Sunday, October 14, 2007

French connection


I was half-joking when I said I wanted to go to France after Gino left in late August. Guess what? I am really going to France. I have my round-trip ticket and I'm leaving on October 29!

"Come on, Lerryblossoms! You should go. You deserve a break... Pray about it," my good friend Merryblossoms told me when I first broached the idea in a daydreaming fashion. I did not really believe I could afford the trip, or that I wanted to spend a lot for it. But what she said got me thinking. When else could I go to Provence and have free accommodation? Gino has an attic all to himself. Besides, I haven't had a real vacation in 3 years. I took my "holidays" to either clean the house or paint a room. I began seriously entertaining a trip to France.

Bud was okay with the idea, and rather envious too. He would have come if not for work and for the young ones at home. After all, someone was graciously offering to shoulder the fares. Me, I still have 2 weeks paid vacation left. France seemed to be a great idea. I prayed about it.

I started checking out plane fares online. Everything was in the thousands! There was even something that cost more than $5,000 round-trip. Forget it!

Then I remembered to check Zoom Airlines, the same one Gino took to France. When I saw their plane fares, I got excited. $149 to Paris and $229 back!! Including taxes, it was less than $700. Can't be beat!

So I started communicating with Gino about my plans and we texted back and forth about the dates. The thing with Zoom is, they fly on certain days only. I had to sync my 2-weeks break with Gino's schedule. When we finally agreed on the dates, I went online to book my flights. The fares had significantly increased overnight on the dates I wanted! Whaaat?? I was very disappointed. God, I prayed, if the fares are higher than $700, I won't go.

Later, when I checked the Zoom site again, lower fares were back but on different dates. They were not as low as the first time, but still lower than $700. I contacted Gino about the changes. Oh, the beauty of text messaging!

After I got his response, I went online to finally book my flight. I saw a lower fare combination, the lowest I had seen, but on different dates again. It would still allow me to travel to France and back to Vancouver in two weeks. $149 to Paris and $199 back! With taxes, I'd pay less than $600. And I get to be there for Gino's birthday. I booked my flights immediately.

Gino was probably getting confused about my constantly changing travel dates. October 22 ... October 15 ... Now I would be going there on October 29, start of Gino's school break during which he was planning to go to Italy with some other people. He had to change his own plans, somewhat. He was still going to Italy -- with me! I am going to Italy! Che bello!

"Mom, learn a few French phrases," Gino said at the beginning. Later, he told me to learn a few Italian phrases too. Last summer, for some strange reason, I tried so hard to memorize mini-craquelins au riz avec noix, of all things (mini rice crackers with nuts - the munchies I bought from Costco). As for my Italian, I know different kinds of pasta and pizza. I guess I should learn some French and Italian drinks, too, huh?

Occasionally, I wonder if I am not being extravagant. Gino and I are prepared to get the cheapest hostels, eat the simplest food and munch on mini-craquelins on long train rides. Still, I hear this tiny cheapskate's voice in my head that wants to take me on a guilt trip instead. No! I won't take the trip called Guilt. I am going to France and see my son (and Paris and Venice and Florence and Provence, possible Geneva too!) I counterattack. And I will buy a few souvenirs!

I was in this state of self-doubt, when I came across a wise quote from the great Leonardo da Vinci: "Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment...Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen."

How appropriate and how timely! Da Vinci seemed to speak to me in plain--not coded-- language. Thank you Leonardo. I will visit your artwork in the Louvre.

My challenge on this trip is finding ways to travel on a shoestring budget. This would be very interesting. I wonder how far my frugality will take me in an expensive part of the world. I will journal my cheap discoveries and share some tips
with you later.

Here's one to begin with -- mini-craquelins!

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