I will never forget the one-page article I read decades ago in Newsweek by a prominent female journalist about the importance of transgenerational travel and how it changed her life. I was in my late 20s at the time, living and working in Chicago and had just returned from skiing in the French Alps with my parents. I was soon to be married and start a family of my own yet I could not let go of the love and joy I felt traveling with my parents as an adult. The article talked about how the writer had traveled the world with her mother well into her mother’s 80s and how that time together journeying around the world were some of their most sacred, special times ever together as mother and child. It struck a chord with my soul for I too had always traveled with my parents and they were the ones who introduced me to travel at a young age and gave me my wanderlust soul.
Decades and trips later, I have continued to travel with my parents to such far-reaching places as the Himalayas of Nepal, the Andes of South America, the perched villages of Provence and the European cities of Prague, Paris and London adding my sister into the mix. These times together have been some of the most sacred memories of my life and without question our shared love of travel meant that at some point we would have to introduce our own children to exploring the world.
The idea of a transgenerational trip to Europe launched a few years back when my mom, sister and I did a trip to London, Paris and the south of France. We knew that we wanted to do a girl’s trip once again with my mom yet include our daughters. We just needed to wait until they reached the age where they could handle all the walking and traveling. With my daughter Sophia at the age of 11 and my niece Hanna turning 13, this summer was the prefect time to do a three-generational trip to Europe and it was planned.
As the time for our departure approached, there was a last minute change of plans. My husband had planned on flying over to Europe with our son Max to meet up with us at the end of the girl’s trip yet he injured his back and couldn’t go. Since the trip was already planned and mostly paid for, we changed plans and had my father fly over to Europe with Max and take my husband’s place. We would be doing another transgenerational trip, this time with my dad, my son and daughter, throughout Germany and Austria. Despite the disappointment that Paul couldn’t go on the trip, there was a silver lining. My dad was able to come and get to spend 13 days with his grandkids exploring the Austrian Alps.
All in all, it was an absolutely amazing trip with lots of silly travel mishaps, magnificent moments and fun stories along the way. It will take me quite some time to put the entire journey into words but I’m excited to start sharing our trip with this first post on some of the main highlights. I hope you enjoy!
First Transatlantic Flight for Kids
The day of our departure I rose with the normal pre-travel jitters. Sophia and I were flying from Minneapolis to JFK where we would be meeting up with my mom, sister and niece for our Virgin Airlines flight to London. We hadn’t all been together since Christmas so our airport reunion was filled with hugs. We were able to get five seats all in the same row and paid for the premium economy upgrade giving us extra leg room.
Our excitement would soon fizzle when we had our first mishap of the trip. Right as the plane was about to lift its wheels off the ground and take off, the pilot slammed on the brakes and we came to a jarring halt. In all my years of travel, I have never experienced an aborted take off and it was darn right terrifying. We had no idea if we were going to crash into something or what on earth was going on. Ten minutes later the pilot announced that we had to abort our take off due to wind shear. We had to go back to the gate, let the brakes cool down, refuel and check the plane. Meanwhile a passenger on the plane had an anxiety attack and refused to fly meaning we had to search the entire cargo for her luggage, setting us back even further. Four hours later, we left and I would be lying if I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous about take off attempt number 2. But all was clear and we began our six-hour flight to London at close to midnight.
What surprised me the most is throughout the entire ordeal the girls just chatted away with not a worry in the world. In fact they almost didn’t even seem to notice what had happened. Their excitement for the trip was utterly contagious and once we had a wine in our hand we were all calmed down and ready to start our European adventure.
Seeing London through the Girl’s Eyes
Seeing London through my daughter and niece’s eyes was pretty magical. Our four days in London were jam-packed with checking out the main tourist sites, walking, shopping and eating til we dropped in our beds well past the girl’s bedtime. Highlights included watching the changing of the guards, riding the hop on hop off bus throughout the city, taking a river cruise down the Thames, dining at outdoor restaurants in SoHo, and watching the Lion King live. We also took a day trip to the Warwick Castle and had a delightful lunch in Stratford Upon Avon where Shakespeare was born. Perhaps the most fun of all was eating out. We always had lots of laughs and loved exploring all the different creations.
Discovering the Adventures of Train Travel
Growing up, I was fortunate to have traveled to Europe twice for three weeks each with my parents, and a huge highlight of the trips was traveling by train. There is nothing I love more than to watch the glorious passing countryside as the train rolls from city to city, country to country. In those days, we used to grab a baguette, some cheese and salami and have a picnic lunch on the train while playing cards to pass the time. These journeys have always been precious memories so we wanted to make sure that the girls would be able to experience a bit of train travel on our trip. Luckily, we were able to take two train trips, one to Lille and the other to Paris.
