By Sue Murphy
I just signed up to take my dream trip to France … again. I tried twice before but had to cancel for various reasons. I hold out great hope for this go-round.
It’s one of those guided bus tours, 13 days, and I can already see some of you rolling your eyes, but I’m a person who likes to have everything on the trip planned ahead of time. Winging it in a foreign country with variable currency and socialized health care is not my idea of a good time. I want a professional to make the plans, take care of all of the pesky details and be responsible for scurrying around behind the scenes if something goes wrong. In my real life, I have to be all of those people, so turning the job over to Guy the Tour Director is a real vacation for me.
Because I keep bravely signing up, tour companies send me copious brochures with full color National Geographic-esque photographs of beautiful scenery being enjoyed by beautiful people. They’re gazing dreamily off a balcony, dining al fresco at a sidewalk café or enjoying a sunset cocktail housed in a coconut. Ahhhhh …
My knee-jerk reaction is always, “Sign me up!” but, over time, I have learned to pay closer attention to the tour’s itinerary. If the trip is labeled a cruise, it’s usually AARP safe. The excursions will involve bus rides and lunch will be included. If the voyage is called an expedition, it’s possible that you will be tendered out to an ice floe to visit a group of marooned polar bears who look at you as lunch included. When you see the words, “weather or conditions permitting,” there’s good chance that there will be days when the conditions will not only be less than permitting, they might keep you locked in your stateroom strapped into your life jacket just in case.
If the day’s activities boast an animal encounter, it’s best to check whether they are talking about a meet-and-greet with koalas or a cold-water swim with baited sharks. I’m always up for a float trip, but not whitewater rafting. Cooking classes? My nametag will say, “Lost Cause,” but I’m game if you are. Of course, if it’s sausage making, I’m out.
The trip I have booked begins in Paris. Should we all survive our trek through Charles de Gaulle Airport, we’ll see Versailles and the Louvre. Over the next few days, we’ll move on to Normandy and Giverny and Rouen, where poor Joan of Arc was brought before the special council and her unredacted self was found in contempt of the church.
The trip promises culinary “treats” along the way, but I will be pocketing packets of peanut butter crackers in case the “treat” is foie gras or snails or anything confit. If you want to treat me, give me an extra éclair.
I hope I get to make the trip. I really do. When life gives you a chance, you should go and do … unless it’s something unnecessarily dangerous or uncomfortable or cooked in duck fat. Then, you have my permission to say thank you, but no. Let others parasail over the Andes, spend the night in a crocodile blind, or do one of those tin can dives under the polar ice cap. You can hang back with me and gaze across the night sky from your balcony, take your petit dejeuner at a sidewalk café, or wiggle your toes in the sand as you sip a cocktail out of a coconut. That, my friend, is a vacation.