Being born into my family automatically made me a professional traveler. My parents have always been a couple ready for an adventure; and when my older brother and I came into their lives, they saw no reason to stop crossing off cities and countries to see, along with events to attend. My brother and I were easy additions to my parents’ traveling lifestyle – we were little, big-eyed, and quiet for the most part. Our lives have been filled with planes, trains, and automobiles guiding us to unknown places to explore and discover.
Traditions run deep in my family, and the most precious one introduced me to the European World. My Dad has always been a busy man, but regardless of his schedule, family has always been his top priority. He put aside weekends for designated “Father-Daughter” and “Father-Son” trips. Before I knew it, I was 11, holding a passport, and in line to hop on a plane with my Dad to Paris for a long weekend. The only rule he made me agree to: when he wanted to hold my hand, I would hold it tight. We took that weekend by storm, and ever since Paris has always been my favorite city.
Since then, Europe has become a place I’ve returned to – including a month backpacking with my family throughout smaller towns in France and Spain, a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, and whatever weekend getaways I could afford while living in Florence. I made sure I was able to visit Paris while studying abroad; and a very darling friend Laura, who I met through the school, was my travel companion. The trip was another perfect weekend filled with beautiful moments, such as witnessing our first snowfall of the year, sitting in a local Parisian cafe drinking a pint, and soaking it all in.
When my parents pitched the idea of us going to Europe this summer they gave me a list of cities that they had in mind. When Paris slipped from my Dad’s mouth, my heart skipped a beat. The discussion lead to a pros and cons diagram, research upon research, and plenty of debates. Our final destinations were chosen, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled– Paris and Prague. I am almost positive that my parents selected Paris purely to make me happy. Prague was somewhere completely new for me, and I was excited to find out what it was all about.
Prague has always been near the top of their bucket list, and we had heard nothing but amazing things. All I knew before the trip was that the city was the least damaged in World War II because it was Hitler’s favorite city (… along with the fact that they make Pilsner Urquell). My family is Jewish, so the thought of seeing a survival city of WWII has made Prague rank high on the top of the travel lists. To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect. I did not know a lick of Czech, nor had any idea that a language used that many letters from the end of the alphabet, without any vowels to be seen. Thankfully, traveling with my parents, the teachers of professional travelers, we already were informed on what to do, where to go, and even had some dinner reservations made. After my visit, I am now fully convinced that every square-inch is charmed. No matter where we were, there was something epic about it – every wall, sculpture, building, light post: epic. The architecture flowed from Art Nouveau to Art Deco, and beautiful details covered the city. The art history nerd in me couldn’t get enough of it, and every building made my head spin. At one moment we turned a corner, and I couldn’t take it. I closed my eyes, rubbed them, and when I opened them again I had to giggle, “This just cannot be real.”
This city has nothing but sparkles all over it in my mind. It always has, and I am starting to think it always will. This visit had more of an impact on me than any other trip has had before. My parents and I have already done the tourist attractions throughout the city, so we decided that this trip we would pretend as if we were Parisians. We shopped at markets, had picnics, ate at local restaurants, and spoke as much French as possible. My Dad had taught himself French through listening tapes, and I studied the language in high school. It had been a while since either of us had practiced, but the more we tried the more the language came flooding back. Suddenly I was answering questions to my parents in French, and it became addicting. Yes – Italian slipped my tongue from my days in Florence, but I was comfortable enough to roam the city by my lonesome. When my parents decided it was time for them to head back to the hotel, I traveled the streets with a couple of Euros, a Metro pass, and my camera. I sat, let the incredible light soak into my skin, snapped thousands of photos, and spoke to locals. Before I knew it, I was shown hidden bars, local hang outs, found my French Prince Charming, and even wrote my first letter of endearment in French.
This trip – the places I saw, the people I met, and the things I learned about the cities, and even more so about myself – turned my world upside down. I could not have been more excited when I was asked to make my own lookbook from the trip, and suddenly it became a family collaboration. Besides, what else does one need but the perfect excuse to add another Jeffrey Campbell to my closet?