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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Importance of Urgency, Part 2

"Traveling is more than just seeing landmarks and monuments -- you should want to experience the culture and understand how other people live" 
    - Justin Scheman, Contestant, THE AMAZING RACE

Paris, aka The City of Lights, is perhaps the most romanticized and dreamt-about travel destination on the planet.

It was no different for my wife and me. We had often dreamed of a trip to Europe, starting, of course, with Paris. It was something we both shared as a destination, with both of us having childhood aspirations of visiting that most special of places. In my case, it was fostered by films such as AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, or FUNNY FACE. In her case it had been a long-time dream of her mother's to get to see the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine.

Sadly, by the time my wife and I managed to cross the pond, my mother-in-law had passed away. This made for a bittersweet moment when we paused during our first night on the town to call her father from a pay phone (remember those?).

The Musee D'Orsay
My wife regaled him the the story of our first dinner at Le Rotonde restaurant in the Montparnasse district. It had been a wonderful and colorful meal in a picture-perfect Parisienne bistro with fabulous food and adept service (who cheerfully reassured us Americans were warmly welcomed) -- and one very elegant mature woman with a model's gracefully aging looks and a lit cigarette at the end of a holder reading Le Figaro at the table next to ours. No scene from a movie could have better captured the essence of our dreams.

He was, of course, supremely happy for us, and it was a call my wife would come to appreciate far more than we had even imagined.

It was, as we were to learn, her final conversation with him.

Le Metro
Three days later, after we had left the city to explore the countryside amid towns like Chenonceaux, we tried calling again. His male nurse fumbled something about her father being "in the bathroom". It was an odd call, but we put it aside and went back to enjoying our day at the Chateau named for the town (or is it vice-versa?).

The next evening we tried again and learned the awful truth -- that one day after that perfect call from his daughter -- he had passed away from a long-simmering heart condition. We had traveled after assurances he had plenty of time left, but sadly fate had different plans.

We frantically called some relatives, finally reaching my cousin Linda, a travel agent for AmEx, and she saved the day by booking us quick passage back to the States. Not an easy task when you're in a small town in back country France, and you don't speak the language beyond a handful of phrases from the guidebooks.
But the loss of her father was a deep blow. But in its own way it reinforced the need for adventure in our lives.

A year further on we made plans and returned to France to complete our journey, plus touches of a couple of other countries. It would be another decade before we returned to Europe, but the memories of that first trip -- the good and the bad -- will be with us for a lifetime.

And it reinforced the message of urgency. The shared adventure. Things happen, and often we are bogged down in the daily stuff. Travel breaks that up. 

Then, three years ago, the message became more important than ever. 


Visiting the Eiffel Tower for the first time

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