Saturday, October 9, 2010

You really got me, you got me so I can't sleep at night...

There is something positively delicious about beginning a trip abroad all alone. Makes a girl feel like a movie star. Katherine Hepburn, maybe. I had the trousers for it.

I'd never gone solo on a flight before, and in recent history all flights had been with the kids. Suddenly a trans-Atlantic flight seemed like the ultimate in luxury.

Here's the deal: way back when in 2008, Mike and I were discussing whether to accept the offer to move to Dubai. We decided two things; first that we would make the most of the location and salary by travelling whenever we could, and second that we would take a trip to Europe at the end of our time overseas.

Just us.

Our last month in Dubai, with the "no kid" factor on the table, we kicked around a couple of other ideas...Casablanca and Marrakesh in Morocco, safari in Kenya and summit Kilimanjaro, hike to Kathmandu in Nepal?

OK, so those were mostly my ideas.

We decided to be kind to ourselves, rather than go for exotic or athletic, and went with the original plan to travel Europe. But where? it wasn't too long before everything fell into place: we would travel by train from the Netherlands, through Belgium and down into France. We each had places we'd always wanted to go, and to go together, well, what could be better?

The entire week while I was home in Seattle with the kids and Mike was wrapping up our lives in Dubai (and overseeing all the wrapping up of our stuff,) I had eshewed caffeine, rationalizing that I was going to be tired and headachy anyway. In a bold master stroke of planning, I would deny myself both buzz and wakefulness until I would want to be truly alert...on vacation.

During the week home I had done mundane but necessary tasks like renewing my expired driver's license and got another international driver's license to use in France, and generally stumbled around Walmart finding clothes warm enough for the kids to endure the Northwest summer, it being about half the temperature it was in Dubai.

At SeaTac I kissed and hugged the kids good-bye and had no trouble putting on a cheerful face. They would be happy and safe with Grandma and Grandpa, they were getting a vacation as much as we were. Thomas was unconcerned at my departure but Bethy cried at the last moment. However, I had her letter in my suitcase:

Which says: Dear Mom and Dad I love you, Me and Thomas hope you have a good time at Pairis (Paris) and all the other plaises (places) you are going love Bethy and thomas

Always good to have a signed permission slip, I say. That's like a Pass Go and Collect $200 card as far as I'm concerned.

Getting through security at SeaTac was like a dream. Seriously, bliss. Showed my boarding pass and passport, my one bag and shoes on the conveyor belt, through the scanner, then done and free as a bird to do whatever the hell I wanted.

No one to get lost, no one to feed or take to the bathroom or look after in any way, shape or form except for me.

Talk about footloose and fancy free...!

In a move that really should have solidified feelings of guilt and selfishness for such self-indulgence, but in reality was truly inspired and frankly felt great, I hit up the SeaTac massage bar and got the no-sleep flight kinks I'd acquired on the way out rubbed out of my neck and shoulders before boarding my flight.

I also browsed the stores, having a giggle over the Twilight-themed body sparkle lotion as an alternative to the more usual smoked salmon, coffee, or Sleepless in Seattle nightshirts to take home to your loved ones from the Evergreen State.

Yes, you too can shimmer like a teenage vampire. Officially.

The flight was uneventful. I had already seen all the movies on the flight out to Seattle, (well, sort of) and I wanted to save my book, but I only dozed a little bit, the body still utterly confused about what time it was. I had stayed up until 3:30 the night before, thinking that would make me sleep on the plane.


Oh well.

The good travel fairies were on duty and made it so that even though Mike was flying about 3200 miles from Dubai and I was logging 4900 from Seattle, our planes arrived 15 minutes apart at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

I do so love those good travel fairies.

Amsterdam, then.

One of the things we really like about Amsterdam is how the city is so incredibly accessible from the airport. A quick, easy train ride and you're there, with the utterly distinctive buildings, canals and houseboats and the innumerable bicycles.

Of course, even in a well laid-put town like Amsterdam we wandered, slightly lost for a little while, (this is something of an obligation) rolling our suitcases determinedly behind.

Of course we eventually found our hotel, thanks to Mike's unparalleled instinct for direction, and climbed for the first of many times up what we had been assured would be the impressively steep 37 stairs to the reception desk.

We checked in, dumped our gear and of course went on an immediate and highly motivated hunt for a cappuccino into the transparent morning light of the Netherlands.


Joanna said...

The start of a lovely trip. Glad you enjoyed alone-time on your way there!

Natalie said...

Is it wrong for a mom to enjoy alone time so much? I don't know...and you know what? I don't care. Bru-hahaha!

I should say, I truly believe that a mom who makes sure she has some sort of quality time (whatever amount it may be that works for her) as a wife and also as an individual is going to be a better mom and person.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friendly Neighborhood Librarian said...

Moms need alone time and couples need couple time.
I read many years ago that the cost of dates and babysitters (probably even trips to Europe)is far less than the cost of marriage counseling and divorce!
So keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Doh I wish I'd known you were coming to "Pairis", we could've met up for a coffee!

AKBrady said...

I luv, luv, luv Amsterdam. We were just planning our overseas journey more year then we're all over it. James lived in Belgium and Germany as a lad, so it would be fun to introduce our kiddo to the place Daddy used to live...minus certain, ahem, bars that house not so legal substances, heheheh.

Will & Cheyenne said...

You are only as good as a mother as you are a woman. You MUST take time for yourself and SHOW your kids what it means to plan things, fulfill dreams and live with balance. Enjoy!

paris parfait said...

Oh, have you been and gone to Paris already? Would love to have met you for tea (or champagne). If you're not here yet, do get in touch.

Natalie said...

Right on, sisters, for enabling me! As for missing out on meeting up with you, Larousse, and you, Tara, for a cuppa, I indulge in few regrets, but shoot, I messed that one up. It sould have really "made" Paris for us to have known someone. I suppose you'll simply have to get in touch should you come to Seattle.

*Paula* said...

Yay you for getting some non-kid time - it's good for the soul and makes you a better mom. It does! Loving your review of Amsterdam - I've never been. Where to next?