Time Traveling

March 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Posted in Family | 20 Comments

I remember exactly where I was 10 years ago today.

On a plane. Flying across the ocean. With a guy.

This guy and me? Were about to backpack across Europe together for two months. Two. Whole. Months. Together.

We had a Eurail pass in our hot little hands. Three pairs of clothes stuffed in each of our backpacks. Tiny bottles of shampoo, a little bit of laundry soap, string for a clothesline. And some duct tape. (Because when have you taken a vacation and not needed that?)

We had a printed Excel spreadsheet of our planned itinerary. Two guidebooks. Two cameras. That took film.

The negatives are long since lost, the prints in a scrapbook somewhere. But my mental pictures are still so vivid. And I love flipping through them this time of year.


Fresh off the plane, we secured a hotel room in Paris and sat down to picnic on a park bench. Along with some ripe Camembert, we got our first souvenir: a trip to the ER and four stitches. (Turns out new Swiss Army knives are, um, kinda sharp.)

We tried boudin. Blech. We tried crêpes. With Nutella. Divine.

We stood together, silent, among rows and rows of white crosses at Omaha Beach, while rain spit from the sky and turned the frothy surf gray.

We shared gelato on the boardwalk in Vernazza, schnitzel on the Ferris wheel in Vienna, donuts on the streets of Dublin.

We walked the rainy streets of Rome together, soaked to the skin and singing Disney soundtracks to imagine away the chill.

We killed cockroaches in our Barcelona hotel. OK, he killed them. I screamed a lot.

When we woke up after the overnight ferry to Ireland, we were the only ones left on the boat. Save one very helpful maid who guided us off. (Through the car exit because the passenger gangplank had already been removed.)

I dropped a contact lens down the drain in Germany. And broke my glasses in France. We hunted down an optometrist together. (And managed to piece together enough French to get them fixed.)

We took the train to Dachau, went inside the crematorium, imagined the horrors that had taken place there.

We touched centuries-old skulls in the catacombs of Paris.

We toured the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam. At 10 a.m. Because it’s never too early for good (free) beer.

We got mud wraps at a spa in Budapest. Turns out, we had inadvertently arranged them “off the books.” Turns out, the very sweaty, very large Hungarian masseuse appreciated this. So did our muscles afterward.

We read books. We traded books. We read more books: Tom Clancy, Jane Austen, Joseph Heller, Maeve Binchy, anything and everything we could find in English.

We rode bikes through the German countryside. We may have sung “The Hills Are Alive.”

We played lots of cards, lots of backgammon. Mostly, I lost. Always, he was gracious.

We saw Guernica in Madrid. And haven’t forgotten it.


And the guy? We made it. Through the entire two months as each other’s constant companion. No one lost an eye (unless you count my contact).

We flew home, got an apartment. We got a cat and a Pothos plant. The cat’s still with us; the plant is not. Turns out you have to water those things.

We got diplomas and jobs. He moved across the country. I didn’t. Then, I did. We got engaged, got married, got two more cats. (I know, three cats??) Then two dogs. Then two kids.

And now? A decade later? We don’t travel much, unless you count trips to the grocery store, the playground, the in-laws’. But we’ve still got our passports. We’ve still got each other. And we’ll always have Paris.


Addendum: I added this post to Life in a Pink Fibro’s Weekend Rewind on December 4, 2010.



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  1. Absolutely beautiful glimpse of the passage of time.
    What an amazing trip!

  2. What a beautiful story – thanks so much for sharing it. Happy Euro-anniversary!

    I’ll be in Italy this summer. Thank goodness you reminded me to pack duct tape! 🙂

  3. Fantastic story. I travelled to all those places before I met The Builder and we swap anecdotes about them with each other. His always start ‘We were sleeping on a train station in…[insert Istanbul/Munich/Barcelona]’ and mine tend to begin ‘All we ate in [insert Greece/Turkey/Italy] was [insert feta/bread/bread and cheese]. It’s interesting to see those places through each others’ eyes, but we’ve begun to go back and revisit them together. Shared memories are so special, don’t you think?

  4. Such wonderful memories!!

  5. Great story. What a treat to have that to share with your children!

  6. I love this story. And I love the way you told it. On a side note, I have also been to Germany, toured a concentration camp, and stood in the crematorium. That is something you never, never, never, ever forget.

  7. What a beautiful story. I was glued to the computer screen -truly! Happy Anniversary (of sorts!)!

  8. I teared up. You are blowing me away with the beautifully crafted posts this week.

    What a beautiful story of love and adventure!

  9. Like @mep, my eyes are filled with tears. I love the way you told your story. The details were a perfect mix of funny and poignant. And so many of your experiences resonated with me and reminded me of a certain European vacation I took almost 12 years ago (!) with the man who became Husband.


  10. That’s a beautiful story!!

  11. What a fabulous adventure!

  12. Can you feel the jealousy oozing through my computer keyboard?

  13. Did not know you guys had such a wonderful time to start your lives together. Glad I clicked here today. LY

  14. […] I’ve read every Jane Austen novel. When Husband and I backpacked across Europe, we were constantly on the lookout for good, cheap books in English. Jane Austen’s oeuvre fit […]

  15. WONDERFULLY sweet and funny post! I really liked this! How cool that you stayed together. Aw!

    btw, over from blogtrot

  16. I remember this post! Still love it. 🙂

  17. Wowee, that was wonderful to read. What great memories! Would love to see those old printed pics!

  18. Over from weekend rewind – if you want some advice from an old bloke – keep working at it 🙂

  19. […] to my passport, I’m home. This house is full of pictures — the two of us, smiling; then the three of us, then four, then five — so this must be home. We are here. […]

  20. […] Raise three kind, creative, patient, helpful, empathetic children while maintaining my sanity, marriage, and hidden cache of […]

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