It was an unmitigated disaster, and it was entirely my fault.
The Missus and I were finally making our maiden trip to Europe – first England, then France. The division of labor: She would organize our time in London, and I’d do the same for Paris.
Mind you, this was during the pre-Internet 1980s. That was no problem for the Missus, who is to travel planning what Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were to the D-Day invasion.
Me, not so much.
I vaguely recall glancing at a few travel guides in our local bookstore and leafing through a French-English dictionary on the flight to London.
Our time there was terrific: I don’t remember where we went, but I do recall it was totally great.
Then there was Paris.
I had bupkis – no itineraries, no opening or closing times, no nothing.
The Missus was not amused. It hardly helped that Parisians didn’t need no stinking tourist dollars at the time, so they were routinely rude to both of us.
It got so bad we were accused of using counterfeit money at the ticket window of the Picasso Museum. Vous êtes forgeurs! the irate ticket-taker screamed, throwing the francs back in our faces. Shaken, we promptly went to the nearest banque and asked to change the large bill to smaller denominations. They had no problem cashing it.
Overall, the trip taught us this essential truth: The Missus was the planner and I was the flâneur.
And it’s been all good ever since.
First, for anyone who thinks the above term of endearment is remotely sexist, let me assure you it is not. One of the Mister’s favorite writers is sports columnist, journalist, author Ring Lardner, who used the term affectionately for his own wife. And under that moniker, I was quoted liberally in columns throughout my husband’s long career, always saying something pithy, funny or smart. Couldn’t have been more flattering.
It was also our private joke that while readers might picture the “Missus” in a housecoat and scuffy slippers, I am actually a fashion consultant and writer.
As to the aforementioned first trip to Europe, learning who does what best in any marriage bodes well for the future. We’ve now been the happiest of travel companions for over 40 years.
But it was on our honeymoon prior to that European vacation that we discovered a common travel quirk very few people share: we don’t take photos. Yes – unbelievable as it may sound – neither of us ever thought to pack a camera. To document the momentous occasion, we instead popped into a Photo Booth at the Montreal Metro receiving four charming snapshots 60 seconds later.
Even with camera phones today, we still don’t take pictures. A friend once admitted she spent more time framing the perfect photo than enjoying her trip experiences. We remember the best and worst of each trip because we were engaged at all times. Try it.