Hard Travelin'

"I been a-havin'some hard travelin',
I thought you know.
I been a-havin'some hard travelin',
Way down the road.
I been a-havin'some hard travelin',
Hard ramblin', hard gamblin',
I been a-havin'some hard travelin', Lord.”

-Woodie Gutherie

I don’t think that our vacation was what Woodie had in mind when he sang about hard travelin’. But, after all the ways we discussed doing this trip, the way we did it gave us at least a glimpse of the kind of exposure to the people and places that Gutherie might have enjoyed. We talked about doing it as a cruise, or renting cars, or staying at luxury hotels. But, in the end we took the train and stayed in independently owned and operated local hotels. We ate the local food, and drank the local wine. We did our best to try and experience the countries we visited as directly as we could. Even though we didn’t travel as hard as Woodie Gutherie would have liked, we were battle worn, and weary. Caught between wanting to continue on, but at the same time missing our own beds back in California.

Jane and I woke up before dawn at the Comfort Hotel near the Paris CDG Airport. We got dressed and went out for our walk right at dawn.

The town of Le Mesnil Amelot is what I pictured as a typical French neighborhood. Well maintained homes, and a few small businesses. There was a corner bar, a restaurant and a bakery.

Jane and I went inside the bakery and bought a fresh baked baguette. It was warm with a crunchy crust on the outside. We strolled the town, past the church and read notices posted on a bulletin board.

The bakery at the town of Le Mesnil Amelot. This town was one of the few saving graces of the Comfort Hotel CDG.

We went into a local convenience store and bought some bottled water. Jane bought some more Kinder Surprise eggs. Then we walked back to the hotel sharing the baguette.

When we got back, we woke up the kids and told them to get dressed and meet us downstairs for breakfast. When I cut my boiled egg in half, I expected to see the almost red colored yoke that had startled me during our first breakfast in France. I had such a big reaction to it that the waiter had come to the table and asked me in French if the egg was okay. This egg had the pale yellow colored yoke that I was used to in the US. I was actually a little sad to see that.

We went back up to the hotel rooms and packed our things one last time. Then we headed downstairs and boarded the next shuttle to CDG.

Security was not quite as difficult as it is at LAX, but it did take time to get through the baggage check area to get boarding passes. Then, we went up to the gate and stood in another line to have our carry-on luggage scanned and to go through the metal detectors. Once inside, it was time to board the plane. We went immediately on board. When I reached my seat, I took the SIM chip out of the rental phone, and put it into my Nextel so it would be ready when we arrived at LAX.

I sat next to Jane, and Erin sat next to Casey. Christian sat with a young woman who looked close to his age, and they seemed to enjoy talking.

The flight home was a lot like the flight we took to come to Paris. Air Tahiti Nui, once again showed that they are serious about delivering a excellent customer service, even in coach. The drinks and snacks came frequently. We had two meals. We also had access to drinks and sandwiches at the front and back of the cabin during the entire flight.

Casey got brave and ended up making friends with a group of girls who hung out at the front snack area. She probably only spent about an hour of the flight in her seat. At first I thought we should be concerned, but I figured that there was no way for someone to kidnap her. I just kept her within my sight from my aisle seat. She seemed to have a really good time socializing.

On the flight to Paris we had daytime, night time, and morning. On the way back, it was daytime the entire trip. When we landed at LAX after flying for 12 hours, it was early in the afternoon.

Luis and Jessica, "significant others" of our two older kids, met us at the airport. Luis had brought us to the airport in my 2500 series Suburban (the biggest Suburban made). When we got to my vehicle I was surprised at how big it seemed. Nobody drives anything that large in the places we visited. I got behind the wheel, and after not having driven in 19 days, I wondered if I still knew how to do it.

The drive from LAX to the San Fernando Valley, where we live, seemed to take forever. I felt tired, and we were all a bit on edge.

Jessica house-sat for us, and when we got home, it looked better than it did when we left. She spent a lot of time cleaning, and it was very nice to come home to the house in that condition.

As soon as we got home, Christian promptly made a bed in the living room and fell to sleep. The rest of us did our best to stay awake until normal bedtime.

At about 2:00am I woke up and couldn’t sleep. After all, it would be 11:AM in Paris. I went to the computer to start writing about the trip while it was all still fresh in my mind. I heard a sound in the kitchen. When I walked in, there was Casey, standing there like a zombie with a bowl in one hand, and the other in a giant bag of dry cat food. She said in a monotone, “I have to feed my kitties”. She was obviously walking in her sleep. I gently took her back to bed.

I had planned to go back to work the next morning, but my Mother (who owns the company that I Manage) urged me to take a day off. I didn’t really notice any jetlag on the way to Europe, but the next day, I certainly learned what jetlag feels like. I had been to Hawaii and the Eastern US. But, this was the largest number of time zones I ever went across. We were all wrecked by it. Over the next few days, I felt nervous, exhausted and upset. My Mother ordered me to stay home the rest of the week. I’m the President of the company, but who am I to argue with the CEO. I took the rest of the week off, and still didn’t feel quite normal when I returned to work the next Monday.

Next: The Epilogue. What we learned traveling together as a family of five in three countries, 6,000 miles from home.

But First: A picture of me, Jane and Casey standing next to a memorial in Mesnil Amelot. It reads “Aux Enfants De Mesnil Amelot Morts Pour La France 1914-1918”


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