As a little girl, I always identified with the portion of my heritage that came to Oakland, straight from France, in the late 1800's. Now that I know a LOT more about my heritage, I know that my roots go very very far back through centuries in this country but also through England and then again to France. I can't get away from it.
I knew that I was an unusual looking kid and was made to feel weird because of how I resembled my mother and grandmother...you know, the French side. I had that profile that was not very all-American, which would make me the brunt of jokes in high school and beyond, but once I was enclosed in the big Airbus, heading to France, with the flight attendants who sported chignon and had a certain familiar profile, I began to feel a certain Home Coming. Rod kidded me and said that a certain attendant looked like she could be related to me...yes, I see that.
We flew over Canada and on through to Charles de Gaul, arriving wide-eyed and excited to be on the adventure that we had been looking forward to for a full year. We made it through the international terminal and found our way to the little pods for the domestic flights and felt like we had stepped into it, in a big way. Chaos and crowds but a flight that took us down to Marseilles, to meet the folks who would get us to our ship.
I kept wondering when we would really have to go through all of that standing and waiting through customs, but it never happened. We got off of the smaller plane and went down an escalator to find someone with the Viking sign, awaiting our arrival. BAM, we were really in it. "Your baggage carousel is over there" led us to wait to find our bags, until the gal came back to ask if we were the Souzas, only to tell us that my bag had not made it on the flight from Paris, which "happens all of the time". We were escorted to the baggage office, filled out paperwork and were handed kits with a teeshirt, toothbrush and other essentials, which made the journey begin with a "got to laugh" story. I had carried a heavy bag on with me and had all of my essential items plus one change of clothes, which would get me through the first day and a half. It seems that Air France gives out a LOT of these oopsie kits...
We were "those people" who delayed the others from heading to the ship but once the bus got rolling, most of the other passengers passed out while I took in every inch of the scenery, as we motored up the highway to Avignon, which is where the Viking Europe was docked and waiting for us. This river boat and her sister ship, which we would board in a week, became our home away from home. Our grand adventure was just beginning and we became acquainted with our lovely cabin on the port side. Before we knew it, it was time to change out of the travel clothes, grab a shower and head down to the lounge for the cocktail hour.
People who know me are surprised to know that I am more of an introvert than an extrovert and so it was an interesting experience, finding a couple at one of the small tables, introducing ourselves and beginning the first of the many many many getting-to-know-you conversations. Lucky for me, our program director began the festivities by introducing herself, the hotel manager and the Maitre d' before telling us about what we were going to be experiencing that evening and the next day. We had the chef come out and describe his suggestions for the evening meal and found it all to be overwhelming and exciting. With the words "Bon Appetit", we made our way along the hallway, past our third floor cabin, remembering to use the hand sanitizing spritzer as we entered the dining room for our first fancy-pants meal in France. I don't remember what we had, that first night but I was very impressed with the service and food and company and couldn't believe that I was on a riverboat parked on the Rhone River, just outside the ancient walled city of Avignon, which was lit from within. It was a magical beginning with a limited wardrobe. :-)