A Women's Trip - A LIttle Bit of Heaven

A little bit of heaven

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As a working women I always had more than my share of travel away from the family for work. Time to hangout in a hotel room alone, read a magazine in peace and get room service. Since coming to France life has changed quite a bit and I haven’t traveled since September for work, but been a fulltime parent with Jean which has been both wonderfully rewarding and also exhausting at times. I now know why however some people want to work fulltime, child rearing is exhausting. Even in France with a partner to share, after weeks of cooking, cleaning, laundry, homework, driving to activities, and watching “family friendly dvds, I was thrilled to go on a women only vacation with two great friends from California. I negotiated with Jean 6 months earlier and got his agreement to take care of Zoe during this week. A few days away in my own hotel room sounded like heaven!

For three days Kirsten and Darcey stayed with us in St. Quentin-la-Poterie visiting with not only me, but Jean, Zoe-Pascale and Pantoufle as well.

Our first day out, we went alone to the Uzes marche and Avignon for the day. Kirsten and I who are self-proclaimed shoppers were looking forward to the marche whereas Darcey was skeptical. To her own amazement she announced "I really had a good time shopping in the Uzes marche-- so different." How can you not enjoy the colors, senses, smells, and people. darcey and kirsten in marche.jpg



Playing tourists we took the petite train around Avignon and stopped at the Pont du Avignon where Darcey made us dance around in a circle and took a tour of the Popes Palace (something I had never done before). Driving back to Uzes we stopped in at the Place aux Herbes for dinner rejoicing in the fact that we had all the time in the world and did not have to get back to a babysitter who needed to be driven home.

Sunday. Arles.  Stuck with a car that won’t start, an hour and half from home in the middle of a hot Sunday  was  a  recipe for disaster. And so it was. Stuck outside of Arles we went into motion.  Darcey and Kirsten played tourist for two hours, Suzanne and Zoe go to the park and Jean finds someone that could fix our car so we could get home. Two hours later we were once again stranded on the freeway, under the Montpellier exit sigh with a stalled car and two minutes left on Darcey’s international cell phone. Sitting on the side of the road among thistles, bramble bushes and weeds, hot sun broiling us, and one bottle of water we felt like we were in a Desert Survival game show. Do we call a taxi to take us home? When will the tow truck come? Do you believe he was telling the truth? Who needs the water most? How will we all fit in the tow truck? What if Darcey showed her breasts, would a car top to help? What if Kirsten showed hers?

All these and more were questions we kept asking each other while trying to keep our humor.

One hour later, Darcey and Jean were sitting in the broken down car on top of the tow truck and the rest of us in the cab for a drive back to the garage in Arles. A long expensive story later, we arrived home via taxi early that evening.

Time to just Talk

Settling in with a few bottles of wine, Jean, Darcey and Kirsten and I talked and talked about men, women, marriage, love, lust, work, success, and happiness. It was one of those nights when talk was good and wine was cheap and friends were so very dear!

And on to Barcelona - Why is it so wonderful to get away with women friends

So what is it about getting away with women friends (I have to say women as I was taught in my 20s we are women not girls).

In discussing this very topic we realized it came down to a few major points.

  1. No whining, no complaining, no kevetching from children or men

  2. No dishes, no laundry, no cooking

  3. No interruptions while talking and lots of conversation

  4. No demand to “tell me a story when you were a little girl…”

  5. Quiet time, real quiet time to read, relax, meditate

  6. Time to sleep late (for me at least with a child that never sleeps late)

  7. Time to catch up on what everyone knows or feels about; diets, menopause, religion, marriage, men, sex, work, what you will and will not share with your child about your college years

  8. Time to shop, visit museums, walk and meander, and have a nice leisurely meal

  9. Just time to be with friends and truly get to know them a little bit better just because you do have the time

And what is it about your friends that surprises you that you never knew. Travel does that too. We learned:

  1. There are shoppers and non-shoppers. Kirsten and I were both surprised that Darcey wasn’t a shopper. And she also learned that shopping could be fun, especially in the Uzes marche

  2. How much art, eating, walking, standing in line and shopping each one of us could take and how it was okay to speak your mind and separate when needed.

