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Whilst it would be wrong to say that we won't enjoy every part of the trip, clearly there will be individual highlights. For Sue, there will be Paris, the city she has dreamed about since studying art in her teens and frankly, a place that looked beyond reach many times in her life. This trip started out with her request to one day spend 5 days in Paris, to walk beside the Sene, visit the Louvre and stand beneath the Eiffel Tower. She has had close calls in the last few years: a planned trip cancelled because I needed to have a cataract operation and a package tour offered by the NRMA which we were 24 hours late in applying for on a whim. As a result, I approached Escape Travel, initially through Sally-Anne Whitten and then Candice Liddle, to arrange five days in Paris.
Within a week it was eight weeks in Europe. To think people believe bipolar is a curse! Our thanks, especially to Candice, who has done a wonderful and most patient job in constructing our tour through all our changing states of whimsy, as we went from idea to itinerary in less than five weeks.
As much as I will enjoy the early half of the tour and the romance of France, the British Isles are drawing me. They are the places of my ancestors, England the land of my childhood literary hero Biggles and the stories my parents told, despite both of them being born deeply entrenched in working class suburbs in the St George area. I'll also visit the single place in the world I have wanted to be since I was 8 - Lords Cricket Ground. Finally, the last week of the trip, when we return to northern France, I'll get to retrace the steps of my grandfather and hopefully stand where he was near fatally wounded on Anzac Day, 1918, just to the south of the village of Villiers Bretonneaux, as he fought with his mates to take the village off the Germans in a battle as bloody as any our men and women in service have fought anywhere. I never met Pop Langston but have absorbed tales of him from both my parents. Its enough to know that my Mum adored her father in law or that my Auntie rang me and dissolved to tears more than sixty years after her father's death. I knew his sons which has told me all I need to know about him. I will stand there, with replicas of his WWI medals in my hand and make the connection I was unable to make owing to his untimely death, still too young in his forties. I'll stand there not just as a grandson completing a circle with the grandfather he never met but also for my Dad, who has always wanted to go there. Time, finances and loyalty to his responsibilities as father and husband have prevented him fulfilling the longing duty his heart called him to. Hopefully the photos, my retelling and the medals I'll be giving him will suffice.
This trip doesn't come without risks. There are our own children who for the first real time in their lives will have to cope without the back up plan of Mum and Dad but whilst our confidence in them seems stronger than their own, this is their time and they'll be brilliant. Sue's back will be tested, especially by the plane travel but hopefully we have factored in enough opportunities for recuperation. I carry my risks in my patiently reconstructed psyche. Its likely being away from home and the safety of my familiar haunts on bad days can be negated by the distraction of once in a life time experiences. I am concerned how I'll cope with things like the long haul plane rides, as they have often made me anxious in the past, however, drugs, relaxation techniques and prayer are my weapons of choice in that combat. I'll never be more confident or more ready.
There is nothing more odious than people who travel to these much desired places and bang on about it in much the same way as we are about to. Forgive us in advance. We will both try to make it enjoyable but jealousy is an accepted price we know we'll pay. I guess if you follow the reports and photos and associated information provided on this website over the next eight weeks, you'll be able to steer the conversation to what you want to talk about when we get back. We promise to sit quietly and refrain until approached ... that doesn't however mean we'll keep to our word!
Peter & Sue.