings, we are genuinely more in love than ever and I sense that our relationship is stronger for all the good and all the bad we rode out together. We never lost sight of how much we love each other, and that celebrating that was the reason for our journey anyway. Some of the best moments we had were when we remembered that most clearly: making each other laugh in the Louvre; daydreaming about — and then laughing about the unlikelihood of our enjoying — selling our house in Nashville and moving into a tiny apartment in the Latin Quarter; leering tipsily at each other over champagne; reminiscing about the beginning of our relationship while looking out over the rooftops of Paris; and so on, and so on.

Those are the memories I’ll be trying to keep with me. We can grow on those. The other memories are useful to grow from, but after that they’re not helpful anymore. I hope and believe we’ll be able to get what we need out of them and move on into even deeper and more meaningful times in our lives together.

And hell, if that’s what comes of this trip, that was worth going through anything for.

[More pictures are up at Flickr.]

The vacation that keeps on giving
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