Le Weekend 4/5/24: How to Travel with Zoomers, Boomers, and Everyone In-Between

Senior woman and a young girl share a heartfelt embrace against the stunning alpine scenery, adventures in the snowy mountains. Family bonds. Active vacations
Don’t let family ruin your family vacation. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌


Friday, April 5, 2024

Dear Frenchly Readers,

There was a period, after my second son was born, when it seemed impossible to go anywhere. Any upset to our routine meant he didn’t sleep, and spent a lot of time colicky and unhappy. Extremely sensitive to smells, we had to travel with our own sheets, pillows, and towels. By the time we got everything packed and into the car, and then stumbled around miserable and exhausted wherever we were, it almost felt worse to go somewhere; we should have just stayed home. But admitting that felt like defeat. So, we tried, every so often, packing everything and anything, our car sagging, driving off finally in the late afternoon for two days of bleary release from our lives.

In those days, we still wanted our older son to go places; he’d been an inveterate traveler with us from day one. Our younger son was just built differently. But then came the surprise: When our younger son was three, he became a terrific traveler. He loved to pack up his backpack early; he loved the adventure; he could roll with a lot of things; and he found joy in so much about travel that it started to make up for the harder start. Then Covid came and travel stopped; we all stopped.

As soon as we were out of it, the very first thing Dan and I did was book a trip to France in the summer of 2022. I’ll never forget the moment when that same little son, six at the time, decided he loved French food: It was in the Alps in a small restaurant, called Le Confidential, which had received a Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction, meaning that the food was both amazing and affordable. We were sitting outside and the chef made him a simple grilled fish with vegetables. Every bite rippled across his face with new levels of pleasure. The cheeses, which he had heretofore spent the entire week in France complaining about (the smell!), were now smeared with local honey, and he decided that the local Alpine Tomme was his favorite cheese on the planet. The amuse bouche of yellow tomato juice, the dessert with popcorn as part of the base–all of it blew his little mind, and, from then on, he was, like his brother, all in with travel, food, and trying anything and everything new.

Now, every time we go to France, he is the first person who is packed in our family. He does not mind going without his favorite socks or sweats for two weeks before we go so that his clothes are all folded and waiting in the suitcase. He has ambitious plans for the plane and knows what will make him comfortable, even packing a large cashmere scarf of mine to throw over himself, with the hope that he might sleep for twenty minutes (the noise, smells, and light all make this very hard for him, but he tries).

On our last trip to France, this same son ate pigeon pie. (I did not.) He ate sea urchin. (I did not.) He took tiny sips of different wines and proclaimed what was earthy or oaky or bubbly or just plain terrible. He made a study of crème brûlées and chocolate mousse, and, by the time we were leaving France, he was the one in charge of ordering for us at our favorite bistro in Paris, Les Arlots.

This unfurling of a person who seemed like he could never leave the well-worn path of our rooted lives has bloomed into such an interesting and fun person to go to France with. His favorite places are les Tabacs, where he finds curious little toys and knick-knacks. He will spend all of his allowance money on bandes dessinées. He loves the road stop activity books and math pamphlets. He loves to find small, thoughtful gifts for his friends.

Our older son, not to leave him out, has always been a good traveler. And now, as a muscled teen, we depend on him to carry bags, make good decisions, speak French, weigh in on plans, go faire les courses (grocery shopping) in order to magically commandeer the best blood oranges at the market, and take care of his brother. In fact, when we are in Lyon, the two have a standing date to go to the meringue store to buy the most enormous meringues they can find for dessert one night. On this most recent trip, he made a meringue tower, glued together with crème fraîche, and a vanilla-sugar-lemon-passion fruit sauce drizzled over it.

I tell that story about my younger one, though, because traveling can be tricky. There are the types that get very very anxious about plane times and getting to the right gate (my husband). Or those who like to cut it all very close with no time to spare (me). There are those who like to walk and those who like to be carried even if they are nine (*clear throat*). Those who like to drive, those who like the bus. Some who say they are fine, when they aren’t, and mini-meltdowns from even the oldest or most suave in the group. Travel brings out the best, the worst, and also the most wonderfully unexpected in us all. And it’s that corner of the unexpected that is perhaps why we do it: we learn about ourselves, the world, and each other, even if we don’t want to, just a bit more, every time.

So, with travel in mind, and France having a big summer with the Olympics in Paris, I am devoting this Le Weekend to the packing lists, the practicalities, the dreams and hopes for travel to France this summer, one summer, any day in the fine future when it works. We have a long flights check list for adults, kids, and everyone who is a bit of both. Also this from Nat Geo on what long flights can do to your body. Because I believe that travel, when done well, simply, and with integrity, opens eyes and leads us into parts unknown, interior and exterior of ourselves. Read on!

À cuisiner, boire, regarder et lire ce weekend:

I have been without power this week, and am writing you this while plugged into a small generator. Cat is going to do the final sending, so be patient if you find things we missed in translation! This morning, I made some terrible chickpea patties for breakfast. My dishes are stacking up. I have to go to a literary festival tomorrow; I will go shower at some friends’ tonight. All the bulbs I carefully planted in the fall, just coming up lately, are now covered with snow. Tree limbs litter my yard. This is the second power outage in two weeks, both caused by untimely ice and snow storms and irregular weather patterns due to climate change. It’s unsettling, to put it mildly, Maybe as unsettling as the earthquake that rumbled down the East Coast this morning.

That all said, I am certainly dreaming about what to cook as soon as the power is back on. I have a hankering for Pissaladière, and there’s a great recipe here from novelist Kate Christensen, who writes the Bouffe column for Frenchly. Somehow that, a delicious salad, some good wine, and a hot cup of tea would just make this week with no power recede into the background.

I also just finished watching, with my older son, the series One Day, based on a novel I have not read, of the same name. It was terrific and is partially set in France (it takes place in England, and the characters, naturellement, go to France). Both of us were incredibly moved by this show and the acting. Also, we loved the actress who played Emma. And the music, which was awesome; we loved hearing this French song. Turn it up, enjoy, and if you can where you are, welcome spring.

À bientôt,


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