Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mon Amour

Paris, the city of love. Though only a 2-hour train ride from Luxembourg, I managed to visit Athens, Berlin, Munich, Dublin, Belfast, Brussels, Brugge and Amsterdam before finally finding my way to the French capital. Paris has always been the one city on my list that had strict criteria to fill before becoming a realistic destination. I had decided I would not visit alone, I would wait for good weather and I would spend a minimum of 2 full days on my adventure. The reasons? I didn't want to feel rushed and I really wanted to enjoy the city, sights and people at my own pace.

Fortunately, the trip filled every expectation - and then some. With a bit of luck on my side, I saw Paris exactly I had always imagined it...

With my 3rd season abroad coming to a close, I’ve had numerous friends and acquaintances spend a weekend on the couch, regardless of the country I was residing in at the time. Yet none of my family members have ever been able to visit since I’ve located to Europe. No matter how many times trips and travel plans had been discussed, they’d always fall through at the last instant, or completely conflict with ideal dates. This year however, the streak was broken – twice. After months of brainstorming, negotiating, schedule swapping, itinerary planning and granted vacation days, my mother was finally able to work out a visit. I couldn’t of been more excited after receiving her confirmation email. As a bonus, close family friend ‘Auntie’ Karen would be traveling with mom – the more the merrier! Wanting to get the most out of the 10 days with family, I put on my event planner hat and went to work. Taking my basketball schedule into account, I managed to create a busy itinerary filled with travel, sightseeing and good food.

With the flights booked and schedule dates landing perfectly during a small break in my season, I couldn’t believe how easily things were coming together...almost too easy....Just when I thought it would be smooth sailing until their arrival, Eyjafjallajokull (try saying that 5 times fast!) decided to erupt and put all travel plans in jeopardy. With a non-refundable trip for 3 booked to Paris, not only was I going to miss seeing my family, but I'd be out 700 Euros! Determined to will my mom's plane to Luxembourg, I spent every free moment watching the BBC and scouring the Internet for any and every article relating to Iceland, volcanoes and air travel. With news of stranded travellers and cancelled flights, things were not looking good. The day before mom was to fly out, flights were still grounded.

The next morning I woke up miserable. Nevertheless, I continued my daily routine and turned on BBC. Surprisingly, they were reporting that Schiphol had declared itself 'open' and that the majority of KLM flights were scheduled for departure and arrival. Feeling a tiny bit of hope, I jumped online, typed in mom's KLM confirmation number and saw her trip was still planned. With fingers and toes crossed all day, I was on pins and needles until the following morning (the 9 hour time difference had the plane departing at 4am my time) when I found the plane did in fact take off! Their flight to Amsterdam went off without a hitch, as did the connecting flight to Lux. Both mom and Auntie Karen arrived on time - I couldn’t have been happier!

Spending time with my mom in Lux was awesome. She's my best friend and I missed just being around her. During their stay, my mom and aunt were able to watch us play 2 games (one being the Cup Final!), visit Brussels, Belgium, Trier, Germany, Remich and Luxembourg City, while also getting to know my friends in Lux. To top it all off, we were able to spend 2.5 days in Paris, France. It was a busy, eventful week and a half, which was exactly what I needed to give me that extra push through to the end of the season.

I don't even know where to begin in describing my time in Paris. I've been fortunate enough to have travelled quite extensively in the past 5 years and of all the countries and cities I have been able to visit around the world, Paris is by far my favorite. It's hard to describe what exactly it is about this city that makes it so wonderful. Not only did we have amazing weather (25°C/77°F), but we managed to see all sites we had planned on and were able to enjoy the city without feeling rushed. It was fabulous. I don't know where the stereotype of Parisians being rude comes from, as everyone I encountered was quite friendly (perhaps it was because they felt sorry for me when I butchered their beautiful language while asking questions), but they were nothing but helpful. If I could recommend any place in the world to visit, it would be Paris in the spring. I don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much if it were rainy and cold, but I will always speak highly of the the city and can't wait to go back...

Which is what I did...one week later! Earlier I mentioned that my streak of family members visiting me abroad was broken twice, that's because after hearing how fabulous our trip was going in Lux (before we had even visited Paris) my brother booked a flight to come after my mom's departure! Determined he would have an awesome first experience in Europe, I once again moved into planning mode. Not only did Kyle have a great time in Lux (Rihanna concert, touring Lux City, wine tasting in Remich, dinners with friends, experiencing the European nightlife and seeing me play), I managed to get us tickets to the Euroleague men's basketball final in Paris. Getting up early Sunday morning Kyle, my friend Jordan and I jumped in the car and were off to Paris. Three hours later we had arrived in the city and were driving down the Champs Elysee. After meeting up with Kyle's buddy, we went up the Arc de Triumph and later wandered around the Eiffel Tower after enjoying a fabulous French meal. With a couple hours to game time, we climbed on the metro and were off to Palais Omnisports for the game. Sitting in the rowdy Olympiakos section while cheering for Ricky Rubio and Regal FC Barcelona, I couldn't believe I was witnessing the the best two teams in the world (yeah I said it, Euroleague teams, in my opinion, are the best TEAMS in the world) fight for the European title. After a loud, exciting game and Barcelona victory, Kyle and I said our goodbyes. He would be spending the next 4 days in Paris with 2 of his close high school friends. Though only in Paris for 24 hours, the visit was as memorable as the first. J'adore Paris...

Basketball Update: First, I must again apologize for my 3 week absence. Sadly, 2 weeks ago my hard drive on my laptop crashed - thus making my computer unusable. I took it to get repaired, but in Lux it's way more expensive than home. I'll wait until I'm back. That being said, I've been computer-less for close to 3 weeks and it has been a bit of a struggle. I somewhat depend on my computer, as it is my connection to home and is very important when abroad! After sporadically visiting Internet cafes and randomly using friends computers, I've finally been able to put together this blog. I hope to have another post up next week. A lot has happened in the past month. Without going into too much detail, my team breezed through the first round of playoffs and survived a war of a semi-final, winning a nail biting deciding game 3 by just 3 points! Down 10 with 7 minutes to go, my team and I battled back to take a 3 point lead with 5 seconds left. Without any timeouts, Etzella managed to get off a 3 point shot that thankfully, bounced off the rim and out. Phew! On to the finals vs. Musel Pikes. Game 1 on Sunday.



Lindsey said...

seeing as you like to forget about which team you are supposed to be cheering for ( i.e hook 'em horns). I'm glad to know you remembered your Panathinaikos loyalty and didn't cheer for Olympiakos. That would have been embarrassing.

Katerina said...

I love it! Looks like you and your family had such a good time:) You're definitely going to plan me a European vacation someday! xoxo