  3. Who was good at map reading and who wasn’t

  4. Who gets cold and who gets hot

  5. Who needed more space and how we could allow each other that space without feeling hurt

  6. Who gets excited by designer knock offs (Kirsten)

  7. It is okay to take “the old lady bus” to see a new town. It didn’t mean we weren’t young still.

  8. That no guidebooks or statues in Spain describe World War I or II. They just skipped from the 12th to the 20th centuries.

  9. At our age it is okay (or even necessary) to have our own room. We don’t have to share like we did in college when traveling through Europe.

  10. At our age we are mature enough to say what we want and ask for what we need and everyone understands.

Most importantly we felt young, but wise. We had energy, and freedom to do what we wanted. We weren’t dowdy, tired or stupid and felt 22 again sharing adventures, learning, and traveling by train to wherever it took us.

We learned how to handle fiascos and problems that could have been near disasters.

About forty-five minutes outside of Nimes on the train to Barcleona, I realized I forgot my passport. I have been living in France for nine months now and did not need it except when I got on an airplane and besides that Jean always carried the passports for us as a family. I was shocked how complacent I had gotten about traveling in Europe thinking it was all one Europe. In actuality it is suppose to be with open borders but I had the feeling I was in a tight spot. “ No, you need your passport,” said the conductor of the train. “The border police will ask for it.” Picturing myself being stopped at the border three hours from home, I realized I had to take the train back to Nimes get my passport and take another train back to Barcelona that evening. After telling Kirsten and Darcey the situation, we agreed we would meet at the hotel that night. Later I asked them if we were twenty-five  would you have returned with me. “Of course, they answered. At twenty-five we would have been afraid to leave you alone and afraid someone would get mad. Isn’t it great we are older and wiser.”

I hoped off the train and ran to the 3rd platform leaving for Nimes in two minutes. So what was my plan. Jean did not have a car as it was in the garage in Arles and my passport was at home thirty kilometers away.

“Jean, call the taxi who took us to the train station and ask him to bring my passport. “

By 11:00 AM I had my passport and the taxi driver and I had become old friends. Now it was time to buy another ticket on the 5pm train to Barcelona. I stood patiently in line waiting to purchase my ticket and finally reached the desk. After inquiring on the ticket, the women said,

“ Impossible. Il y n'ai pas place“

In shock, I said, “C'est impossible. I know there is a train at 17:00 and it can't be full”

 “Impossible pas de place,” she repeated.

By this time I was on the verge of tears. Then in the back of my mind I remember a friend who had moved to france told me that workers especially civil service workers in France often think things are impossible and don’t bother to find solutions. Customer service is not in their vocabulary. With this in mind I went to another line to ask another person and explained the situation with my passport and my friends and what the ticket seller had said to me.

“Oui, bien sur.” He said. “Of course. There is no first class space but I can give you second class. I do not know why she said it is impossible.” (By the way this was all in French which I was most proud of).

Furious at the other women, I went up to her, waved the ticket in her face and said

“Tu est stupid.”

I know I shouldn’t have talked in the informal voice but I was mad. She looked at me with utter surprise. In telling my French teacher the story she laughed hilariously and said no one has probably ever done that before. It just isn’t done in France. My horrific beginning turned into a lovely day alone. I went on to Montpellier and found an afternoon matinee of The Divinici Code near the train station while I waited  for the train and then had four lovely hours of non-interrupted reading train on a lullaby train that rode through the beautiful countryside. Almost a perfect day in itself for someone who never gets time to be alone.

BARCELONA   barcelona women 3.jpg

Barcelona is a wonderful city to explore in three days. We stayed at a great hotel, La Continental Placette near the Las Ramblas each having our own room and food buffet available all day and night in case you were hungry. Starbucks was just down the street, something I do miss from America.  Like tourists we saw all the Gaudi sites and took "the old lady bus, did a bit of shopping, saw a flamingo show and went to dinner at anyplace where there were non-english speaking tourists. We discovered a fabulous drink, Cava, and I fell in love with gazapacho.

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Suzanne Saxe-Roux