I have wanted to go to Europe for as long as I can remember having memories. That goes double for Paris, and triple for London. Paris, to me, signified romance and beauty while London represented excitement, history, new music and later on football - Proper football - not U.S. football (ahem). Over the course of the last year since my son moved out of the house, the idea that I could just go, if I wanted to, wouldn't leave my thoughts. It still strikes me as odd that I can just up and go whenever the mood strikes - even down the street to the store. It's a foreign concept to a single parent of a child with special needs. Things like that just don't happen.
I had been talking with colleagues at work about my lifelong dream to go to London to attend a live Arsenal game for the previous few months, and the gumption just hit me. I started batting the idea around in my brain; looking at flights, tickets, rooms, things I could do while I was there. The Monday before I left I had an "aha!" moment. Well, it was more of a "Screw It!" moment, to be honest, but it got me motivated.
I was going to freaking Europe.
I bought my Arsenal tickets first - because why go if the purpose for the trip is void? Then purchased my plane and train tickets, reserved my rooms, arranged for a dog sitter and for airport parking, pre-paid some activities (in hindsight, a bad idea), and was ready to jet set across the pond.
I was going to freaking Europe.
It bears repeating simply for the magnitude of the occasion in my life. It's up there with having my son, graduating college, and writing a novel; perhaps even surpassing some on the richter scale of life events. Prior to this trip, the only travel out of the U.S. I had done was a couple trips to Toronto - once in high school, and again nearly 20 years ago. (There was one time in the early '90's when Canada wouldn't let me in, but that's a story for another day). As I've mentioned, opportunities for recreational travel for a single parent like me rarely exist, let alone travel for any other reason - like work. It just doesn't happen.
In the few days leading up to the trip I had an eerie sense of calm. I was excited, absolutely, but I wasn't nervous as I thought I would be. I was traveling alone after all, and international incidents aren't uncommon these days. I was undeterred, and unshaken. It was as if fate had finally caught up with me, and I was merely comfortable with the state of how things ought to have been - and were.
I slept on the overnight flight to Paris, and had no trouble sleeping the three nights I was gone. I walked miles upon miles in shoes that had no business being walked in for those distances (a quick stop at a Boots for gel shoe inserts helped some - thanks hotel concierge!). I felt as if I belonged in both Paris and London, and must have looked the part as I had tourists asking me for directions in both places - and surprisingly I was able to help them all.
Looking back, I was in a constant state of hyperawareness just trying to absorb each and every sensation that came at me. I'm surprised I didn't have a wild, frenzied, and crazed look to me as I walked around - but then, I do have a pretty good poker face.
I was living my dream. Crazy wasn't an option.
In the following blog entries, I'll be recording experiences during my trip, along with photos. I took a LOT of photos, because you know what?
I went to freaking Europe.