From Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon European Vacation:
Ellen Griswold: Clark, why don’t we just forget the “Pig-in-a-Poke” itinerary, and just play it by ear, like normal people?
Clark Griswold: Honey, we’re not normal people. We’re the Griswolds.
Well we’re the Traveling McMahans and despite my best intentions to slow down and play it by ear, without fail when we get there I’m like a ADHD kid on a sugar rush – look, see, let’s do that, let’s go there, look at that butterfly, whhheeeee!
I always come home exhausted but this time I ran myself so hard I stayed exhausted throughout most of the trip. It was for good reasons and fun reasons, but the end result was the same – I was so tired I didn’t get the full enjoyment out of the things we did that I should have. By the last day, visiting the Carnavalet Museum in France I was shuffling through looking for benches while Brian studiously read the guidebook for each display – he got much more out of this interesting look at the French Revolution than I did.
I did plenty of things better on this trip – we were spontaneous and open to dropping things from the itinerary and just “doing,” like stopping for a glass of wine at an intriguing looking bar in Paris one afternoon when we could have been rushing back to the hotel to get ready for dinner (we were just late for dinner, that’s all).
We didn’t plan many days until the day arrived – another departure from our usual MO. This was fun and more relaxing than our usual jam packed itinerary-ized style. I learned the drawback to this though, when we tried to visit St Paul’s cathedral in London twice and both times missed visiting the galleries.
I’ve made some resolutions (after trip number eight) that this time I swear I’ll keep.
1. Sleep. This is the most important. The day we got up at 4 in the morning to visit the Rungis market in Paris (well worth it by the way) and then toured the catacombs (spontaneously I might add!) and then had lunch and then shopped before I would even consider giving up part of the day to a nap (what?! Sleep when we’re in Paris?!) was grueling. Even after a nap when we strolled around the Eiffel Tower and Champ du Mars area I was too tired to appreciate it. We had many late nights on this trip – met friends in London both nights and in Paris one night – but didn’t make allowances for that by sleeping in. So my rule now: 8 hours every night, without fail no matter what. Unless maybe I have to get up at 4 again for a unique opportunity like the Rungis tour.
2. Enjoy just being. Some of our nicest moments were just sitting over a cup of coffee or popping into a random shop or stopping to appreciate a view. Sure the museums are world class and the architecture stunning and the history momentous, but we remember things like the dogs we met, and the American on the Metro who thought we were French, and stepping into an abbey to find a choral service taking place. Brian especially enjoys just sitting on a bench people watching.
3. No city or country hopping. We spent 2 nights in London and 4 each in Normandy and Paris. Four seems like a good minimum number. It’s just not worth unpacking for anything less.
It’s time I stop treating each trip like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, fill-in-the-blank. By now I know that we’ll be back. And I’ll get a chance to practice a more relaxing trip next year when we spend a week in Provence (after seeing eight places in 11 days on our Mediterranean cruise that is).