I love my family, I do, but when it comes to taking trips, things can get a little kooky.
First, let me tell you I have a family of six. Emma, my sister, is seventeen. She’s a Strokes-obsessed hipster who insists on wearing her Nikon D3100 around her neck at all times. Isabella, who is twelve, is discovering her personal style. I am all for exploration, but going into all seven H&Ms on the same block is a little overkill. Jack, who is eleven, wore a neon orange jacket every single day of the trip, and ran full speed into every group of pigeons we spotted. My Dad loves to take pictures—and when the camera is not around his neck it is packed safely away in his frayed purple backpack along with three different maps and a pack of tissues. Liza, my stepmom, lead the pack with iPad in hand at all times. Whether or not any of these people sound familiar, I’m sure you can think back to a not so enjoyable family vacation.
The first morning we arrived, jet-lagged and sleep deprived, Liza thought it would be best for us to get a snack and wait to eat lunch at a market down the street. We left the hotel and walked past a dozen bakeries. The scent of buttery croissants and melting chocolate wafted out of each door, lending an air of warmth to the cold, overcast morning. But did we stop in any of these delectable pastry shops? No.
Liza shouted out directions to my little brother Jack who was running ahead in his fluorescent jacket. “Jackson! Left. Take a left! Watch for cars!” People stared.
He zipped along the street until we came upon the Monoprix, a sort of Parisian Walmart. They’ve got everything from gadgets to underwear to fish in this place. At this point my stomach was growling and the day old croissant in the window looked pretty good. Unfortunately, it was eight in the morning and the Monoprix was closed. We didn’t go back to any of the bakeries, but found a smaller grocery store that was open.
Long story short, we bought crappy packaged food, saving room for our market meal. Liza whipped out the iPad as my dad squinted at the paper map in his hands. Once they agreed on the best route, we ambled down the Parisian cobblestone streets and stopped in a few small boutiques.
By the time we got to the market, it was closing. People were literally packing away food right in front of me. My eyes welled with tears as I watched fresh fruits and veggies being thrown into the back of trucks. Baguettes and other warm food samplings were being either re-packaged or handed to homeless people. I wondered for a moment if maybe I could pass for one.
My watch now read two o’clock. Two o’clock in the afternoon and I was freaking hungry. I insisted we find a place close by to eat at, but most of the cafés had a menu full of French food. French food in France, the nerve! My stepmom was not into it. So, we ended up at McDonald’s.
Most of our food adventures ended up like this. They were constrained by picky eaters and time limits—and by time limits, I mean making sure we had enough time to cram three museums into one day.
When traveling with six people, a conflict of interest is inevitable. My dad could have spent all day in the Louvre, Emma wanted to go photograph graves at the Pére Lachaise, Jack and Liza wanted to scour the flea markets and Bella and I wanted to shop down the Champs-Élysées.
My dad is such a sweetie, he tried to fit it all in. We took the subway to a rather sketchy part of the city to find the flea market one morning. We fought our way through Senegalese men trying to sell us string bracelets and fake Louis Vuitton’s, walked through an abandoned street and somehow found ourselves in the right place; an antique market. We scattered immediately. Emma went to the boxes of cracked photographs, my dad to the swords and guns, Jack to the sports equipment, Liza and Isabella to the costume jewelry and I to the fur coats.
Let me tell you: I found a fabulous oversized, vintage mink coat. With my huge sunglasses I looked just like Mary-Kate Olson, or even Rachel Zoe, if I do say so myself. I called over Liza and my Dad. He, a man of little words just shrugged while Liza, a woman of many words told me the shoulder pads were too eighties and that it swallowed me. Umm, kind of the point, I thought as I shoved the coat back on the rack and sulked out of the store, arms crossed. This is how most of my shopping excursions ended.
Aside from making everyone happy, my dad tried to keep us all together. With Jack sprinting ahead of the family and me falling behind, hoping not to be associated with said family group, this is no easy task. And after a traumatic losing of the children on a New York subway train (another family trip story), it was impossible to navigate the Paris system smoothly. It seemed like we were always fighting about when to get on, when that should have been one of the easiest no-brainers. The train stops, you step on.
No, we did not lose any children on the subway, but we did manage to lose my stepmother. We went to the Eiffel tower planning to ride the elevator to the top. Liza needed to find a restroom and urged us to go on up without her, she had seen it before. So we waited in line. We waited for a full two hours to get to the top and back down. The view was a little blurry from way up there and with that kind of a wait time, I had expected more.
By the time we came down, Liza was nowhere to be found. I called her, but she had left her phone in the hotel. We spread out, yelling her name. The men selling Eiffel towers and tacky berets thought we were calling to them I guess, because in under a minute, we were surrounded. You know those types of vendors. My dad tried to be polite and told them no thank you. I told him that if he just ignored them they wouldn’t be so damn persistent and where the hell was Liza anyway.
Jack was the first to spot her. As soon as she saw us, she burst into tears. She thought we had left her. Oh well. When the tears were calmed, we decided we were hungry. We passed a crepe stand that made my mouth water and a cafe where a fine looking Parisian man was eating a fine looking Steak Frites. But did we stop at any of these delicious places? My friends, if you don’t know the answer by now you have not been listening.
No. We found a crappy little café that advertised cheezburger and poultry nuggets …
Did I fall in love in Paris? No. Did I plan to move back there on a romantic whim? Absolutely not. I did, however, return armed with a willingness to say that there is no way to go on a family vacation without coming back ready to vent about it.