I realized this morning that one year ago, we were making final preparations to head out on our longest and most extravagant family trip yet ~ we were headed overseas to Europe!!! My daughter had spent the Spring semester of 2014 studying abroad in Angers, France. Well, I missed her terribly (thank you Skype for existing and keeping us in touch) and we thought what better excuse to head to Europe than to pick her up at the end of her semester. My husband Mykol had never been out of the country (only Vancouver BC on our honeymoon when we lived in Seattle, but that’s not that far out of the country…), and I had not been to France since my high school exchange trip to France. Needless to say, I think we are both reminiscing about our trip these days as our dinner conversation last night revolved around the European lifestyle and how different it is than the American lifestyle. This got me to thinking - when we reluctantly returned home after spending 3 glorious weeks abroad, we vowed to adopt as much of the European lifestyle as we could into our daily lives. I wish I could say that to this day we still incorporate as much of that as we had vowed to do, but realizing that a full year has passed certainly has brought this dedication to a new lifestyle front of mind.
As we were discussing this at dinner last night, we tried to define exactly what it is about that lifestyle that appeals. And how is it different than the American lifestyle. Of course, we only glimpsed at the European way of life through the brief lenses of the tourist journey, but there were some definite take-aways.
First thing we decided when we arrived in Paris was that Cafe au Lait (for Mykol), Chocolat Chaud (hot chocolate - for me), and Pain au Chocolate (chocolate croissants) was the BEST. BREAKFAST. EVER. However, in reality (ie back in America), that is not really sustainable for our waistlines… so that has since become more of a treat than a daily meal.
In London, high tea is a practice that even the locals participate in. Granted, we went all out on our high tea adventure, but there were plenty of mothers and daughters, families, and groups of friends having tea when we arrived at The Berkley Pret-a-Portea. There is of course, the Ritz Carlton experience (dress code strictly enforced) but Mykol did some research and came across the perfect tea experience for us. The Berkley is focused on high fashion, so the tea was modeled after the previous seasons designer shows. We had Christian Louboutin chocolate biscuit Pigalle Spike heel with fresh turquoise hue icing and the signature red sole, Victoria Beckham graphic geometric cherry and white chocolate mousse shirt, and Miu Miu exotic skin tote bags. What a joy to get dressed up and enjoy a rainy afternoon sipping tea (and champagne) with the locals!
The last meal of the day is a sacred time for family and friends in Europe. There is no dinner in front of the TV, grabbing fast food on the way to the kids practice, and no eating out of the carton over the sink. Every evening life slowed down around 7pm and the sounds of laughter, clinking glasses, and forks across plates filled the streets. Finding a place to eat was so much fun and brought about many adventures for us (pretty sure our first night in Paris I said ‘glass’ of wine in french, but did not complain when the whole bottle showed up at the table…). Set aside some sacred time with the people that you love and concentrate on them for a time each day.
Ok, so that my waistline does not grow anymore, let’s shift focus. As visitors, we had the opportunity to spend our days exploring. We wandered the streets and saw something amazing around every corner - breathtaking architecture, a golden statue two stories high, the Siene winding through town. There is so much history to take in, so many museums large and small to visit (Dali Museum, The Louvre, Centre Georges Pompidou), so many trips up the Eiffel Tower (we capped at only two visits to the top) that it’s hard to sit still. True, I couldn’t feel my feet by the time we arrived home from so much walking, but when we were there having our breath taken away around every turn, feeling in my feet didn’t matter so much! Here at home, taking the time out of our busy schedules to explore what is right under our noses… need to do more of that.
Looking back at the literally thousands of photos that we took collectively, I am reminded of so many ‘moments’ that we experienced in Europe. The best thing I can do is remind myself each day to slow down and be exactly where I am. Not in the past, not in the future, but EXACTLY. RIGHT. HERE.
PS ~ looking forward to our Europe return in 2016 for the European Cup. While I will enjoy the (soccer) football that we will watch, I look forward to transitioning from real life for a few more weeks and absorbing another way of life less hectic and busy. Note to self ~ you can do that right here right now in your own life! Challenge accepted (anyone want to join me for a Chocolate Chaud?)