We took the Eurostar on the Chunnel from London to Lille and it was the first time I’d ever been on it despite all my years traveling in France. I thought the darkness of being in a tunnel would disturb me but before we knew it we were on the other side in France. Best of all is that we left from St. Pancras Station right across the street from King’s Cross Station, famous for Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express Train. My daughter has read the Harry Potter series at least four times and has seen the movies many. We had to go over and see the real thing which was a big treat! They even have a Harry Potter store filled with tons of memorabilia to buy. Trying to budge in through all the tourists to get a photo was definitely a challenge but worth it in the end. Sophia even bought another Harry Potter book to add to her collection.
We spent a quick afternoon and night in Lille before heading back to the train station the next morning to take the TGV to Paris. That is where the real European adventure began. After almost boarding the TGV heading to Bordeaux instead of Paris, we realized our mistake and had to run with four huge suitcases battling hundreds of people to get on the TGV to Paris. Feeling frazzled, we inadvertently boarded the wrong car and didn’t realize it until we tried to sit down in our seats and they were taken. At that point, the whistle started to blow and we had no choice but to leave all our luggage in car 13 and run as fast as we could to car 1, over a dozen cars down. Just as the last whistle blew, we jumped on panting and had to cross over four more cars to find our seats. Meanwhile I got locked in the train bathroom and had to pound it for five minutes yelling help. It was extremely embarrassing but I was relieved when a Frenchman heard my cries of terror and helped open the door for me. In a nutshell, it was a mess but we made it and our luggage was right where we left it 13 cars down when we arrived in Paris.
Introducing my Daughter to Paris: Where it all began
The best memory of the entire trip was bringing the girls to Paris and showing my daughter where my love for travel all began. At the tender age of 13, my parents brought my sister and I on our first trip to Europe and it changed my life. I will never forget the moment when we arrived at the magnificent Place de la Concorde at the start of the Champs-Élysées. I took one look at the spectacular beauty of Paris and decided on the spot that I would learn French and live in Paris someday which I did seven years later during University. My time living and studying abroad in France began my lifelong passion for travel and exploring the world. I had to show my daughter. It had been a dream of mine since the day she was born. Watching her fall in love with Paris and seeing it through her youthful, inquisitive eyes meant the world to me.
There were many highlights of our time spent in Paris as what is not to love about this magical city of light and love? Of course exploring the city on foot taking in Paris’ magnificent monuments, glorious architecture and multitude of outdoor cafes was a huge highlight. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tour, shopped for street art on top of Montmartre, cruised down the Seine on a Bateau Mouche and watched the world go by at many outdoor cafes and restaurants. The girls loved sitting at their own cafe table playing cards while my mom, sister and I shared a glass or two of wine. The sun set late in Paris that June and we enjoyed watching it set below the Eiffel Tower from our eighth floor Parisian apartment. Oh la la….the memories! Paris never ever disappoints.
The Departure and Arrival
We said a sad goodbye at the Paris airport to my mom, sister and niece on June 23rd, my mother’s birthday. As I looked through my photos to see what I could come up with for a first blog post on the trip, I felt the normal sense of disappointment. For all that time in such beautiful cities, I really had hardly any good travel shots. But then I realized something. That despite my utter lack of travel photos for the blog I had something much better: Photos of love, laughter, silliness and joy. It was a much different kind of trip than I usually take. For once, I threw away my obsession with taking the right shots and getting in as much as possible for the blog and instead embraced being on vacation and enjoying the moment. It was a valuable lesson and reminder that our time together is fleeting and family is the most important thing there is in life.
As we gave one more hug and said our last teary-eyed goodbye, it was on to part two of our adventure. We flew to Munich where we met up with my son, Max and dad to continue our trip through Germany and Austria. For the next 12 days, we went to see Neuschwanstein, the castle where my husband proposed to me 19 years before, and then drove to Tirol and The Salzkammergut (lakes region) in Austria. We did tons of magnificent wandern (hiking) and basked in the divine glory of the Austrian Alps where Der Berg Ruft (The Mountain Calls). It was a distinctly different trip than the one we had just been on which made it all more enjoyable. We stayed at farms, rented apartments with the locals and felt like we truly got far, far away from it all. It was the perfect way to end an amazing trip.
To Sum it All Up
We arrived home on Wednesday, July 4th which felt a bit ironic after being out of the country for three weeks. Although we didn’t make it up for the fireworks we were happy to be home once again with my husband and our dog. I realized that it hasn’t been since our honeymoon over 18 years ago that I’d taken a three-week vacation and how bittersweet it was that Paul couldn’t come yet my dad was able to take his place.
As I reflected upon the past three weeks and looked over my photos, I also felt that common tinge of sadness that our grand adventure was over and my pictures could never ever truly capture what this trip meant to me. I took far less photos than I normally do and a lot of them didn’t turn out as I had wanted. But perhaps that is the true message of the trip. That some memories are more priceless than getting the best photos for the blog. That this trip was way more than simply sightseeing and exploring a new place with my third eye. Instead, this trip was about love, laughter, telling stories and spending precious time together with my extended family. These are the memories that are the most sacred of all.